The best methods are therefore those that supply "comprehensible input" in low anxiety situations...these methods do not force early production in the second language, but allow students to produce when they are "ready", recognizing that improvement comes from supplying communicative and comprehensible input, and not from forcing and correcting production.
It’s time to address a critical piece of the language learning puzzle: your emotions.
No, I’m not your therapist and we’re not here to unpack any childhood trauma, but we are going to discuss the importance of feeling a language as well as thinking your way through it.
Many of us spend countless hours obsessing over the latest language learning apps or language learning courses, meticulously picking apart which ones to spend our hard earned money on, but we’re missing the bigger picture by solely focusing on that.
If you don’t establish an emotional connection to your language of choice, then you’re destined to fail.
You see, without an underlying reason to learn a foreign language, you’re relying on data, results and improvements to keep you going.
However, what if the data shows you’re no better off today than you were six months ago?
What if your results show that you’ve actually regressed or plateaued?
Will your mind be able to conquer your heart?
As much as it hurts me to admit it, probably not.
I’ve been there and so have plenty of other language learners - polyglots included!
In other words, the focus of your language learning must shift from “how to learn a new language” into “why I’m learning a new language.”
You can learn all of the best strategies and methods that you want, but if you don’t fall in love with the language, then you won’t be committed to learning it day in and day out.
You have to learn with your heart ♥️ as well as your brain 🧠.
Here’s a little rhyme to help you remember the key to second language acquisition:
To language learning there is a science and an art,
Learn forever by combining your brain with your heart!
Think of it like this: if your heart’s not in it, your brain is already halfway out of the door. And that goes for almost anything in life, not just learning a second language.
Hence why the first chapter of my new book, 10 Essential Rules for Smart Language Learning, is titled Start with Why.
I’ve attempted learning a language without truly developing a bond to it (sorry, Romanian 🇷🇴!) and I ended up losing interest within a few months.
Why does this happen?
Well, there are many factors at play, but to put it simply, when you lose motivation it is mainly due to lack of purpose.
After a while you just can't move on because you run out of steam. And no matter how good your learning strategies are, if you lack purpose, you are doomed to fail.
It is like driving a Ferrari down the highway and witnessing the fuel light flicker on, knowing that the nearest gas station is hours away!
But knowing your purpose is only half of the battle.
In your everyday life, your mindset and your state of mind play a huge role.
Our emotional state (and anxiety-levels) determine how much language learning can actually be achieved.
It’s something famed linguist Stephen Krashen has dubbed the affective filter.
The higher the filter, the lower the comprehension.
In Krashen’s own words:
Research over the last decade has confirmed that a variety of affective variables relate to success in second language acquisition (reviewed in Krashen, 1981). Most of those studied can be placed into one of these three categories:
(1) Motivation. Performers with high motivation generally do better in second language acquisition (usually, but not always)
(2) Self-confidence. Performers with self-confidence and a good self-image tend to do better in second language acquisition.
(3) Anxiety. Low anxiety appears to be conducive to second language acquisition, whether measured as personal or classroom anxiety.
Motivation, self-confidence and anxiety are quite the trio to manage when it comes to learning a new language, no?
Yet, establishing an emotional connection allows you to remain motivated through the mistakes, believe in yourself during rough patches, and lower your levels of anxiety by focusing on what you love about the language.
Our emotions directly impact our mindset and our mindset determines what we can accomplish in a given language.
What’s the easiest language to learn?
No, wait. What's the hardest language to learn?
Guess what, with the right mindset, it doesn’t really matter.
If you have your why and your heart beats for that language, no one else’s perceptions can filter out your reality.
When I was in middle school, I had studied English for a few years and I wanted to test my listening comprehension by watching Back to the Future. It went horribly awry.
I couldn’t understand nearly any of it!
My heart sank and brackish tears slid down my reddened cheeks. I was a language learning embarrassment.
My emotions came knocking upstairs and told my brain, “Hey man, you’re not good at learning languages. Just finish this incomprehensible movie about a kid hanging out with a crazy old man and focus on something else…anything else!”
However, I couldn’t call it quits, because my heart was still in it. I loved learning and most of all, I loved learning languages!
That’s when Susan, my phenomenal American tutor, came into my life and turned my language learning world right side up!
Thanks to her, I was able to turn my limiting belief into a liberating truth. A few years later, I tackled German and French on my own. Thus, giving birth to the methods I’ve used to learn 14 foreign languages.
And here is a profound lesson I have learned from 30+ years of experience learning languages and training hundreds of people around the world:
No matter how efficient and brain-friendly your language learning strategies are, you will go through a language learning slump.
You will doubt yourself.
Your mind will give you plenty of reasons to call it quits.
But what will your heart say?
Well, that depends on you and your bond to your target language.
Learn with your heart ♥️ as well as your brain 🧠, language learners!
Written by Luca Lampariello
PS: If you have already bought the 10 Essential Rules for Smart Language learning, thank you from the bottom of my heart! If you haven’t, take a peek.