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There are many ways to sabotage ourselves when we learn a language: avoiding speaking to native speakers and following approaches which are not suitable to our style and goals are some of them. One of the best ways to restrain ourselves is to create a negative mindset and most of the times we don’t need a judgmental teacher or parent to do so. We use our own phrases which act like barriers that prevent our progress, no matter how strong our motives are. When it comes to Greek, these are the most common core negative concepts that sabotage the process of learning:
“I’m too X to learn Greek!” X equals old, dummy, dyslexic and so on. As a teacher, I can assure you that you are not X. You are perfect to learn Greek even if you are one hundred years old and live in a wheel chair. These negative thoughts come from the (significant) others and the only place they will you take you to is the world of self-pity and frustration. It’s never too late to change attitude. Acknowledge the progress you make every day and start celebrating. Be happy for the difficult word that you managed to pronounce after three months of practice, for all the right endings of the nouns that you declined, for every little thing that is better than it was yesterday. Smile and say to yourself: “Τα κατάφερα!” (I did it!)
“I will never learn Greek!” Δεν θα μάθω ποτέ ελληνικά! As a language learner myself, I have said this phrase hundreds of times. As a teacher, I have met people who speak Greek better than many native speakers I know; therefore I am positive that learning Greek is not a utopian dream. If you realize that your goals are too ambitious, don’t be afraid to reset them. Don’t judge yourself and don’t be frustrated by every mistake you make. It doesn’t matter if you say to the waiter “θέλω ένας καφές, παρακαλώ” (instead of έναν καφέ). You will still get your coffee, in spite of the incorrect grammar. Speak Greek in every opportunity you get and have fun because, at the end of the day, this is what it is all about.
“Greeks are lazy, dishonest, have no discipline, etc.” You have every right to believe in stereotypes such as that all Greeks are frauds who do nothing all day but drink ούζο (ouzo) and play τάβλι (backgammon). However, if you learn Greek for whatever reason but have such a bad idea about the people and the culture, it would be good to stop learning it. Negative ideas and stereotypes are the best obstacles that sabotage the process of learning and continuing the effort is a waste of time and money.
“This language is crazy! X (= English, Spanish, etc.) is so much easier!” Judging the language we learn, is another effective way to hold ourselves back. I am not talking about laughing with sounds that seem funny, I am talking about constant criticism of the grammar and syntax and nagging about every little thing, such as why is the word καρέκλα (chair) feminine or what do we need three genders for. It’s true that Greek is hard and complex, but comparing it to other languages or complaining about things that cannot change (no, the neuter gender cannot be illegal) creates a negative feeling about the language that doesn’t make us move forward. Just relax, embrace the complexity and enjoy the process of learning!
Have you ever used such phrases? If you want to share them, feel free to post a comment.