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#8. Can everyone learn a language?

Updated: Aug 28

The answer is yes, but it depends on how motivated, consistent, and organised you are.

To learn a language, you need to practise all four skills equally. This means not waiting for the night before your lesson to do your grammar exercises, but instead throughout the week, doing one or more of the following in the language you're learning:

  • read a simplified book,

  • chat/write to a native speaker,

  • watch a movie,

  • listen to a podcast/to the radio,

  • do listening/comprehension exercise or a dictation,

  • write sentences,

  • rote learning (especially for conjugations),

  • do your grammar exercises.

The more you do in between lessons, the quicker you will learn.

Language learning is not about doing homework - in fact, even though my students keep using that word, I never do - but about making language learning part of your everyday life, as with any hobbies, habits, and routines.

You're reading a book, which happens to be written in French. You're watching a movie, which happens to be shot in Italian. You read blogs on your favourite topics (sport, art, music, architecture, etc.), which happen to be written by a French native.

Because you enjoy doing all of the above, and you're not focussing entirely on the fact that they're not in English, but rather on what they're about, you are going to learn, even 'absorb' the language more easily, more naturally. Writing sentences become easier, as do grammar exercises.

As I'm writing this post, among my students there are those who:

  • read the sports newspaper L'équipe online every morning,

  • listen to the France Inter news bulletin every day,

  • listen to the Choses à Savoir podcast on their way to work,

  • watch French series on Channel 4,

  • take art classes in French,

  • discuss rugby and cricket with their new French friends,

  • cook meals using Italian recipes found online.

And these are only a few examples.

Every single one of my students is currently reading a book, doing at least one listening/comprehension exercise in between lessons, and they all write sentences for each lesson about a topic they're interested in, a movie they've seen, a trip they're planning, etc., putting in practice the latest language point they've learnt.

Contrary to what school led us to believe, language learning is anything but a passive endeavour. If all you do is grind your teeth going through your ''homework'', you're missing out on the whole point of learning of language, which is exploring a new country and culture.

So instead of waiting passively for language to come to you – which it never will – be curious and start shaping your learning to your life and tastes. You'll be surprised how much easier and enjoyable the learning process will be.

More about my teaching approach

Don't hesitate to send me your questions.

#1. Is it too late to learn a language?

#2. Not knowing the word is not the end of the conversation

#3. Is learning vocabulary lists a good idea?

#4. Should I use bilingual books?

#5. Practising all four skills equally

#6. On the importance of making mistakes

#7. You know more than you think you do

#8. Can everyone learn a language?

#9. With or without subtitles?

#10. Should I use a dictionary?

#11. What's the main obstacle when learning a language?

#12. There's no such thing as perfect sentences

#13. Learning French when English is your mother tongue

#14. Listening is key

#15. Language learning does not mean translating

#16. The right tools to learn a language

#17. Why grammar matters

#18. Leaving your linguistic comfort zone behind

#19. About rote learning

#20. Assessing your own level

#21. Language learning is pattern spotting

#22. Key skills you need to learn a language

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