language learning enemy

Have there been any pivotal moments in your life? Something that became a reference point? A moment from which you count time, i.e. your life before, and your life after that event?

Certainly, the Cherokee Nation could easily point out such a moment. Each young man, upon reaching maturity, had to prove to others that he had become an adult man. To achieve this, he surrendered himself to his father’s hands. His father blindfolded him, led him deep into the forest, and sat him on a tree stump. The boy had to sit there alone throughout the night, without uncovering his eyes, until the first rays of the sun appeared.

The young Cherokee was left to himself. He couldn’t call for help. Throughout the night, he would feel that wild animals surrounded him. He would hear strange sounds that pierced his heart. At any moment, something or someone could attack him and inflict mortal wounds. However, he couldn’t do anything. He was left alone with his fear and the illusions created by his mind.

Every day, we make choices

We can stay in our comfort zone, where we feel safe, or venture into the unknown, test ourselves, and face dangers.

For many of us, learning a foreign language is one of those dangers. It’s something completely unfamiliar, stressful and so on. We avoid learning whenever we can, even though deep down we know that someday it will come back to haunt us.

Indeed, even if we feel comfortable in our home comforts, life keeps saying “I’m testing you.” We are led, like that young Native American, into the unknown, and relying on what we have learned so far, we must prove our skills.

Will you be ready for that moment? When knowledge of the language becomes essential, whether at work or in everyday life, will you pass that test?

So, what is our biggest internal enemy against language learning?

On the path of learning a foreign language, we encounter an enemy perfectly described by Steven Pressfield in his book “The War of Art.” This enemy is our internal resistance. Like any enemy, it employs various strategies that we must learn to combat. Here are the three most important ones:

1. Fear

“What if I make a fool of myself? What if I mix up English words or forget how to say something? What if no one understands me because of my terrible accent?”

We all have a fear of failing. We’re afraid to start learning because we think our loved ones will make fun of us. “At your age, you’re taking up English? Isn’t it too late? I know you won’t manage.” 

So, fear paralyzes us, but there is one piece of advice for it… just START!

Start a conversation.

Start learning.

Take the first step.

You can’t get to where you want to be if you stay in one place.

Once you start, the fears will suddenly vanish, and a few moments later, you’ll feel very comfortable.

2. Uncertainty

“What exactly should I do? What should I say? What should I learn?”

So many question marks accompany language learning. We hear that it takes many years and intense study to master a foreign language. But, can it be done faster?

When our biggest challenge becomes uncertainty, there’s a perfect solution to it.

Don’t get too far ahead. Don’t think ahead. FOCUS ON WHAT YOU CAN DO NOW.

Go through the next lesson in the textbook. Read one page from a book. Check unfamiliar words from the text you read, etc. It doesn’t matter exactly what it is. The important thing is to focus on a specific task that can be done in half an hour. You don’t have to plan out every minute of your day. Life is full of surprises and unforeseen situations. However, always remember what you have to do now. What is the next step? Once you complete the first one, decide what the second step will be and so on!

3. Doubt

“Does what I’m doing make sense? Will this learning method bring the expected results? Maybe it’s better to throw these books away and give up?”

Doubts come to each of us at some point. Even if everything is going well, once we overcome fear and uncertainty, we start to doubt. “Is it worth making a change? How to cope with it? Maybe it’s better to buy a different textbook or enroll in an additional course?”

The answer is simple. To fight doubts, you need to apply the tactic: STICK TO ONE METHOD AND FINISH A SPECIFIC STAGE. 

  • If you’ve chosen a certain textbook, try to go through it entirely or at least in part before deciding on the next one. 
  • Set specific goals and tasks, as well as the method you will use to achieve them within a certain timeframe. For example, you might decide to learn in a certain way to be able to hold a conversation in the language after 2 months. 
  • Stick to that method and assess its results. If it doesn’t work out after 2 months, then seek additional advice and tips.

You’ll often notice that while some techniques don’t work well at first, they turn out to be highly effective if you use them daily. Our brain needs time to organize certain things, so the effects of some actions may only be seen in the future.

Trust yourself and remember one more important thing…

How does the story of our young Cherokee end?

When the young Cherokee removed the blindfold at dawn, a completely unexpected sight met his eyes.

Facing him was his father, who had been watching over him in silence all night. So, there was no real danger, and all the dark scenarios were all just in his head. The ferocious beasts that surrounded him at night were figments of his imagination and posed no real threat.

Your biggest adversary is therefore your mind creating scenarios that often have nothing to do with reality.

However, remember that, like the young Cherokee, you are not alone. There are people around you who will help you overcome internal resistance.

Who are they?

Look around you…

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

Konrad Jerzak vel Dobosz

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