Inspiring Words: Find Your Language Learning Motivation
Sometimes I wonder if I am just spinning my wheels writing and doing videos about language learning. Maybe I am beginning to sound like a broken record. And then there are moments that make it all worthwhile.
This was in response to a Tweet from Roman Waschuk, the Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine. I immediately remembered how much I enjoyed my first encounter with French culture as a 17 year old. Ten years of French in school, textbooks, tests, grammar instruction, all of which is a blur today, had left me unable to speak French. Yet once I became interested in the language and culture, a new world opened up. With difficulty at first, but gradually, I improved in French and became fluent enough to go to France to complete my university education there. These are very fond memories.
It is significant that this reminder came from Ambassador Waschuk, himself an accomplished polyglot. He is Canada’s ambassador to Ukraine, which I recently visited. I have learned the Ukrainian language well enough to communicate with people, understand radio and newspapers, and even call up a radio talk show. I have loved my interaction with things Ukrainian, current and historical. But I also enjoyed my interaction with Russian culture, and Polish, and Czech, not to mention the awakening that was my discovery of the Chinese world, followed by Japanese. I could go on and on.
Learning a Language Enriches Life
If I am a broken record, it is because I genuinely feel that too many people deny themselves the opportunity of discovering so much of the richness of the human experience simply because they don’t think they can learn languages. Or maybe they went about it the wrong way. So I keep grinding my axe.
I am not alone in appreciating what languages can do, and sometimes people who have been influenced by what I do, take the time to tell me about.
Hi Steve. Congratulations. I’ve been a subscriber to LingQ on and off for more than 10 years. You have changed my life.
Congratulations Steve! You really deserve 100,000 subscribers and many more. You’ve been a great inspiration to me and I presume to all people who, like me, smile when you upload a new video. You teach us so much about language learning, a fascinating activity which is actually a way of life. All I can say is thank you for sharing your thoughts with us and for always being there when some advice or motivation for language learning is needed. You really do a great job with your videos. Keep it up 😉
You have been a real inspiration for me Steve i want to become a polyglot too i did not think i could do it but your videos made me find a way to make learning enjoyable i was scared off by the terrible and boring learning process in schools.
I would like to thank you so much, because studying at LingQ improved my German up to the level that I was able to get very lucrative job in the company of my dreams. During the test in German I needed to accomplish in order to be hired, I found many words I learned at LingQ. Thank you!
These are just a few examples of the kinds of messages that I receive. For most of my professional life I was either a diplomat (seven years) or a businessman (forty years). I enjoyed my career, but I didn’t have the feeling that I was improving people’s lives. Now I do. That is a wonderful feeling.
I didn’t get hooked on language learning by studying grammar. People who write me to tell me how much they appreciate what I am doing here at my blog and on my YouTube channel, or people who enjoy LingQ, didn’t get converted into successful language learners by studying grammar.
Grammar and Input-Based Learning
Some people get the idea that I am against grammar. Grammar explanations have their place. We can refer to them. The more we get into a language, the better use we can make of grammar explanations. However, all too often language instruction starts with grammar. Learners are expected to make sense of lists of rules and exceptions describing something that they are not familiar with. Then they are tested on their ability to use the language correctly. This is an unreasonable expectation.
I have been making a few videos recently showing how I think grammar can best be integrated into an input-based language learning program. The secret is to focus on phrases while we are reading and listening. Phrases embody the structures of the language. If we can save these phrases at LingQ, and then review them using the LingQ activities, we start to naturally acquire the pieces of the language that we need to understand and speak. I would add that the ability to Tag these phrases for concentrated review, one of the less used functions at LingQ, empowers the learner even further.
I have put a lot of my own preferences and experience into the LingQ program. I believe the functionality at LingQ lets learners delve into compelling input, and develop the ability to notice the structures of the language. This is a natural way of learning that throws up fewer obstacles to language learning than the traditional approaches.
Find Your Inspiration
We can all find the equivalent of a Félix Leclerc or the other French chansonniers who attracted me to French, in other words something that interests us in a new language. Then we need to find the path of least resistance to acquiring the language. That path of least resistance is not the deliberate study of grammar, and the requirement to produce the language correctly. If I can persuade people of that, then I feel I can help people enrich their lives. It is my belief in that which keeps me going, and I intend to continue.