What’s the most important question when learning a language?

As a language tutor, instructor, and curriculum designer for many years, I’ve been able to compare successful and not so successful language learners throughout the years. I want to share what I’ve realized separates the two more than anything else. 

Common Questions

If you go to most language forums or follow conversations on Social Media about language learning, the majority of questions are something like this:

  • What resources do you recommend for this language?
  • What are good habits for learning languages?
  • Should I focus on pronunciation or grammar first?
  • How much time will it take to have a conversation?

To be sure, these are important and valid questions. Every learner should understand what they want to learn and how they intend to do so. However, “behind” the what and the how is the most important question you need to answer first. And that question is why?. What is the reason you want to learn? What’s the purpose of putting in the effort?

There is no shortage of great resources for learning languages. There are many good habits every learner should foster. There are valid reasons to focus on pronunciation or grammar first. It’s important to know how much time it will take to reach your desired level of fluency. But the answer to your “why” is something no one can truly answer except you

Understanding your unique why

Better understanding “why” you want to learn a language is the most important and first question you should answer when learning a language. In my view, one of the main reasons few people learn languages well in school is because your why is not a focus. 

At first, your why might seem easy to answer. Some first answers to why might be “To pass the IELTS exam” or “To travel around another country” or “To read this literature” or “I simply have a passion that I can’t quantify”.

To go deeper, we suggest asking and answering why at least five times to get to the root of the problem that you believe learning a new language will solve for you. This is a method commonly attributed to Taiichi Ohno, the architect of the Toyota Production System in the 1950s as explained in his now classic book.

For example, if your answer for learning English is “to pass the IELTS exam”. Then ask…

Why do you want to pass the IELTS exam?

Because I want to demonstrate my proficiency in the English language. 

Why do you want to demonstrate your English language proficiency?

Because it’s a requirement for enrolling in many English speaking universities. 

Why are you interested in enrolling in English speaking universities?

Because becoming a student gives me a clear path to immigration.

Why do you want a clear path to immigration in an English speaking country?

Because I want access to better career opportunities and lifestyles that are offered there.

And so on.

Reach your unique goals

You see, once you understand your unique why, you will have the motivation and focus to truly achieve your unique language goals. 

Immersio was created so that you can turn your goals into reality through a platform that gives you access to the unique course content, on-demand practice activities, and expert feedback you need to achieve them.

Understand your unique why, and enroll in a fitting Immersio course today.



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