About the qualities that a person needs to learn a foreign language

The article is for those who despaired, learning a foreign language, lost faith in their own strength, and signed in powerlessness. For those who after many years or even decades of fruitless attempts to master the language, still does not understand a word, and can only say a couple or three typical phrases. Perhaps here you will find answers to why this happens and what to do with it.

We are not going to popularize these or those methods – you will find the necessary teaching material yourself. We want to show by one example how, thanks to his or her will qualities and absence of psychological blocks, a person could achieve a lot in the field of learning a foreign language.

One interesting story

There was, and still is, a guy. He graduated with a squeak, then went to college, served in the army. After demobilizing, he got a job in a depot in his hometown, where he used to repair all kinds of heavy equipment. Work, though necessary, but he was absolutely not satisfied, neither on wages nor in terms of personal ambitions.

Having worked for quite a long time and gained experience, he got a job on a rotational basis in a foreign company in the north of the country. He was satisfied with his work, one problem was the language barrier. The bosses, all Englishmen, and Scots were asking for something both – work-wise and personal, and he did not understand. Of course, the interpreters helped out, but he did not like to communicate through third parties.

He got a notebook, started writing down unfamiliar words and their translation, literally terrorized in-house translators and ex-pats with his questions. He was willingly helped by both, for he knew his job well, and the desire for a foreign language was only welcome. After working his first watch, he returned to his hometown to rest. And instead of traditionally spending around his hard-earned money, he bought a dictionary and a couple of manuals and started learning all day long, memorized, without any system, as hard as he could.

The inter room flew like one day. Already with a slightly heavier head of knowledge, he returned to work, where he continued to work perfectly and mercilessly terrorized interpreters and foreigners with his questions. Someone gave him a ragged book “Etude in Crimson Tones” in English, and our hero, sitting in the evenings in an empty repair hangar, persistently read about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes and his colleague. What he had read – he didn’t understand, but persistence and vocabulary had done their job – gradually the letters were formed into words, words into coherent meaningful phrases, there came the understanding of what was written, and most importantly – the feeling of a small victory! You bet! Not everyone can boast that he red Doyle in the original language!

He did not limit himself to just reading and learning grammar – he tried to speak English, and not shyly with himself, but simply walked and put his knowledge into practice. Terrible pronunciation, misconstructed constructions, perplexed faces of interlocutors did not embarrass him, on the contrary, he asked to point out errors. He corrected himself, wrote down, memorized. During breaks between shifts, he taught diligently, even developed his own system, and suffered without live communication in English, waiting to come back to his shift.

It has been 10 months. Our hero, of course, did not become a UN interpreter-synchronist – he became head of the workshop for repair and maintenance of heavy special equipment, and he now has 70 people under his command. Now he speaks easily with foreign colleagues, talking to them not only about the weather, but also discussing professional issues, and without the participation of an interpreter.

And now let’s analyze the story

Now let’s look at why this man, almost alone, has been able to do in less than a year what others have been unable to do in decades.

  1. He did not consider the knowledge of a foreign language a privilege of the chosen ones. He was free from the false belief that this requires talent or ability. It is a very common misconception that if I fail, it means “I was not given the power from above,” and all these polyglots and multi-lings are lucky ones kissed by the Lord on top. Anyone can master any foreign language if they have certain strong-willed qualities, and ability has nothing to do with it.
  2. He wasn’t a perfectionist. He wasn’t afraid to make a mistake and look ridiculous – he was just talking. How he could, stuttering and confusing himself, making monstrous mistakes, but he spoke! His foreign-speaking interlocutors, having recovered from the first shock, corrected him, perhaps slightly condescendingly, but with great enthusiasm. Probably, our hero in this way satisfied their latent sense of self-importance, who knows … But he wanted what he wanted – to start a dialogue and learn from his own mistakes. So the advice: leave the desire to try to speak perfectly, first – talk as much as you can, using even the most meager lexical baggage. With the proper approach- correct pronunciation will come, and the vocabulary will be replenished.
  3. He devoted all his time to learn. Usually, those who learn the language immediately schedule their classes, for example, 3 times a week for 2 hours, referring to employment and other interests. Honestly doing the “norm”, those with a sense of duty done, quietly go about their business, forgetting that successful learning the material requires constant practice and self-education. And all these excuses like lack of time – no more than self-deception and lack of proper motivation.
  4. He took responsibility. Most people have an infantile urge to have something at someone’s expense. And learning a language is no exception. People sign up for courses where they shift the responsibility to the teacher, idealizing his possibilities: “I paid, and you make me talk. And if I don’t, then you’re a lousy teacher!” And there’s no misfortune in a student that he has to work himself because even the most experienced teacher can not just take and put knowledge in his head.
  5. He wasn’t afraid to ask for help. For many people, because of their own psychological characteristics, asking/requesting something from others is torture. Temptation, the constant waiting for rejection or ridicule, the fear of showing one’s own failure – these are all neuroses to be disposed of. In addition, if you have difficulty communicating in your native language, then what is there to say about dialogue with a foreigner?!
  6. He wasn’t looking for easy ways. Our hero didn’t follow the curve of some advanced personalities, namely – he didn’t use the notorious “25th frame”, didn’t attend the dubious “English in 2 weeks” course, and didn’t write down the information by means of incomprehensible gadgets put on his head before going to bed. Such methods were invented specifically for the naive and lazy, those who are not ready to make an effort, but ready to lose money for another chimera in a beautiful “package”.

And finally, our hero had enviable willpower qualities. Not everyone can learn the language like this at work, and outside of it, and with such constant persistence. For most, even a greenhouse conditions in the form of a warm audience and affectionate teacher is not enough, but all because there is no perseverance, determination and elementary self-organization.

Learning a foreign language is not only about the language itself but also about your own laziness and weaknesses! Maybe that’s why you are not ready to accept this simple truth. …

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