19 Ways in Which the Successfully Multilingual Think and Act. How They Differ From the Unsuccessful Monolingual

Effort only fully releases its reward after a person refuses to quit. – Napoleon Hill

Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009 Mark A. Frobose

How you think about learning a new language will affect your outcome more than any other single factor. You can ‘speed up’ your results by modeling the beliefs of the world’s most successful language learners. Let me show you the common differences between multilingual (speakers of more than one language) and monolingual (speakers of only one language) people’s belief systems.

This section will introduce you to the ‘psychology’ of language learning that will propel you past failure and into foreign language success. You will learn how to take chances and correct mistakes in order to learn.

1. They Can Because They Think They Can

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams. – Eleanor Roosevelt

First and foremost, the successful multilingual speak more than one language because they believed in that beautiful possibility before it became a reality. Thoughts are things and your belief in them will make them real. We must first conceive of what we want. Then we must believe it is possible. Finally, we must work to achieve the goal. The old adage “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.’ applies here.

When you ‘think you can’t’ you shut off and disempower the mind’s ability to produce the result of fluency that you desire. The very word ‘desire’ comes from the Latin stem meaning ‘of the father’.

It’s almost as if the desire to speak another language were ‘divinely ordained’ and programmed into us at birth.

The very fact that you desire something is proof that it is possible for you to achieve it. The missing ingredient that you must add in abundance is ‘faith’. Your belief in your ability to learn to speak and understand a foreign language begins with you thinking that you can do it. Multilingual people think they can, so they do. Monolingual people think they can’t, so they can’t. It’s just that simple.

2. They Believe That Mistakes Are Good

Always remember, in foreign language learning, mistakes are good. – Mark Frobose / The Language Guy®

The average person from kindergarten on is conditioned to believe that the fewer mistakes you make, the better off you are. Unfortunately, this belief prevents many people not only from learning to speak a foreign language, but from success in many other fields as well.

Always remember than in language learning, mistakes are good. The more you practice, make mistakes, correct those mistakes, and move on to speak correctly, the faster and more efficient your language learning will become. Language losers believe that all mistakes are bad. As a result, they never make many and they fail to learn.

3. They Take Chances and Guess When Necessary

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. – Elbert Hubbard

Successful language learners are willing to take chances and guess when necessary. What happens when you are engaged in a conversation with a native speaker of a language you are learning and you conversation comes to an abrupt halt because you don’t know a particular word.

If you’re afraid to guess or to ‘take a chance’ your conversation will come to an abrupt halt as you meekly retreat into silence with your tail between your legs.

If, on the other hand, you move forward and guess the word you are looking for, the conversation continues. Even if you guess incorrectly, you are still in the game, and you learn a great deal.

By the time the conversation is over, you will have likely moved forward to learn not only the word you didn’t know, but an entire host of words that you were forced to learned as you plunged forward.

The language loser never gets to this point of victory. He ran out of the room long ago, from the price and from the prize.

4. They Persistently Advance and Don’t Retreat

I walk slowly but I never walk backwards. – Abraham Lincoln

While in Brazil I traveled on a ship going down the Amazon River from Belém to Manaus. For three days all the passengers had to do was talk, read and play chess. I am a lousy chess player but out of boredom (and the desire to improve my Portuguese) I allowed myself to play with the ship’s chess champion who soundly beat me over and over.

Wishing to glean something positive from the experience, I asked why I continually lost to him.

His answer has remained with me throughout the years, serving as a guide on how to handle life’s and languages’ inevitable challenges. He said ‘Avanzar não retrancar’ which means ‘Advance don’t go backwards’. Every time I saw him approaching me on the chessboard, I ran away instead of charging him.

This is how most people react to language challenges. When placed in a pressure situation, they simple go backwards. They feel uncomfortable with the pressure so they beat a hasty retreat. As a result, they lose.

Successful language learners hold up to the pressure and ‘move forward’ linguistically while everything in their being is screaming for them to run. It is specifically during these pressure moments that we learn the most in a language. If we run, we miss the lesson. The multilingual don’t run,; they and move forward and learn.

5. They Are Fearlessly Imperfect

You gain strength, experience, and confidence by every experience where you really stop to look fear in the face. ….. You must do the thing you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Successful language learners don’t try to be perfect all the time. On the contrary, they know that others will perceive their imperfections and so they fearlessly move ahead and confidently anticipate the inevitable mistakes they will make and the valuable lessons they will learn. On many occasions they are proactive to the point that they actually request corrections before they have even made a mistake and thus avoid being reactive.

The unsuccessful monolingual wear a false mask of correctness which is easily penetrated, exposing the frightened phony underneath. Be sincere and courageous in your language learning efforts, accept your imperfections and focus on beating your own record.

6. They Are Sincere in Their Language Learning Efforts

Life is like a ten speed bike. Most of us have gears we never use. – Charles Shultz

The ancient Romans loved statues. They were everywhere in Rome. As in all professions, there were good and bad sculptors and good and bad statues. The bad sculptors, in an effort to hide the flaws of their creations, would fill the cracks and imperfections of their statues with wax or cera as it is called in Latin. When the sun came out, it would melt the wax, exposing the phony statue for what is really was. A flawed statue.

Only the finest statue makers of ancient Rome could boast of selling their flawless statues in the market area with the sign ‘Sine Cera’ or ‘without wax’ in front of them. The English word ‘sincere’ comes from the Latin words ‘sine cera’ or, without wax. In order to be the ‘real deal’ when learning languages, you need to get rid of any hint of infallibility. This hangup of always wanting to be right and of never making a mistake is the characteristic of a true language loser.

The multilingual, the true language winners, realize and accept that there will be many mistakes on their road to fluency, and that the road to fluency will be literally paved with the corrections of their many mistakes.

7. They Believe That You Succeed by Failing

I failed my way to success. – Thomas Edison

Those who have learned to speak a second language believe that one succeeds by failing. Failure for them is success turned inside out. They have learned through experience that the opportunity tofail in language learning is also the opportunity to succeed. Language losers are afraid to fail and can’t imagine success being related to temporary setbacks.

Language losers are discouraged by making mistakes. Language winners are motivated by them.

8. They Set Goals and Plan

Goal setting is a continuous process. As you reach one goal, you set the next. – Dave Winfield

Those who are successful in learning to speak language are almost inevitably good goalsetters and planners. You can’t hit something you haven’t aimed at, and unless you have some extraordinary circumstances, you can’t learn a language you haven’t set a goal and planned to learn. As Henry Ford once said “Before everything else, getting ready is the secret to success.” The best way to get ready for language learning is to set a goal and plan for language success.

Language losers float around and hope that ‘someday’ they will learn to speak a new language. Their dream of ‘someday’ turns into a nightmare of ‘never’. Language winners set positive goals and then take daily action to achieve them.

9. They Daily Monitor Their Progress Towards the Goal

Inch by inch, anything’s a cinch, but you must notice whether it is working. – Mark Frobose The Language Guy™

A plane flying from Chicago to LA is slightly off course for most of the flight, but the pilots, air traffic controllers and their instruments are constantly monitoring the flight’s progress. They consistently make corrections and manage a precise landing every time. Successful language learners monitor their progress daily by paying attention to the results they are getting from their actions. They pay attention and notice the pace of
improvement at speaking and understanding a new language, and vary their approach and their practice in order to arrive at their destination on time. Language losers do the opposite. They don’t pay attention. They fail to monitor their progress, and they don’t focus consistently on their goal.

10. They Are Persistent

A winner never quits and a quitter never wins. -Knute Rockne

Successful multilingual language learners are persistent indeed. They simply refuse to give up on their goal of learning to speak and understand a new language. Thomas Edison could have been talking about them when he said “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.” “The most certain way to succeed is to always try just one more time.”

Successful language learners always try ‘just one more time’, beat the odds and learn tospeak more than one language. Language losers simply give up and follow the line of least resistance.

11. They Don’t Recognize Failure as Being Negative or Permanent

Virtually nothing comes out right the first time. Failures, repeated failures, are the guideposts on the road to achievement. Charles F. Kettering

The successfully multilingual have learned never to recognize failure as being a lasting condition. The reason for this is because they have learn to use failure rather than to have failure use them. Failure for the unsuccessful monolingual means making a mistake, having some difficulty learning, becoming discouraged and then giving up. Their brand of failure is permanent.

Absolute or permanent failure of this sort is virtually unknown to successful language learners.

The only failure they experience is temporary, and they use it as a tool for learning. In this way, they literally turn failure into success. They look forward to harnessing the power of this ‘instructive failure’ as they move quickly and easily from one language success to another.

12. They Anticipate Success More Than They Fear Failure

Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try. – Michael Jordon

Another common characteristic of successful language learners is that they happily anticipate success rather than negatively fear failure. While they anticipate, they are happy, and are eagerly looking forward to a positive outcome. They can’t wait to learn to speak their new language and they constantly focus on how fabulous it will feel and be when they achieve that goal.

The language losers on the other hand are dreading the language learning experience and are focused on how horrible they will feel when they fail miserably to learn it. They focus on pain instead of pleasure.

The key here is in the focus. The language winners focus on and get success. Language losers focus on and get failure, of the most miserable and humiliating kind, self-imposed through the use of a negative attitude and focus.

13. They’re Proactive Instead of Reactive

Confidence is contagious. So is the lack of confidence. – Vince Lombardi

Simply put, successfully multilingual language learners have mastered the art of being confidently proactive instead of insecurely reactive. They have learned that in language learning, as in life, on must either act or be acted upon. Therefore, the successfully multilingual view language learning as a positive and exciting process in which they are actively involved. They know that their approach, consistent action and positive attitude will eventually result in the positive result of fluency in a second language.

The unsuccessful language learners on the other hand are reactive. They view themselves as pawns, unable to cope with the rigors of language learning. They are terrified to take chances, view failure as permanent and fear it, and react to the challenges of language learning by running from it, making excuses, becoming discouraged and eventually quitting altogether.

14. They Fearlessly Make Lots of Mistakes

The greatest mistake you can make in life is to be continually fearing you will make one. – Elbert Hubbard

Since they don’t fear or even believe in permanent failure, the successful language learner moves forward confidently to make tons of mistakes on a regular basis. He or she is quick to acknowledge the mistakes and to correct them. The lessons are then recorded either in memory or by another means, and they are treasured and reviewed for the stepping stones to fluency that they truly are.

They thus happily speed their way to language success. The unsuccessful language learners make few if any mistakes because they believe in and mortally fear permanent failure. As a result, they attempt to avoid failure by avoiding mistakes, which of course, ultimately leads to a complete ‘crash and burn’ of their language learning efforts. The pain they associate to language learning eventually gets the best of them and they give up trying entirely.

15. They Correct Their Own Mistakes

We should learn as much from our failures as from our successes. -John Dewey

Not only do winning language learners ask others to correct them, they actually correct their own mistakes without any supervision whatsoever. They are guided by the joy of learning to speak and understand a foreign language and ‘enjoy the process’ as much as they do ‘getting there’.

The language losers are so terrified of the pain they have already inflicted upon themselves as a result of their negative thinking that they can’t even conceive of ‘correcting their own mistakes’. ‘Why should I?’ they reason. “I don’t need to repeat or practice. I am not a child. I am an adult. I already know this stuff.” This delusion continues until the fall occurs.

16. They Don’t Think ‘I Already Know This Stuff’.

The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can alter their lives by altering their attitudes of mind. -William James

One of the most damning and unhappy attitudes to have when learning to speak a second language is that of the ‘know-it-all’ who carelessly states that he or she does not need to practice or review further because ‘I already know that stuff.’. This is a particularly common language learning ailment that I suggest you rid yourself of it as soon as possible.

The language winner knows, just as the professional athlete knows, that the basics must be practiced daily. A truly competent person can never over practice that which must be mastered. Thus, the truly successful language learner never tires of reviewing the fundamentals of successful communication in a second language. They never say ‘I already know this stuff’, but rather, “I need to review this stuff.’ Language winners go on to ‘enjoy’ the process of mastery which is based on review.

17. They Immediately Apply What They’ve Learned

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. – Helen Keller

Language winners truly ‘walk their talk’ when it comes to using and living the language they are learning. They don’t just learn to be learning. They learn to actually ‘use’ the language. This creates a true language success cycle. They learn something new, apply it, and in the process, they learn even more. They voluntarily seek out opportunities to try out what they have learned on native speakers.

Language losers, on the other hand, don’t really have the energy and confidence to use the target language. They learn just enough to tell their friends they are learning a language, just enough to satisfy their company’s language requirement, just enough to graduate from college, and then they beat a hasty retreat.

Language losers are dabblers. Language winners shoot for mastery. The successful multilingual embrace language learning with the goal being able to use and apply what they have learned.

18. They Use Rapid Fire Repetition

Repetition is the mother of skill. -Anonymous

All successful language learners know that repetition is the mother of skill. The more you repeat, the faster you learn. It is impossible to learn any skill, especially learning to speak a foreign language, without consistent and massive repetition.

Not only do the successfully multilingual repeat, they use ‘rapid-fire’ repetition. Instead of just repeating a new word or phrase once or twice, they’ll repeat it 10 or 20 times in the first exchange alone. This provides them with 10 to 20 times more practice than those who repeat only once, and makes them 10 to 20 times more proficient at the end of the day.

Language losers come up short in this category as well. One major salient characteristic of a language loser is their unwillingness to repeat. As an instructor of foreign languages for many years, I marveled at how difficult it was to make some students repeat. It was like pulling teeth.

The language winners did not even have to be asked. They were already repeating before they were asked to do so and they even did so under their breath to get in a few more precious repetitions after the class ended. I even heard them repeating as they walked out of the door of the classroom.

No doubt, they repeated in their cars all the way home.

Small wonder they were ‘language winners’.

19. They Pay the Price to be Functionally Fluent

Even a ‘natural’ has to practice hard. -Joe Louis

Everything in life has a price. Every true achiever knows this. Only losers think that the rewards of real achievement are free.

I recall a story I once heard about a professional golfer who was being admired by a fan. The fan said that he would do anything to play golf like the pro did. ‘No you wouldn’t.’ responded the golf pro to the fan. Puzzled, the fan asked why he would say such a thing. The pro responded that he got up at 4:30 every morning and hit 2000 balls until his hands began to bleed. Then he would take a short break to bandage his hands, and then go on to hit another 2000 balls.

Then he would then BEGIN to play golf all day. Talk about repetition and dedication!

What did the fan do. He stopped talking and quietly slipped away into the shadows. The pro had been right. The fan wouldn’t be willing to pay the price of stardom, the cost
of being a golf pro.

This is why there are so many fans and so few pros. Few are willing to pay the price. The same is true for learning to speak languages fluently. While it is true that an excellent method like Multilingual Advantage® and Language Success Conditioning® can phenomenally speed up and simplify the language learning process, there will still be a price to pay. You will still have to work, to repeat, to practice, to leave your comfort zone.Language winners pay the price over and over and reap the benefits. They intelligently select the best method and materials and they take action until they succeed. Furthermore, they enjoy the process.

Language losers become experts too. Experts at explaining why they didn’t make the grade, why it was too hard, why they can ‘read’ but not ‘speak’ the language. Language winners don’t need excuses. They’re too busy practicing and repeating as they prepare for their next big language success.

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