Beginner’s mistake: in search of the Holy Grail

When we begin to study a new language, we make a lot of mistakes. Today, I will talk about one of the most common errors: the search for the perfect method/material.

The perfect material/method does not exist

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There are good and bad materials/methods. Some are better than others. Some will be better for you and your goals, but none is perfect. You will not learn a language well, using only one method. Of course, you can learn the general basis of a language from one method, but learning it well? I doubt it, and you should also be suspicious of any material or method that promises you a good level without effort and using only one material/method.

The solution then is diversification. The ideal is to have 3 or 4 materials to study. For example, you can use Assimil, a podcast, a grammar book and have a native speaker to talk to. Notice that in this example, each material/method focuses on a different aspect of language learning and this is the ideal way to vary the materials. Just to listen to the language, just to talk or just to read is not efficient, the ideal is to mix a little of everything to have balanced skills in writing, reading, speaking and listening.

So, we come to the conclusion that changing is good and healthy for your linguistic journey. However, the variety of materials may lead us to a second mistake: having too many materials.

More is not better

When we begin to study a new language, the book store or the internet seem like candy stores. There are so many options; we want to take everything home and what looked like paradise, becomes overwhelming.

I did it before, sometimes I still do, and it has a simple psychological explanation. Researching materials and methods gives us the feeling that we have already started to work towards our goal. Our brain thinks; “I searching for materials, so I’m evolving (doing something towards my goal)”. But do not be fooled by that part of your brain that likes to procrastinate. Having a collection of books in a language, does not make of you a student of this language.

Too much material is bad for several reasons:

  • You do not know where to begin, therefore, you never begin.
  • When you begin with one, you are tempted to change it and try another. I.e. you start a course, but you never finish it.

The constant change of materials makes you stay always in the basic level. You will know how to greet consistently in several different ways, but you will not improve it, because you didn’t progress in any course.

But I have no idea where to start

At first no one has. All aspiring polyglots work by trial and error. Of course we seek and follow advice from more experienced polyglots, and this is very useful. But, in the end, only you can decide which method to use. If you are beginning, I’m pretty sure you already sought advice, perhaps, that was how you found the site Polyglot Nerd. Great, you already have enough information; now just choose your(s) method(s) and start studying, following the tips in this post:

  1. Choose up to three, at most four methods.
  2. Always diversify the study among them.
  3. Try to finish the selected material (if it is too boring/bad, replace it for another and finish the new material).

About Nathalia

Polyglot Nerd creator, love foreign cultures and learning languages. Speak: English, Portuguese and Spanish. Learning: French
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