Not Quite Fluent

How my mentality completely changed

When people ask what I like to do, they usually aren’t expecting to hear “learn languages.” The next question I get usually asks me why and where I even learned that was a viable hobby. I can answer in two words: Tim Doner. Everyone has a role model, and today I’d like to talk about mine and how you can find one of your own.
MY “CELEBRITY” CRUSH
Tim Doner’s only a few years older than me and started learning languages at the age of thirteen after his Bar Mitzvah. Now, he knows over twenty of them and is fluent in five or six. One of his videos came up on my Recommended Videos playlist so, curiously, I watched it.
Before watching that video, I’d already had a fascination with the Spanish language. I’d gotten the chance to serve in my community in a bilingual role, so I took my seventh grade year as an opportunity to jump way ahead on my Spanish so I could fit the bill. I found a love for Spanish that caused me to spend hours studying ahead of the school curriculum. I finished Duolingo and got to skip a year of Spanish in school. All those learning hours turned into hours helping kids learn English at my church, and I was happy.
Tim’s video marked a point where my whole mentality about language learning changed. Before, I loved Spanish but never even considered being more than bilingual. Afterwards, I never was the same. Languages became something attainable and I started to learn lots of them rapidly. The Chinese teacher at my school gave me some books for learning Chinese which I burned through that summer before eighth grade, and I also started to learn a little Afrikaans as well (none of which I remember now). I started to read language blogs, and “Let it Go in 25 Languages” became my most frequently watched YouTube video. Even though I never found another language that I could carry to fluency, I’m happy to say that I dabbled in a bunch and can introduce myself in five or six. I went from an aspiring bilingual to an aspiring polyglot.

HOW TO CHANGE YOUR MENTALITY
There’s two huge lessons you can learn from this that will help you change the way you think about language learning for the better. Number one is find a role model. Watching Tim’s videos and videos about him actually counts as time spent studying languages in my book–it’s like a chef pausing to watch Food Network. It motivates me and teaches me. To keep up your love for languages, you need to find someone who is your Tim–someone who is a lot like you but who has already accomplished your goal. And number two is find a language you love. The reason I can speak Spanish better than any other language I’ve picked up is that I have a motivation and reason to learn it, and I love to do it. When I started learning Chinese, I hated writing characters (I still do!). As a result of that, I kept avoiding doing it. I typed on my computer where it automatically makes the characters for you and I spoke instead of writing my progress. When you are doing something, or avoiding doing something, you don’t like to do, you will never get very far in doing it. And that’s a fact!

Who would you say is your role model? Share in the comments below!

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Sydney Sauer • July 31, 2015


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