Thursday, April 21, 2011

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Don’t Be Afraid of Getting it Wrong!

I was reading an article a couple of weeks ago about how the C.I.A. in the United States is investigating language learning.  If you don’t know, the C.I.A is the Central Intelligence Agency and very basically they are spies! Obviously, multiple languages are very useful for this.

Well, the article was not as interesting as I expected (click here if you want to read it) but this article had one paragraph that "jumped out" at me (it got my attention).  Here is the important part for you:

“Another surprise came from studies of Spanish-speaking immigrants, because neither age nor language proficiency seemed to predict how quickly the immigrants picked up English. Instead, the fastest learners showed both the greatest motivation to learn and a willingness to use English at every opportunity despite being bad at it (at first).

Ok.  So in general, the people who achieve the most in learning a language are those who find motivation and are not afraid to use their bad English.  It is like a muscle in your body: the more you use it, the stronger it gets, and we all know the phrase “Use it or lose it!”.  Well maybe we can change this phrase; "It's better to use it badly than lose it."  So I  return to the topic of motivation and opportunity for learning English, something I talked about a little bit in a previous post.

Finding Motivation

This is difficult.  Personally, I don’t think I have this.  If I look at myself as a Spanish language learner, I see a lack of motivation.  I want to learn and improve my Spanish but I don’t need to improve it.  But if I knew that I needed to become much better for a test or for a job, then that would give me much more motivation.

Finding Opportunity

For me, this is easy: I’m living in Argentina!  I’m staying at a Bed & Breakfast where they don’t speak English!  I have lots of opportunity to practise my Spanish here.

So, is Gordon improving?  No, not really.

Why is he not improving?  He has opportunity but doesn’t really have motivation.  He needs both!

Now, I am NOT saying that you need to move to another country to learn the language (although that does help).  You can find opportunities everywhere, especially with the Internet.  Motivation can only come from you.  For me, that’s what I am working on.

What do you do to help motivate yourself?  I would love to know your ideas.


P.S.  One final point about getting it wrong and making mistakes.  Yes, of course you will make mistakes and you will make lots of mistakes.  Nobody does anything perfectly without lots and lots of practice, and practice is when we make mistakes.


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