That magic breakthrough

There is no question that learning to speak another language well takes a lot of work. It mostly takes a lot of listening and reading. It is a lonely road. The opportunities to speak the language are the exciting parts. They are the battles where you can show off your stuff. Depending on your mood, you either win these battles or lose them. Sometimes the language beats you, expecially if you are tired. In time, as you master the language, you win all the battles. Then the language has been tamed. You never completely master the language but you tame it. But you get there on your own. You study on your own. It is a long road that has to cover a lot of ground.

The first language I learned was French and I treated is as a foreign language for a long time. Only when I decided to make it my language did I really throw myself into it. Then it became mine. When it was time to learn Chinese, I had not doubt that I would tame it. I knew what to do. I knew I would succeed. I was able to lose myself in the language. I was able to visualize myself speaking the new language. I saw myself as a Chinese person.

To me the challenge in working with language learners is how to get them to this breakthrough state of mind. How can I get people to unblock all the resistance and the stiffness? Where is the button that I press so that they let go of the comfort of their native language? Once that button is pressed, the rest is all downhill. All that remains then is to put authentic language content in front of them and offer them an effective method to access it and learn from it. But wihtout that magic breakthrough in attitude, it is a tough struggle.

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