Benny Lewis has just released his book Fluent in 3 Months: How Anyone at Any Age Can Learn to Speak Any Language from Anywhere in the World.
In his opening chapter, Benny offers us a great collection of insights that will help all aspiring language learners complete the all important first step.
This may come as a surprise to you, but the first step is not about best methods or finding the right course.
Before telling you what it is, let me tell you a recent story of mine.
I think from this example you’ll be able to guess what the first step is.
The Type of Person Who Will Never Learn a Language
On a bus from Haneda to Narita airport in Tokyo, I was heading home with my family of four for the holidays. With two young kids, the journey was already wearing us thin.
All I wanted to do on that bus was sleep, but was graced by the presence of two young military women in the seats directly behind us. One of them had just turned twenty-one, and her life was full of problems — all of which she spent the next 90 minutes talking about.
She mentioned at one point how she was excited to hear when she would be coming to Japan. She thought it would be great to learn Japanese, which would help her later in a career.
But she then went on to talk about how she hadn’t learned more than basic greetings in the last eight months of being here, so just like high school Spanish proved, she wasn’t meant to speak a foreign language.
The other details that then poured over my seat pointed to the obvious, usual downfalls. She lived on base, hardly ever leaving. When she did leave, it was just with her military friends to get hammered at bars downtown. Etc. etc.
But then came something I wasn’t expecting to hear at all. It was definitely the nail in the language learning coffin if she actually ever hoped to learn Japanese or any language at all.
She said, “I really do want to learn this language, but when I look at Japanese people, I have zero desire to speak to any of them. I just don’t see anything I could gain in talking to them.”
Sitting there with my Japanese wife and two kids — thinking about the happy life we lead — none of it would have come about had I at least not had the desire to speak to Japanese people.
While I didn’t know whether to feel sorry for the young women behind me, or incredibly angry and ashamed of such a close-minded way of thinking, that’s not really the point of this post.
The point is, she will never learn Japanese. Even if she does find some way to do it, I doubt she’ll enjoy it at all.
The first step that Benny walks us through in the opening of his new book will greatly increase your odds of success, and guarantee you enjoy every moment on your way to fluency.
The First Step for Any Successful Language Learner
“For successful language learners, acquiring a new language is the reward.”
— Benny Lewis
The first chapter in Fluent in 3 Months is all about finding the right attitude.
That’s the first step you’ve got to take when you decide to learn a language. Before finding the right course or materials, this has to come first.
That girl on the bus is definitely an extreme case of what a bad attitude looks like. In fact, I wouldn’t even expect someone with that outlook to even want to learn a language in the first place…
But here’s the thing.
Your attitude can sour at any moment, and thoughts about giving up will sound pretty nice.
Learning a language can be really difficult and frustrating at times. And our brains love to talk us out of doing difficult things by using preconceived beliefs you have about language learning, or your ability to do so.
Even if you’ve never formally verbalized them, we have all heard the ‘myths’ that your brain will use as ammo as soon as it gets the chance. When you hit a hurdle, your brain will tell you something like, “See, I told you we just didn’t have the language gene,” or, “It must be right what they say. You’re just too old to do this.”
In that moment, it is easier to believe that, and give up.
But if you’re able to predict and prepare yourself for all the possible ways you’re own brain will try to rationalize quitting, you’ll be much more likely to persevere and reach your goal.
Benny spends the whole first chapter identifying and debunking 20 myths for you.
He also gives some key insights into what it takes to have the right motivation.
This way, you start learning a language with the right attitude and mental framework, eliminating any ideas your brain might try to use against you later.
From Step 2 to Polyglot
Once you’ve had the right attitudinal adjustments, Benny begins to walk you through all that he’s learned about learning languages fast and effectively. And he would know. He can confidently use 12 languages.
The tips and techniques he spends the rest of the book talking about will show you how you really can learn a language. And after you’ve got one language down, what’s to stop you from becoming the world’s next polyglot if that’s what you want to do?
P.S. – There are no affiliate links in this post.
What are the ways your brain has tried to convince you to give up language learning before? Tell us about it in the comments.