Are You Addicted to Language Porn?

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Are You Addicted to Language Porn?


Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

How do you indulge yourself?

The majority of human beings have vices of some degree. Whether it’s a cup of coffee in the morning, a lie in on the weekend, a piece of chocolate in the afternoon or a beer in the evening, you probably have at least one indulgence that helps you get through the day. (Of course there are other, darker vices, but I’ll avoid mentioning them, in the interest of keeping Fluent in 3 Months (Fi3M) family-friendly!)

Vices, like anything, are fine in moderation. When that piece of chocolate becomes a whole bar, the lie in obliterates your plans for your day off and the drinking gives you false courage, then it may be time to re-evaluate what value (if any) they’re adding to your life.

The problem with vices is that we don’t tend to recognise when they’re hurting us. In some instances, we may not even see them for what they truly are.

In fact, many language learners suffer from a vice that is doing more harm than good. Why? Because it’s exactly what’s holding them back from becoming fluent in a foreign language.

If you’re struggling to advance in your language learning, you may need to sit down and ask yourself… am I addicted to porn? And before you say anything else, extract your mind from the gutter! I’m talking strictly about language porn!

What is Language Porn, Exactly?

language porn /ˈlaŋɡwɪdʒ /pɔːn/

noun

Getting stuck in language books (for mental masturbation) rather than actually using the language.

In simple terms, it’s getting stuck on reading about a language, but not speaking it. It’s a bit like the difference between porn (artificial gratification without any human interaction, but simple) and sex (much more satisfying gratification, with real human interaction, but involving complicated social dynamics that can be intimidating).

Being a “language porn” addict can really set you back, especially if your aim is to become fluent in your target language.

As I have repeatedly stated, the way to become fluent in a foreign language is to start speaking it – from day one. In my view, that’s the best way to get good results.

Are You Addicted to Language Porn?

You’ve started learning a new language. You’re studying it every moment that you can, happily committing new phrases and grammar rules to memory. Your collection of books on the subject is impressive. You’ve been at it some time now and feel a slight twinge of victory whenever you’re able to translate sentences. You know your knowledge of this language is growing daily and you’re feeling pretty pleased with yourself as a result. You’ve even got a 100 day streak (no pun intended) on DuoLingo.

Yet… you struggle to speak in your new language. And really – what’s the point in learning a language, if you’re not going to use it? At base level, the need to learn a language stems from a desire to communicate.

Here are some classic signs of language porn addiction.

1. You Collect New Words, But Struggle to Pronounce Them

You love words and your vocabulary list is growing longer by the day. Although you’re growing more and more confident in your reading abilities, you have no idea how to pronounce these words. You sit alone at your desk, repeatedly saying them over and over again, cringing at your accent and wondering if you’re actually getting the pronunciations right.

2. You’re Afraid to Speak in Your Target Language Right Now…

The thought of speaking to a real person makes you break out in a cold sweat. What if they laugh at you? You’ll probably make a mistake and they’ll think you’re really stupid. Nope, now is not the right time. You need to do more reading and get to a proper position where you know you’ll be confident enough to start speaking the language for yourself.

3. …But One Day You’ll Be Ready. For Sure.

You’ve got it all figured out. You’re going to keep reading up about your language, chapter by chapter in your textbook. One day soon, you’re sure you’ll be ready to speak. You’ve invested all this time into studying – surely once you finally open your mouth, you’ll have no trouble speaking x language at all. You won’t make any mistakes and those native in this language will be able to understand you with ease. Some day soon, fluency shall be yours… you’re sure of it!

Why This Particular Addiction is So Dangerous

Getting addicted to “language porn” is dangerous because it’s a form of procrastination. It’s a trap I see new language learners fall into, time and time again. You may feel like you’re making huge advancements in your learning, but where is it really getting you?

I get emails regularly from people who have studied language in an academic setting, usually at some point during their secondary education. They want to know how they could have invested all that time (and often money) into their education and walk away often years later, able to speak their language at only the most rudimentary level.

I completely empathise with them! I studied German for five years, yet it wasn’t until I moved to Berlin sometime later and enforced a strict no English rule, that I could safely say I was on the road to fluency in that language.

I studied Gaeilge, the Irish language for eleven years and it was my worst subject at school. I absolutely hated it! As my love for language developed over my adult years, I felt a burning desire to go back and immerse myself into the Gaeltacht region. It was only then that I was able to achieve a good conversational level in the Irish language, one I could never reach at school.

For these reasons, I believe studying a language alone is never enough to help you speak a language. If you truly want to be fluent… well you’re going to have to open your mouth and start talking.

How to Recover From Your Addiction

Right – first things first. Let’s put the textbooks down and consider some other language resources. I’m not saying you have to put them away completely! It’s quite alright to consider textbooks as part of your language learning arsenal… but you should never rely on them alone.

Now that’s done, let’s look at the methods we can employ to get you talking. And no – you don’t have to quit your job, pack your bags and move to a country where your chosen language is commonly spoken. There are plenty of ways in which you can strengthen your speaking skills, without even leaving the house!

One of the first things I’d advise you to do is to sign up to iTalki. I’ve used this website for years and happily recommend it to everyone and anyone.

Thanks to informal Skype conversations, I no longer have to move to a country to learn a language. I was able to learn Japanese while living in Valencia and Egyptian Arabic from Brazil. Because of this, when I finally visited these countries, I was able to immerse myself culturally and enjoy the sights, without worrying about having to learn how to communicate with the people living there.

All you need to do is select the right teacher (don’t be afraid to “trial” a few, before settling on the right one), do a little bit of “classroom prep” and schedule that first call!

If you prefer the idea of talking to someone in an informal setting, consider signing up to italki. This website is a platform for language learners around the world to connect with language teachers or language exchange partners. You might be looking for someone who speaks Spanish, who in turn wishes to improve their English. Give a little and take a little – in the end, everyone wins.

Want to get out and mingle? I would turn to Meetup. Do a little research and find out if there are any groups that regularly meet in your area, with a view on practising their spoken skills in the language you’re learning.

If you have some room to spare, you may consider hosting some Couchsurfers. I have used this resource to host over two thousand budget travellers throughout the years. I was able to practise my languages with all those who walked through my front door – for free! Sometimes they’d even cook me a nice meal, for letting them stay!

But… What Do I Speak About? What if I Sound Silly or Bore My Listeners?

People seem to think that when they’re just starting to speak a language, they can’t talk to native speakers because they’ll bore them. Or, they’ll make a mistake and anger whomever it is that they’re speaking to.

I’ve had minimal negative reactions when I try to speak a language for the first time. Most people are patient and understanding. They’ll help you when you need it, correct your mistakes if you ask. And they certainly won’t laugh at you, nor think you’re stupid.

If someone is going to get angry with you for trying your absolute best to communicate with them, then it’s probably someone you wouldn’t want to be talking to in the first place!

Many textbook examples seem boring – talking about the weather, asking directions. I encourage you to make yourself seem interesting (This shouldn’t be hard, as I’m sure you are!). Ask the other person questions about themselves, their country and their background. Listen (it will do wonders for your listening comprehension skills!). Learn how ask a few key questions such as:

  • What that person wanted to be when they were growing up.
  • What their favourite type of music is and why.
  • Do they like reading? If so, what books? Can they recommend any written by native authors?
  • What do they wish for in life?

Listen to what they have to say and don’t forget to use connectors to keep the conversation flowing.

You Have the Power to Break Your Addiction

Addictions aren’t easy to break, but I think in the case of language porn, it’s mind over matter. The key is to stop procrastinating and get down and dirty! This real world experience will lead you to fluency much faster than a book ever could.

author headshot

Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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