If you’ve ever tried learning a language, you know that it comes with its joys and challenges. But as a language teacher and learner, nothing is more disconcerting to me than the myths that hold language learners back. These myths, built on fear and lack of courage, oftentimes are created by people who are in no way experts in the field, but who, by creating a facade of impossibility for themselves and others, cause learners to give up when their journey has just begun or prevents them from even embarking on it.
As an expert in the field of Spanish language learning, I can tell you that these myths are really nothing more than that: myths. Here are the most common ones. Let me dismantle them for you. And remember: don’t let them keep you from learning Spanish.
1. Everyone speaks English. Do you really want to go there? I admit to being a bit bewildered upon hearing this. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. I live in New York and can tell you for a fact that a lot of people do not speak English here. Little known fact: the US has more Spanish native speakers than Spain, Spanish being the second most widely-spoken language in the US.
2. Learning Spanish is too hard. Linguists disagree: English is one of the hardest languages to learn, not Spanish. Just to give you an example, Spanish is phonetic, so the words are pronounced as they are written. Spanish, in addition, only has five vowel sounds. American English has around 16 vowel sounds, and British English around 20. This means reading, writing and pronunciation in Spanish are all very accessible. Can English do that for you?
3. It takes too long to become fluent. The truth is it only takes 23-24 weeks, or 575-600 hours, to learn Spanish from novice to proficient level, according to the Foreign Service Institute (FSI). This could be much less if you are working with a top expert like me at Diáfano. If you need more convincing, how about this article published by UK’s Daily Mirror? Did you know the average person will spend five months over the course of his lifetime complaining and five years online. Six hundred hours to learn Spanish is a small investment compared to that!
4. I don’t have the time. Did you skip #2? You don’t have the time to learn a language that could give you the ability to speak to 400 native speakers worldwide? If you don’t have 600 hours over the course of your life to learn to do something well, then it is possible that you don’t have a life. Get a life. Learn Spanish ;).
5. It’s too much work (aka “All work, no play”). Not true when you learn with a true expert like me. In over 10 years of bringing Spanish to universities, institutes, and companies, I can assure you: There is plenty of humor in my classes. Language learning without fun is like working without pay. Not needed.
6. I am too old to learn. This is such a widely-accepted misconception and one that probably keeps you from achieving many other things in your life. Are you too old to learn a musical instrument? I started learning piano at 27. I didn’t start learning Portuguese till a few months ago. Would you say the same thing about love: are you too old to love? If not, why would you think there is a limit for how much you can learn, live and experience? No one is too old to learn a language. I have taught 50, 60, and 70-year-olds. What’s important is to be motivated to learn. Start with your why, the reason why you want to learn. When you start to lose momentum, remember your why. If you have a teacher, make her aware of your why and tell her to remind you of it. I always say, “Learning a language is an act of love, patience, and courage.” It is true that children soak up languages like sponges. The reason for this is because they learn with the motor part of their brain and learn consciously. We start to recognize sounds from the time we’re in our mother’s womb, and go on to retain them after birth. But children can also lose a language just as quickly if it is not reinforced. Keep your motivation up and focus on your why. Age is no obstacle. Don’t make it your excuse.
7. With all the new technology, I don’t need to learn a language. If you believe this, all I can say is “You’ve obviously never used Google Translate, have you?” 😉