Potential language learners have many reasons they might have thought “I am not capable of learning a language.” All of which, are untrue. Maybe you took a language in high school and remember nothing. Maybe your high school teacher told you that you were not cut out for learning a language. Maybe you were just never able to figure out how to remember the words you were trying to learn. None of these reasons are valid as to why you have not been able to learn a new language up to this point. Let’s explore some common reasons given for not being able to learn a language and analyze why those reasons do not have merit.
“I took 4 years in school and don’t remember a thing”
This reasoning to explain why you are not capable of learning a new language, although it may be true, it is not valid. Maybe you did take 4 years of Spanish in high school and do not remember anything past hola, ¿cómo estás? Not remembering Spanish words you learned 20 plus years ago in high school and have not revisited since does not mean you are incapable of learning a language. It means you have not used the information since then. Language is like a muscle: if you do not use it, you will lose it. So, this excuse may be true, but it is not valid to use as to the reason you have not been able to learn a language.
“My teacher told me I couldn’t learn a language”
Hearing from someone that is an authority on language learning that you are not capable of learning a language, is a sure-fire way to take the winds out of anyone’s language learning skills. Maybe it was the lack of motivation on your part during your adolescence. Maybe language learning is genuinely hard for you. Perhaps your teacher had lost his or her patience with trying to teach you another language. Or perhaps your teacher just was not able to figure out your particular mode of learner. If this is your main excuse for not trying to learn a language, it would likely be advantageous for you to find a professional teacher who can work one-on-one with you to meet your individual learning needs.
“I just can’t remember foreign words”
Another reason that may be true yet is not valid. Perhaps, up to this point, remembering foreign words has been nigh impossible for you. That could be due to a few different reasons. Perhaps you tried just staring at the words hoping that they would enter your brain. Maybe you went a step further and made flashcards, and the words still would not stick. As a language learner, that might have been the only strategy that you had for learning. Professional teachers can help you come up with more effective strategies for learning new words. A few examples would be through the use of associating pictures with the new words. Instead of English to German flashcards, you would put the German on one side and a picture on the other. This will help you connect the word directly with the concept. Another method is the use of mnemonic devices. Mnemonic devices associate meaning in non-related ways such as through the use of rhymes or music to aid remembrance.
“My brain can’t learn a language”
Obviously, this excuse is unequivocally false. If it were true, you would not be able to read this article. Human minds are made for language. Humans have an innate need to communicate. The average person with the average brain can and has learned a language: their mother tongue. Mother tongues are learned by immersion. A whole year of listening followed by single word thoughts, they two-word sentences, expanding to three words, and expanding from there. Second language learning is usually taught differently. Unless you move to a country or community that exclusively speaks the language you want to learn, the immersion method is not going to be a possibility for you. However, adults who seek to learn a new language actually have more tools to analyze the language and learn in a more organized way. Your problem in the past may have been that you were learning in a disorganized way or in a way that is not conducive to learning a second language. Perhaps, it is time to download a language learning app or sign up for classes to give this language learning thing another chance!