Thursday, 23 June 2016

What DON'T you need to learn another language?

What don’t you need to learn another language? And what do you? My two cents' worth.

I’ll start with what you don’t need. It may surprise you, since this runs counter to the conventional wisdom.

You don’t need:

  • Willpower. You shouldn't. Your amount of this is limited, and you’ll run out of it if you rely on willpower on a regular basis. What you do should be so arranged that you enjoy doing it.
  • Gift. There are far fewer people with a gift for languages than you think. Conversely, almost everyone has the aptitude.
  • Time. You don’t need great big chunks of time. Five minutes here and there will mount up. And short bursts are actually better.
  • Analytical mind. You need to be interested in order to learn. But to break things up into ever smaller portions won’t help you use a language. You lose speed and fluency.
  • Memory. Not short term memory. Long term memory is what you need. And that relies on ‘forgetting’ nonessentials or things you’re not quite ready for.
  • A knowledge of grammar. Certainly not the technical terms and whatnot. But an internal feel for what sounds right is another matter.
  • Teacher. No you don’t. You need to take charge of your own learning. And the sooner the better.
  • Intelligence. What’s the lowest IQ that you need to be able to use your own language? Exactly!
  • Materials. Language learning materials are produced to make someone a profit. Just make use of the materials that people of the language you’re interested in are interested in.
  • Outgoing personality. No difference has been shown between introverts and extroverts. Not as far as learning a language goes
  • Energy. You may choose to spend a lot of energy. But if you need to, then you’re doing it wrong. Energy, like willpower, is limited.

You do need:
  • Desire. It helps a lot if there’s something that you have a passion for which requires knowing the language. That’s too wordy . . . You’ve gotta love something about it.
  • Reason. The stronger your reason or need to know a language, the more likely you’ll learn it.
  • Tenacity. It takes a long time. It isn’t difficult, but progress is slow. So it helps if you are dogged. If you have a history of going long projects.
  • Independence. You need to be able to work on your own. You are the best judge about how you learn best. At least you should be.
  • Imagination. Imagination will create something interesting out of something boring.
  • Open mind. You need to be able to hold of prematurely judging. Every new idea is born drowning.
  • Self-belief. If you believe that you won’t be able to do something, then you won’t. Guaranteed. 
  • Experience. If you can call on something in your history where you succeeded in learning another language, or with a long course of study, then that’s a big plus. Even if you failed, that will help you avoid future pitfalls.
  • Self knowledge. The better you know yourself, your on-buttons and off-buttons the more likely you are to climb ladders and avoid snakes.
  • Interest. You need to be alert to notice what’s going on in a language. 
  • Patience. It’s going to take time. You don’t need negative self-talk slowing you down even further. Realistically, you need patience.
  • Laziness. Finding the easiest and most pleasant way to do things will conserve your resources.
  • Pleasure. Enjoy what you do. Otherwise, what’s the point?
  • Resourcefulness. Use whatever you have at hand well. Work to your strengths.

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