Four classic excuses that native English speakers make when it comes to learning a language

Given the choice, I don’t think that there are many people who wouldn’t like to have the ability to speak another language, whether it’s for professional purposes, travel or personal enjoyment. Despite this, there are so few native English speakers who actually make the effort to do so. Why is this? Below are the top four excuses English natives use:

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1. Everyone speaks English, therefore I don’t really need to learn a language.

There’s no doubt that English is the most important language in the world and those of us who have it as our mother tongue should consider ourselves lucky. Estimates suggest that in between 1 and 1.5 billion people speak English as a first or second language and are at least able to hold a basic conversation. As 1/7th of the population speak the language you can see why English native speakers don’t feel the need. However, what about the other 6 billion people who don’t speak English? What happens if you want to communicate with them?  By limiting yourself to English, you are missing out on thousands of opportunities to meet people and create meaningful connections.  A good example of this is Brazil; estimates show that only 5% of people speak English, meaning that you are unable to communicate with 190 million people in the country!

2. I don’t have time or money to learn a language

This is a classic excuse that is used over and over again by people to prevent themselves from doing the things that they really want to do, and not just with language learning. But the impression that in order to get fluent in a foreign language you need to spend hours a day studying and practising is wrong. By just spending 10-15 minutes a day on consistent basis (this is key) you can speak a language well. Let’s say you learn just 5 words a day,  you’ll have a vocabulary of around 2000 words in just over a year, easily enough to have a decent conversation! In terms of money, how much does it cost to learn 5 new words and a grammar rule a day? Absolutely nothing. Don’t have time to look for new words? Use the Immerse app and choose from hundreds of articles!

3Languages just aren’t for me

This one makes no sense. So many people claim that just because they feel that they don’t have a “thing” for languages there’s no point in even trying to learn. Or they remember how unproductive and dull French Lessons were back in Secondary school and decide that the “language learning” environment isn’t for them. Yes there are some people who find it easier than others, but there’s three things in common that people who develop a skill have (language learners or not) – A can-do attitude, determination and a bit of discipline.

4. There’s no one to practice with so what’s the point.

This was one thing that initially held me back. I thought that there was no point putting in the effort to learn French as I had no-one to practice with. However, after spending a week in Belgium and realising how bad my French actually was and how much of a difference speaking the language well actually would have made, I tried to figure out ways to find people to talk with. Unfortunately, due to living in a small English village with no native French speakers (unsurprisingly) there was only one other solution, forcing myself to think in French. Thinking is truly the most underrated way to learn a language and despite being hard at first, you can gain a high level of a language very quickly. By being able to practice vocabulary and grammatical patterns anywhere and anytime you will be 10 times more prepared when you get the chance to practice your skills abroad!

 

 

 

The hard truth. Five reasons you aren’t yet fluent in the language you are learning.

I can’t even begin to count the amount of Gringos that I’ve met all over Latin America who come here with the goal of “getting fluent” in Spanish or Portuguese only to find themselves leaving with regrets and limited language abilities despite having spent an extended period of time in here. So why is this happening?

Here are 5 reasons why:

  1. You surround yourself with Gringos

So many people complain that they can’t get their Spanish/Portuguese fluent because they don’t have anyone to practice with. No wonder this is the case when you surround yourself with fellow Brits and Aussies in a hostel playing beer pong and sipping on Caipirinhas. Don’t get me wrong, hostels are great fun, but spice things up a bit by Couchsurfing with locals, getting in touch with friends of friends and venturing to places off the gringo trail. This way, you’ll immerse yourself in the local culture and give yourself opportunities to practice the language.

A great personal example of this would be in Rosario, Argentina, where after getting in touch with a friend of a friend (a guy I had never spoken to before) I managed to spend the night at a private birthday party in a top end bar/nightclub at a table with around 30 different Argentinians. Talk about a great opportunity to practice my Spanish!

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Despite being good fun, don’t be suprised if your Spanish still sucks when you’re staying in South American Hostels like this
  1. You refuse to leave your Comfort Zone

This one is a killer, and affects everyone including myself. We, as humans, do anything we can to protect our egos and avoid looking like a fool. However, the harsh reality is that you aren’t going to improve your language skills without going through the horrible beginner’s stage of sounding like an imbecile and making plenty of mistakes. Drop the ego, and embrace it, that way you have nothing to lose. These mental barriers severely hindered my German speaking. Despite having studied the language for a few years I avoided every opportunity of speaking with native speakers to ensure I wouldn’t sound like a fool. However, just a few weeks ago, I got my act together and seized on the opportunity to practice my German with a native speaker for a few days. The result; I learned more German in 4 days than I had in the past 12 months combined.

  1. Not learning the Grammar

No-one likes learning Grammar, but unfortunately learning the structure of the language early on can take a huge amount of time off the learning process. So stop spending all your time on Duolingo and invest in a good grammar book. For both Spanish and Portuguese I would highly recommend the Hugo “in three months” books and Michel Thomas’ Courses which are fantastic at drilling in the grammar and it is surprisingly addictive. By spending less than an hour a day you can master complicated grammar structures in just a few months.

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No money? You’re in luck, you can get this book for pennies on Amazon
  1. Inconsistency

As with all things in life, practice makes perfect, and this especially applies to learning languages. It’s all well and good spending a full day speaking Spanish, but if this is just once a month this isn’t going to get you far. Consistency is key, so putting yourself in a situation where you’re forced to speak on a daily basis is going to put you two steps ahead.

But I have no-one to practice with I hear you cry? Get into the habit of forcing yourself to think in the foreign language, even if you’re knowledge is limited.  Finally, spend 5-10 minutes a day reading new material and learning new words. My personal recommendation is the immerse app (http://www.immerse-app.com/en/), a language learning app full of a wide range of reading materials for people at different skill levels. This means that you don’t even have to look for reading material anymore and can just open to the app to find anything from politics articles to surf magazines right In front of you. Now where’s your excuse to not gaining fluency?

  1. Placing too much importance on Classes.

So many people believe that in order to gain fluency in a language you have to study it at university or invest lots of money in language classes. This is far from being true, and I actually find that this can be counter-productive. The often dull environment of a classroom isn’t made for everyone (especially myself) and can demotivate you and can even put you off learning a language all together. Stop believing in this myth and accept the fact that you can gain fluency by yourself with a few good resources and determination. On the other hand, one on one conversation classes can be a huge bonus, but this doesn’t have to be with someone from a high end institution.

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Language learning doesn’t have to be like this!