Steve and Alex – Motivation (Part 2)

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Steve: Absolutely.

I guess we may become a bit of a broken record here because we always refer back to this, but I’m certain experiencing it now with my Czech studies.

I mean very quickly you can move on to authentic material.

You don’t have to stay with beginner material.

The vast majority of people stay with beginner material and never make any progress.

If they would just take the plunge, just to go at something a little more difficult.

But, anyway, we’re beating a dead horse there.

One other thing that we were talking about, which I think is also interesting, obviously, learning about the culture and exposing yourself to the culture is all part of learning the language.

When we learn a new language, of course, it’s a new adventure and when you have your first opportunity to visit the country it’s like a dream.

It’s like an absolute dream.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: You’ve been sort of kept away from the real world.

You’ve been doing your language learning in some artificial world and now all of a sudden it’s like you’re in the movie.

You know, you’re in the movie so it’s very, very exciting.

So you were saying how did I react to say going to Russia, which was the new movie for me versus let’s say going back to China or Japan where it’s an old movie, which is more exciting and so forth.

Obviously, it’s more exciting to go to the new movie, but it’s also very pleasant to go back to a place where in a previous spurt of language learning activity you went after that language.

So you lived in the country or you visited many times.

I lived in Japan, I visited China many times and now you go back after 10-20-30 years, it’s a nice comfortable feeling.

So it’s different.

One is a feeling of almost going back to a place for which you have had this feeling of nostalgia and then being able to get back to that routine and see the changes and the other is to discover something new.

Both are, I would say, sort of part of the reward of language learning, both.

Alex: Right.

Steve: Both are very enjoyable experiences, I would say.

Alex: And I guess that then is a testament to the value of learning multiple languages.

Experience this multiple times…

Steve: Absolutely, absolutely.

It’s amazing to me on LingQ once we opened up The Linguist to many languages, the number of people who study more than one language.

The number of people…

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: And, yet, you know, last night we had some friends over.

Actually, it’s my cousin who’s visiting from Argentina and her former roommate when she lived here in Vancouver before she got married.

This lady is probably in her early 50s and she was saying oh yeah, I really want to learn French and Spanish, but well, you know, I always forget things.

I can’t remember anything.

I’m too old, this, that and the other.

So many people at some level say I would like to learn a language.

I mean she’s even saying I would like to learn French and Spanish because she would like to travel in France and Spain.

In fact, she’s single and she would even like, she said, to live half the year in southern France and go to Spain and rent my apartment out to my nieces when they go to UBC.

She had all this stuff she wanted to do and key to it all was to learn the languages because, obviously, if you’re living in southern Spain or France and traveling it’s so much nicer if you speak the language.

It’s so much nicer.

Then why don’t you do it?

People are afraid or they think they have to take a course and stuff like that.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t know. I just think it’s so attractive to learn languages. It’s so enjoyable.

It’s so rewarding at every level and the very small number of people who do it and who stay with it and who achieve success with it is very disappointing, very disappointing.

Alex: Yeah.

I think, too, it goes back to the thing of the automatic assumption that if you learn three or four or five or whatever, a dozen languages, that you’re a genius.

Steve: Absolutely.

Alex: You know, intellectually gifted.

I don’t consider myself stupid, but when people say oh, you learn Korean, you’re just really smart.

I’m like well I don’t think that really has that much to do with it because they learned their own language.

I mean everyone has the capability to do it.

Steve: Well, not only that, have they put in the effort to learning any language that you put into learning Korean?

Alex: Exactly.

Steve: The issue is the effort.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: I don’t know many people who put as much effort into language learning as I put into language learning.

But to me the ultimate argument when you hear this oh, you’re just talented, I say okay, do you think that Swedes, to pick an example — you could pick Singaporeans, any of those countries where everybody speaks two-three-four languages and speaks them well, you know — are those people all genetically, have they been pre-selected based on some whatever to be gifted in languages?

I bet you that the Swedes were terrible at languages 150 years ago.

No, I think it’s a matter of it’s just normal.

You’re considered not particularly smart if you can’t at least speak English well in Sweden.

I mean there’s something wrong with you.

It’s not that oh, you’re very talented, you speak foreign languages.

What’s the matter with you?

You didn’t go to school?

And, of course, they don’t learn at school, they learn watching TV.

Alex: Right.

Steve: So, I mean, when you have whole nations that are good at languages and other nations that are poor at languages, to me that indicates that it’s not a matter of a particular gift.

It’s a matter of a whole attitude of mind.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: In that regard, I was sent a book by one of my viewers at my YouTube channel, which is a book written by Kató Lomb.

Have you ever heard of Kató Lomb, L-o-m-b?

Alex: Yes, I have.

Steve: So, she was this Hungarian lady who learned to speak 16 languages.

She wrote a book on it and it’s quite a well-known book amongst the language learning culties, right?

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: So I read the book and it’s very interesting.

Obviously, I don’t agree with everything that she says, but there are many things where I do.

And, of course, her big thing was input, like she would read.

It is so true, input is so, so powerful.

And she dismissed this business of talent.

She doesn’t believe in the talent.

It’s quite an interesting book.

It’s a different era, you know before the Internet, before a lot of the stuff that we take for granted.

She read books and dictionaries and whatever she could her hands on, but the big thing with her, if you read the book, is her tremendous dedication, her tremendous dedication.

She was so excited she was going to learn Russian and she managed to find a book because there were none, whatever, and she just devoured the book.

It all boils down to motivation and commitment.

That’s all it is.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: And, in her case, I’m sure that when she went after her 14th or 15th language she was a lot better than the guy who only speaks one language.

Of course, she’s done it 14 times.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: I mean what’s so surprising about that, you know?

If someone is a good athlete and they pick up another sport, if they’re fit they’re going to do better in that sport than someone who has never played any sports.

Alex: Exactly.

Steve: So the issue is not a matter of a genetic predisposition or innate talent.

It’s a matter, first of all, of having that dedication and commitment and then cultivating the skill of learning languages and I’m quite convinced that anybody can do it and they can start at any age.

Alex: There’s almost a parallel, too, to instruments, musical instruments.

Where if you see someone who plays five instruments you think oh, they’re just amazing at playing these instruments when, in actuality, they’ve spent thousands of hours practicing all hours throughout the day, right?

Steve: Absolutely. And if someone plays one instrument and you hear that they play another instrument you’re not surprised.

It’s kind of yeah, that makes sense.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: She plays the violin and she also plays the guitar and she plays the piano? Yeah.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Well, why should it be different for languages?

Alex: Exactly.

Steve: Once you’ve got the hang of music and playing music so you pick up another instrument. It’s not surprising.

So, whether you speak two languages, five languages, 10 languages, to me it’s the same.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: It’s just that I have put in that much effort into learning these other languages.

Other people, for whatever reasons, didn’t have the time to do it, but the fact of speaking 10 versus two versus five, to me it’s got nothing to do with it.

It’s just that that’s where I have chosen to spend my time.

Alex: Yeah, exactly.

Steve: It’s like a musician.

If the musician doesn’t spend any time learning to play the trumpet he won’t know how to play the trumpet, but if he takes it upon himself to learn to play the trumpet he’ll be able to learn it.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Anyway, yeah, so motivation, though, still comes down to being the fundamental attribute and I really wish more people would.

I just think it would make for a better world.

I think it’s fun.

Anytime I hear someone who speaks another language I’m very impressed.

I don’t know what it is.

That’s stupid.

I shouldn’t be so impressed, but I’m very impressed.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Very impressed. Like wow, that’s neat.

So, that’s my thing, other people are good at sports.

The other thing I wanted to mention about music, too, my wife – I may have mentioned this before – she’s been playing piano now for three-four years.

No teacher.

She didn’t want a teacher and she just gets better and better because she really enjoys it.

Alex: Right.

Steve: And my granddaughter was taking piano lessons and didn’t like the teacher, didn’t like taking lessons, wanted to quit, arguing with her mother, blah, blah, blah, so she quit.

And then she was watching her grandma play and she kind of got interested.

Her grandma gave her some notes and stuff and some music that she liked to play and she started playing.

Now she plays two-three hours a day on her own and she’s doing so well.

Alex: Really? Wow.

Steve: I think if a teacher were introduced it would only destroy it, until she gets to a certain point.

I think once you reach a certain point if she really wants to get ahead she’ll need a teacher, but not at the beginning.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: And in languages, too, I think they introduce the teacher too early.

You don’t need a teacher at the beginning.

Later on you need a teacher.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: At the beginning no, you need to explore the language on your own, do the things you want to do, read, don’t understand, it doesn’t matter.

If you get it wrong it doesn’t matter.

Alex: Yeah.

Steve: Anyway, perhaps we’ve beaten a bit of a dead horse here on that subject, but we always love talking about it.

Alex: Exactly.

Steve: We’d love to hear some feedback. We want you to disagree, agree. Tell us what you want us to talk about. Let’s hear from you.

Alex: We’re looking forward to your comments. Thanks for listening in.

Steve: Okay, bye for now.

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