I have previously written about my core principles relating to learning. I contrasted fundamental principles and beliefs with the idea of 'life hacks'. Today I wanted to get more specific and write an initial set of core beliefs that motivate and shape both how I study languages myself and how I encourage others to do the same through my coaching work.
Not all of these beliefs are based in rigorous science, by any means, and one of the things I hope to return to is the extent to which my personal experience (i.e. 'the way I've always done it') has dictated these beliefs and choices about language learning.
I'll return to these over time to check whether I still agree with them. But for now:
- Anyone can learn a new language.
- The speed which you learn a new language depends on the approach you take, the amount of time you invest and the resources at your disposal.
- Just fixing the approach (your attitude & your work plan) can transform your speed and your ability to learn.
- (But), in the end, you have to invest the time. (Ideally, especially for total beginners, 1-2 hours per day, 5-6 days per week).
- Beginning a new language is both the most fun and boring stage; fun because every day you're increasing what you can do at a really amazing rate and you always feel like you're improving, boring because there's very little creativity to learning a bunch of words and drilling semantic structures.
- We live in a golden age of resources and opportunity. (This will get even better in the coming years, with computing power and applied linguistics producing custom materials to support your learning.)
- If you only speak English, perhaps pick an easy language that's closer to English (like French) so you can gain confidence before biting off something harder like Arabic or Mandarin Chinese.
- Students (mostly) want to speak as their first priority, but of all the skills, reading is a better and more useful focus.
- Nobody can teach you a language; you have to learn it.
- Confidence is key. Polyglots are confident about language learning because they've done it before and thus know that it is possible. (Conversely, most newbie language learners set the bar far too low in terms of their expectations of themselves).
- Everyone is unique, but you should probably cover the bases in terms of what you study and how you study it.
- Having professional capacity in a second (or third) language is probably the best way to distinguish yourself in the research and 'knowledge work' marketplace.
- Life is a subjectively fuller and richer experience with more languages.