It was just a “puff piece” apparently, written for a piece of software. Having learned three foreign languages, my own methods were wrong and the best way to learn a new language was just to immerse yourself in the culture. This was a comment on one of my very first blog posts that I had written over eight months before. It was also the first negative comment I’d received since I’d started blogging. At first I was a little upset about the response and I simply trashed the comment. However, upon reflection, I decided to approve it and give my side of the story.
Both blogging and language learning are journeys; there are highs and lows that teach you who you are. In blogging, finding your voice can be difficult. There are millions of people writing online so why should anybody pay any attention to you? In language learning, you come up against obstacles regularly, so how do you overcome them? There are several things blogging and language learning have in common.
1. Remember Why You’re Doing It
In both blogging and language learning, motivation is key. Why did you start your blog? If it was just to keep friends and family updated, then focus on that. Put up posts you know they’ll appreciate – lots of photos and funny stories. Did you start it as a personal project, a way of writing down your thoughts and making sense of the world? Then keep going – your personal growth with your blog is far more important than anyone else’s thoughts on it. Or perhaps you started it as a way of firing up a writing career. Have you always dreamed of travelling the world for a living? Then use the negative comments to spur you on to the next location and to help you hone your writing skills. Why did you start learning a language? Is it personal or professional? Sometimes having an outside motivation helps. If you’re not taking a class, see if you can set up a language exchange or book yourself into an exam. Have a goal to work towards and focus on it.
2. Don’t Compare Your Journey to Other People’s
This is an important point. Blogging and language learning are individual journeys and we all go at our own pace. As a blogger, you may be tempted to compare your social media followers to another blogger. Or perhaps you count how many comments you get. Don’t! Followers and comments are not a true reflection of your ability as a blogger. Keep going and don’t get disheartened. It’s the same as being a language learner. Although I truly believe that everyone can learn languages, it is true that some people seem to pick it up quicker than others, but that doesn’t matter. Find what works for you and use it to the best of your ability. Do you want to produce one new article a week? Then do it. Are you trying to learn ten new words a day? No problem. Focus on your journey and don’t let yourself get distracted by someone else’s.
3. Lean On Your Support System
Putting yourself out there and doing something new can be intimidating. This is why you need to build a support system around you for when times get tough. Perhaps you fail an exam or get your first negative comment. Maybe you can’t remember the irregular verbs or the article you slaved over for hours got rejected again. Whatever it is, go to the people who understand you. They could be your family and friends or you can find yourself a group of fellow bloggers or language learners, people who have already been in your situation. As with everything in life, bad moments are going to happen. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue on your way.
4. Know That You’re Doing Something Extraordinary
So many people go through life never really trying to do anything daring. They stay inside their comfortable little bubble and yet they seem to be the loudest critics. Funny, that. Whether you’re facing down the trolls or finding people laughing at your accent, remember this message from Stephen King:
If you write (or paint or dance or sculpt or sing, I suppose), someone will try to make you feel lousy about it.
Critics are everywhere, especially on the Internet. Easier said than done, maybe, but don’t let them drown out the voices of your supporters. As for the people laughing at your accent or huffing at you because you can’t remember how to say ‘cucumber’, ask them how many languages they speak. Usually the answer is the same: one. This is because, according to Robert A. Heinlein:
Some people insist that ‘mediocre’ is better than ‘best’. They delight in clipping wings because they themselves can’t fly. They despise brains because they have none.
So, whatever it is you’re trying to do, just keep these tips in mind and follow your own path. If learning a language is your goal, head here for why you need to stop apologising and start speaking.
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