There are endless reasons why people decide not to try learning a language. Sometimes they start and abandon straight away due to the same misconceptions about acquiring a second language I will talk about in this article.
Myth No. 1
Children are better at learning a second language.
The consensus is that because of their young age, children’s brain is more receptive to new information. There might be some degree of truth because research suggests that our capacity to learn tend to diminish over time. But, on the other hand, researchers comparing children to late teenagers and adults have demonstrated that the last two outperform the children.
This false perception that children are better at languages might as well be because less is required from a child in the fluency field. They need and use less vocabulary, and the grammar structures they use is simpler as well as the way they construct their sentences, these tend to be shorter. The same apply to their mother tongue.
Myth No. 2
Being too old to study a language.
It is linked to myth No.1.You can learn at any age. As pointed out, adults are at an advantage over children starting with their level of motivation and their passion to discover the culture of their target country. Adults can use various learning strategies to help them memorise words, phrases and grammar. Besides, once you discover a good learning strategy, you can apply it over and over again for whatever language you decide to study.
Myth No. 3
Lack of time to study a language.
You can always incorporate learning a language within your busy schedule. You just need to know how to manage your time, find pockets of free space where you can incorporate a language activity, slimline your average time on social media and watching TV and most importantly, you must be motivated and committed.
Myth No. 4
You learn a language faster if you are in the country.
Living in the country where your target language is spoken is certainly a facilitator, but it does not exclude motivation, willingness to learn and your effort in effectively learning this language. You must study if you want to understand when people are talking to you; if not, you’ll be like thousands of ex-pats who can barely mutter a few words after living in their target country for long periods of time.
English is not "THE" universal language as you might think.
Myth No. 5
Everyone speaks English, what’s the point?
Yes, a quarter of the world population speaks English to some extent, but the rest don’t. you’ll find out, when you travel, as soon as you leave the tourists ‘quarters, that most people can’t utter a simple sentence in English. English is not “THE” universal language as you might think. Besides, it’s always better to talk to the natives in their own language, if you can. It shows that you care about them and their culture, they’ll be grateful for your effort and you will benefit from it.
I can’t memorise foreign vocabulary.
Even if you have the worst memory and, like my dad, loose your glasses when they are on your head, you can apply the different techniques available for vocabulary learning. You can use flashcards and spaced-repetition programs to help you master these new words you encounter.
Myth No. 7
It’s expensive to learn a language.
There is a myriad of resources available on the internet if you’re serious about learning a language, and most of them are free or at very affordable prices. There are some languages where it’s more difficult to obtain these resources, but if you’re patient and look in the right places, you’ll find them. If you’re a beginner, you can even start with a basic phrasebook where you will discover necessary sentences that you can use straight away in conversations.
I’m rubbish at languages.
“I did four years of French at school and it was a struggle. I don’t know how I passed my exams. Now I don’t remember anything at all.”
This is very common. You must remember that schools used the traditional way of teaching where the emphasis was put on grammar and memorising vocabulary lists. It has long been proven that this technique does not work. So, it’s not all your fault. Nowadays, there are more communicative ways of language teaching where the stress is put on making you able to speak and communicate in the language you’re learning.
You should also bear in mind that studying a language implies being ready to grind and work towards your goals.
Language learning will be obsolete soon with modern translation technology.
If we want to build cultural and economic bridges, we should make the effort and try direct communication with people from other parts of the world. Technology should help, not replace the human interaction. It’s true that Google Translate can help “in extremis”, but it can’t substitute the social relationship between human beings. Technology has come a long way, true, but it can’t detect the nuances of a human conversation.
Smart people are better at languages
It has been proven that someone’s general intelligence is a poor indicator of his/her language ability. The best indicators for language learning success are motivation and self-esteem.
Myth No. 11
I have no support from my family and friends.
You should find the way to convince them of how crucial their support is to you. Most importantly, be specific about how you expect them to help. For example, if it is with language practice, establish a rule that when you are alone, you will only speak in the target language. Once on board, don’t let them back up and, even when they talk to you in your mother tongue, answer back in your target language while insisting they do the same.
On the other hand, don’t forget to try the online language communities where you can find all the support and accountability you need to see you through your language study.
There are plenty more myths around language study. If I carried on, it would take days to read this article.
Are you aware of more? please do write them in the comments. If I receive enough suggestions, I might incorporate them in a new blog post.