Most of the polyglots are those crazy individuals to devote any free minute to study languages. If you happen to wonder how they could master so many (usually from 2 to dozens) foreign languages, you should look at the sportsmen. What is funny in my advice, most probably no one will be surprised that the successful sportsman is that one who trains regularly much beyond ordinary people’s limit. Why are we then so surprised in case of the polyglots? The successful polyglot, that is the one who managed to learn some languages on the communicative level never become one without regular and tough training. And by saying “tough” I do not mean painstaking but extensive, requiring a doze of effort, sometimes a lot of effort since we naturally tend to quit.
Studying languages = sport
A bit funny, shocking, ridiculous statement? No matter how trivial it may be, it simply works. Just imagine an ordinary guy taking into e.g. running. With the regularity of trainings once a week do not count on good results, on any exceptional achievement. The same is with studying languages. Do not get frustrated that you cannot master a language if you open the coursebook once a week.
I have been asked, or just commented many times: “you must have a gift for languages.” No, I don’t. Actually, I have more problems with it than natural advantages. Parents not speaking any foreign language, monocultural and monolingual environment, the ear slightly damaged by frequent shooting without ear protection. But when it comes to languages I have this award winning regularity.
Who can learn a foreign language?
One of my physics professor once said about studies: “studia nie są dla bardzo zdolnych ale dla bardzo zorganizowanych” (translated into English would read: “Universities are not for highly gifted but for highly organized“). Since then it’s been my motto for anything I was studying, especially languages.
Do not believe any marketers claiming that they discovered a unique, super effective way of studying. The way, which guarantees that you master a language in … three months or something like that. It’s rubbish! You can achieve a certain level of proficiency, but “learning a foreign language” requires something more that three months and “a revolutionary coursebook.” Otherwise the world would be full of poliglots and skillfull translators. Is it?
Though “yes, we can!” Everyone can learn a foreign language!
The best coursebooks
Speaking about coursebooks, I always wonder why the publishers issue so many versions of the same publication. Every 2 to 5 years you can spot a coursebook, which looks familiar to you, yet it is advertised as a brand new, revolutionary, up-to-date, modern coursebook. They try to persuade you that you cannot become a successful learner without this particular edition of the book. Even if you possess 3-year old previous edition. Money is the answer to the question germinating in your head. They need your money. Do you really believe that during last 3 years some breakthrough in the research of linguistics has been made? The research findings that justify all coursebooks to be rewritten and published again?
And here, let’s move back to my previous simile: languages=sport. In achiving good results (at least decent results) no one needs state-of-the-art equipment. Just train alone, preferably with a good, wise, experienced trainer. Rocky Balboa would have been a perfect example if hadn’t been fake.
Contrarily I present the most simple, very old-fashioned book I was using when I started learning Spanish. This is the Spanish coursebook for the Poles by Oskar Perlin, elementry level. It contains almost no illustrations, no eye-catching colourful fountains of spare elements – just pure knowledge.
What I admire that book for is its clear division into the portions of knowledge, the chapters, the segments – you name it. It goes with a chapter leading text, bilingual dictionary beneath, some exercises, and of course some revision. It has the clear organization, which still prevails in new editions. My original coursebook had a claret-coloured cover but during many years of using it by two generations it lost its cover. The cover I present in the picture is taken from the publisher’s website, though a new edition has been already given a new colour scheme.
In my regular approach to studies I did each chapter in one, then in two, and finally in three days. The number of days for mastering each chapter was of course required by amount of new words and grammar points to master.
Be regular – be successful
Today’s conclusion: be regular. Look into the current chapter of your coursebook in the morning and in the evening, read it in the bus, in the train, make notes everyday, start with revision, then move to new items. And do all of it regularly! It’s the key to your success and you have it for free.
More tips and hints to follow soon.