Monthly Archives: November 2011

The introverted language learner

I love to learn languages, but not in order to talk to people. I don’t learn languages, like many people do, in order to meet new people, interact with different cultures and do so in the other person’s mother-tongue. I just don’t.

I am an introvert. I can also be quite shy. But these are two different things. When I am at a social gathering and I’m not introducing myself to new people, it’s usually because I don’t particularly want to. I like being around people and enjoy the company of a good friends, but return to introspection and solitary activities. As an indication, I have on many occasions been asked that ridiculous question, “Why are you so quiet?”

While I’m not going to lump all introverts together, there is a certain difficulty in being introverted and wanting to learn foreign languages. When people say I’m quiet, this is even in my mother-tongue, English.

The self-taught polyglots who are vocal on the internet may have different methods, but mostly seem to have the goal of speaking to new people in their language, in some cases giving the advice to get out there and start speaking.

Where does that leave me? And surely I cannot be the only abberant introvert who is passionate about foreign languages…

Well, I would suggest that if you are self-teaching, lots of input is the only thing to do, really. Read and listen and watch, wherever and whenever you can. Always situate your language learning in something enjoyable to you – read things you are interested in. That is standard.

But now I would also suggest that possibly, for an introvert, a class, particularly a small class, may be the way to go. A class is kind of like a social gathering that is controlled. You know you won’t be there for more than, say, two hours. You get practice actually speaking with less pressure. Of course, teaching methods may differ, so it may depend.

These are just my thoughts lately. I have been reading so much from the perspective of extroverts, who insist you have to go and find people to speak to, and becoming more critical of myself. But now I want to forge a new way forward to pursue my passion without beating myself up.