Let me start off this post with a small confession.
For years, I thought I would never be able to learn a foreign language.
My parent spoke English. I spoke English.
And luckily, speaking English alone, we were able to get by despite living in South East Asia for years.
For me, I thought studying a foreign language was a waste of time as there was no necessity for us to learn the languages of the places we lived.
That being said, it wasn’t always easy making our thoughts known.
It was especially tough in Thailand back in the late 80s because very few people spoke English at the time.
As such my parents suggested that we all learn Thai together.
Now, I had been studying Spanish for going on 5 years at the time and absolutely hated it. I just didn’t get and couldn’t see any use in learning it. There was no opportunity to use it except in my class at school, I knew no Spanish speakers and I had no intention of going to Spain in the foreseeable future.
Naturally, I declined their offer. I mean, if I had been struggling to learn one language why would I want to learn another on top of that.
And to this day, I regret that decision.
But it wasn’t until I turned 19 that I realized that. I decided to study Japanese in Japan and as they say, the rest is history.
When I told my father I was going to study Japanese what went through his mind was, “Boy, there goes that money.”
But years later he told me that it was “the greatest surprise” of his life.
Me, able to speak a foreign language.
So between studying Japanese and having taught English for more than half my life I have seen first hand just what it takes the learn a language.
And it doesn’t matter if you’re studying English, French, German, Chinese or Japanese…in the end, I have found that there are only 5 key elements to learning a language and I’ve put them together in the following video along with the 3 big mistakes people make when learning a language.
I did leave one tip off, and maybe I’ve saved the best for last. It’s something a client reminded me of the other day and it’s something I’ve lived by for years. It’s what I consider my own secret to learning Japanese.
It’s simply this – imagine you are a native speaker. Regardless of what language you want to learn to get into the mindset of a native speaker of that language and then start acting that way.
- How would they live their lives?
- What would they say?
- What wouldn’t they do?
Language is so much more than words, it’s a lifestyle. Because language is, in essence, culture. And one can’t master a language without learning the culture.
For those of you who are studying a language, keep at it. You’ll be surprised just how easy it gets when things click.
For those who aren’t, what’s your excuse?