The Seven Deadly Sins – The Secret to Language Learning

by | 43 comments

This is my confiteor, my confession, my mea culpa.  I speak 10 languages and I have achieved this result by sinning. What’s more, I have not committed just any old sin. I have indulged in the seven deadly sins.

1. Extravagance

I love showing off my languages. I am learning Russian. If I hear Russian speakers, I will immediately accost them and inflict my grammatically incorrect Russian on them. I even do the same with Korean, which I speak even less well. Don’t even mention the languages that I speak well. If I detect the slightest accent, I attack. I am a shameless show-off. Yet I am totally unconcerned about the accuracy of my language. I do not care if I am full of mistakes. If they do not understand me it is their fault.  I just want to show off. Look at me! I can communicate in your language!  Shameless!

2. Gluttony

I am a glutton, a pig. When I am studying a language I just cannot get enough of it. I download audiobooks, podcasts, whatever I can find. I listen over and over to the same stuff at first. Then I look for more interesting things to listen to and read. I watch movies in the language. I listen when I do the dishes, or even when standing in line at the store. I am like a person obsessed. I cannot get enough. I just stuff myself with the language. Even if my brain is starting to get indigestion, I just cannot help myself. I just gulp down the language.

3. Greed

I am acquisitive. I like to acquire words. I cannot resist increasing my vocabulary. If I learn 100 words, I want to learn 100 more. If my word count is up to 1,000,all I think of is learning the next 1,000. My Russian word count i now up to 50,000 (granted there are so many forms of the words in Russian that this is probably like 10,000 words in English), but I am not satisfied. I want more. My greed has no limits.

4. Sloth

At heart, though, I am lazy. I cannot bring myself to do drills, to study grammar, to do all the exercizes that I find in language books. I won’t attend a language class. I am just too lazy. I just want to stuff myself with the language. I will occasionally leaf through a small grammar book, but only now and then, and in a half-hearted manner. Often,  I no sooner start doing some grammar study, when I just give up and go back to my iPod or my book, and consume more language.

5. Wrath

I get angry easily. When I buy a language book and it is 90% full of explanations and drills, and only 10 % text, I get angry. When I read or hear detailed explanations about aspects of the language, explanations that I do not understand, and will not remember and will not be able to use, I just get angry. When I review a declension table and cannot remember anything, I just throw up my hands. If I see people stuck at the computer with a learning system full of pictures and multiple choice questions, I sneer.  When a language book describes things  about the culture  which do not interest me, I throw the book on the floor. I just want to be allowed to wallow in what interests me, gorging myself on my favourite content.

6. Envy

Often I hear non-native speakers carrying on conversations in Russian or Portuguese, or some other language that I am learning. They speak well, with accurate grammar, rich vocabulary and a natural accent. They speak so much better than I do. How I envy them. It is not a nasty envy. I am not saddened by their success. I am encouraged by it. I gladly tell them that I envy them and that I wish I had their ability. Of course I think I can acquire it, and then their ability will also be mine.

7. Pride

I am proud. I am proud of the way I learn languages. I am so proud that I believe that my way is the only way to learn. I do not believe that some people are just “good at languages”. I do not believe that some people are auditory learners and others visual learners. I think that everyone is a learner, and everyone can learn by listening, by reading and by speaking. Maybe those people who do not succeed in language learning are too prudish, to uptight, maybe too moral. Maybe more learners need to get more sinful in their approach to language learning.

Photo by AJoelle_xo