Monday, April 03, 2006

The Big Mistake that Stops you Learning

Want to know what’s holding you back from learning a foreign language? It’s the one thing that children NEVER do when learning their mother tongue. You were a child once, and you learned to speak your first language without ever making this mistake. But adults just can’t stop themselves from doing it! What is it? It’s the question “WHY?”

“Why do you say that in French? It just doesn’t make sense”, I would repeatedly ask my wife. This has an incredibly de-motivating effect on the brain’s desire to assimilate new information. Subconsciously, I am saying to myself, “this is really dumb, I don’t want to do this.” I noticed this when trying to conduct conversation classes. A student will invariably ask, “how long you live here?” When I correct the mistake, “how long have you lived here?” they say, “why?” It’s not like that in their language, so they don’t want to believe that it’s like that in English. They even continue to come up with variations that they think sound better and ask me if they can use them. “No”, I say. “Why not?”, they respond. The whole lesson is wasted because they refuse to believe what I, the English teacher, am telling them!

My advice: even if you don’t understand why something is said a particular way, just accept it and move on.