We all know there are plenty of reasons to learn foreign languages. In this post I’m here to dispel the 16 most common language learning myths and misconceptions.
Man and language are like seismic twins can’t be separated. It is something that is innate, and unless you’re born deaf and dump (even there is a language for that also), language is what we are wired to speak, hear and understand.
Language is everywhere, and in everything we do. Whether in the street, on the road, on TV, on Radio, at the paper stand; we see, hear and read language all the time. And that include foreign languages.
There are numerous career benefits in foreign language. Learning how to speak a language that isn’t ours takes time, commitment and much studying. With all of these hurdles to cross, the last thing we want is anything that will discourage us further in our language learning goals. When you just start from that plain truth, all the other myths start to melt away.
16 Language Learning Myths you need to know
But we first have to debunk the language learning myths that are holding us back. Clearing up these myths becomes more important than ever. So, here we first have to debunk the 16 myths and misconception of language learning that are provably untrue.
Myth #1 — You need a special talent to learn a language
Now, people are quick to conclude that because I can speak multiple languages entails that I have a special talent or I’m “heavenly gifted” as some would even describe it.
Some would even go as far as to claim that I have a rare kind of DNA that enables me to learn, mastered and speak any language I choose. People with this mythological mindset believed that only a select few have this type of DNA.
But this myth is baseless and false; especially when you consider that any child can learn and speak any language no matter where he or she is.
The answer to this myth is that EVERY human being on earth has the language learning ability, and that’s just one of the many aspects of our human nature. Nobody is wired especially to learn languages than others; if you are failing or succeeding today, it’s down to the approach and practice you put in. Period!
Myth #2 — My English or individual language is enough
That is outrightly incorrect! No one language is sufficient for you if you want to conquer the world in the business industry or travelling sectors. Try visiting Latin America, and you will understand why there is a surge in the numbers of Indians and other European countries taking up classes in Spanish.
Moreover, there are hundreds of places in the world that still lack comprehensive English classes. It will surprise you to know that out of the world’s huge population, only less than one-quarter of it speaks English considerably. Ask yourself; “what for God sake happens to the remaining 5.5 billion people living on our planet?”
So, that myth is entirely nonsense and should be cast away from our mindset.
Myth #3 — It is impossible for adults to learn a language: it’s for children only
Yes. As we grow older, learning a language becomes less natural, but saying it is impossible is false. You can learn any language of choice regardless of age. Today’s world of technology has made it possible for people to take language classes with highly advanced language learning resources that target college-age and sophisticated adults.
Another thing you should know is that children have just one advantage above adults, not that they are better learners. That advantage is “the ability to look stupid without worrying about in the course of learning”. That is what adults’ lack. To succeed in learning a foreign language, you need to commit much time to repeat mistakes and saying the wrong things over and over again, until you arrive at that point of perfection.
For adults, this can turn out to be a nightmare of unprecedented embarrassment, with the fear of ruining or staining our reputation. But for children, nothing is embarrassing in this, instead; it’s just another day of life. According to recent report by MIT Scientist, adults learn language nearly as well as children.
The moment you can stop hiding behind books and apps, and overcome the fear of being embarrassed, you can beat any child with your intelligence, consistency and discipline in your language learning.
Myth #4 — People want to learn foreign languages
The bitter truth is, most people don’t actually have a profound interest in learning languages. When people, well at least in most cases what i observed, say they want to “learn a new language in India,” what they really mean is career enhancement, job opportunities, immigration, travelling, or just interest in movies or music or some other aspect of the culture of people who speak a specific language. In short, languages don’t really matter. It is just a way to achieve known or unknown goal.
Motivation and passion are everything as far as language learning is concerned. Whatever your goal may be, being emotional about the language you’re studying will help you to persevere and scale through whatever hurdles it contains. If you don’t have a great interest it can be difficult to find required time from your busy schedule and get through the different stages of language learning.
Myth #5 — You must have a super memory
Wrong! Instead, memorizing is one of the unhealthiest methods of learning a language. Reciting grammar rules isn’t the best way to learn a language. Speaking and listening is the best way you can learn a language. You learn the right and everyday phrases that you will use, not memorizing them. If you are not planning to perform brain surgery in the language that you want, you can as well forget about learning it, because, memorizing will never help you.
Myth #6 — You must learn how to write and speak at the same time
While the majority of language learners learn how to read and write at the same time they also learn to understand and speak, it isn’t a must that you have to learn both.
It is always a better option to do things in sequence rather than doing them simultaneously. Imagine you are cooking dinner and at the same filling your tax return form. You know what that means if you chose to switch between both; you will not only get your food burnt but also spill some contents on your tax form.
It is better to learn how to speak and understand first, so that once you’ve mastered or progressed fairy in that, then you can think about learning how to read and write. The truth is, one can be fluent in speaking a language without necessarily knowing how to put it down in writing. Start with learning the spoken sound, and then try conversion later on.
Myth #7 — It is a must that you study grammar
That is not true either! You don’t start your language learning by holding and memorizing conjugation charts in your head to speak perfect grammar. You don’t have to memorize all the grammar rules including their official names to master fluency in any language.
If you must be fluent in the language that you are learning, you have to learn grammar organically, and that’s by mimicking what you hear. Trying to study grammar theoretically in the early stage of your language learning can even slow you down. Try focusing on the connection (spoken sound) rather than on correction (theoretical studying).
Myth #8 — You only need books and apps to learn a language
Yeah, the myth is that, with various free language app for language learners such as Duolingo, together with a few minutes a day on the train, one can become perfect in a foreign language.
Unfortunately, that isn’t what it seems.
Another popular myth about language learning is books and apps alone will never give you conversational fluency in your target language. Of course, they might come handy in helping you to troubleshoot concepts and learn vocabulary. But the primary point of learning new language s to engage in conversations with real people.
So the best book or app is never going to replace you placing yourself out there in the open and practice conversation with people in the real world. Lots of conversational practice is the way to achieve fluency in language learning.
Myth #9 — Learning a language is always expensive
This myth about language learning is totally untrue. Tutors for some languages can be expensive, and classes in different language institutes can also be, but it doesn’t have to be that always. There are more available resources for some languages compared to some others. For instance, more universities offer French or German than Dutch or Portuguese language in India, and that’s the reality. But that said, there a whole lot of free and affordable resources and books that makes language learning easy and even fascinating.
Myth #10 — You have to live where the target language is spoken
You do not have to live where your target language is spoken before you can get to speak it. There are lots of people in Africa who have never crossed to the France, but they speak flawless French, even better than those who live in French speaking countries. The beauty of this is mostly down to the interest of the person, learning centres and accessibility of resources available to any one with a teacher, books and an internet connection and a computer. So, where you live is never an obstacle.
Myth #11 — Language learning is too difficult
While language learning takes time, it’s not going to be forever, and neither is the process. Language is only difficult to learn if you don’t want to learn. To successfully learn a language, you have to commit much time to learn and a will to learn must also be present — not that learning a language is difficult.
One of the reasons why language learning is hard for some people to cope with is down to some of the methods that languages are taught, not that the language itself is ambiguous. So, the claim that language learning is too complicated is just another myth that discourages people from learning it.
Myth #12 — Learning a Foreign Language guarantees moving abroad
Wrong! While your foreign language learning opens you up to greater opportunities, it doesn’t guarantee putting food on your table. What do I mean? Let’s assume you signed up for a French course and later became perfect or gain near perfection in your French language proficiency test; while that will help you to fit in properly and assimilate into the French culture if you decide to move to France or any French speaking nations, it doesn’t guarantee you a job in the overseas job market.
Beside your ability to speak a foreign language, you need other skills to land jobs. Remember you are not the only one speaking the language over there in your target destination; so to have the advantage is to have additional skills, not the myth that your language proficiency is sufficient enough to land immigration or such other job related opportunities.
Myth #13 — Are Intelligent People are Better Language Learners?
While learning a new language definitely makes you smarter. Numerous research has proven that being bilingual has positive effects on the brain and they are better at problem-solvers, prioritizing tasks, multitasking and tend to make more rational decisions. The advantages after learning a new language is well-know but Are smarter people better at learning languages?
Academic background or High IQ has nothing to do with studying a new language. It has proven to be a quite a poor indicator of language-learning ability. Rather than IQ or intelligence, it is often the right methodologies, different strategies, tolerance for ambiguity, Interest, and regular practice that matter most – to give the learners more confidence and encourage them to learn.
If you did very well in academics, it is no guarantee of success. Similarly, if you struggled at school, that doesn’t mean you will struggle with languages. Every person has a different learning style. Armed with the right methods, authentic materials, and proper motivation, one can achieve the higher proficiency in any language in few years. The truth is that there are many ways of learning languages. Find the learning style that works for you and you can surely succeed.
Myth #14 — Modern Translation tools are good enough and language learning is unnecessary
The different translation tools like Google or Bing translators can help to immediately increase productivity and may be suffice in day to day activity but is inadequate and ineffective for ongoing business and professional communication. The important components like etiquette, manners, opinions, negotiation are some of the crucial communication skills are well beyond the reach of translation tools. There is a reason why so many people want to make career in translation since it is a high-paying job around the world.
Language is a complex system. Machine or Web Translation can never replace human translators. Machine algorithm can’t relate words to context. In various languages, there are words with dual meanings and also what works in one language does not necessarily work in another.
Translation is something when quality matters more than anything. Human translators and interpreters are much more reliable and effective, and the ‘personal’ aspect will always beat technology.
Myth #15 — I can learn a new language in few months
Don’t believe this hype. It’s a natural and trait of human psychology to look for quick and easy fixes to problems that they have to face during language learning. The last thing you should be wasting your time on is endlessly searching and researching to see the best language hack which will enable you to learn that particular language in a short span of time. Unfortunately, there is no such method, at least i am not aware of. Don’t fall into the trap of marketing strategy.
Whether you are interested in learning one of the popular foreign languages or uncommon languages, Language learning takes time and there is no shortcut to fluency. Successful linguist knows that there is neither any hidden trick nor any silver bullet to language learning, so they don’t waste time searching for it. Stop wasting time and get busy using your language, and adapt your learning approach to the challenges that you face!
Most people underestimate the time needed to learn a language properly. Set a realistic goal. The reasons you will fail to learn a language, it’s either because you’re following the wrong approach, or not practicing enough. If you want to do great things, then you need to make great efforts. As simple as it gets!
Myth #16 — Why Join any learning centre when one can learn online or through distance learning or self-study?
With the popularity of the Internet and distance learning has come the opportunity to partake in a plethora of new services. There are tons of online language courses and all you need is an Internet connection and the desire to learn. Seems pretty easy right? Well I assure you it is not. Trust me it is not easy as it seems.
I tried and failed to learn Italian and Portuguese online. It is exceedingly difficult to learn another language online or self-study or even through distance education due to lack of discipline, interaction, inspiration, and proper guidance. I eventually came to the conclusion that an actual course was needed or even better, a language learning centre or private tutor of some sort.
The only way I was ever going to learn the language was by actually sitting down and studying with someone who could answer the myriad of questions that arose everyday. Sad isn’t it? Some people seem to have an ear for languages and can pick them up simply by listening and reading, too bad I will never be one of those people. Most people i met who tried doing this also fall in the same category. Exceptions are always there but they are not examples.
Get away from your computer or mobile screen and out in to the real world. Online resources do have their place in language learning but they make a very small part of it. Take it as supplementary and take the help from any foreign language teacher for all the help.
Read — (i) Career in Translation and Interpretation (ii) Foreign Language Jobs in BPO (iii) Career in Tourism for Language Learners (iv) Scope of Foreign Language Teachers (v) Jobs in Export & Import for Language Experts
The purpose of this article was not to discourage but to tell some hard-hitting truth. When you start from that basic truth, all the other myths start to melt away. Good luck with your foreign language education. It can be as much fun as you want to make it! Don’t believe the hype and hopefully you should cross off these myths and misconceptions of language learning and just take the leap!