Language Learning is Like Falling in Love

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Recently, I had to give a short talk in Japanese to about 30 members of the Japan-Canada Chamber of Commerce. I am a Director of this Chamber, which consists mostly of recent Japanese immigrants to Canada who are involved in their own businesses here. Here is what I said in Japanese.

Language learning is like falling in love. In fact you have to be in love to learn a language well. I mean in love with the language. You have to have a love affair with the language. You do not have to marry the language. You can have an affair and then move on to another language after a period of time. But while you are learning the language you have to be in love with it. And you will learn faster if you are faithful to the language while you are studying it.

Just as when you are in love, you want to and need to spend as much time as possible with the object of your love. You want to hear its voice and read its thoughts. You want to learn more about it, the many words and phrases that it uses to express itself. You think of the language wherever you are. You start to observe the object of your love closely. You notice all the little things it does, you become familiar with its peculiar behaviour patterns. You breathe it. You hear its voice. You feel it. You get to know it better and better, naturally.

Just as in a love affair, there are things about the object of your love that you do not like. You ignore these. You only think about the things that you love. You do not question the object of your love. You just accept it. You do not ask why. You do not ask why it behaves a certain way. You do not seek to understand the secrets to its structure. You just want to be with it, and even to imitate it, the highest form of appreciation.

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Loving a language is a one-sided love affair. You love the language. It does not love you back. But the good thing is that it is not jealous of you, of your other previous love affairs. It really does not care if you carry on another love affair at the same time. But, as with people, doing so can create problems…..The language does not criticize you. You can use it however you want, as long as you enjoy yourself.

You are not jealous of other people who love the language you love. In fact you like to meet people who love the language you love. It is a lot less bothersome to love a language than to love a person, Because the love of the language is its own reward. You do not care what the language thinks of you. You are enjoying your affair with the language and do not expect anything in return. As long as you have that relationship, you will learn and improve in the language.

If you just use a language without loving it, you will not improve. If the goal is only to get a better job, or to pass a test, you will not improve. People are the same way. You cannot have a love affair with someone just to get a better job, although……….

This has been my approach. So when I learn a language I spend most of my initial time just listening and reading and building up my words and phrases. I just want to get to know the language, enjoy its personality and get used to it. I do not want anyone to question me, or explain my love to me. I do not want to speak in the language before I have really gotten to know the language, because I know that I will not do justice to my love. I only speak in the language when I want to, when I am ready.

I practice what is known as the “silent period” approach to language learning. Right now I am learning Russian and have been doing so for one year. I read and listen to many different kinds of content, including simple stories, podcasts and Tolstoy. I love it. I do not yet speak Russian. I could if I wanted to. I have been using the latest version of our language learning system, LingQ, which enables people to learn any language they want.

If any of you are interested in having a love affair with a language, read more on my blog and subscribe to my YouTube channel to hear this podcast and more!
You can also improve your English, Spanish, Italian and 11 other languages today! Visit LingQ.com

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13 comments on “Language Learning is Like Falling in Love

Елена

Стив, это просто баллада о любви к изучению языков. Очень красиво!

David

What a pleasant way to express the importance of language learning. It’s like as long as you have the relationship with your language, you will learn and improve in the language.

tamanna

hey ..i really really loved your way of expressing your love towards a language and to be honest that was very motivating too . I am learning french at university and I was feeling like losing an interest so i was finding something like that to motivate me to go ahead. Thank you so much for sharing this with us .

Anonymous

This was one of the best posts on this blog. Despite its simplicity it summarized the most crucial element of language learning and especially language mastery.

Vik

Votre façon de nous enseigner, c’est vraiment extraordinaire… Cela fait des années que je me traine avec l’anglais… J’ai jamais trouvé l’enthousiasme… vraiment jamais… Je vous ai découvert il y a quelques jours… C’est un vrai coup de foudre! Je n’arrête plus d’étudier, vous écouter et creer des lingq-s.. Sur quelques jours j’ai appris plus que pendant un an avant.. Et c’est vraiment sans effort ! Un TOUT GRAND MERCI pour tout votre travail, pour l’encouragement, pour les conseils, pour tout ce système extraordinaire ! Je vous souhaite la meilleure santé pour pouvoir continuer encore pendant très longtemps ! Je vous embrasse de Hongrie ! 🙂

Islombek Abdullaev

Quite inspirational and educative message is learnt from this post! Super grateful for your invetive efforts in discovering innovative ways of learning a language as well as sharing them with us; language lovers))) Thank you enormously, Steve!

Danny

“I do not yet speak Russian. I could if I wanted to.”

Are you saying you practice reading and listening to Russian but don’t actually speak it? If so, why?

    This was quite some time ago. At first I just enjoyed listening and reading and really had no one to speak to. I still mostly listen and read, audio books, radio programs,movies etc. Quite enjoyable really

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