We have all gotten some sort of feedback when people find out we’re interested in learning languages. Sometimes, it’s really positive and encouraging and other times it can be incredibly frustrating and off-putting. The following are things people have said to polyglots, hyper-polyglots, people learning a new language and people who are already bi- or multi-lingual:
Say something in (insert target language(s) here)!
This is probably the most irritating thing people say to not only polyglots but multilingual people who aren’t interested in learning languages. Why do you feel the need to make us prove to you that we speak our target language(s)? Do you instantly assume we’re absolutely fluent to the point where we can say anything we want and pass for a native speaker? Admit it, you have made this assumption to at least some degree. Especially, if the person didn’t mention to you whether or not they are fluent in it! I have had this question asked to me several times before and usually the follow up question to the question is: “What do you want me to say?” which is something the person can’t seem to answer or they want you to say something random or basic. Other times they want you to teach them how they can be vulgar and uncouth in your target languages. Which leads me to the next topic!
Teach me how to swear in (insert target languages here)
Why? Do you purposely want to be offensive when you visit another country? While there is absolutely nothing wrong with learning swear words in your target language. They are a necessary evil to learn if you want to truly understand the language fluently. It also helps you recognise when you’re being insulted by native speakers and prevent yourself from being accidentally vulgar. However, I wouldn’t recommend learning them for the sake of learning them. Because let’s face it, you’re only going to use them to insult someone behind their back or directly to their face and knowing they probably won’t understand you. If you’re randomly shouting these words and phrases at random, you never know who might hear you. It would be quite embarrassing if a native speaker heard you. They could either be incredibly offended or you just hinted to them that you know more of their native language than you actually do. Learn a good grasp of the language first and then learn swear words when you have more confidence in your language learning. Or as a supplement to your language studies. It should be said that swearing is unbecoming and quite offensive. You can easily put yourself into an unwanted and potentially dangerous situation if you are not careful. As a general rule, know who you are around and whether or not they are okay with you openly being vulgar in front of them. Think twice before asking/demanding people to teach you vulgarity. Especially, if you’re not interested learning the target language(s).
I’m NOT Good At Learning Languages
That’s not an excuse! Learning foreign languages is NOT like learning mathematics, writing, painting, making candles or even cooking. Where you are either good at doing it or not. That’s not how language fluency works. You need constant exposure to your target language(s) on a daily basis following a regular routine or system that works for you. You may have to experiment like me, in order to find which methods are going to work best for your needs. This is why learning languages in school is ineffective. Because all too often people treat language learning like they would with any school subject. Doing so, causes students to be incredibly unmotivated to learn the language and switch their focus from actually learning the language to getting good marks/grades. That’s why having a degree in foreign languages can actually backfire on you. Especially, if you didn’t apply or use what you learned outside of the classroom environment. I often to hear this excuse from people who had take a foreign language in school. Chances are they were surrounded by unmotivated credit-driven students or they were the unmotivated credit-driven student ruining the experience from anyone. Have another go at it using an entirely different method! If you need to get back on track (shameless plug ahead) try out my: Ultimate Language Learning Journal at it’s brand new price of $12.95 USD (convert currency). You can also try out LinguaLift, LingQ, italki, GoSpeaky and so much more. Check out my recommend products page to try out what I use. The key is consistently keeping yourself motivated.
I’m TOO OLD To Learn A New Language
I have heard everyone and their great grandparents give this excuse as if there’s some sort of time limit when it comes to learning a new language. It’s yet another excuse to not put the effort necessary to learn one. How do you know you can’t learn a new language if you haven’t given it another chance since your school years? If you haven’t gotten the opportunity to learn it in school, why not start today? There are people who are well over 60 years old who are still learning foreign languages. In fact, Steve Kaufmann, the creator of LingQ is a fantastic example of someone who still learning languages and not letting his age stop him! Why should you let your age stop you? This is a common myth that one MUST learn foreign languages at a young age in order to able to effectively learn a new language. That simply isn’t true. Does starting when you’re younger helps? Sure. Is it a prerequisite to learn (a) new language(s)? Of course not! Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with exposing young children to languages as early as possible but, you can still learn just as much if not more because you’re older. If you show up for learning languages and continue to make a consistent effort to learn a language, you will be fluent. Even if progress seems frustratingly slow. You can do anything you set your mind to. Your age does not matter.
You Must Have The Language Learning Gene/My Friend’s Brain Also Like That!
What? This comment often confuses me as to what they are referring to specifically. It implies that people who are polyglots are must have some sort of advanced way of thinking that “normal” human beings do not have. Which is quite odd to say the least. What’s your reasoning behind saying this? Do you think we’re aliens, starseeds or whatever people are calling it nowadays? Does having a friend who learn languages somehow make them your personal interpreter/translator? Or is this your way of trying to say that learning languages is cool? You don’t need to have “special genes” in order to learn a new language. It’s not something unattainable. If I can learn a new language, I am more than positive that you can too. It’s really not that difficult. Well, pronunciation might be but it’s more about dedicating yourself to the target language. This allows you to achieve your language goals more effectively. Not some sort of neuroscience myth.
This can also apply to a few other languages as well but English speakers are the most vocal about it. That’s not the point of learning languages. Anybody can’t get by and survive. Why not actually have a meaningful conversation with the locals? If you love international travelling then learning a new language goes hand-in-hand. Unless you only plan on staying for a short amount of time (3 days at most) then you really have no excuse not to learn the local language. Even if it’s just phrases from a phrasebook at least it’s something. It’s also seen as incredibly disrespectful as you will be viewed as an entitled tourist/expat. Which is not a good thing. Now, there are those are more than happy to practise their English with you and actually prefer you speak English then butcher their native language. This is especially true in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, The Netherlands, Dutch/Flemish speaking Belgium, and Finland. This is a classic cop-out for getting out learning languages.
It’s worse when it comes from EFL/ESL teachers living abroad for several years and don’t even bother to learn the basics. This is not to slam English as a Foreign Language teachers but if you plan on living abroad or are already living abroad, then it’s only fair that you make an effort to learn their language too. Especially, if you want to enrich your experience whilst teaching English abroad.
But I Don’t Have Time To Learn A New Language
We get it. You have a busy life. So do most of us. The point is making time for learning (a) new language(s) with the time that you do have. Whether it’s using Google Calendar with a time management app using the Pomodoro Technique. If you have an android smartphone I would highly recommend the app: ClearFocus. It’s a Pomodoro timer that allows you to write down the task to focus on for 25 minutes, taking a 5 minute break and then continuing on with the next task. It has seriously been a major help for my language learning I must say. Even if you have to use a planner or diary to schedule in time for your target language. This especially rings true if you have a full time job. Exposing yourself to at least 10-30 minutes of the language every single day is much better than trying to do 8 hours one day and hardly anything the next day. Keep doing this until it becomes second nature to you. If planning is not your thing then make language learning a conscious daily habit in your life. I personally love creating to do lists to check off.
Too lazy didn’t read: Yes, you have time to learn a new language. Make time for it!
Why Are You Learning (Insert language here)? You Should Learn Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, French, etc.
This is not just discouraging but irritating as well. Why is it such a big deal that we take interest in languages that aren’t as commonly spoken as the popular languages the majority? Yes, we are very much aware that Catalan, Icelandic, Frisian, Romansh, Afrikaans, Aragonese or even Igbo are not going to be the most useful languages. We are obviously curious about the countries where these languages are spoken in to take an interest in them. It’s not a matter of how useful or useless they are but how we intend on using them. Example: If I plan on visiting Iceland and want to impress the locals, then it would only make sense to speak Icelandic. The same goes for any other language. If you find use out of it, it’s not useless at all. It’s could just be linguistic curiosity too. This applies to linguists and for conlangers(People who create their own languages as a hobby or perhaps a profession. Think Esperanto, Klingon, Dothraki and Quenya.) who want to incorporate the linguistic structure into their newly created language for fiction or person use.
Related posts: Conlanguages: Esperanto, Dothraki, Klingon, Toki Pona, Lojban, etc and Is Esperanto Worth Learning?
What do you think? What are you sicking of hearing people say when it comes to learning languages? I would love to hear from you.