When I tell someone that I speak several foreign languages, 90% of the time they say that I have a talent for language learning. There is a fair fact that for most people, learning a language takes several years, usually two or more, so it may seem to many that if a person is young and knows four languages, then they are either very determined and have spent at least 8 years on it, or they have innate super talent.
But is this really the case? Is innate talent really necessary to learn four or more languages?
Let’s figure it out.
I studied English in school and until the 11th grade, I didn’t understand anything at all and couldn’t put two words together. I didn’t have any motivation or interest in foreign languages. However, I loved to travel and dreamed of living in another country and knew that someday I would have to learn a language. However, I saw language learning as a very difficult task, mostly as violence against myself. I thought I would have to go to a language school and that it would be easier that way.
When I was 17 years old, I wanted to become an airliner pilot, and for this purpose, I had to speak English fluently. This was also complemented by the fact that I had long had the idea of emigrating to another country. Both prospects were so motivating that I decided to somehow push myself forward to learning English at least at an intermediate conversational level in one year in order to enter flight school.
Although I didn’t become a pilot and failed the medical examination (which turned out to be for the best for me), I did learn English, and that determined my entire life path.
When I decided to learn English, I initially wanted to go to a language school. But my father talked me out of it and explained that I could learn the language for 15 minutes a day, little by little, whereas at a language school, I would have to spend several hours a week and a lot of time traveling to it. He speaks English fluently and learned it on his own a long time ago. And he was right.
And now, I want to tell you how I learned English in school for 10 years and how I learned it on my own in one year.
In school: I was completely uninterested, and I didn’t understand anything. The quality of education was terrible: in one lesson we could be going over the past simple and in another, the future progressive, and translating some texts. It was very boring, and there was a whole class of students like me. We were taught English incorrectly, and we had no motivation to learn it.
Once I was reading the book “Aquarium” by Viktor Suvorov, the author being a former Soviet intelligence officer. And as we know, an intelligence officer must know a foreign language perfectly. And in one chapter it was written:
A person can learn more than thirty languages, become an Olympic boxing champion, invent a television or a bicycle, become a GRU general or a billionaire. Everything is in our hands. Whoever wants to, can. The main thing is to want something, and then everything depends only on training. But if you regularly train your memory, muscles, and psyche, then… nothing will come of your endeavor. Regularity of training is important, but by itself, it doesn’t solve anything.From the book “Aquarium” by Viktor Suvorov
“A person can learn more than 30 languages…”. I remember thinking then that it requires a SUPER TALENT, the same talent that people ascribe to me when I talk about speaking four languages.
When I started learning a language on my own, it seemed incredibly difficult at first. I thought I had to memorize everything and repeat it many times a day. I found a free course with 50 short lessons and completed them all (I wish I had such motivation now!), wrote down all the words in a notebook, and practiced pronouncing them. I also listened to the well-known Pimsleur course, and although it was almost useless, I remembered the simplest dialogue.
And once, I found something that COMPLETELY changed my attitude towards learning foreign languages in a single moment, and realized that I too could learn 30 languages, and that language is simple.
It was an English course with 16 lessons that was shown on one TV channel. This was what I needed.
You can watch this FREE TV course on YouTube, but it is in the Russian language.
Just in the first lesson, the author explained all the tenses of the English language. I couldn’t understand it for 10 years, but he explained it in just a few minutes. I was in shock, could it be that the grammar of the English language is secret knowledge that needs to be hidden from everyone and can’t be explained as easily as the author of this free course, Dmitry Petrov, did? And in just 16 lessons, I had a strong language foundation, and all that was left for me was to expand my vocabulary.
In summary: I understood how the English language works, understood its logical chain, and could now construct any sentence for which I had enough vocabulary.
You can learn more about this method in the following articles:
Similarly, I understood that I could QUICKLY learn the basic structure of any language in just a few days, and then all that remains is to listen, speak, communicate, and memorize words, without torturing myself with another page of a useless school or university textbook.
This is what the entire Fast Language Mastery project is about.
Some languages are simple and you can learn the basics in as little as three days, while others are more difficult and may take up to 10 days. In some languages, you may also need to learn the alphabet or hieroglyphs, but their basic structure is not more difficult.
Does talent for languages exist?
Despite everything written above, I believe that talent exists. Yes, some people have a natural talent for languages. There are people who master a language without studying grammar, just by listening to words and translating them. There are people who memorize words faster and perceive sounds more quickly.
However, if you learn more than one language, each subsequent one will be easier. Words will be memorized faster, and it will be easier to understand a new language by ear. Your brain will adapt to such activities.
The difference between you and the people with talent is not big. If you have understood how to learn a language, you could say that you have acquired this talent.
Motivation or talent?
Another very important detail that I have mentioned many times in this article is the motivation to learn a language. It should not be underestimated because, in my experience, motivation is extremely important.
If you have a skill or talent for learning a language but no motivation, then learning the language will be possible but it will be much longer and harder.
You must love the language, and its sound, and want to speak it. I tried to learn different languages but then stopped because there was no interest. I had no goal and no understanding of why. In other words, there was no motivation.
A language is not a goal, it is a tool. Why do you need to know a specific foreign language? I know several people who periodically express a desire to know English, no matter how much I tell them and show them the ways to learn it, many years have passed and they either have not even started at all or have abandoned it at the very beginning. The reason is the lack of motivation, they do not know why they need the language, and probably they really do not need it as much as I do. Everyone has different goals and motivations.
Answering the first question, is talent necessary to learn a language? No, it is a very widespread misconception.
On the contrary, it is necessary to understand how to learn a language correctly and quickly, and have the motivation to learn it, which is different for everyone.
The entire Fast Language Mastery project is dedicated to quickly mastering foreign languages. And based on our method, we have created educational materials for you in Spanish, Russian, Serbian, Italian, and Polish languages.