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Hey guys, Gabriel here. I’m today with my friend Steve and it’s a pleasure to speak with him because he is a fantastic polyglot and we love learning languages. And today I thought it’d be awesome to speak a little bit about what motivates us to learn languages, that’s a question that really fascinates me, like what motivates other polyglots as well to learn languages. So what motivates you, Steve, because I know you speak at least ten languages at an amazing level.
[Steve] I think… I think success breeds success. I think that’s an important part of it. Until I had learned a second language until I became fluent in a second language, I didn’t think I could do it.
[Gabriel] It was French, right? [Steve] Yeah. So I didn’t really think I could do it I had no sense, I had never done it before but once I was able to learn French to the point where I could converse fluently,
understand movies and I had friends and all the rest of it, I’d read books and stuff then I do that I could do it and once you know you can do something if you know you’re good at something you want to do it more.
[Gabriel] Then your third language is Chinese, right? [Steve] Yeah. [Gabriel] So you picked a pretty challenging one. [Steve] Well, I didn’t think of that, at the time I was working for the Canadian government and I was assigned to learn Mandarin Chinese because Canada was about to recognize the People’s Republic of China but I do remember that a friend
of mine said: “Steve, are you gonna take this on? What if you can’t do it?” Seriously, he asked me: “But what if you can’t do it?” And I never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do it, even Chinese having done one and I think perhaps for some of the people watching it might be Portuguese speakers from Brazil for example
[Gabriel] true. [Steve] And who are working to improve their English. Once they get and I know they can and will get to that point of fluency in English they may want to learn another language [Gabriel] true, of course. [Steve] it might be Spanish because of their neighbors, it might be Chinese, it might be French and so forth but once you’ve sort of achieve that first milestone of learning another language to have a level of fluency, that’s really motivating.
[Gabriel] Of course, I fully agree and I find that when I was learning English as well and like I mentioned many times it took me eight years to reach fluency in English. I took, I went through the traditional methods. One question that constantly popped into my mind was: “Am I good at this?” “Is this working?” Like, that was a constant concern and it would always pop into my mind and then once I was already fluent in English, I must confess it took me a little bit longer because they started to learn Spanish and then I was learning German. And when I was learning German I was like: “Am I good at learning languages?” I still had that question in my mind and it was just like ok, well I learned English because I went through the motions and went to the school and I put all this effort but now that I’m learning German and it’s just such a different language it’s just so much more complex grammatically, am I good at this?
[Steve] I mean, I must say that some languages, I find some languages easier than others but I never asked myself that question because it’s possible that some of us are better at learning languages than others but it’s not a very useful question because we can all learn so some people might learn a little faster and some people might learn a little more slowly but they will all learn so it’s not useful so I prefer to look at it in terms of [Gabriel] it was definitely not useful and it was a hindrance, I believe. These thoughts were… I decided at one point though to abandon them and I was just like, you know what? I’m just gonna jump in and then, when I abandoned this question I feel that I could progress, that I started progressing more quickly write. Then I took on Italian, Dutch, Russian.
[Steve] But you know what? If I might interrupt, probably what happened was that when you are learning English you weren’t in charge of your own learning. [Gabriel] that’s true. [Steve] So in other words people were asking you to do things and you’re saying: “am I good at this?” Then once you were motivated to learn and you have were deciding what you wanted to do and you are deciding, you were describing what you’re doing for Russian for example. Once you’re in charge of your own learning, you’re not worried “Am I good at it?” “Am I not good at it?” You just want to do these things, you want to keep going
[Gabriel] I think that that’s amazing and that’s what, eventually, I figured out. Basically I want to learn I want to focus on saying what I want to say in. And sometimes in a language learning program they have such boring stuff sometimes it’s just like let’s learn how to say directions: go straight ahead and then turn right, but I have a GPS system. It’s useless! [Steve] Exactly. [Gabriel] Let’s learn how to say you know fruits and colors but when is that gonna come up in a real conversation? So I think eventually, of course, you wanna learn these boring things but I think that if you focus exactly on what you want to say or something that really interests you, that makes all the
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