Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Why You Cannot Be Taught a Foreign Language. Part 26

Resistance From Those Closest To You, or ‘Aren’t You So Smart!’

Here's something else, my friend—you must be internally prepared to overcome resistance, not only from the language itself but also from the unexpected and rather unpleasant resistance from your loved ones. Yes, it's true! That’s exactly what I wanted to say—your loved ones! Do not be surprised by this. Even though it probably won’t be so blatant, truly noticeable resistance does await you, straight from those closest to you.

Unfortunately, human nature is wired in such a way that the successes of our loved ones do not bring forth any particular enthusiasm in us. Maybe it’s because we ourselves don't look so good in comparison with the brightness of their successes? But oh, how pleased we are to see those closest to us fall face-down in the mud—just as long as they don’t splash us!

Why do you think that recovering alcoholics are so often encouraged to ‘have just one little drink. A little eency weensy. C'mon, it won’t hurt you!’? You will also be urged to relax, not to push yourself too hard, to take a break from all your studies—entirely for your own good, of course! With their warm words they will support you in all your efforts, but when it comes to their tone, well, that’s another story! The insinuations and subtle hints! Their very actions!

In every way possible, you will most certainly be made to understand that your language study is nothing more than a fad, nothing more than a whim on your part, and very likely, almost certainly, you will fail, having merely wasted time that could have been spent on something useful (useful for them, of course!). At best, you can expect to see politely bored indifference, but don’t count on unconditional support, not from anyone. A harsh and lonely battle awaits you! You have only one ally in this fight whom you can fully and always rely upon, and that is yourself.

That's why it is absolutely necessary to constantly reward yourself internally for your successes when learning your foreign language. Do not expect anyone else to do that for you.

In no way should you scold yourself for any minor failures or temporary difficulties, whether perceived or real. In the most resolute way, you must suppress any negativity within yourself and tirelessly feed on all the positive emotions associated with your small successes in learning a foreign language. This is nothing to be embarrassed about; on the contrary, it is vital to your success!

And don’t postpone rewarding yourself until later on, when you're beginning to communicate with foreigners. Many people half-consciously expect that native speakers will surely play the role of a concerned evaluator and are bound to praise you for your successes and all the sacrifices you’ve made to achieve proficiency in their language. People think that native speakers will be happily surprised by their rich vocabulary, their impeccable grammar and their intelligent accent!

My dear friend, I'm sorry to say it, but bitter disappointment awaits you in this. Native speakers usually don’t care whether you know their language or not or whether you speak with a dreadful village accent or as elegantly as the Queen of England herself. They automatically place you— according to your language ability—at the proper social level, nothing more. They will not correct your mistakes (just as you probably never find yourself correcting the speaking errors of some stranger you’ve just met, but this doesn't stop you from cringing inwardly as you listen to him speak). They probably won’t praise you, either. You mean to them as much as the millions of faces on the streets of any metropolis mean to you. Therefore, reward yourself for your genuine achievements right here and now because you might not have another opportunity!

Give yourself some psychological candy! Tell yourself how clever you are! Give yourself a pat on the back, even for little tactical successes—they eventually add up, and they’ll lead you to a serious breakthrough and a major victory! Congratulate yourself, but not aloud, of course, my humble friend, not aloud but rather within. Do this just for yourself, with a wise little smile on your face, one that remains forever mysterious to those who aren't in the know…

By all means, you must do this, for here lies the key to your success in the transformation of your chosen foreign language from a dangerous enemy to your ally and friend!

[Via Language Tai-chi, or You Cannot Be Taught a Foreign Language, by Nikolay Zamyatkin]

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