key elements to language learning

Have you ever encountered someone you look up to or an idol? Someone who is or was an inspiration to you? What if you could ask him one question? What would you ask them?

Let me tell you story about meeting one’s own idol.

A certain professor at Harvard University was writing a paper that was meant to be groundbreaking in understanding the cultural differences between the East and the West. However, he felt that something was still missing, so he decided to fly to Asia and talk to a famous Buddhist master who lived far away from civilization.

After an exhausting journey, he arrived at the monastery where the master had been residing for many years. After long negotiations with the residents, he managed to arrange a meeting.

He arrived early at the designated place and sat on a not-so-comfortable, prickly mat spread on the wooden floor. For a moment, he gazed at the flame of a lamp dancing in the gusts of wind until suddenly, he heard footsteps. Before his eyes appeared a short, gray-haired old man, emanating life wisdom and serenity.

– What brings you to me? – asked the master, approaching the stove where the tea was boiling.

– I want to understand the way of thinking of the East… – the professor replied.

The old man smiled, picked up the teapot, and walked towards the impatient guest. He looked into his eyes for a second and started pouring tea into the cup. However, the cup was already full…

– Master! My cup is full. You can’t pour anything more into it! – the professor exclaimed, looking in panic at the streams of tea overflowing from the edges of the cup.

The master raised the teapot and asked:

– How can I explain to you what the thought of the East is if you haven’t emptied your cup yet?”

So, are YOU ready to empty your cup?

You want to learn how to learn languages, but are you ready to let go of the beliefs that teachers, instructors, or even your loved ones instilled in you?

Do you, like so many others, think that mastering a foreign language requires years of sacrifice and hard work? That you have to go abroad or spend a fortune on courses to achieve that? If so, why do so many people still struggle to speak English?

As a child, I fell in love with foreign languages, but for years, I wandered, searching for answers on how to effectively learn. At some point, though, these scattered puzzle pieces started to come together into a meaningful whole.

In early 2017, I conducted a weekend Spanish training for volunteers. Before the training, I asked them to fill out a short survey, including the question: “How much time do you think it takes to reach a communicative level in a language?”

When I asked the same question after the course ended, I received a very interesting response:

“You know, Konrad. When I filled out the survey, I wrote that learning a language takes years. I never had a talent for it. Vocabulary was slipping away, I felt stressed, and I couldn’t communicate in even the simplest situations. But after your training, I must revise my words. Today, I know that learning a language doesn’t take years, but hours.”

Are you ready to empty your cup NOW?

Two weeks ago, the first training session “Start Speaking English” took place. People who have been struggling with learning English for years attended it. They changed schools, instructors, textbooks, but still couldn’t speak fluently. Something was blocking them, and they couldn’t form coherent sentences. When they opened their mouths to say something in English, the words would seem to escape, leaving their minds blank.

After the four-hour training, one of the participants wrote to me that, on the same day, she approached foreigners who couldn’t communicate with a barista in a café. Not only did she help them communicate, but she also engaged in a conversation with them… Finally, without any stress!

Would you believe that four hours can make such a difference?

Well, are you REALLY ready to empty your cup?

To learn a language, you don’t need a teacher, textbook, or overhyped motivation. Because what is motivation? If you want to learn a language, are you able to not to have it? At most, you might not make much progress… You might stop believing that what you’re doing makes sense… And you know what? It’s good that this might happen. Your mind can then whisper in your ear: “Empty your cup!”

So, which path should you choose?

To unlock the doors to learning any language, you need four key elements.

Here they are:

🔑 Key Element 1: Know yourself

We are all different. Everyone has a different learning style. Some prefer writing, others prefer reading. Each of us learns differently. Irish polyglot Benny Lewis encourages speaking in a foreign language from day one, while Italian Luca Lampariello first masters the basics of the language before moving on to conversations.

Who is right? Both of them. It all depends on your learning style.

Start by understanding what brings you joy. Take a closer look at when it’s easier for you to memorize information. Think back to your school years and consider what you excelled at.

Not without reason, French thinker Auguste Comte used to say:

Know yourself to become better.

🔑 Key Element 2: Develop your own learning method

What’s the point of wanting to learn English or any language if you don’t know exactly what to do?

Do you ever catch yourself thinking, “Maybe I should learn a foreign language?” But then, a moment later, you open Facebook and start looking at cat photos. The thought of language learning disappears as quickly as it appeared because you don’t know where to start. Should you memorize vocabulary? Or maybe look into a textbook? Or listen to something?

To achieve success, you must develop your own learning method. You need to determine what you will do at each step and stick to it.

The method – if it is to be effective – must be based on techniques and exercises that align with how the brain works. No rote memorization of vocabulary.

Focus on what is effective, and then establish what you will do every day. What exercises will you do when you have a free hour? What will you do when you’re tired and only have a few minutes for learning? The better you prepare for this, the easier it will be to find time for language learning.

So, develop your own learning method.

🔑 Key Element 3: Repetition

Do you know why it’s hard to learn a language in school?

There are not enough repetitions. The teacher jumps from one lesson to another because they have to cover the curriculum. One day, you learn the names of fruits, tomorrow you ask for directions, and the day after, you learn how to tell time, etc. But, are these lessons connected? Sure, you know the names of fruits, but will you use any of them in a conversation in the coming weeks?

The brain forgets what it doesn’t use. It’s an obvious truth, yet for some reason, it’s not taken into account in language teaching programs.

So, plan how you will review what you have learned.

Without repetition, there is no memorization. Period. Full stop.

🔑 Key Element 4: Persistence

When my friends found out that I would appear on the show “The Brain: Genius Mind” they almost unanimously said that I have an immense talent for learning.

However, it’s not talent that stands behind what I have achieved. I am no different from others, and I never considered myself a genius. Over the years, I have made many mistakes and language blunders. More than once, I have felt the urge to give up or at least sink into the ground with shame.

Finally, I understood that the key to success in any field – including language learning – is perseverance. You can have talent, work hard, but if you lack perseverance – especially in the most challenging moments – your efforts will be in vain.

Henry Kissinger once said, “A diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.”

When pressure arises, endure.

Keep going.

Don’t stop.

You too are a diamond.


Do you now know what question you would ask your idol if you ever met them?

Perhaps you want to learn English or another language…

Perhaps you want to know more about the four key elements… How can you discover your learning style? Which methods are effective? How can you review material in an effective way? How can you maintain consistency and perseverance?

No matter which question is on your mind right now, I know where you should start.

I’m holding a teapot with delicious tea… But, have you finally emptied your cup?

Article originally published at in Polish. You can find it here.

Konrad Jerzak vel Dobosz

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