What prevents people from learning a foreign language?

This is part three of how to learn a language.

How I learned a language interview

What prevents people from learning Polish, or for that matter any foreign language?

I really think anyone learning a language at some point hits a plateau, and if you are just doing rote learning, people can burn out quickly.  So the saying that keeping it fun and interesting is key is definitely true.

And part of keeping it fun is kindling a passion for the language.  If you have a reason why, you figure out the “how”.  I think that basic idea applies in so many areas of life, and it definitely does in language.

For some, especially those living in a foreign country, being able to function in the day-to-day, and the feeling of independence and freedom that being able to communicate for yourself gives you, is a strong reason ‘why’.

Others maybe motivated for reasons of love and the opposite sex.  No surprise there.

I’ve also seen people, especially in upper levels of English and academics, who seem to take a real pride and pleasure in learning a language well, the semantics and the ins and outs.  They continue to devote time and energy to learning, among other reasons, because they have a natural passion for language in itself.  Some people have this, almost like a natural quality or inclination.  Others don’t, and so other reasons may have to serve as a ‘why’.  But I believe you can also cultivate a passion for a language—for example as you learn more about the structure and meaning and origin of words in a given language, it often naturally stimulates curiosity and interest.

For example, I particularly find the connections, similarities and differences among Slavic languages fascinating.  I discovered this early on a trip to the Czech Republic.  Some words were the same or nearly the same as in Polish (ie “rabbit”—“krolik” in Polish, “kralik” in Czech).  Others weren’t but made sense to me (“hospital”—in Polish “szpital”, in Czech “nemocnice”, which makes sense knowing the Polish “nie moc”, in other words roughly “to not be able to”, which would make sense—people in a hospital are generally incapacitated and unable to totally function normally until they heal).  And still others seemed totally unrelated to one another (the verb “to find” being “szukac” in Polish and “hledat” in Czech).

There are many other aspects of language that one can develop a passion about, not just the comparative aspects between languages.  For instance, if you are a political junkie, learning a language may allow you to read articles in that language that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to for lack of translation.  This will not only further expand your knowledge, but in a way can make you more savvy by being able to perceive an issue in the way it is written by the writer in its original form, with all its original bias and context (which is of course often lost in translation).

Continue reading how to learn a language here: What idea can help others learn a language?

2 Replies to “What prevents people from learning a foreign language?”

  1. “Szukać” and “hledac” are quite funny. Some Poles when they are in Czech Republic as tourists use the verb “szukać” and think it means the same as in Polish. But the Czech verb “šukat” (pronounced like Polish “szukać”) means in fact “to f*ck”. There were many funny situations because of that.

  2. Notice the “czes. hlediti”. … “hledat” is not as strange as you think! The Polish language equal is “glądać” which does not exists in the language of modern Polish, still are related words, for example: oglądać, wyglądać. which means to watch.

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