I believe in making language learning as fun as possible. Why? Because fun is fuel. And fun is, well, fun! The more you enjoy the journey, the more likely you are to keep going day after day. But “fun” doesn’t necessarily mean “easy.” The truth is that there is no completely pain-free path up Language Mountain. There is no route that lets you completely skip the “suck.” While I hope you will enjoy most of your language learning journey by choosing modern materials, topics you love, and effective self-guided immersion activities, you will inevitably encounter days when you are unmotivated to put in the work or are too scared to step outside of your comfort zone. When this happens, chasing fun is not enough. You have to rely on two decidedly less fun alternatives: developing discipline and facing your fears. I know, I know, not exactly a recipe for a party. But this is a recipe for long-term success.
The journey to full fluency in a foreign language can be roughly divided into what psychologists call the four stages of competence: Unconscious Incompetence, Conscious Incompetence, Conscious Competence, and Unconscious Competence. You can think of progress through the stages like climbing up a mountain peak all the way from sea level. Read on to learn more about the stages and how to keep going when the going gets tough.
In the video, Harvard’s Steven Pinker discusses the great mysteries of language and human nature, backed up by the amazing whiteboard illustration of RSA Animate.
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”.
The term “Multiple Intelligences” was first coined by Harvard psychologist Howard Gardner. His theory is spelled out in the 1983 book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. In the book, Gardner posits that humans possess many varied types of intelligence, not just one. This stands in stark contrast to IQ and standardized testing, both of which look at intelligence as a one-dimensional concept: you either have it or you don’t. While Gardners’s work is still somewhat controversial, I think it is a helpful way to frame intelligence and useful tool for choosing effective language learning methods and materials for oneself.