Creating and sustaining motivation is one of the biggest challenges in language learning. And the single most powerful way I know to get and stay motivated is having a big, chewy, powerful “why” for learning the language―a driving purpose that keeps you putting one foot in front of the other no matter how steep the trail may get. Flimsy feelings like “It would kinda be cool to speak a foreign language” or “maybe this language will be useful in my career someday” won’t cut it. Why? Because when the going gets tough, you’ll quit. You won’t have the psychological fuel to keep going. To succeed in language learning, your “why” has to be: ① strong, ② emotional, ③ personal, and ④ immediate. Like Friedrich Nietzsche put it, you can bear almost any how if you have a strong enough why.
As Richard Feynman said, “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself—and you are the easiest person to fool.” Many of us tend to think we are better than we really are. Better drivers. Better employees. Better lovers. And yes, better language learners. But perhaps just as many struggle with the exact opposite problem: feeling worse than we really are. Worse drivers. Worse employees. Worse lovers. And yes, worse language learners. Why is it so damn easy to delude ourselves one way or the other? The answer is “ego.” Read on to learn the 3 ways ego holds language learners back and how to best overcome it.
Randy is on a mission to learn a new language fluently every year. His current project is Italian, with Lithuanian as a side-project saved for weekend fun. Randy has his language-learning head screwed on tightly, and I firmly agree with his contention that learners can reach “conversational fluency” (the ability to talk with native speakers on a variety of topics) in a year if you spend enough time doing the right things. As we both have observed, most learners neither spend enough time nor do the right things.
“Effectiveness is doing the things that get you closer to your goals. Efficiency is performing a given task (whether important or not) in the most economical manner possible. Being efficient without regard to effectiveness is the default mode of the universe.”
With 11 languages under his belt, Steve Kaufmann is an extremely accomplished language learner. His extensive language learning wisdom in shared in his book titled The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey and his online language learning system called LingQ. In the interview, we discuss what Steve believes to be the 7 most common misconceptions about language learning, how to learn Mandarin effectively, and the role of a good teacher.
In this interview with Antonio Graceffo, he “pulls no punches” (pun intended) when sharing his views on how to learn a foreign language effectively. His language learning wisdom stems from formal training as an interpreter and translator at Germany’s prestigious University of Mainz, coupled with over a decade of living, learning, and working in South and East Asia.