How true are language learning myths?
Myths about language learning abound. Actually, I wouldn’t call them “myths.” I’d call them “excuses.” For every excuse about why you can’t learn a language that’s circulating, there are countless language learners who bust right through them and actually learn new languages.
What makes them different from the people who set out to learn a language and fail? Why do some learners succeed while others don’t Well, one of the biggest differences between the language learners who succeed and the ones who don’t is that the unsuccessful learners believe the myths, but the successful learners debunk them, they understand that anyone can learn a language, and they ignore the notions that it can’t be done?
Every time someone thinks of another reason why it isn’t possible; a successful language learner proves them wrong. Imagine how many more languages you would know if you rejected the myths, lies and excuses you believe about learning them.
The list of myths is countless, but five of them prevail over all.
Myth 1: I’m Too Old to Learn
Why not start with the biggest myth of them all? The one almost everyone thinks is true. The myth that every additional candle on your birthday cake makes it that much harder to learn a language.
Linguistic research shows that adults are not only capable of learning foreign languages, but they can also be better at language learning than kids. But who needs scientific proof? Just look around.
How many immigrants have you met? How many times have you spoken English with someone who has an accent? Keep them in mind as inspiration. Learning English as a second language is just as difficult for someone to do as it is for us to learn their languages. And what did they do? They learned it! Adults. Young people. Old people. All of them. None of them were “too old” to do it. Therefore, you aren’t too old either.
Myth 2: New Technology Makes It Pointless to Learn Foreign Languages
Another notorious myth is rooted in the modern information age in which we live. It’s the notion that “all we need is Google Translate. “Some people think that it became pointless to learn a language when “an app came out for that.” Why work hard to learn a language when your iPhone will just translate it for you? There are many flaws with this myth that discourages aspiring learners from acquiring new languages First of all, the quality of the translation on an app isn’t always the best. At times, the results are even incomprehensible.
Second, translation may be possible with a machine but the interpretation is not. By these terms, we mean the written and verbal forms of the language, respectively. Sure, there’s a voice that reads the script, but we’re talking about face-to-face, human interaction. Hopefully, you don’t expect to connect with a client and “speak her language” by typing a sales pitch into your phone then asking the person to listen to the voiceover.
Third, by using a translation device, you miss out on all the fun of learning another language!
Myth 3: It Takes Forever to Learn a Language
The third myth that needs debunking is the “forever” myth. “Learning a language will take me 20 years,” they say. That is simply not true. Even at a pace of half an hour per day, you could reach high levels of proficiency after five years of study. And that’s a conservative estimate. However, rather than a debate about how long it takes to learn a language, it’s best to address this myth by using an entirely different approach. Let’s consider getting a master’s degree as an example. Someone may want to earn that degree, but they may also be so busy they can only take one class per semester. That’s three classes a year. If the program requires 30 credit hours, then it will take 10 years to get the degree. Sure, that’s a long time, but here’s a news flash: Those 10 years are going to pass anyway. You can decide to earn the degree in 10 years or you can decide not to. But the time will pass either way. The same is true for learning a language. People often exaggerate how long it takes to learn a language. Nonetheless, what’s the problem with it taking a while? It may take three years. Five years. Ten years. But so, what? The time is going to pass anyway. The only question you have to ask yourself is, “after the time is up, do I want to speak a foreign language or not?”
Myth 4: It Takes No Time at All to Learn a Language
The next myth is the opposite of the previous one. It’s the “buy this product and learn a language by tomorrow morning” myth. The idea that someone can legitimately learn a foreign language with a decent amount of fluency in a week or even a month is a farce. There are a few polyglots who do learn languages fast and who offer great tips about how to do it. But “fast” and “seven days” are vastly different. The exact time it takes will differ widely from person to person. Language learners who believe the myth that they can learn a language in two days by following a few secret tips hidden inside of someone’s ebook (tips that no other polyglot has ever discovered, of course) are setting themselves up for failure. Why? Because you won’t actually learn the language before your business appointment at lunchtime tomorrow. You just won’t. Then you’ll get discouraged, and you’ll start to feel like something is wrong with you. This myth has prevented many learners who would have otherwise been successful from accomplishing their language learning goals.
Don’t believe it. Debunk it. Set realistic expectations. And go for it!
Myth 5: You Can’t Learn More Than One Language at a Time
Another myth aspiring polyglots hear and sometimes believe is that someone can’t learn two languages at the same time. That’s simply not the case. In fact, there are many benefits to learning multiple languages at the same time. It may be challenging for some people to learn similar languages such as French and Italian at the same time. But there’s no set rule about this either. Some polyglots enjoy this approach. Other learners find it easier to learn languages that are vastly different from each other, like Spanish and Arabic, at the same time. Every learner has their their own style. But none of these are rules. Saying that a person can’t learn more than one language at a time is a myth. It may be easier for you to focus on one language until you become bilingual, then start learning multiple languages one at a time afterward. But again, that’s just an idea that works for some people.
Don’t limit yourself. Don’t let a myth put you in a box.
If you want to learn several languages at the same time, nobody can stop you from doing it!
All in all, successful language learners overcome these myths.
The good news is that, by knowing these myths aren’t true, you can break through the barriers and learn your next language now.
The bad news is, well, you can’t use these myths as “reasons” why you can’t do it anymore. It’s time to throw the myths aside and learn the language you’ve always wanted to learn!