The bottom line

In this blog I have touched on a variety of questions that relate to language learning. I have talked about learning techniques. I have talked about the importance of choosing content of interest to learn from, about the importance of repetitive listening and reading, of focusing on words and phrases and not grammar rules. I have encouraged people to write and speak.

I have also talked about the ability of people to influence their brains, by the amount of attention and concentration they can bring to the task of language learning.

This latter point is important. Last night I went out for a bit of sushi and wine (yes red wine not sake) at the Chiyoda restaurant in downtown Vancouver, certainly one of the best Japanese restaurants in Vancouver. The people beside me turned out to be brain researchers, or rather researchers in cancer of the brain. There was one American guy, and one Japanese and one Singaporean lady. I butted in to their conversation. That is how I learned so many languages. I am not shy.

We covered a lot of ground, from feminism to cultural issues in different societies etc. But, being single minded about language learning as usual, I was able to confirm that motivation makes the language learner. The term used by the brain researchers was “forced plasticity”. The brain is not hard-wired. You can change your brain. You can change your brain into a brain that can handle a new language. You do it with motivation and concentration.

This is scientific confirmation of something that I have always felt. In language learning, the bottom line is you. Not your innate genius for language learning, but your desire, your commitment, your willingness to let go…in other words, your attitude.

Any comments? Email me at steve@thelinguist.com.

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