A common excuse I hear from people is "I'm just not good at languages like you", or "sure, it's easy for you, you have a gift for languages". But the truth is, I don't. I'm not even sure such a thing exists... but if it does, I certainly don't have it.
That's not to say that I don't have an easier time than many others — I probably do, but it's not because I have any gift. It's nothing more than the natural result of spending a great deal of time studying!
Strength comes from repetition
The sheer fact of doing something a lot will naturally increase a person's ability to do it. If you've messed up a few dozen omelets, you'll eventually figure out how to get 'em to flip... and if you've conjugated enough verbs or deconstructed enough compound words, eventually you develop a pretty solid skill for doing those things.
The only natural characteristic that I have, which some others perhaps might not, is a natural curiosity... an utter fascination with the way languages work. You might say that this is the thing that causes me to like grammar when other people hate it. For me, it's not a bunch of painful rules, it's a fascinating puzzle that I want to understand.
I'm sure we can all relate to this on some level, even if it's not language for everyone. Maybe it's a magic trick, or maybe it's the internal combustion engine, or maybe it's a 3-on-2 fast break hockey play, but whatever the case, I'm sure we can all relate to some utterly fascinating thing... something which you won't be able to sleep until you understand how it works. For me, that's language.
So I spend a lot of time studying languages. And I'm spending all of this time with a positive mood and full of curiosity — rather than grudgingly slogging through something I hate to do — so that makes my time much more productive!
I only hope that energy is contagious
My one true desire for this web site, above and beyond anything else, is that I can somehow find a way to convey even the tiniest portion of my enthusiasm. My greatest pleasure is when I can help someone to get over the slump of hard, tedious work, and start enjoying whatever language they are learning.
When you're having fun it's easy to put in a little extra time studying. When you're curious, you have to be forcefully pried away from the book or CD or web site. When you're solving a mystery, you daydream about it and pause in the middle of the day to scribble notes about it.
So for a little change of pace today, leave me a comment and tell me something really exciting, curious, or fascinating about the language you're studying, or about languages in general. Let's all spread the fun!
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.
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