The biggest myth in language learning – not being talented enough to learn a language

Whenever you hear someone speak a foreign language fluently, you can observe their skills, their ease of saying things, their speed, their impeccable pronunciation, their lack of hesitation or the lack of mistakes.

What you can’t possibly observe is their effort to reach that level, the hours they put in, the mistakes they’ve made in the process, the frustration, the times they weren’t able to articulate a single word, the times they were on the brink of giving up, the times they did give up only to start again years later…

Instead, you instantly deduce that they became fluent easily. You compare their skills to yours and come up with the reason they can do it, and you can’t.

They’re talented, and you’re not.

I’m guilty of this, too. I used to think I didn’t have the language gene. Others could do it, but I couldn’t. I wasn’t cut out for this, so why even bother trying?

Somehow I convinced myself to start learning languages despite my lack of talent, and a couple of years later, people started assuming I have a talent for languages. Wait, what? Does that mean I managed to acquire some kind of talent? Absolutely not.

Here’s the thing, our brains are wired to find the easiest way of doing things, a quick fix that can solve our problems and make us good at everything we want. Whenever we start something new, something out of the ordinary, they’re the first to get in the way. “Halt! Where do you think you’re going, mister?”

Simply put:

Our brains are the champions of self-sabotage.

Once they realize there’s no quick fix for language learning and fluency doesn’t come overnight, they come up with excuses to convince us we shouldn’t even bother learning, and we shouldn’t feel bad about it because it’s just that we lack something we can’t possibly acquire.

The master saboteur wants us to immediately go back to our comfort zone because things are nice and comfy there.

At the same time, it comes up with the most effective ways of doing that. Otherwise, what kind of champion would it be?

One of the phrases that do the trick is, you guessed right,

I’m not talented enough to learn a language.

That’s nothing more than one of our champion’s greatest excuses not to do anything worthwhile in life.

Still not convinced? Then please consider this:

If language learning really requires talent, how on earth does everybody learn their first language?

Let me try to answer this.

We learned our native language because:

  • We were repeatedly exposed to it, every day.
  • People corrected us every time we made mistakes.
  • We were too young to even care about what others think of us, so we kept making mistakes and getting corrected.
  •  After some time, bam! It stuck with us. Magic! Oh, la la!

So either we’re all talented in language learning or, surprise surprise!
Language learning does not require talent.

It’s a myth that we need talent. It’s the champion trying to sabotage us.

While it’s true that some people learn faster than others, at the end of the day, fluency takes time and effort for all of them. There really is no other way. Not even for the gifted ones.

If you’re motivated, passionate, patient, and willing to put in the work, then you’re are fit for language learning.

You’re actually fit for learning anything. It’s not restricted to language learning.

Hard work beats talent. There are countless examples out there to prove that.

So, the actual difference between you and the fluent non-native speakers of your target language is that they found the courage to actually try learning the language and work towards fluency, while you gave up on it or you probably didn’t do much but talk or stress about it.

Changing that requires no talent. It requires action.

Please take action NOW 🙂

Fighting the champion is not easy, but it is totally worth it. Ignore what your brain tells you, and stick to language learning.

Don’t bring up talent again. If others can learn a foreign language, so can you. 

Maria Spantidi

Maria loves learning how the world works. She speaks several languages, composes music, plays 9 musical instruments, is a mechanical engineer, loves math, history and animals, is ambidextrous, and enjoys long-distance running.

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