Let me start this post by saying that I, Sean L. Young, am fluent in nine languages and can have a conversation in an additional nineteen with varying degrees of fluency. I have been awed, praised, put on a pedestal and hated because of that. The fact of the matter is that I’m not a genius. I don’t have any super skills or talents. It took me about 35 years to get where I am by studying those languages. Besides, all that praise gets embarrassing.
You see, from an outside perspective, a foreign language is a beast that cannot be tamed by your average person on the streets. So it takes a special person with this talent to help others try to grasp what a language is about – right? There have been TV spots and even books that try to put talented people on a podium and try to convince us their brains must be poked and examined to find out their “secrets”.
All around the world, about 6,000 languages are spoken. And of the 7.1 billion people on this planet, there are not enough teachers to go around. Native speakers learn their language through communication with others around them. Remember how you learned your own native language? You did it pretty much on your own, through trial and error.
Failure to learn a language is often due to the student being taught an inefficient way, or due to some other reason in their environment that doesn’t allow them to focus 100% on the task at hand. Some people give up because a barrier comes up in their lessons and they can’t figure out how to get around it.
Then there are people who dug deeper and found an efficient way to meet their goals in their situation, or who conquered that barrier when they came upon it. Because of this, they successfully learned that particular language. There were no genetic code that was switched on, they just looked for and discovered a way that worked for them.
Those of us who have learned one or more foreign languages are no smarter than anyone else. There is no such thing as a “language genius”. Language lovers are just as human as you and I, but they speak other languages because they work hard at them. They are determined, focused, and passionate. No genes or special talent involved.
A friend of mine wrote “Passion can be nurtured, determination can be inspired, and focus can be reached.” Keep that in mind and see what goals you can accomplish.