Part 12: Top 3 People to Stay Away from When Learning a New Language

Dwayne Oxford
May 2, 2019 · 4 min read
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It’s been a some time since my last update, but I have lot of great news. First things first, I’ve been tracking my Arabic language learning progress on this awesome micro audio podcasting app called Anchor. Here’s my latest posts.

Week 8: Learning Arabic — My first Arabic Sentence

Part 1 | Week 12: Learning Arabic There are different types of Arabic

Part 2 | Week 12: Learning Arabic There are different types of Arabic

Part 3 | Week 12: Learning Arabic There are different types of Arabic

During your language learning journey you are going to bump into a cast of characters who deem themselves experts in language teaching. Even if they have never taught one grammatical technique to anyone, they feel they should be the authority on language learning. Unfortunately, there is a lot of hearsay in the best learning technique in the language learning community. Most of this is due to the tacit fluidity in learning a language. There really are multiple ways you can approach learning a language, which often leads to certain types of dogma that gets certified as concrete canons of thought.

Let me be clear, the right way is the way that works for you, but while on your learning language journey watch out for these dream stealers.

  • The overly critical “That’s all you’ve done?” critic
  • The “I know a better way”, you should try my way “expert”
  • I’m a teacher therefore listen to me

The overly critical “That’s all you’ve done?” critic

This is the one person you have to be very weary of. They are a storm cloud ready to douse your language learning flames of progress. No matter how far you get in your language learning journey, it’s never enough. Either you didn’t learn enough in the time you started, or they think you’ve taken too long to get where you are. Their typical rebuttal is underscored by doubt and often contempt. If you’re learning 1 word a month, that’s progress. If you learn to say simple sentence in a couple of weeks, that’s progress. There are multiple factors that impact the speed at which someone can acquire information to eventually become socially fluent. It’s not a race, and you don’t owe this person anything. When they start getting into, “Well, why haven’t you…”, just stop them mid sentence and say, “Look, I’m moving at my own pace”. If they can’t accept that, then it’s on them, not you. As long as the pace you are moving is leading to progress, then that’s the right pace for you.

The “I know a better way”, you should try my way “expert”

The beauty of learning a language is there are a variety of approaches, from class led instruction to listening to audio files, to simply practicing with a person who is fluent in a language. None of the approaches are mutually exclusive. You can combine multiple approaches to fulfil your language learning needs. The best way to learni a language is the way that works for you and meets your language learning needs. Yes, there are proven methodologies, but you can choose the one your prefer, not the approach the so-called “experts” want you to use. There is always space for experimentation in different learning methodologies, but after you’ve found an approach thats working, stick with it until you feel otherwise. Watch out for the “so-called” expert. They are mostly expert derailers on your plan for learning a language.

I’m a language teacher therefore listen to me

Although similar to point 2, I broke this out into a special category because professional language teachers are some of the biggest offenders when it comes to inflexible language approaches. This is not an indictment of ALL language teachers. This is an indictment of a certain brand of language teachers who refuse to accept approaches that don’t aline with their school of thought. I’ll give you a perfect example. One very popular piece of Arabic language dogma is, “You have to learn MSA (Modern Standard Arabic) to speak Arabic. I’ve written at length about the A.T.O (Arabic Teacher Oligarchy), which is an informal coalition of Arabic teachers that refuse to teach you a technique outside of their preferred approach. It took me years to unravel this myth and get to the root of why this dogma was so popular. Don’t be afraid to challenge the status quo, especially when learning a new language. Language is fluid, and so should be it’s related teaching approaches. If there is an approach that works for certain types of people, that’s great-but there should be space for experimenting with new ideas.

Ma Salaam, مع السلام

Originally published at on May 2, 2019.

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