Learning Difficult Languages: Why We Should
by Monica Cherrie
All of us working at the Cactus Language head office in Brighton have two things in common: we are all multi-lingual and we are all passionate about languages. This means during the working day we often discuss the various ways in which people communicate throughout the world. Today, we talked about the concept of learning difficult languages, if such a thing exists and what to do about it.
The idea of some languages being ‘difficult’ to learn often arises when people speak about the prospect of learning another language. Here at Cactus, we refute the idea of ‘difficult’ languages. This is primarily because ‘difficult’ is subjective and ‘difficult’ is a negative perspective that prevents people from doing the things they want to do.
What Makes a Language ‘Difficult’?
Of course we absolutely don’t mean to say that everyone will find all the languages on this planet easy to learn. There will always be a combination of factors that affect your ability and ease to learn a certain language; your first language or native tongue, your previous language learning experience, whether you already speak other languages, what country you live in, and how exposed you are to other languages. These are just a few of the factors.
Whatever language you choose to learn it takes time, hard work and dedication to become a competent speaker. There are no quick routes to learning a language, despite what people may tell you. At Cactus we believe the most important factor in language learning success is your intrinsic motivation, attitude and mind set, and this is not defined by the language you choose, but the way in which you approach learning it.
What Motivates You, Moves You
Sometimes, people opt to learn a language they have heard is easier to learn than the one they really want to learn, simply because they are so put off by the ‘difficult’ barrier. This is counterintuitive, as a language you are excited by will always be easier to learn. If you have your reasons for learning a language clear in your mind, if you are attracted by the people, music, cultures and country/countries of that language, your journey will be so much clearer, whatever language you have chosen. Even if you have opted for a notoriously ‘difficult’ language, like Arabic, you will find the energy to put the work in and achieve the language learning goals you dream of, if you have a strong intrinsic motivation to learn the language.
If you want to learn a so-called ‘difficult’ language, don’t let negative thoughts scare you out of experiencing it for yourself. It will probably be difficult at some point, but no matter whether you’re studying an ‘easy’ language or a ‘hard’ one, there are always difficult moments. Remember: difficulty is subjective.
If Other People Can, So Can You
One of our students, a native speaker of English, loves learning Japanese but does not like learning Spanish. She says it was difficult for her to learn all the verb conjugations in Spanish but hiragana, katakana, kanji were no problem. She also took a class on Keigo, and has visited Japan multiple times already. She currently speaks Japanese to a B1 level and is well on her way to becoming a very competent communicator in Japanese.
Before thinking about the difficulty of the language, think inwards and reflect on yourself – how do you feel when you hear people speaking this language? Is there something about the culture that excites you? If you are enticed by the language then you will find the motivation to keep learning. If other people can do it, so can you!
Cactus language offers the following types of language courses:
Evening language courses: 19 different languages in 15 UK locations
Language holidays: worldwide immersion courses in the country of the language
Private tuition: tailor-made and corporate language training solutions throughout the world
TEFL: teacher training courses for both English and other languages all over the world
Online courses: for teacher training, English and French