October 19, 2017

Learn a Foreign Language!

No More Excuses! 5 Common Myths That Stop You from Speaking a Foreign Language.

You probably have heard all the great benefits that learning a foreign language can give you. It trains your brain, improves your memory, boosts your confidence, helps you connect with people around the world, and travel to other countries. Considering all these perks, what holds you back from speaking another language? Below is five common excuses I hear from adults who tried to learn a new language. Do any of these sound familiar?
“I don’t have the language gene.”

Seeing how other people effortlessly speak two or three languages, you may attribute their skills to their natural abilities. However, you may not know all the hard work they put into achieving that level of mastery. Maybe you expect quick results. You buy, for example, highly advertised “Spanish in 30 days” course and believe in a month you will become fluent in Spanish. Then, when you finish the course, you blame yourself for not being good at languages because you still can’t hold a decent conversation in Spanish.  In fact, acquiring a new language takes time. After I have spent years mastering English and Korean languages, I can say there is not an inherited ability to pick up other languages. Of course, if you found a right learning technique that suits you, it will not take you years to speak another language. 99% of success is a hard work and only 1% is a talent.

I’m too old.”

Many of us believe that language learning is easier for children than for adults. Why bother learning a new language if I already missed my childhood? Actually, there is evidence that adults can learn languages more easily than children can. The only benefits children have is that they acquire more native-like accents and they don’t suffer from self-defeating thoughts, like “what if I sound funny? What if I make a mistake?” There are an abundance people who start learning a foreign language in their 30s, 40s and even after. Their brains will thank them for their better memories, deeper concentration and sharper focus. So, why limit yourself? It is never too late as long as you are alive and willing.

“Learning a language is too difficult”

Certainly, learning something new pushes you out of your comfort zone. Since you have never done it before you may spend hours studying but not seeing much progress. After some time you may still feel like a three-year-old trying to communicate in your target language. Not having immediate results, you give up on learning altogether saying the language you picked is too hard. However, most likely people have already tried and mastered your target language. Think about it, what differs you from those people? As we already know, it is not the language gene and it is not their age. The only difference between you and them is they had enough patience and discipline to consistently overcome challenges, look for answers and practice, practice, practice.

“I don’t have the time to learn another language.”

We tend to postpone something that is new and requires our mental efforts. It is more enjoyable to watch an episode of your favorite TV show than to dig into your textbook. In addition, you might wait for the “perfect” conditions to study your target language. You may decide to study Russian and already plan your study sessions a month ahead.  Suddenly, something comes up and you have to skip one lesson, then another. At the end, you give up on your plan and say you lack sufficient time.  Maybe you set too ambitious goals. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Even ten minutes a day studying will make a bigger difference than one hour once a week. You are more likely to find ten minutes in your busy schedule than one hour. Do not think that ten minutes are not enough. After you have immerged language learning into your daily routine you can make your study sessions longer.

“Everyone speaks English anyway.”

English has become an international language and many people from different countries already speak it. The tourism industry around the world largely operates in English. When you are on vacation in a popular touristic destination, you may comfortably communicate in English. But, what if you don’t want to stick to the beaten path? What if you want to become a traveler, not a tourist? To explore hidden beauties, visit places only locals know about, understand the culture from the local perspective you will need to know languages other than English.

So, the truth is you can start learning any language, at any time, age, and place. However, to get good results you need to put your heart into it. There is no overnight easy way to master foreign languages.  But, persistence, patience and practice will pay off. And, of course, don’t forget to have fun along the way!

Ekatarina Kuhns is from Russia and speaks several languages.  Currently she is teaching Elementary Russian Conversation at Colorado Free University.