Learning a new language: debunking language learning myths

Learning a new language can be an intimidating endeavour, but it’s important to debunk the myths that surround language learning.

The idea that natural talent is the most important factor in learning a new language is a myth. In this article, we explore the various factors that contribute to language learning and share the inspiring story of Wiktoria, a student who went from having limited confidence in her English abilities to achieving significant fluency in just 9 weeks.

Introducing Wiktoria

We’ve recently been working with a Polish student called Wiktoria who wanted to feel more confident and at ease with her spoken and written English. In her own words, she wanted to be ‘less dry’ in English.

At the beginning, Wiktoria revealed that her school teacher had told her there was no way she’d reach fluency in English as she lacked talent. I was shocked and appalled. Wiktoria had adopted this as a belief. She started out with acute nerves and a severe lack of confidence in her abilities. The physical symptoms were plain to see – blushing, shaking and avoiding eye contact.   

Reprogramming this limiting self-belief was not going to be easy but, as always, we were up for the challenge. We came up with a three-step plan to assess her level and needs, develop a strategy with learning goals and give her lots of opportunities to improve her spoken English.  

Whilst working with Wiktoria, it provoked in me the desire to debunk the talent myth in language learning. I’ve heard it a million times, ‘I’m not talented at languages’. 

Do you need talent to be excellent at languages?

So, is natural talent required to become fluent or can anyone excel with the right strategies and mindset? While talent can provide some advantages, it is not the key determinant of language learning success. Skill, consistency, motivation, interest, relevance, exposure, strategy and community support are the real factors that enable language mastery.

How to build language learning skills

Skill is the foundation upon which language learning is built.  Developing skills in grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, listening comprehension, reading, writing and speaking allows learners to navigate the complexities of learning a new language. Dedicated practice hones these skills over time.

  1. Consistency
    Consistency ensures regular engagement with the language, leading to continuous improvement. Setting aside time each day is more effective than cramming
  2. Cultivating Interest and Relevance
    Having a genuine interest in the language makes learning intrinsically rewarding.  Cultural appreciation further ignites motivation.  For example, when I was learning French, I loved reading Balzac’s, ‘la comédie humaine’.  It opened up a whole new tranche of literature unavailable to me in my native tongue.  It encouraged me to persevere when challenges arose in my language learning journey.
  3. Goal-Oriented Language Learning
    Seeking relevance by identifying personal or professional goals also gives direction.  An example of this is when I was in a car accident in France. I was forced to communicate what needed repairing at the local repairs workshop and a whole new world of car vocabulary was adopted – purely out of the need and intrinsic drive to get the job done.
  4. Immersion for Exposure
    Immersing yourself in the culture of the language is invaluable.  Reading books, watching movies, listening to music and podcasts, speaking with native speakers and traveling to countries where the language is spoken greatly boosts comprehension and skills.  The language becomes part of daily life.  I like to say it is ‘imbibed’ or ‘absorbed’ at a cellular level.
  5. Developing a Strategy
    A strategic approach enhances progress.  Setting attainable goals, creating a study plan, utilising effective resources, implementing learning techniques, and tracking growth help learners stay focused.  Know when to take breaks to avoid fatigue.  Getting adequate sleep optimises memory consolidation.
  6. Remember the Power of Community
    Language learning flourishes in communities.  Finding conversation partners, tutors, meetups and online forums provides guidance, feedback and encouragement.  Surrounding yourself with supportive, positive people fosters connections and a sense of belonging.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

 

Did Wiktoria make progress?

To circle back to Wiktoria, she went from a B1 (lower intermediate) level to a C1 (lower advanced) level in under 9 weeks – just missing out on C2 or proficiency by one mark.  She achieved 100% on her English speaking exam back in Poland with the examiner asking her if she was bilingual.  She also achieved 88% in her written exam.  Pretty impressive don’t you think?  And it continues,..Wiktoria is now planning to study economics in the UK, having gained all the confidence and ease she requires to live and study in an English speaking country.  We are so proud of her achievements, her grit and determination to improve and adopt the right mindset and learning strategies to achieve fluency.  She deserves to be celebrated.       

Wiktoria’s story presents you with all the evidence you need to dispel the myth that talent is required to achieve fluency.  With the right skills, motivation, consistency, strategies and support, language mastery is certainly within reach.      

Please check out Wiktoria’s story below.  As you may have gathered, Wiktoria is an introvert so she doesn’t want personal photos to be uploaded.  However, the photos used throughout this blog post were taken by her during her stay.    

If you’d like to reach fluency in your spoken English, click here to find out more about our homestay programmes.  

Wiktoria’s success story

“I spent 9 weeks in Aberdeen, where I had the opportunity to learn English and visit some parts of Scotland.  At the beginning I was quite shy and I didn’t believe in my speaking ability, but nonetheless I knew that I’m able to improve that.  Clare really helped me with my spoken and written English. 

Lessons were in the morning so basically after them I had time for studying and myself.  We were intent on overall English language, we have done a loads of speaking activities, grammar tasks and essay practice.  All of this helped me to achieve a high score in the final exam. But I cannot forget about places where I’ve been. I saw Aberdeen (Art Gallery, Christmas market, etc.) nearest cities and villages like Stonehaven, Glamis or Montrose. 

Moreover, Clare and her husband Neil decided to take me to Edinburgh for 3 days, where I visited places like Edinburgh Castle, Dungeons and National Scottish Museum.  I think the most iconic roads and viewing points in Edinburgh were the highlights of my journey.

On a daily basis I was able to talk with the host family about everything, starting with sport and ending with music and politics. I’m so thankful and pleased that I had the opportunity to come to Scotland and learn English. I was so lucky to be able to stay with Clare because she’s a great teacher and person. Neil and George also were fantastic and friendly (Clare cooks great by the way).

I’m not good at writing something with really descriptive language or about my personal experiences but what I can write is that, it is worth the risk. It may be scary to speak with unknown people in a different language but if you want to improve your language, you need to get out of your comfort zone”.

 

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Achieve fluency and unlock endless opportunities. Contact us now!

Happy Language Learning!

 

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