Here at Return of Kings, the topic of learning a language has been a component of many interesting stories, as well as the focus of numerous articles. In particular, the direct benefits to men of learning a foreign language and how it affects their game should at least get you thinking about taking on a second (or third) language.
I have found these articles to be helpful and personally motivating in my own quest to add to my “notch count” of languages learned. The information is both thorough and accurate, so far as I can tell.
Yet there is one thing that I believe deserves mention, a problem among language learners that needs to be addressed.
About a decade ago, I started my own language tutoring business in college in order to help my lost classmates, and I’m about to finish my fourth year as an actual language teacher.
I’ve seen all levels of interest and different types of work ethic over the years, and the number one obstacle I’ve noticed in my students and clients is that they allow their own fears and weaknesses to undermine the learning process.
My favorite client (I’m allowed to have one) was a guy who sought me out during his second semester of beginner’s Spanish and utilized my services to the point where he was writing an essay for a junior-level Spanish about his recent trip to Buenos Aires.
He was one of my best learners, because he chose to follow a simple rule for successful language learning. It’s the same rule I adopted for myself when I started learning Spanish and the one I currently follow in my pursuit of Russian.
If you want to be successful at learning a second language, I recommend you absorb this rule into your psyche and live by it:
Don’t be a pussy.
Seriously, stop complaining about it being too hard or too complicated. Stop acting shy and hesitant when talking to native speakers. Stop sitting on your ass awaiting the perfect opportunity when you could be creating your own opportunity.
Don’t use translator services as a crutch. Wordreference.com (and the app) has its place every now and then. Other than that, if you use online translators you are a fucking fraud.
Avoid English (or your native language) at all costs in the learning environment. If you have to speak your own language in the context of a new language, then you aren’t serious about learning. Don’t poison the well for others.
Talk to real people who speak the language as much as you can, and listen to them. As stated above, don’t be shy about it. If people laugh, and you feel embarrassed, well there you go being a pussy again. Don’t.
Find a restaurant frequented by people who speak what you’re learning, and become a regular there.
Find a store or any kind of business where you can immerse yourself in the culture.
Volunteer for the community of people who speak the language.
Seek out and attend events. If you have real cojones and any amount of organizational skills, then host your own event and give the proceeds to the community of native speakers. Easier said than done, I know, but hey–don’t be a pussy.
In case you didn’t get the common thread of the five previous points, allow me to summarize:
Learn some social skills.
Hire a tutor. It’s money well spent. For cost of a night out at the bar you could be getting a full hour of individual attention from a native speaker. I have my own weekly tutor.
She’s honest with me about my pronunciation, and she teaches me tailor-made sentences that have already helped me meet native speakers in my city. Obviously, canned phrases will only get you so far, but knowing how to say something specific about yourself builds confidence.
There can be only one
You have to be your own motivator if you actually want to learn a foreign language. High school instruction isn’t going to do it for you, but it’s a start. A college education isn’t going to do it for you, but it certainly helps. Tutors won’t do it for you, but they’re worth the investment. Even traveling or studying abroad won’t do it for you, but if you approach it with the right attitude you’ll come back a different person.
Learning a language is not easy, but neither is anything worth doing in life.
Use your creative mind, and find a solution that works for you. Seek out or create your own opportunities to immerse yourself in a new culture. If you take this on, it is going to require EFFORT, and it is going to involve FAILURE, two things young people these days are too quick to avoid.
If you suffer from being a pussy in general and not just in regards to learning something that adds value to your life, here are not one, not two, but three motivational pieces you might find beneficial.