The pessimist says the glass is half empty. The optimist says it’s half full. The pragmatist says its liquid contents are at 50% capacity. The ironist says it’s half full of air. The practicalist says the glass is twice as big as it should be. The psychoanalyst says the glass is your mother. The punk sitting next to you on the bus also says the glass is your mother. The zen master says, “There is no glass.” And me…, I say, “Waitress! Refill!”
Each one of these is a different perspective on exactly the same thing. A negative one is by far one of the biggest issues people have that holds them back from learning languages, in my opinion.
In the last 7-8 months blogging and being much more public about my missions, I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback and an equal about of scepticism. Scepticism is good, and I’ve shown that I too don’t believe in ridiculous claims so easy.
Despite this, I have achieved these goals. I learned how to speak Czech in two months and I spoke Portuguese like a Brazilian in 3 months. I am confident that I will speak and read Thai in just 8 weeks (at the moment I am aiming to do better than my initial goals with regards speaking; more on this later).
This is much less thanks to genetics and natural talent, and much more down to an efficient approach and a great deal of optimism throughout the task. Optimism isn’t just having a smile on your face despite setbacks, it can dramatically alter the course of your personal missions.
The half-empty perspective isn’t “wrong”, but it holds you back
People have amazing ways of justifying why it’s not possible for them. When the target is announced they’ll give a list of reasons to hold you back from achieving it and why you have your “head in the clouds” if you think it’s possible. And after seeing seemingly impossible tasks achieved they will find a
workaround to why it’s not possible for them and just say that this person is an “exception” or a “genius”.
I’ve talked to hundreds of sceptics in the last 7 months and I can now very easily summarise one thing that nearly all of them have in common, and that holds them back from achieving what I have. Their language is half empty.
With the Czech mission, they told me that the 7 grammatical cases, difficult to pronounce letter combinations, vast amount of vocabulary to learn and other factors are what will hold me back. In the Brazilian mission they said that an accent can never be lost, especially over a short time. And you know what? Technically they are indeed right.
The glass in the picture is half empty. This is not a falsehood. You can provide evidence and anecdotes of people that have tried hard tasks and failed, you can provide endless facts and lists of things that must be learned that seem like an insurmountable monster and you can constantly remind yourself how hard it is. You aren’t wrong.
But there’s a better way to look at it
The glass in the picture is also half full.
You can look at how easy a language is; how you already know words before starting, how a new writing system can be deciphered if you try a different approach, how noun genders aren’t that bad, how you can get rid of your accent, or practise the language without needing to travel, or achieve your language goals even if you are busy, etc.
This is what makes me different from those who don’t learn languages quickly. Everything you read on this blog reinforces how learning languages is not that bad and I focus entirely on the positive.