Here I share the 7 Language Learning Myths that unfortunately persist all the time on the internet. Do you believe in any?
7. It is possible to learn a foreign language overnight using some secret tricks.
Sorry, no. A language is a lot more than grammar and vocabulary. It’s also expressions, sayings and all this kind of stuff. It is not possible to learn a language that fast unless you are able to somehow upload it to your brain (let me know when you are able to do that). Some methods for learning a language are clearly better than others (that’s what a good part of this site is about, after all). And by better we don’t neceserilly mean objectively better, even though sometimes it gets so subjectively better for everyone that it gets close to being objective.
6. You shouldn’t learn any foreign language because everybody speaks English.
It is estimated that about 1 billion people know at least some English in the world. The world is at least six times that. If you have travelled in China or some other similar countries, you know how easy it is to find English speakers. Also, see this article.
5. You should learn a language till you are proficient and only then move on.
You know, I once heard it’s just a Western fetish to try learning languages till proficiency. And really, why would you do that? As long as you can communicate, it’s all good. Learn untill you are able to talk about weather and ask where the toilet is and move on. You will be picking up more and more of the language as you move on even if you don’t actively learn it and just use it from time to time.
4. All the languages in the world are of equal difficulty.
This one is a bit tricky. First of all, it is kind of evident that some languages are more alike (English and French) than others (German and Thai) so some languages are relatively easier to learn for speakers of related languages. But let’s forget that. Let’s look at it from a Martian’s perspective. The argument goes: if a bunch of cloned Martians came to Earth and each of them picked a language and started learning it, they would finish learning those languages at the same time. Now, that seems just too counter-intuitive for me. Let’s look at two extremes: Riau Indonesian and Russian. Russian has noun declension, verb conjugation, noun genders and numbers, verb tenses and so on. Riau Indonesian has no inflection or tone, almost no tense marking, no noun genders and numbers. Now, which one do you think is easier for a Martian to learn?
3. Don’t learn Japanese or Chinese because they are dead difficult.
When we got over this “all languages are equally difficult” idea, we sometimes see this kind of thing being stated. Now, both Chinese and Japanese have hieroglyphic alphabets which makes you remember all those signs to write all the words which is not really that awesome. The thing is though – you are not obliged to learn those to communicate. Neither Chinese nor Japanese has noun genders, rigorous verb conjugations and all that kind of stuff and spoken Chinese (Mandarin) is pretty easy compared to some other languages (tones are not that hard too). For example, to say “I will be going to school tomorrow” in Mandarin Chinese, you simply have to say the equivalent of: I tomorrow go learn place. Could it be easier?
As for the writing system, English is not that much different: it has no strict rules how to spell words so you have to learn the spelling by rote. Check out the word Ghoti (pronounced: fish) for example.
2. You can’t become proficient in a foreign language unless you learned it before puberty.
This is based on a Critical Period Hypothesis that suggests that you cannot learn a language once you are out of puberty. Sadly, there is some truth to it. It is way harder for you to learn a language once you get older. However, this is not absolute. To my knowledge, the idea is not based on sufficient evidence. To the contracy, I have seen many people who achieve a native-level fluency while having learnt the language as adults. I have to dismiss it due to lack of sufficient evidence and existance of counter-evidence. That’s not to say that fluency is easy. That’s not to say it’s something you can achieve with moderate efforts. Still, it’s to say that it’s impossible (save for accent).
1. You can’t learn two languages at the same time. If you do, you’ll end up getting confused and messed up and fail horribly.
I would definitely disagree with this one. Who on Earth says you can’t learn many languages? I have done been doing that. I have known people who do that too. Actually, Why wouldn’t you be able to do that? Say, you can learn Maths and Physics at the same time, can’t you? Why not different languages? In fact, I think it’s even better for you to switch between languages every other day.
- The Language Difficulty Myth
- Learn The Chinese Tones in 1 Minute!
- Five Fascinating Languages of the World
- What Languages Should You Know if You Want to Travel the World Freely
- Language Learning Success Stories: People who have learned languages in a limited amount of time