When you are passionate about a field, you quickly lose sight of an obvious fact: everyone doesn’t share the same enthusiasm as you. I met quite a few English speakers for whom learning French was a deeply boring and useless activity. How is that possible? Why are there people so passionate about learning a foreign language while others absolutely refuse it.
Learning a new language: a pleasure or an ordeal?
Motivation is at the heart of any project:
In my view, motivation is the most crucial factor of all. Basically, apart from the family environment, what is the real difference between two people, one monolingual (speaking only his mother tongue) and the other multilingual (speaking several languages)? An innate gift? Money? Quality education?
Those indeed have their importance, but the real determining factor, the only one that really makes a difference over the years, is the motivation, no matter in which form: passion, curiosity, the eagerness to develop your mastery of the language and to constantly discover new ones.
I am sometimes told that I have facilities to learn languages, which would be lacking to ordinary people. I don’t believe that for a second and I say it without false modesty: I developed my capacity for learning through challenging work and experimentation, and sometimes I failed. In short, I was not born with genius’s abilities, I just accumulated a lot of experience.
The reason why I created BlogFrench is precisely because I strongly believe that the ability to learn a new language is within the reach of absolutely everyone.
Want to know the secret of polyglots? The desire to learn
So now, when people mention my so-called “gift to languages”, I simply say that when I find myself in the foreign languages department of a bookstore, I see in each book an invitation to travel, discover new cultures and met new people… On the contrary, many people unfortunately only find a profound boredom.
This is the one and only difference between success and failure to learn foreign languages. The method of learning is obviously important, but it’s nothing without the motivation.
Efforts seen as suffering: a false conception
In my opinion, most people have a problem with efforts, which they consider a necessary suffering. Of course, efforts remain necessary and it would be lying to you to pretend that it’s possible to learn a foreign language without making the slightest effort.
But do your efforts absolutely need to be unpleasant to be effective? Does a medicine always need to have a terrible taste to heal you quickly? That’s another false belief.
It’s not necessary to work hard to learn a language, but to work regularly. If you think of each of your revision sessions as an unavoidable suffering rather than pleasure, you’re simply torturing yourself.
To learn better, change your habits
Whenever you start to study, don’t do it like you’re going to have a bad time. Try to revise if possible at a time of the day when you are full of energy: if you do it late at night when your only desire is to go to sleep, you may not only not be effective, but you will also probably experience these efforts as a punishment.
The best solution is to do it in the morning if you have time, or in the evening when you have just returned home. You will be more concentrated at this time rather than after half an hour spent on your couch. Choose the solution that suits you best and turn it into a habit.
Stop enduring your learning, but live it
If so many people consider foreign languages boring, it’s because their personal experience (often in their studies) has been a long moment of boredom. I don’t want to make any hasty generalizations, but we have to admit that in many schools and universities, language teaching is often limited to lists of vocabulary about business English, distributed by teachers who rarely have the possibility to develop more ambitious programs.
If, in your adult life, your contact with foreign languages was limited to job interview simulations in French, I can fully understand that you haven’t developed a burning passion for this field.
From utility value to personal value
I’m not saying that this professional French is useless. On the contrary, it’s very useful, perhaps too much, to the point of simply becoming a tool. Actually in this case, you don’t learn the language because it meets a deeply felt need, but because it’s seen simply as an instrument to find a job. You are not motivated by a personal will, but by a social necessity.
This utilitarianism is in my opinion not very compatible with the pleasure of learning languages as I comprehend it: to immerse yourself in a culture, in relation to desires and personal projects. Of course, wanting to make money can be part of those good reasons, but I don’t think it’s an end in itself: I challenge you to learn thousands of Chinese character for the simple purpose of putting Mandarin on your CV.
Learn in the right order
In the first months of your learning process, it’s good to let yourself carried by the flow of the language. You might not necessarily grasp the priorities of the language, the most useful words and expressions. So you should try, at first, to build a foundation of knowledge.
After this step, the time has come to take your independence. Way too many learners do things “upside down”, continuing to learn the vocabulary of their method rather than the one they really need. To avoid falling into this trap, ask yourself the following question: “In the coming months, what do I want to do with this language that I still can’t do today? “.
From this initial problem, try to define work axes that will allow you to solve it. You have planned a trip to France? Learn first the vocabulary related to tourism, hospitality, restauration…
By taking this step back on your learning process, you will find it much more pleasant. Between brainwashing yourself with tons of vocabulary and learning to materialize projects that motivate you, the choice is made very quickly!
Give new meaning to your project
In the words of the American psychologist Barry Schwartz, it’s possible to find satisfaction in the work itself, provided that it makes sense to you and that it brings a sense of accomplishment. By adopting this state of mind, not only will you progress much faster, but you will take great pleasure in doing so.
For a more global vision of language learning
It seems to me necessary to take the learning of foreign languages out of its ivory tower in which it is placed too often, and put it back in the place that should be its own: an improvement of oneself rather than a simple exercise of memorization, and an openness to humanity rather than an elitist discipline.
In fact, the more you learn foreign languages, the easier it becomes to learn others. This same principle can be applied to satisfaction: the more languages you learn, the more fun it becomes to learn.
I am convinced that knowing a language, and especially to practice it among its speakers, brings such a satisfaction that you always want to learn a new one, then another…
Of course, BlogFrench focus on the French language, and that’s because it’s the only one that I feel confident enough to teach to English speakers, for the moment (Of course, that means I’m a confident English speaker as well, it goes without saying).
But what I want you to understand is that whenever you are learning French, don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “How could I have more fun learning this language? “. If you turn this activity into a true passion, you will never experience it as a burden, but as one of the most rewarding elements in your life.