October 16

Love Improves Your Language Learning!

Anecdotally, there seems to be a lot of talk about how having a lover in the target language can do wonders for your language. So why is that? I am of course not advocating that you rush out to find one! 🙂 In fact, many of you of course will not be able to do that for diverse reasons. However, I believe there is a lot we can learn from having a look at that dynamic so that we can see if we can apply it to learning a language, even if we are not in a position to find such a lover!

So let us first consider, why a lover would help our language learning. When we “fall in love”, there are a number of experiences people typically have. Here are are few of them:

There are strong feelings of:

  • being drawn to the person,
  • being energised,
  • wanting to understand everything our lover says,
  • wanting to be understood by our lover so s/he can understand our inner most being,
  • wanting to please our lover,
  • wanting to spend huge amounts of time talking, trying to get to know each other better,
  • wanting to do things together

love improves language learningIt is not hard to see how these drivers could invigorate our language learning. Having extra energy, wanting to express our self more clearly and driving our self to make more efforts so that our pronunciation is easily understood. We will want to  express our self in ways which will be more in line with our lover’s language, wanting to understand better so we listen to our lover more attentively. We will want to spend every minute of our time with our lover (being with, talking with and generally just soaking it all up).       Source of image: http://advaharma.wordpress.com/

All of these desires or energy movements will drive our language learning. It will make us work from the core of our being, driven by the need to connect.

It is amazing what we can do when we are  being driven by our innermost needs that are connected to our heart, our passions. There is a lot we can learn from this experience. It tells us that learning a language involves a LOT more than learning the grammar, the sounds, the vocabulary. It tells us that we need something inside of us that wants to ‘connect’. Language is what enables us to express ourselves. We wish to express ourselves so that we can communicate. That is at the heart of language. Without that need or desire to express and communicate something we are stripping language of its character, its life, its soul.

Why a lover helps us to learn languages is because the relationship brings us right back to the essence of why we speak….we just want to connect to another. Language is a vehicle for that. The more we are in touch with our innermost needs or desires to express ourselves and communicate in the target language the more we are going to learn, because we really want to from our being. So many times I see language learners divorced (pardon the expression in this context!) from the language. The fault for this lies in large part with the materials that are used (talking about things that have little connection with who they are) and the way the language is taught, as something that is studied, not really experienced.

As a language learner, if you wish to move forward, look for experiences and language that involves you, engages you and which you can embrace. There is clearly a lot more to learning languages than this, but these are core approaches that successful language learners would tell you was a foundation to how they learned and what they learned.

These conclusions can to some extent also be seen by the classification proposed by historian and educator Ken Bain, who investigated the kinds of learning strategies that college students use. In his book, What the Best College Students Do, he concludes that there are three types of learners:

• surface learners – the ones who do as little as possible to get by;
• strategic learners – the ones who aim for top grades rather than true understanding; and
• deep learners – the ones who leave college with a real, rich education.

It is not hard to see that deep learning is what lovers do and is what we need to do if we wish to learn languages in ways that result in us reaching our goals. In learning this way, both the process and the outcome is typified by the words he uses…”real, rich…” experience and language.

So you don’t need to find a lover to be a successful language learner but if you take on what has been talked about here, you can become just as successful as one who has a lover! 🙂




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  • As you mentioned such strong emotions can be good motives. Recently, I also heard something about the effects of emotions on learning and memorization. When we learn something with such strong emotions, we activate more regions in the brain and this results with a better mental association.

    • Hi Yasin,
      Yes, by being more involved in what we learn, we actually create more links in the brain. We can’t always work with such strong emotions, however we can look to experiences where we “feel” engaged, moved, drawn in and so on. The trouble is that in schooling this important criteria was “beaten” out of us by being “forced” to learn. So now, as adults, we believe we have to force ourselves to learn. That really is, I believe, a mistake in learning languages. Better, we find activities that we enjoy and relish.

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