“Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution.”

—Albert Einstein

For every positive, there exists an equal and counteracting negative. 

It’s the reality we live in and it’s one we have to accept in order to move on with our lives. 

For me, becoming a polyglot and YouTuber has blessed me with more than I could have ever imagined.  

It’s an opportunity unlike any other where I’ve gained so much from it, but I’ve been able to give back even more.  

While I’ve certainly basked in a sense of accomplishment, my greatest satisfaction has come from helping people make breakthroughs in their attempts to learn a foreign language. 

Needless to say, it hasn’t been all sunshine and rainbows throughout my journey from a regular ragazzo to a polyglot personality. You see, regardless of the praise, many people will try to poke holes in whichever manner they can to disprove or discredit certain claims I make. 

I’ve received a deluge of dastardly messages throughout the years and here’s just a taste of what some “critics” have had to say about me:

  • My language learning methods are a chore and they’re boring
  • My Chinese is awful
  • My accents are good, but I can’t be trusted because I read everything off of a teleprompter
  • I’m a vindictive ANKI hater! 
  • For a polyglot that’s “fluent,” I still make so many mistakes in X, Y, Z languages
  • My videos are all scams and I’m selling you snake oil! 
  • I’m a charlatan and I stole my methods from others

You get the idea. 

Regardless of how “detached” I am from these messages, it’s a pain in the you-know-what to get these kinds of comments on a consistent basis.  

So how does one handle criticism, negativity and unexpected setbacks when learning a foreign language? Let’s dive into that topic, so you know exactly what to do and how to react the next time you’re up against a pack of cynical citizens. 

Handling the Haters

Have you ever tried speaking a foreign language only to get a negative reaction?

Maybe the individual(s) you’re speaking to refuse to speak back to you or they immediately switch to your native language.  This creates a sense of friction and frustration and it puts you on the hot seat, but even worse, that shadow of self-doubt slithers over you and causes your brain to revert to the path of least resistance. 

Or perhaps they even have the audacity to laugh at you, snicker in your face and roll their eyes at your earnest attempt to connect and communicate via their native language. 

What do you do in that case? 

First, let’s take a step back and examine the root of their reaction. 

Typically, when a hater (or a language ladrón), expresses something hostile or negative towards you, it’s their problem not yours. I don’t know about you, but I never find that a productive part of my day includes berating others or taking cheap shots at them. 

The source of negativity in the language ladron’s life is coming from something much bigger and more significant than you speaking a foreign language.  It’s usually the result of unresolved personal issues that a person is dealing with.  

Therefore, it’s easier for them to unload some of their stress on you (or another random person) via snide little remarks here and there. 

That reaction says more about their state of mind, than your level of [insert your target language here]. 

I know that in the moment, it can be difficult to process and you may even become defensive, but keep in mind that your attempt at speaking a foreign language is genuine, harmless and a pursuit of personal growth.  

Their reaction is the complete opposite, but it doesn’t have to be deleterious to your day. 

I’m not sure who coined the phrase, but I find it very fitting to add here, “Do not let someone else’s expectations determine your reality.”

Most of my language learning experiences have been very positive and people have shown how patient, encouraging and helpful they truly are.  

However, for every few positive experiences, you will get that one grumpy individual who wouldn’t smile even if they were given a warm and loving hug by their mother (fingers crossed that they had a good relationship with their mother).

Sometimes, the most shocking negative reaction can come from someone you’d least expect.  A close friend, a colleague or even a family member can summarize your valiant language learning effort as “stupid” or “a complete waste of time.” 

My own father didn’t see the point in becoming a polyglot, he was far from a hater or a language ladrón, but his lack of support definitely stung when I wasn’t as successful as I am today. 

As a result, when it comes to your options after receiving unsolicited feedback and negative comments, you can either:

  1. Engage in a confrontation for the ages!
  2. Ignore and move on with your day! 

Your Reaction Determines Their Satisfaction

It’s important to realize that any engagement or follow-up on your end is precisely what the language ladrón (or hater) is seeking.  They want to see an emotional reaction, no matter how big or small, and they want to see that their words have had an effect on you.  At what cost? Some of these people are willing to say whatever it takes to get you to lower yourself to their level. 

If you are planning on responding and confronting them, be prepared to partake in a losing battle as this is an argument you can never win. Regardless of the facts or logic you may present, this individual will simply not care.  They were never willing to change their mind in the first place. Usually, if you simply disregard such comments or provocations, you can move on and the hater will try to find another “victim” to harass. No reaction means no satisfaction for those bozos. 

Therefore, I personally believe it’s best to simply choose option 2 and ignore these comments as best as you can. 

For me, the criticism and negative commentary only matters if it’s coming from people that I respect. 

Context is extremely important, not only in language learning, but also in choosing whether or not someone’s words are worth your time. If a friend, family member, colleague or fellow language learner had something critical to say and they said it in a thoughtful manner, I would be more than happy to hear them out. In fact, I would love to have an open dialogue about that topic, as long as both people were speaking with pure intentions. 

However, if a person hiding behind an anonymous username wanted to call me a phoney and a fraud, well, that’s simply not worth my time or the emotional toll it can take to respond to that individual.  Much like a bad experience or an awkward exchange with someone in a foreign language is not worth your time.  Unless you learned a specific phrase or term that you could use later on, it’s simply best to carry on and get back to your priorities. 

My advice is to either ignore the comment completely and use your time more wisely, or, take those comments and use them as fuel for your studying.  It all depends on your personality type and what propels you to continue moving forward.  If someone rips apart your accent and you think to yourself, “I’ll show you in [X amount of time] and then we’ll see who’s talking about accents!” Well, then it sounds like you could create a list of your most common criticisms and use it to challenge yourself. 

If not, I wouldn’t recommend looking too much into what people (who don’t know you personally) have to say about you. 

You Are Enough

This phrase gets thrown around a lot, but in the context of today’s topic, I think it makes the most sense to repeat it to you: you are enough. 

I could spend days upon days responding to each and every critical comment I receive, but what good would it do in the long run?  Would it satisfy my critics? Probably not. Would it make me feel any better? Nope.  However, it might make for some entertaining YouTube content 😉.  In fact, these comments used to bother me a lot more, because during the early stages of YouTube, people were more excited about the idea of becoming a polyglot and the topic of learning a language.  Now, I think we’ve reached a point where the conversation has steered from something productive and cooperative, to one where people want to prove they’re right at all costs.  

Over time, I’ve matured and grown to disregard the spiteful comments. All of those comments, messages and criticisms roll right off of me, because I know who I am, what I’ve done and what I want to spend my time on. 

The same goes for you.  You are doing something that’s difficult, time consuming and can make those around look at you with crazy eyes 👀.  However, you’ve stepped up to the challenge and you’re committed to fulfilling your personal aspirations. There will be times where you don’t appreciate the way someone reacts to you or your attempt to communicate in a foreign language, but remember, the issue is coming from their end - not yours. 

We’ve all got enough going on in our personal lives that making room for a heated debate with a troll or two simply isn’t worth it - at all. Use your time wisely and do something productive for your language skills, because while you’re hard at work and bettering yourself, that language ladrón will be stuck in their miniscule world of misery. 

To wrap things up, I’d like to leave you with a quote that perfectly captures what I wanted to say in a lot less words:

“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind.”

—Dr. Seuss 

Written by Luca Lampariello

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  • This one definitely hit home. During Covid language learning was a niche hobby for mine to combat what would’ve been months upon months of boredom and isolation. Great idea to keep a young boy off the streets, right? For whatever reason that I didn’t understand when I was 16, this hobby of mine came at the cost of the occasional critique and a personal attack here and there. They certainly got to me back then, having just figured out how cruel the internet can be. But once I started noticing the same jealousy-fueled comments and understanding the personalities of those people, I started to connect the dots: it is true, hurt people hurt people. And so, even though I’ve somewhat retired from YouTube and videos at the ripe old age of twenty, that era of my life taught me a most valuable lesson. You can have any skill, hobby, or million-dollar idea, but if you decide to share it with the world, be prepared to face a wall of meaningless resistance. Anything “good” is bound to attract its vile counterpart, but as long as you understand that you stand on the right side of history, those pesky comments become quite painless.

  • I’ve found the worst language haters are those who can’t speak a word in another language.

  • Yes, we should only relate to constructive criticism ( people who wish to help ) not destructive criticism ( those atrempting to build their own shiny castles ….which are made of sand !) A very good list of positive points Luca.Thank you .Grazie mille

  • I think it’s funny when people say, “You can’t possibly be fluent because you still make mistakes,” like natives don’t make mistakes in their own language all the time (including the person criticizing you). It’s extremely rare to find a person who always speaks with perfect grammar and/or pronunciation – I’ve personally never met one.

    I’ve had people switch to English when I’m talking to them in their native language, but I never switch. I just carry on in the target language I’m speaking, and they keep speaking to me in English. I don’t usually let it bother or deter me.

  • Luca, you are an inspiration! Keep doing what you are doing, namely showing people what is possible in language learning and inspiring them to do the same.

    I personally am somebody who has always been passionate about language learning and foreign cultures, but never invested in this systematically till fairly recently. I started by trying to go up to the CEFR’s C2 level in a couple of languages, so as to have a clear goal (without it, it is difficult for me to persist) and immediately faced the same type of comments (even from people who were very close to me), “Why are you doing this? Enjoy the “small things in life””, “Passing these tests is just a matter of sitting down and cramming, doesn’t mean you’ll ever “really” learn the language and achieve “excellence””. “Why do you even bother, you can use google translate when you are traveling”.

    This almost brought me to the point of quitting till I saw your successes and continuous motivation to keep going. I don’t care whether your methods are right or wrong, ultimately we all have to find what works for each of us individually. The important is that you found your reason “why” despite people questioning it; you did it and showed that it is possible. And, by the way, (to address another of your responses to haters….), you can’t pass a C2 test if you are at a B1 level (in multiple languages!!) by just cramming for a couple of weeks and memorizing a list of words! Challenge your haters to try it and find out 🙂

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