I am afraid I may have become one of those annoying teachers that repeat the same couple of lines once and again. But I can’t complain, can I? After all, I must confess that I do spend a lot of time trying to convince students that successful language learning won’t happen unless they are proactive and take the bull by the horns. What really worries me is that I don’t feel it has ever made any difference.
It is true that some learners adopt a passive attitude mainly because they lack the time to go beyond -even when some seem strongly motivated to learn. But language learning is undoubtedly long and hard at times and not everyone is intrisically motivated and will find the joy in learning per se. In adulthood, one’s life is full of responsabilities and tight schedules, so I understand it is difficult to find space for language practice. But that doesn’t mean it is unnecessary.
I can’t help feeling that there are many language learning myths that somehow justify this passive role and make them feel comfortable with the amout of time they spend with the language, which sometimes is very little.
In this post I wanted to share some of the commonest myths of language learning that keep holding some learners back. I could easily have added a few more, but here are my Top 3 myths I regularly find myself trying to debunk.
You think you are going to learn only because you want to.
Ok. Intending to learn is a great start. Definitely, the best. But intention and motivation alone are not going to do the work for you. As far as I know, there is no secret contract with the universe that says if you want something really hard, and you close your eyes tight and imagine yourself speaking fluent English, you will get it in return.
Of course, motivation and a positive attitude are essential, they will be the fuel that keep you moving, but they have to move somebody, right?
It is enough to sit in class for a couple of hours.
Learning a language is not like going into a supermarket and filling your cart with goods. Can you imagine what that would sound like in a language learning context?
“Today I’ll have 1 kg of fluency, 1/2 kg of listening for detail and 1/4 of vocabulary about relationships and dating. Level B2″
Imagine we could put all of that into nice-looking containers and packages, wait in a line and go back home with bags full of knowledge. It sounds foolish, I know, but sometimes I feel some learners still expect to come to class, get their daily dosage of language input and go back home thinking that they have done their job. But, just as with your shopping, there are some things you’ll have to cook!
Language learning is a very complex activity and in order to feel confident and master its grammar and vocabulary there is necessarily a certain amount of time you’ll need outside the classroom to consolidate, repeat, or even prepare, what we don’t have time for in the classroom.
I’ll only really learn the language if I go abroad.
In my view, feeling that whatever effort you make is useless only because it is not the “real thing” or because you think it is not as nearly as effective as an immersion program is downright false, self restrictive and hinders any authentic move forward.
Firstly, and most importantly, this idea will prepare you for failure, not success. It will be the cause that will justify all your mistakes and zero improvement. It won’t let you see the value of the numerous resources and support you have available.
Travelling abroad is a wonderful opportunity that you can’t miss if you have the chance. But it doesn’t mean invalidating all other ways of learning a language, which can be just as effective. After all, learning a language is more stimulating that it ever was in the past. If you have the right combination of motivation, a well trained teacher, and relevant practice in the classroom enriched with web-based opportinunities, you should soon see the results for yourself.
Prove the myths wrong: enjoy and learn!