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"He Just Has a Gift for Language"

We have all at some point either said or heard a friend say, "I'm just not good with language," or something to that effect. Generally people say this when someone suggests learning another language, and they don't want to put out the effort to try. What would you say is the main reason why people don't try? I would say from my own experience that it is often due to fear of failure. This sentence concisely conveys both of these truths: defining the speaker as a failure with language, thus providing the excuse not to try. The other side of this that many of us have heard and repeated at some point is, "He just has a gift for language." This phrase puts the ability to acquire a language into a box of being something that you either have or do not have and cannot learn. The problem with this generalization is that every last one of us was born without this "gift." Yes, that is right. Even the most brilliant polyglot that you know was born not being able to speak, read, write, or understand what he calls his "mother tongue."

Each one of us was essentially dropped off in a foreign culture with absolutely no way of communicating with the natives. We were not even familiar with the culture, customs, or body language that is so much of communication. Every person had to start from square one and acquire the language that is called their mother tongue. With this in mind, ask yourself if you are good with language. Chances are that you are able to understand other speakers of your native language with ease. With so much ease in fact, that you undoubtedly rarely even have to think about what any of the words that you are saying or hearing actually mean. It is so natural to just talk with someone, understanding and conveying feelings, experiences, and desires, without once considering the miracle of language, or how you are able to communicate with these sounds made with your lips, teeth, tongue, throat, vocal chords, and nose. Some of these sounds are so complex that it takes countless hours for a foreigner to learn to duplicate them, but somehow you are able to produce them consistently and beautifully with no effort at all. They seem to just flow from your mind. You cannot imagine not knowing how to produce them or not knowing what they mean depending on the other combination of sounds that they are arranged with. Now ask yourself again if you are good with language.

You may be thinking to yourself, "Yes, but it took me years and years to get to that point in my first language. I don't have the time to do that again." But then think again ... How much effort did you actually put into learning your mother tongue? It is likely that you do not remember ever consciously trying to learn to speak and understand it. (Reading and writing are really a whole other level.) The single most important thing that brought you to fluency in your mother tongue is the fact that you never gave up. Chances are that the thought of giving up never even crossed your mind. You were daily immersed in the language whether you liked it or not. You constantly heard the language being spoken and were expected to respond. Those around you believed in you. They believed that you would master the language one day. As time went on they spoke to you as they would to any other person who had already mastered the language; and because of the positive expectations of those around you and your constant immersion, in the end you acquired native-level fluency. It did take years to reach this level, but when considering how complex your native language is, this actually just shows what a genius you are with language. Many people have been able to master a second language in just a few years. The excuse that you learned better as a child is only true in some aspects. Adults who already have one or more languages under their belts actually have a framework that helps with learning an additional language.

Language is so natural for us as humans. Think back to the beginning of human history. In the Garden of Eden God spoke us into existence. Language is, in fact, at the core of our very being. We were created in the image of the One Who creates by His very Word. Now tell me that you aren't good with language... Of course, you are good with language! It is at the core of your being! You were created for relationship with Your Heavenly Father. A language barrier in a relationship creates a lack of depth. Of course the Creator put within you the ability to acquire language and communicate with Him and His other children. Could it be then, that each and every one of us was actually born with this "gift" for language?

From this article I hope that you can gain confidence in the fact that you are a natural when it comes to language. You inherited this attribute from Your Heavenly Father and have developed and maintained it from the very day that you entered this world. There is no reason for you to fear failure in trying to learn a second language, because you have already proven that you can learn a language. You have succeeded at it before! Now the next time you hear someone say that someone has a real gift for language, you can think to yourself, "Yes, he does... and so do I."