My life is so unfair – forget the starving children in Africa, or people with terminal illnesses; they have no idea what I have to put up with. I have seperable verbs and conjugations to deal with. Oh, woe is me!!
For example, German has strange word orders, prepositions at the end of sentences that completely change its meaning, three (yes count them, one two THREE) genders randomly assigned to words, and at least ten million other problems that make it almost impossible to learn. I don’t think anyone in the world is suffering as much as me right now.
And don’t get me started on other languages! Czech goes overboard with seven cases and unpronounceable strings of consonants, Thai has the same pronunciation with different tones for completely different words, and doesn’t even have the common decency to use the same writing system as us – I mean honestly, I think they put that all those differences in for no reason other than to annoy me.
Portuguese has nasal sounds, Irish has a weird writing system, Spanish has pages of tables of conjugations to learn – it’s like the cruel tribesmen that invented these languages were thinking of nothing more than ways to torture me thousands of years later.
Why can’t they just all be like English?
[Childish whining mode off]
Oh come on, don’t be such a crybaby!!
The above introduction is clearly written ironically, but you know what? I have actually heard these arguments from frustrated language learners. If you found yourself nodding in agreement to anything I said above, it’s time to be frank – stop being such a crybaby!
No matter which language I take on, and no matter where I go, I’ll always run into these people. As you know, I call those who have a mission, a great mentality, and an efficient learning strategy, language hackers.
Well, they have counterparts! Replace the ‘h’ with an ‘l’ and add an s, in the Italian sense of making a negative, and you have their polar opposites: language slackers.
A language slacker is someone who focuses on the negative, sees nothing but the vast amount of work in learning a language, endlessly complains about how hard it is, and of course, will even give up and say that the task is impossible.
They are not necessarily stupid people, but they will lazily categorise language hackers as geniuses or people magically blessed with other fortunes, like vast riches for travelling, or more opportunities to speak than them. Rather than try to focus on what they can do to achieve their language goals, language slackers will be closed minded, and create nothing but excuses for why it’s too hard for them.
But there is hope – all that language slackers need to do is be a little bit flexible and try to change their mentality. A few minor changes in how to look at things and how they are learning their language could be as easy as changing that s & l to an h.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
I don’t care what your excuse is, if you are clever enough you will find a way around it.
What’s that you say? You have other excuses? You have children, or live in a village in the desert, or sucked at languages in school? Well, boo-hoo. There are people with similar stories to yours but way less resources, opportunities and intelligence than you, who have managed to achieve what you say is ‘impossible’. Rather than wait for the universe to offer them a chance, they took it upon themselves and found a way to make it work.
At the end of the day, complaining about how hard a language is does earn you the title of crybaby. The whole point of taking on another language is because it’s different and includes challenges. If it was the same as English (or your mother tongue), and if you could speak it really easy in your home town, then it wouldn’t be a foreign language. If there were no cases, genders, tones, irregularities etc. then it wouldn’t be the language you claim to want to speak so much.
Rather than complain about all of these differences, you have to start to appreciate them, and see how can you work with these difficulties to find a solution. When you look at them with a positive attitude, everything changes.
Try to see how great these differences are
The language’s complications are what give it that extra vavavoom. They flower it up, add spice to it and make it all the more interesting. Yes, you do have to work hard to get your head around these differences, but there is a finite amount of work before you can master any particular issue. And when you do master it, you will start to wonder how other languages work without that interesting difference.
I genuinely feel like English is missing out when I say something, which would otherwise have an accusative applied to it, adjective case to tell you more about the noun, and other idiosyncrasies that make other languages all that more interesting.
Am I crazy for thinking English should be ‘harder’? Perhaps – there is no right or wrong for which way is better, and there is no superior way of expressing yourself. With a genitive is in no way inherently ‘better’ than without, or vice-versa. But I do have complete control over how I view it, and a positive attitude is by far one of the best things possible for making the language easier to learn.
By applying this attitude of being positive despite difficulties, it is so much easier to become a language hacker
Of course, the concepts described in this post can be applied to anything. Not just language learning. The reason I see so many people not achieving their dreams is precisely because of their inefficient way of looking at it. People who do achieve their lifelong goals of learning languages, travelling the world, finding their ideal job etc. do not necessarily have better means than you (yes… some do) – they just continued on their path steadily and didn’t stop and give out about how unfair things are.
By far, one of the best possible ways of solving any problem you may have is to stop complaining about it and to do something about it. Once you look at it in another light, everything else starts to look brighter.
So which are you? A language slacker, or a language hacker? It’s an easy choice – don’t tell me how hard your task is, tell me how easy it is
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This article was written by Benny Lewis
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