The Fragility of Language Learners
From time to time I am reminded of the fragility of the language learner. It's not noteworthy when I notice it in myself. Like many language learners, I too suffer from doubts. Sometimes I wonder if I'm spending too much time on one particular technique, or I feel guilty that I keep putting off another knowing how much more effective that would be. Sometimes I feel bad because my pronunciation is slipping, or that I have lost some skills in language x, or that I never developed them in the first place, or that I'm losing focus ... the list goes on.
But, I'm not worried that I'm in danger of giving it up. I enjoy languages too much, it is a permanent part of my living experience. I'll eventually recharge and refocus if I need to.
It becomes noteworthy to me when I hear of someone else giving up on learning a language for the wrong reasons. When I hear that someone has given up, especially if it is something that they really wanted to do, it breaks my heart. I've heard all the excuses, most of which are weak, and the ones that have some merit can be mitigated or mostly debunked. Here are some I've heard recently :I don't have the time
- Yes you do. A quick perusal of some of the techniques that are on my site (or any number of other excellent websites out there for learning languages) will show you that there are plenty of techniques you can use to learn a language that don't really take much time out of your already busy life. Just apply yourself. If you really want to do it, you can make room for it.I don't have the money
- You don't need much money. In fact you can do it for free, you just have to look for the resources and know how to use them.My mouth can't make those sounds
- Yes it can, you do have a human
mouth don't you? Sarcasm aside, all human mouths can make the sounds of any human language. It just takes practice.I'm not smart enough
- This one is just ridiculous. I have known many people who have learned several languages, and they are as dumb as a rock. Intelligence can be a factor, but it is only one factor out of many.I don't know anyone who speaks it
- You don't need to know anyone who speaks it to get started. You can even get pretty advanced with a language before you even speak to a native. There are plenty of techniques you can use. And you don't have to know someone, there are plenty of ways to contact speakers of almost any language.I can't find any good methods
- You don't necessarily need good
methods. It is ideal, it helps, but it is not the only factor. You can do quite well with lousy methods and supplement it with real life material (that's often free, as well).It's too hard
- This one is tricky. Did you think it was going to be easy? Define hard. Does it require a lot of work? Yes. Is it challenging? Often. Can it be humbling? Very often. If it is hard, is that necessarily bad? I enjoy the hard work it takes. Some language learners relish the challenge. They get addicted to it and seek out more languages and harder ones.
If you think that it's too
hard then you're probably right! It is! But then again, if you really thought that, you wouldn't be reading this right now. You're still here for a reason. You already know that it is going to be hard, but that it is also worth it. You're just looking for some validation.
If you want to do it, then you must reconcile yourself with these issues.
If you want to do it then just do it. Deal with your fragility and confront those issues as best you can.
If you don't really want to do it then put it aside and move on with your life. But, know this - do not put aside something that you may regret later in life! You're here, now. You're half-way there!
Do your future self a favor and start working on it now!