Are you stuck with your language learning (or in life) and can’t see a way forward?
What if I told you that the solution you need is already there if only you’re brave and open enough to reach out for it? What if I told you that there’s no such thing as being stuck or not good enough?
Well, that’s what I’m about to tell you. I’m about to show you one of your most powerful language learning tools that you already have and that’s actually in your head. All you need is to recognise that you have it and learn how to use it.
It’s called the abundance mindset.
Would you like to know how it can help you in your language studies? If so, read on!
Abundance Mindset Definition: What is the Abundance Mindset?
What is the abundance mindset? And how is it different from a scarcity mindset?
Picture this. We’re on a desert island together following a shipwreck. We crawl out of the water and onto the beach. We look around and there’s nobody else to be seen. There are some palm trees, rocks and a vast expanse in front of us. That’s it.
We’re hungry and thirsty, and pretty desperate. As we walk across the beach, we spot a bottle of water and a sandwich. It’s good news because that’s what we need right now. We share them between us and try to enjoy every sip and every bite because we fear what will happen when they’re gone.
Are we going to starve?
And then it happens – the sandwich is gone and the water is gone, and we’re back to square one. We’ve exhausted our resources. We have a problem – we’re hungry – and can’t see a solution. There’s nobody about and we’re stuck. We sit and wait for rescue that may never come.
What if we got up and went for a walk? What if we stopped giving in to fear and went into the bush? What could possibly happen then?
A new sea of opportunities could potentially open up right in front of our eyes. Because what we need is probably there already. There might be berries and mushrooms, and birds that lay eggs, maybe even other human beings that cook hot food that they could offer to us.
And we thought there was nothing else!
And that’s precisely what the difference between a scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset is all about.
But you’re not on a desert island and you may wonder how the story I’ve just told you can help you become a more effective language learner.
Well, it can. And I’m about to show you how.
Let’s start by looking at what scarcity and abundance look like in practice when applied to language learning.
What Does Scarcity Look Like in Language Learning?
Let’s take a look at some examples of the scarcity mindset in language learning.
The purpose of looking at specific examples is to help you recognise it and spot situations where you fall victim to scarce thinking. That way, you can consciously move to an abundance mindset, and become a better language learner as a result.
Scarcity is about thinking there’s only one solution to every problem. It’s about believing that there’s always one correct answer and that when you’re stuck, you need to do one specific thing to move on. It’s also about thinking that you or your skills are not good enough.
To look at some examples, with a scarcity mindset you might think that::
- You’re not able to talk about what you’re going to do when you go on holiday because you don’t know how to use the future tense
- You can’t explain what job you do because you don’t know how to translate your job title from your native language to your target language
- You’re not fluent because you simply don’t know enough vocabulary
- You’re not good enough at speaking your target language because you don’t know any native speakers or haven’t ever been abroad
- You’re failing because you keep using incorrect grammar or struggling to recall vocabulary
- You can’t learn a language because you’re too busy with other things
Let’s now look at examples of what abundance looks like so that we’re clear about the difference between the two mindsets.
What Does Abundance Look Like in Language Learning?
Unlike scarcity, abundance is about spotting opportunities where you think there might be none. It’s about making the most of what’s you’ve got – the words you know, the sounds you can recognise, the resources you have.
With an abundance mindset, you’re aware that:
- You can still communicate even if you don’t know the exact tense.
- You’re creative about it. If you want to talk about a holiday you’re about to go on, you use the present tense instead of the future tense you don’t know (for example, you say ‘I want to do X’ instead of ‘I will/I’m going to do X’)
- You can explain your job by talking about the various tasks you do, even if you don’t know the exact translation of your job title
You can be fluent by building your confidence and speaking a lot, even if you speak using simple language
- You don’t have to go abroad to practise your target language. You’re able to find alternative ways of doing that (for example, with a language partner online, or speaking to yourself)
- You can make progress even if you don’t know much grammar. You set yourself goals related to specific aspects of learning, such as being able to use a particular set of vocabulary when speaking
- You don’t use the ‘I haven’t got time excuse’. You find time in your schedule to do little language activities and understand that fluency is made up of small wins
Compare this list with the scarcity mindset list, above. Do you notice the difference? They’re pretty much polar opposites.
Now you should be able to tell the difference between a scarcity mindset and an abundance mindset. What should you do next, though? How can this knowledge help you become a more effective language learner?
Below, I set out four steps that will help you move from a scarcity to an abundance mindset, and become a more effective and confident language learner.
Abundance Mindset Exercises: How to Lose Your Scarcity Mindset in Your Language Learning
Step 1: Make the Most of Your Current Vocabulary
We’re all complex human beings with a richness of ideas, experiences and things we’re passionate about. When we meet new people, we want to talk about these things with them.
One of the main hurdles, in my experience, is trying to communicate all that we’ve got to offer using the (sometimes limited) language we know.
The truth is, you don’t need complex language to explain complex ideas. You’ve already got what you need. To move to an abundance mindset, you need to get into the ‘explainer’ mode.
Imagine a child asks you what a word means – let’s say it’s the word ‘extraordinary’. You’ll be able to find a way to explain it without using the actual word. The same principle applies to speaking your target language. You use words that you do know to explain what you don’t know how to translate directly into your target language.
Step 2: Keep Track of How Far You’ve Come
An abundance mindset means that you frequently look at what you’ve learned and what you haven’t learned to accelerate your progress.
Do you know how much you already know? A lot of language learners don’t know exactly what it is that they know.
Write it down. You can do this at the end of each week, for example. Write down the things that you’ve learned or that you’ve got better at this week. Then, look at your goals (which you should have written down as well). How have the things you’ve learned helped you move closer towards your goals? What else could you have done that you haven’t?
By doing this exercise, you’re doing two things – you’re recognising your own achievements and little successes (seeing the abundance of your existing knowledge) while also finding the holes in your learning process and identifying the things that you should focus on next. For example:
My goal is to be able to introduce myself in Japanese.
I’ve learned: how to say hello, how to say my name, how to say where I’m from.
What’s missing/what to focus on next: I’m not very good at pronouncing the word for ‘name’ so I will focus on that next week.
Step 3: Look for the Opportunity in Every Mistake
With a scarcity mindset, you believe that you’re failing because you’re making mistakes. You may think that mistakes are what’s stopping you from achieving your aims.
An abundance mindset is the opposite of that. It’s about making mistakes frequently so that you can learn more quickly.
Every time you make a mistake, ask yourself:
- What was the mistake?
- What have I learned from it?
- What will I do differently next time?
When framed this way, every mistake becomes a lesson. You know why you were wrong, you learned something new and you’ve got an action plan for the future. That’s three big wins!
An abundance mindset allows you to frame challenges in a way that motivates you and encourages you to carry on.
Step 4: Avoid Comparing Yourself with Other Language Learners
It’s great to have role models and aspire to be as good at languages as somebody you admire.
But there’s a catch. If you start comparing yourself with other people, and using this to put yourself down, you fall into the scarcity mindset.
To move to an abundance mindset, use other people’s victories as lessons for yourself. What has X done to improve his accent? What has Y done to memorise multi-syllable words? What has Z done to learn the script you’re now learning?
Also, remember is to cultivate a sense of gratitude for the things you already know and can say in your target language. The person who’s only just starting out doesn’t know them and you can be their role model now!
So here it is – a four-step process that will help you develop an abundance mindset. Recognise what you already know, think outside the box to make the most of it, evaluate your progress frequently and always move forward.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.