The Six Gifts of Language Learning

How to use language learning as a tool for personal growth.

Gift number one: Overcoming the fear of looking stupid

How many times in life are we held back from advancing, expanding our influence, becoming a bigger version of ourselves, because we are afraid of falling flat on our face, afraid of appearing ridiculous, afraid of being laughed at?
Language learning is the ultimate gift for stepping out of your comfort zone, jumping into the unknown and expressing yourself with a limited number of words to connect with another human being. This requires courage and yet it is perfectly acceptable to advance with mistakes, through trial and error, with creativity and a sense of humour.


Gift number two: Finding out who you really are and becoming the person you want to be


People often say that when they speak another language they don’t feel themselves. This opens up the door to two possible ways of developing. The first is answering the question, ’Who do I want to be in a particular situation?’ ‘What does this communication opportunity offer me as a possibility to live my values?’ For example, listening deeply and caring about another person. Giving clear instructions, to help another perform well. Sharing passion and inspiring passion in other people. 


The other way is answering the question ‘what MORE do I want to be?’ Many people say when they speak another language that they discover an aspect of themselves that they hadn’t revealed before. For example, elegance, playfulness, assertiveness, or an archetype that their own language invites less of. Italian, for example, may give people a sense of extravagance, a sense of expansion or spontaneity. For the Japanese people that I taught, English opened the door to honest, authentic sharing about themselves that they found more difficult in their mother tongue.


Gift number three: Perseverance


In order to master a foreign language, a bit like mastering a musical instrument, you have to persevere, which means developing daily habits. Daily habits that may be small and may not take up much time but which will slowly accumulate to give you more and more tools to use in the way that you want to use them. The vocabulary learning, deliberate practice of new structures, finding creative ways of making it fun to do that repetition is all part of developing perseverance.


Gift number four: Discovering your strengths


We are often unaware of the strengths that we have because we tend to take them for granted when speaking our own language, in the environment that is familiar to us. We may not be aware of what is obvious. Perhaps you have amazing organizational skills and are exasperated by people who just cannot put into place a system because they are very haphazard. Perhaps it is really easy for you to shine in a group of people, to make others laugh, or just to be present in an enthusiastic and joyful way. With a language coach you can begin by discovering your strengths and how to play to them and use them when you are speaking in a foreign language.


Gift number five: Discovering the world through a different window


Often when we learn another language we step into the shoes of a whole different culture and way of seeing the world. This is like an expansion of our present world, adding an awareness, an eye for things that are invisible in our own language. Just as when you learn to paint, you learn to look at things differently, you start to notice perspective and colour and texture. A language coach will encourage awareness by asking questions about what surprises you in the language you are learning? What are the words that you can’t translate into your own language? What do the features of the language tell you about the people who speak it? When I lived in Japan I was struck by how the nature of the Japanese language reveals the importance of social structure and provides a clear framework for managing relationships and respect for others in the community. Through the window of the language, I understood the importance of respect as a value.


Gift number six: Finding out how you learn

When you apply yourself to a new learning, and you do it with awareness, you learn about how you learn and this can be used in other areas of your life. When you find out what works for you and what moves you forward and what holds you back, that knowledge can be incredibly useful and an insight that you can apply for other learning.

In conclusion, the decision to commit to improving your relationship with the English language can be so much more than advancing your career or passing an exam to prove you have a certain level, it is also a path for self-awareness and growth, a challenge that will give you immense personal satisfaction and can be truly transformational if you are accompanied by an experienced language coach

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