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4 Reasons Why Some People Will Never Learn a Foreign Language

Updated on May 16, 2016


So, you wanna learn a foreign language?

We all know wanna is key when it comes to learning. However, some people wanna learn a foreign language, but they just can’t.

Here are 4 reasons why some people will never reach the level of foreign language proficiency they dream of:


Reason #1. They do not understand the uselessness of the irrelevant why

While it is relevant and useful for an English learner to notice that have is conjugated has for third person singular, asking why is only going to lead him to a completely unnecessary place: “Why? –answers the teacher rhetorically– ...Well, at some point in history, language users probably thought haves was hard to pronounce and hence said to themselves and each other: Hey…let’s just say has! It’s easier to pronounce, don’t you think? And so, has was born. Some people probably disagreed with that and most likely started an anti-has campaign, but the majority prevailed. Now, does that change the fact that she has the flu?"

Some things just are, whether you like it or not. A language is one of those things. Remember how they taught you to question everything in history, ethics and economics class so you could understand and make sense of it all? Well, that line of reasoning just does not work when learning a second language. There is no room for questioning. When learning a foreign language, understanding takes place once you discover the patterns of what IS, and learning takes place once you ACCEPT what IS. Why? So you can use it and understand it when someone uses it. That is the only relevant why. Instead of questioning a pattern after you’ve noticed it, accept it just the way it is and make it yours.

So, if after noticing être is conjugated Je suis, tu es, il est, you insist on asking why (or worse yet, why not je es, tu est, il e?) you are wasting your time. Trust me. Unless, of course, you want to invent a new language.


Reason #2. They cannot tolerate frustration or embarrassment

This is true in almost every learning situation. When you reach the point where you run into a wall, you can either curse at that effing wall and pretend you don’t really need to learn that (who needs to learn French anyway?), or look at it, feel stupid, acknowledge you feel stupid, and promise yourself you will find a way to do better next time. So, praise that Colombian friend who asked you, “What’s Talot?” after you said, “I worked a lot”. Why praise him? Because while laughing in embarrassment, he suddenly discovered a new pattern, which he repeated to himself ten times before jokingly saying, “Hey! You laughed a lot”.


Reason #3. They don’t repeat new language after understanding it.

You’ve probably said or heard the following at some point, “I can read it, but I can’t speak it.” Well, guess what? People who will never learn to speak a foreign language are either too lazy or too self-righteous to repeat sentences they have already understood. They figure, “Ok, I understand. Now I know.” Colossal mistake. Understanding is nothing but the first step. There’s a huge bridge to cross if you want to use the language. And that bridge, especially in lower levels, is called repetition. There is no other way around it. Repeat!


Reason #4. They are still waiting for the perfect teacher

People who will never learn a language blame their lack of success on the teachers they have had. Now, while it is true that certain teachers confuse the heck out of their students, it is on the learner himself –especially in intermediate and higher levels– to come up with their own little practice techniques. People who will never learn a foreign language have no idea what self-study is and always need a scapegoat: the teacher.

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      Diego Duran 19 months ago

      First of all, I must say that by using this approach to learning, for us as NNESTs, teaching and learning the English language gets as simple as it can get. Moreover, I would like to pinpoint on the learners' foreign language anxiety which comes along with their beliefs and misconceptions of what learning a foreign language is all about.

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      Sergio Meza Padilla 19 months ago

      I found it extremely interesting. Congratulations, I couldn't have outlined it in a better way. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights.