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September 3, 2014

4

What’s your excuse for not learning another language?

Even as a pretty serious language geek, who actually learns other languages for fun, I still find myself making excuses sometimes. I spotted this chart the other day (I’m not sure where it originally came from, but I found it when translation agency Finverbus shared it on their Google+ page) and recognised a lot of the excuses as ones that I’ve made at one time or another. It also backs up what we learned in our recent survey. How many of these excuses have you used in the past?

What's your excuse for not learning a language?

Most of us learn at least one foreign language at school. But sadly many people drop it after that and possibly never take it up again. But why? According to research, there are many reasons (or excuses) that people have for dropping a language or not taking one up. Most commonly, many people say they don’t have enough time (24%) or that they don’t have enough money (11%). Well, if it’s the first reason, check out our top tips on how to fit language learning in to your busy week. Or if you’re struggling for cash, check out our guide to learning on a budget.

The other main reason cited by many is lack of motivation (16%). I have to say I recognise this! When you start learning a new language it’s really exciting. ‘I can say “dog” in French!’, ‘I can say “hello” in Italian!’  But then when you get to memorising long lists of verbs, tenses and grammar, enthusiasm often starts to wane. You have to put quite a bit of time and effort into learning a language properly, and often, life gets in the way, and the latest episode of Game of Thrones seems more interesting than another round of German adjective endings. If this is the case, I feel your pain! But there are ways to boost your motivation and get back into learning if you’ve lost momentum lately.

Try breaking up your language learning into a small chunk each day: ten minutes of using a language app or program like uTalk or Talk Now; reading a newspaper article or language book on the train or listening to a short podcast. Make learning fun by listening to music or podcasts, watching videos or films, reading books or magazines or using fun language games. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to master perfect grammar – just enjoy it. Find people to chat to and impress yourself with how much you can say already.

Try thinking about what your motivation for taking up a language could be: a holiday to a fantastic new country, moving abroad for work, finding new friends, talking to someone you know in their language, understanding the culture of a certain country (be it Japanese anime, French cinema or German heavy metal) or enhancing your CV. Somehow half an hour of practising verbs and vocabulary seems much more appealing when you picture yourself using your newly-learned ‘un caffè grazie’ to order a coffee in Rome, or asking ‘dónde está la playa?’ in the south of Spain.

Finally, another common reason that I can definitely identify with is feeling embarrassed when speaking another language (11%). I was pretty embarrassed this week when speaking Spanish to my Argentinian colleague and accidentally using the Italian word for butter (‘burro’) instead of the Spanish word ‘mantequilla’ (burro in Spanish means donkey, not butter!). But in most cases, even if you make a silly mistake like this, you can just laugh it off and carry on. It might take a little time to gain confidence when speaking, but the best way to do this is simply to try it, make mistakes, realise it doesn’t matter and carry on. If you’re quite shy, try finding another learner to practise with, doing a language exchange with someone who is learning your language (so you’re in the same boat) and practising with friends before you actually go to the country.

Saying that, the BBC language page has some funny examples of when languages go wrong!

So, whatever your reasons for slacking off in your language learning, I hope we’ve given you a few ideas on how to get back into it, or get started on a new one if you’ve been putting it off.

Alex

 

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