|Learning languages : what you can do|
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- Who can learn what
- Most people can learn most languages if they work with a sensible method for a reasonable period regularly. Although
it is true that some people are really bad at learning languages, there are very few of
these. Rather, there are many people who were discouraged by bad experiences in school and
who believe that if they dont speak french or german with any fluency after having spent
10 years in school studying it, this is because they are not gifted. It is my strong
opinion that most people can learn foreign languages if they do it the right way.
Actually, everybody, gifted or not, with a good or bad memory, learns his mother tongue
effortlessly. Of course adult learn differently (and a lot more quickly) than children,
but the point is that it does not take special skills to be an efficient language
learner, just an efficient method.
- Time needed and difficulty
- There are certainly difficult languages and easy languages.
But I have never heard of a language which was impossible to learn. The difference is the
time it takes and the dedication you need to "finish" the language. The easiest
languages are those closest to your mother tongue or to another language you already
speak. You can look at my language families for the learner
graphs as a quick guide to the closest languages to yours, or visit the choosing your language section. Learning a language with more
than 80% of "common" words with your mother tongue can be done in three months
part time if you're efficient, 6 months as a maximum. Other, more remote language or with
more inner complexity can take you 2 to 3 years to reach a reasonable fluency. Anyway, one
thing is certain : people learning on their own will learn much more quickly than people
taking classes or attending school.
- What you can achieve
- Most people can speak a language like a native if they live in
a country where they have to speak it all the time, especially when they are young. For
all the others, learning to speak a language without accent is very difficult, something
very few achieve. But nonetheless it is possible to learn to speak a language with
fluency, to be able to express your thoughts with finesse and understand all the
intricacies in the speech of natives without having to spend half your life among them.
The important is to set useful and realistic goals (the first step is to understand and be
understood) and then measure yourself against them to know where you stand. The difference
between the mediocre and the oustanding language learner is not so much in the time you
need rather in where you decide to stop. You should realize that you will never stop
learning a particular language and that there will nearly always be room for improvement
in your skills. Decide to improve your language skills everytime you can and never be
satisfied with approximate but sufficient skills ! The idea is not to work constantly
(you have better things to do) in order to pass, one day, for a native. Rather, it is an
open attitude toward learning, a realization that even if you speak really well, you could
improve it, learn new words or new expressions or perfect your pronunciation. Aim for
excellence, and you'll get it.
- Most people can learn languages if they study the right way
- Having been bad at languages in school means nothing (I was bad
- You should never be satisfied with your foreign language skills
and constantly try to improve them