Every time I add information about our workshops or books on Facebook, the following comments appear in the comments:
People posting these kinds of comments usually raise two issues, to which I will respond one by one.
- Not everyone is capable of learning a foreign language.
- Learning a language takes years.
Let’s start with the first point. Many of the commenters claim to base their opinions on their own experiences. I assume that most of them probably teach languages in schools, language schools, or provide private tutoring. It’s likely that a significant portion of their students may not make significant progress, leading them to draw conclusions based on those experiences.
Let’s consider what could be the cause of this
We actually have three possibilities here:
- Students are not motivated to learn.
- Students lack the necessary aptitude.
- The teacher is using an ineffective method.
There is no need to discuss the first point. In my opinion, learning a foreign language always relies on cooperation between the teacher and the student. If the student is not interested in learning, even the best teacher will have difficulties. However, it’s not a hopeless situation. In such cases, it’s important to analyze the reasons for this lack of interest and address the underlying issues. Perhaps the student believes they cannot learn because previous teachers or people around them convinced them of their inability?
This problem primarily applies to individuals who are forced to learn languages in school. If someone signs up for a course, searches for materials online, reads this article, it means they want to learn. If they haven’t succeeded in the past, the main issue should be sought elsewhere.
Let’s move on to the second point. Should we assume that half of the people are genetically devoid of certain abilities and cannot learn a foreign language? This would imply that their brains are incapable of mastering a foreign language, even though they managed to learn their native language. On what basis should we claim that for half of the people, the ability to learn a language completely disappears, while it continues for the others?
Is it really the case that polyglots who have learned several or even dozens of languages are superhumans endowed with extraordinary talent? From my long-time observation of the biographies of famous polyglots, I can confidently say that it’s something entirely different. Often, they are ordinary individuals who were motivated enough to pursue their passion, and in doing so, they developed consistency and found the learning methods that worked best for them.
So perhaps the issue lies elsewhere, as suggested in point three? I believe this is the case, as I have come to this conclusion from my own experience.
What conditions must be met to learn a language?
Roughly ten years ago, I worked as a French teacher in language schools, as well as in middle and high schools. Unfortunately, my students did not achieve good results, which I must admit today with regret. Although many of them undoubtedly enjoyed my lessons, very few of them learned to speak French well. They knew some words sporadically and could utter single sentences, but they couldn’t hold a conversation in the language.
Sure, I could take the easy way out and tell myself that these students lacked the ability, so they would never be able to learn a foreign language. My ego wouldn’t be hurt then, right? It’s easiest to blame someone else rather than admit one’s own imperfections. After all, my method must be the best in the world, right? I’m following the curriculum, so it can’t be wrong, can it? It doesn’t matter that these students learned Polish as small children, and many of them later became proficient in English… It was easiest to assume that the problem lay with their abilities, lack of motivation, or something else, rather than the method I was taught in college and used in my lessons.
Because I wasn’t achieving results, the job stopped inspiring me, and I decided to change my profession. In the meantime, I was learning languages and discovering completely different methods of learning. For a long time, I didn’t believe that you could learn a language quickly and that anyone could do it. However, as I delved deeper into the subject, I began to understand the mistakes I had made in the past. Based on these mistakes, I can say that anyone can learn a language if they meet a few conditions:
- wants to learn
- learns according to a method tailored to their learning style
- knows how to learn, meaning exactly what steps to take
- develops consistency
Contrary to appearances, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. To test my learning method, one weekend, I organized a free Spanish course. In 10 hours, my students learned much more than those I taught ten years ago, even after they had learned for a year. Although we had two or three people in the group who claimed not to be particularly talented, after two days, even those individuals were pleasantly surprised by how much they had learned.
So, it’s possible.
Is it possible to master a language in a few months?
Of course, achieving fluency in a language takes years. We need to spend long hours engaging in conversations and listening to grasp the nuances of word usage and certain grammatical constructs.
However, is fluency the goal we always set for ourselves? Most of us just want to be able to communicate in a foreign language, master the basics, and be capable of everyday interactions. To achieve this goal, much less time is required than we might think. Basics of a language can be learned in just a few days, and engaging in a conversation in a foreign language after a few months of study is also within our reach.
To achieve this, we must change our approach. If our previous method of learning hasn’t been effective, we should change it as soon as possible. Often, people complain about a lack of results but continue learning in the same way as before. They memorize vocabulary, learn grammar rules by heart, and expect that perhaps, like a stroke of a magic wand, results will suddenly come, even though they haven’t appeared for years.
The Magic Method
A year ago, when I organized Luca Lampariello’s language workshops in Warsaw, a young man named Denis came all the way from Vilnius (Lithuania) to meet Luca in person. A few years earlier, teachers at his school had told him he was a hopeless case and would never learn English. Denis made incredible efforts, but the language just wouldn’t stick. However, he was fortunate to stumble upon Luca’s videos and articles online. When he started following the advice of the Italian polyglot, results began to slowly appear. Last year, Denis participated in the workshops, which were conducted entirely in English, and he could communicate easily with other participants. Today, he continues to learn more languages.
In Denis’s case, there was no magical method that allowed him to learn a language in 3 hours while sleeping. It was hard work that he put in over many months. But it was meaningful work, based on exercises that are tried and tested, and it brought results.
There are more people like Denis out there. Every day, I receive several emails of gratitude from people who have been helped by the book “Secrets of the Polyglots” or my free course on “How to Learn Vocabulary”. But I know that I can only help others because a few years ago, I stopped making excuses and started looking for solutions. I believed in the magic that Alice from Wonderland talked about, and because of that, my students can achieve results that others consider impossible.
PS: The featured image is of a cat from a Whiskas advertisement. Since I always say that people spend a lot of time watching cats on the Internet, I included this image so you can combine pleasure with usefulness. You can look at the picture of the cute cat and read the article about learning foreign languages.
Article originally published at sekretypoliglotow.pl in Polish. You can find it here.