Every so often, I stumble across claims on the interwebs so outrageous that they immediately send me to the keyboard to write a blog post. As they say, the best way to complain is to create. One such example is the following statement I read on an education blog: “Anything students need to know has to be taught, not caught.” This sound bite seems logical to those who subscribe to traditional “sage on the stage” models of teaching, but it underpins a major misconception about language acquisition: the notion that languages can be taught at all.
I made just about every possible mistake when starting out in languages. I used terribly inefficient methods, slogged through boring materials I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy, and almost gave up more than a few times. But this is good news for you: struggling so much in the beginning and later correcting course makes me a much better language coach. You never want to learn from a “natural” who picks up new skills easily. As Tim Ferriss points out in the The 4-Hour Chef: “The top 1% often succeed despite how they train, not because of it. Superior genetics, or a luxurious full-time schedule, make up for a lot. Career specialists can’t externalize what they’ve internalized. Second nature is hard to teach.”
I spend lots of my time learning and writing about psychology. Most of my favorite language bloggers do the same. But why? Isn’t all this psychology stuff just a bunch of touchy-feely mumbo jumbo? Isn’t the only important thing in language learning how much you study? Time on task is indeed paramount to success, but the quantity of learning (although important) matters far less than the quality. And what determines the impact of your language learning time? Your psychology. Read on to see the five most insidious obstacles standing between you and fluency.
Benny Lewis, the Irish Polyglot, and Tim Ferriss, the author of The 4-Hour Workweek, The 4-Hour Body, and The 4-Hour Chef, discuss language myths, and how to learn languages quickly using the 80/20 rule.
You often hear people say that certain words are “difficult”, but I don’t think this word applies to languages. Instead, I suggest you use the word “unfamiliar” instead. Read on to see why…
Most adults fail to learn a foreign language no matter how many years they sit in a classroom or live where the language is spoken because they spend nearly all of their study time learning “about” their target language instead of the language itself. This is the critical difference between “studying” and “learning”.