Transparent Language Blog

There Are No Gatekeepers in Language Learning Posted by on Mar 15, 2017 in Archived Posts

Many jobs, hobbies and skills have a high price of entry, limitation, equipment or permission that must be granted in order for you to pursue it. Not so with language learning!

Itchy Feet: Varied Concern

I don’t like having to ask for permission. When it comes to my interests, hobbies, work and skills, I prefer not to have to run it by anyone for approval before I can embark. That’s why I became a freelance filmmaker (and now, cartoonist) – because I don’t have a boss. I succeed or fail by my own hand. There are no gatekeepers to tell me what I can or can’t do, and that’s just the way I like it.

Not everyone is so free. Writers, if they want to get published outside of the internet, have to get through the agents, publishers and executives in the industry. Larger-scale filmmakers have to get through production companies and/or film festivals to have their work seen by the right people. Lawyers have to pass a bar exam, sports players have to get hand picked for teams and scientists and academics have to constantly publish papers in renowned journals to stay relevant.

It’s not just jobs, either. Many hobbies have a high price of entry. Wanna ride horses? That’s going to cost you a lot of horse-related expenses. Wanna climb mountains? Gear, travel costs and training are in your future. Want to sail or become a beekeeper or take photos or play a musical instrument or watch the stars? Most hobbies will cost you equipment, at least, if not many other types of expenses. Cost can be a high barrier, a kind of gatekeeper in itself.

Not that you shouldn’t do these things, of course! Many hobbies and work are more than worth the price of admission or appealing to the gatekeeper. But one of my favorite things about language learning is: you only need your ears, your mouth and, to a lesser extent, your eyes.

Language learning can be practiced without any kind of device or tool, without any special training or permission. No gatekeeper needs to grant you entry. There’s no limit to the number of participants, no test you have to take to join any club, no grounds you have to pay for access to. Just talk. Listen. Write, if you like. Or don’t, that’s fine too. Language learning is one of the few skills for which you already have all the equipment built into your own brain. You’ve been working on it already for a very long time. There are no trade secrets you have to know or important elbows you have to rub in order to succeed.

And there are definitely no security checkpoints!

So get to it! Get learning, make use of what you have. With the online community, you have friends, well-wishers and comrades-in-arms waiting to encourage, help and guide you along the way. There are many tools to help you get there faster, or reach your goals more specifically, but you must walk the path yourself. Everyone else has to get out of your way!

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About the Author: Malachi Rempen

Malachi Rempen is an American filmmaker, author, photographer, and cartoonist. Born in Switzerland, raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, he fled Los Angeles after film school and expatted it in France, Morocco, Italy, and now Berlin, Germany, where he lives with his Italian wife and German cat. "Itchy Feet" is his weekly cartoon chronicle of travel, language learning, and life as an expat.

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