Do you hold any of these negative beliefs about your memory and ability to learn a new language?
1. “I have a bad memory.”
When we says this phrase, or some variation on this theme, we are essentially placing ourselves in a weakened position and training ourselves to stay there.
Worse, when we say such things out loud, we are training others to help hold us in that belief.
The truth is, outside of some serious biological mishaps and inborn conditions, we all have basically the same capacity for memory.
The only difference is that whereas some people use a memorization strategy, others do not.
There is a third category of person who simply has strong memory skills. But in my experience, even these people usually have a strategy, even if they can’t quite enunciate what that strategy is and how they use it.
2. “It takes a long time to learn a new language.”
Doubtless, learning a language takes time. However, do we really need to tell ourselves this? And is it really true that it takes as long as many people think?
We know for a fact that with the right preparation, mindset and well-executed methods, anyone can accelerate their ability to learn a new language.
We must all make sure that we don’t spend more time believing that it takes a long time to learn a new language than we actually spend on the material we want to memorize.
3. “Grammar is more is more important than vocabulary.”
Granted, grammar is important. I would never deny this. In fact, I’ve got 9 ways memory can help you tackle grammar:
All those tips aside, when it comes to communicating, declensions, conjugations and all the rest can only happen if you know the core vocabulary.
Moreover, people can only understand what you’re saying if you’re able to pronounce the words. Or, in the case of writing, spell them.
(A short story from deep in my episodic memory:
Recently, I made a spelling error with the customs office.
I had shipped several of my notebooks to myself and wrote a letter I placed in the box explaining that they shouldn’t charge a toll on the notebooks.
This was because, not only had they been purchased in Germany, but they were all filled out. But due to a homophonic spelling error, I had written that I had “felt my notebooks up,” instead of “filled them out.” I got my notebooks in the end without having to pay a toll, but when I saw my spelling error later, it certainly made me blush.)
The point is that we often get too caught up on the grammar without having a solid enough base of vocabulary upon which to build our grammatical understanding.
When we put the cart before the horse, we wind up pushing instead of being carried. This incorrect understanding disrupts our journey towards bilingualism.
But as Kerstin Hammes explains, there are better ways to think about grammar and how it will help you develop fluency in your language learning life.
If you’re interested in more negative beliefs related to language learning, this post continues here.