I have been exploring what holds language learners back and what can be done to move forward so they can produce the outcomes that all of us are capable of, since I started this site, some 3 years ago. One issue I have skirted about but not dealt with head on is the issue of change. Changing beliefs, like the notion that there are talented language learners and then there are the rest of the population who will always struggle, is something most people are not prepared to invest much time in. Disempowering beliefs are too readily accepted, with results that are insidious and long lasting.
If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. Wayne Dwyer
There is more than enough evidence, from those who became polyglots later in life after struggling at first to learn languages, to suggest that anyone can learn languages. Of course such a change will not happen by itself. For it to happen, certain changes might need to be made, some practices dispensed with and others adopted. What I believe that holds many people back – is a reluctance to change, backed up by not fully understanding that the benefits of change will on most occasions take time to manifest themselves. So many people try something new, don’t get the results they thought they would get so they give up on it, before the changes have a chance to do their work.
On top of this is the doubt if “it” will really work. Well unless you try it, you will never know. One thing is for certain, if you keep doing what you always have done, then it is unrealistic to expect different results. A lot of people don’t change what they do and when the results don’t improve, they blame themselves or think they aren’t working hard enough. However no matter how hard you work, you will be unable to get through a brick wall with bare hands! You need to find the right tool, or a door! 🙂
To change what you get you must change who you are.
What has been said by many people who look at change is that most people don’t like change and resist it. Which brings me to the subject of this post.
What are you doing to change what you do, so your results will improve?
If you are a teacher, I would suggest that you need to see for yourself how ideas work before you can teach them effectively. It does not mean you need to learn language from beginning to end, but you do need to see for yourself how these things work in your own life. Otherwise your teaching will be based on your ideas, rather than on experience. Experience is what brings the kind of learnings that the intellect can never bring.
So let’s look at change and what you can do to make it easier for yourself. Language learning is not just learning something and that’s it. Whatever you learn, be it a sound, how to say an idea or express an emotion requires you to adjust what you have learned and then change it some and then again until it starts to be understood. A lot more of this kind of work needs to be done before it starts to approximate “native like”. Language learners who become native like are the one who embrace change and accept the need to keep looking for what they do to get closer, and closer. The ones who struggle, don’t. They struggle with change, maybe resist it and ultimately don’t take it on board as a way of “living”.
I want to look at change by posing a number of questions below as a way of bringing to light certain keys to helping people to embrace change and accept it as a modus operandi.
1. Why would you want to change what you do?
People usually contemplate change because they feel:
– the need to do something new to satisfy some desire or need
– their progress is too slow
If you don’t feel any of this, why would you change! Of course a lot of people just walk away from change and decide it’s all too hard, or they believe they are not “cut out for it”, or they are really too busy, etc
I cannot say whether things will get better if we change; what I can say is they must change if they are to get better. Georg C. Lichtenberg
2. What do I want to achieve by changing?
So we embark on change because we want to change what we do or to change the results we get to change. I want my learning to:
– be more fun
– be stimulating
– result in increased skills AND confidence
– continue until I become native like
The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking. Albert Einstein
3. What is my goal?
Generalised aims can help, but ultimately we need specific and measurable aims. Then we can see if something has changed.
I want to improve my:
– pronunciation (of what..this needs to be focused with laser like precision – find a sound you have trouble with)
– spelling (find a spelling that you keep getting wrong)
– fluency (find a sentence or phrase you keep stumbling over)
– grasp of language (find an area of meaning that you have trouble expressing)
If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them. Henry David Thoreau
4. How have I done this in the past?
Reflect on this to see. Becoming clear about what you currently do is an important step. We can’t accept what we don’t see or recognise. So this is a key step.
We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses. Carl Jung
5. What am I going to do to achieve my new goal?
You need to find a strategy that you will use. Be as clear as you can be. Some people might prefer to write it down, that way it is harder to misinterpret things later on. How you go about learning and practicing what you learned is crucial to your success. Whatever you choose, you need to stick with it to give you a chance of reaping the rewards.
For changes to be of any true value, they’ve got to be lasting and consistent.
Persistence is critical but if you are not working in a way that you find invigorating, challenging or fun, you will most likely give it away.
6. What is my criteria for achieving it?
Having clarity about what you decide is “success”…or even the steps towards it are another key. The criteria you use depends upon the aim you set yourself. The person who shoots for the stars will have very different criteria to the person who aims to use the language to get around a city as a tourist. Recognising that you have achieved your goal is an important milestone as it will provide you the energy to keep going. “Wow, I did that!”
The real contest is always between what you’ve done and what you’re capable of doing. You measure yourself against yourself and nobody else. Geoffrey Gaberino
7. What will I do if I don’t achieve it?
A key is to keep the goal you set yourself alive. Do whatever it takes to reinvigorate it. Without you being committed to its attainment and doing what is necessary, change will not happen. If things aren’t going the way you expect ( and why would they! 🙂 ) see if you can tweak something. A key as was just said is to persist, BUT we need the “juice” to stay alive in front of the problem, not just lifelessly going through the rituals. When your mo jo starts to wane, recognise that something needs to be amended, tweaked, dropped or taken on to get it back!!
Don’t aim for success; just do what you love and believe in, and it will come naturally. David Frost
8. What will I do if I achieve it?
Where to next? Having a long term goal will help keep you on target once you achieve your short term goals.
Success in its highest and noblest form calls for peace of mind and enjoyment and happiness which come only to the man who has found the work that he likes best. Napoleon Hill
I have provided here some markers or signposts that I have seen are important for people who want improvements and see change as a key element in the process. Of course there may be other issues that come up and help you along or hold you back, but a reluctance or perceived inability to change what you do is what anyone who seeks success in anything needs to face. The clearer you can become about how you can orchestrate change, the more likely you are to achieve the success you seek.