Top 5 Language Myths You Probably Still Believe

Do you have friends or family who have talked about learning a new language for ages, but never actually got around to doing anything about it due to [insert bad reason here]?

It’s time we stopped deluding ourselves with outdated notions of why we can’t learn a language and start focusing on what we can do.

I’ve made this infographic for you so you can show them the error of their ways and hopefully inspire them to get up and learn.

Check it out and tell me what you think!


Unfortunately many myths that harm the likelihood of many individuals ever taking up a second language project are still so prolific around the world.

Does one of these myths hold you back? What about a friend?

Leave a comment with your thoughts!


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Brian is the creator, owner and Apex Editor of Languages Around the Globe. When he’s not hanging around with linguistics nerds and learning languages, Brian works full time at Kolibri Online, a Hamburg based international content marketing and translation agency as a copywriter, human dictionary and general doer of great things.

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Brian Powers

Brian is the creator, owner and Apex Editor of Languages Around the Globe. When he's not hanging around with linguistics nerds and learning languages, Brian works full time at Kolibri Online, a Hamburg based international content marketing and translation agency as a copywriter, human dictionary and general doer of great things.

  • I apologize if anything we said came across as contradicting you. I believe what you’re saying about Esperanto and actually spent a portion of this past summer learning a bit of it myself as part of LATG’s summer Esperanto Challenge. The goal was to spend 3 weeks studying Esperanto fairly intensively and then working on another language for 6 months to test the potential positive effects that Esperanto can have on future languages.

    I haven’t yet requested data from our participants, but I’m looking forward to doing so later this month, and I hope you’ll keep up with our findings!

    In any case – I don’t believe Oni was spiting you, he was simply adding some humor to the discussion.

    Esperanto is a very worthwhile language and I’ve spent a considerable part of this year defending it. Back in May I wrote my most viral post ever – “5 Languages You Should Consider Learning” and actually included Esperanto along with the likes of French, German, Portuguese and Indonesian.

    This inclusion actually brought on a lot more controversy than I expected. I was amazed to see how many people seemed to hate Esperanto – most of them lacking an understanding of what it is, where it comes from, and what its goals actually are.

    I followed up this seeming hatred with a rant that I’ll link here for you in which I defended Esperanto as a perfectly legitimate language.

    Do I think that Esperanto will become a universal language – probably not. That’s not to say I don’t think that it should, or that it wouldn’t make a great global 2nd language, only that based on linguistics, society, attitudes towards conlangs and other factors it is highly unlikely.

    I sincerely hope you haven’t taken offense to anything that has been said in this thread. It was not my intention, or I believe the intention of Oni, to do so.

  • Onklo ENG

    I do not want to discuss further, thank you everyone. Esperantists do not demand you to stop after learning Esperanto, but to start with a cost effective method and if one is language lovers, they would have the confident to go on,please read the Australian report by Dr Bishop.

    But for those who are not language lover, at least they have two languages, and one who can speak and write Esperanto can find friends in more than 130 countries in FB, Twitter etc social media and Global Voice en Esperanto is on the run now.

    All the best in and fun in language learning.

  • And I think your insights are spot on. 🙂 Thank you

    I’m really glad to hear that you’re enjoying learning German. While I always push people to learn languages; if you don’t love doing it; there’s no point.

    Thanks again for reading and for your comment!

  • Thy chain sir, tis being yanked.

  • dazed_cat

    well, if we waited to talk (or write) until everything was perfect and all tidy…we would live in a quiet world, and be using a lot less bits (or whatever we are using) on the internet…I loved this exchange…bottom line, do not be scared, just practice and enjoy the process and enjoy what one does learn, not all the things one does not

  • dazed_cat

    I think adults can learn the constructs intellectually faster than children, but reaching that deeper space of not intellectualiziing and using a language just as adults use their native language? I think it is harder for adults because we are self-conscious about what we do not know…for a child everything is a first time experience and they “play” at it. Adults expect fluency. That is a big difference. But is is so worthwhile learning German. I love it! Gives me a whole new appreciation of English.

  • Onklo ENG

    Trace the history of your Ido, who is the father ? Esperanto does not have the Wikipedia version ?

  • Oni

    While sometimes I like to use colorful language. Don’t take offense. I’m just passionate about this field.

    As I said, all of these can be nitpicked, but it’s pretty good as-is. I understand why you said that stuff on #3, and it is more convincing than the alternative, but it is misleading by omission – at best.
    The military’s Defense Language Institute has been placing soldiers into the program and into different languages based on an old aptitude test for a long time. You can find a sample of this test online somewhere. Shouldn’t be hard to find.

    I E-mailed you a bunch of PDFs that talk about it. You can use them as a jumping off point to Google Scholar for more if you’d like.

    If the link is getting mostly clickthroughs, and people aren’t just copying the image, you could probably just post an updated one to later and link to the new post at the top of the page. But it doesn’t have to be immediate. Suppose you modify #3 now, but then decide in a couple months by new information to change the others or add something else. It’d get messy 🙂

  • Alright. I’ll tell you what: I believe you – and if you can find me a decent article that I can cite. (Because a Disqus conversation doesn’t cut it.) I’ll do what I can to change it.

    Blogging is great because you can edit anything as information changes, or you turn out to be wrong. The trouble with infographics is that they’re a lot harder to change.

    It can be done, but right now this image has gone a bit viral and is driving more traffic to this site than I’ve had in months. If I change the image the old one will still be circulating and there’s nothing I can do about that.. I suppose its better than nothing, though.

    Thanks for your input and for reading!

  • Oni

    This is good. It is well presented, and hopefully it convinces some to get rid of the mental blocks preventing themselves from learning a language.

    There are small issues with all points I think, but that happens when you simplify into an infographic like this. However, the error in #3 is egregious.

    There is significant research into the ability of different people to learn languages. It is called “Language Aptitude” and there are different tests that have been and are being developed for evaluating it. The US military (and intelligence agencies too) have certainly been using a aptitude tests for a long time. It is also what we’re now looking into for assessing what people should get priority for endangered language teaching. This is hoped to maximize the effect of limited funding in revitalization efforts.

    While analysis of language aptitude from a psycholinguistic/cognitive science/neuroscience perspective is in its infancy dealing with working memory and the like, once that research gets stronger, genetic testing for markers won’t be far behind.

    So… the BOTTOM of #3 is kinda bullshit. It would be more accurate to say that people have different aptitudes, but everyone can still learn a significant amount of a language with enough effort.

  • Oni

    It’s completely appropriate.

    Unlike many other sites, it describes the different strengths of each type of learner and carefully avoids making statements about the relative ability to reach high proficiency.

    It said NOTHING about learning better than children in all ways. Only that adults are not necessarily inferior (they are not). You’ve attacked your own strawman.

    It says nothing about achieving “fluency” however you want to define that. Definitely the casual language learner isn’t looking to write academic papers in that language, but if they did, they would certainly be able to learn to read scientific articles and complex literature much more quickly than children!

    In a similar way, children with very poor input might have fantastic basic syntax and phonology, but a strong vocabulary and mastery of more complex syntax and writing rules? Not very likely.

    Further, recent research, if you’ve kept up on it, is showing not only is brain plasticity much better in old age than we thought, but the case for not reaching native-like fluency in later years can only be made for pronunciation. Adults will not be able to escape having some kind of accent, even if it’s a small one.

    An adult with 12 years of pure immersion and constant study will school a 12yo child going through elementary and middle school in reading and writing and effective use of language in adult situations. I have no doubt.
    That kind of thing is what matters to adult learners. Not being the perfect bilingual.

    There are other (small) problems with all of this infographic’s points, but you have created and attacked one that was never said.

  • Scott,

    I don’t think the science is being refuted, but perhaps it is being over simplified.

    Perhaps there is some disagreement over what it means to “know a language.” If you take it to mean that in order to “know” a language you must have native-like fluency then sure, an adult is going to have a difficult time.

    But “fluency” is a gray area and it is by no means impossible for an adult to reach a fully functional level of fluency that – while perhaps not accent free nor as “flawless” as that of a native speaker – fully passes for “knowing” a language.

    Nowhere here, or anywhere else on this site, do I tout that an adult learner can, will, or should even try to attain

    The infographic doesn’t specify between “learn” or “acquire” a language either. If you want to get technical I suppose you can argue that there’s a difference in these terms, but the end result is more or less the same: the ability to “speak, read and write” a language solidly, readily and without significant issue.

    The point remains that adults use their age as an excuse not to learn a language all the time.

  • Scott

    The apples to oranges comparison in number 1 isn’t appropriate. Obviously adults can learn some things faster than children – tying shoes requires the fine motor skills that young children just don’t have. The fact is that children don’t learn their first language. The acquire it whether they want to or not. Chomsky called this the poverty-of-the-stimulus problem. Many children acquire their first language perfectly despite being in environments of extremely poor input. Children don’t need to learn to go through puberty, nor do adults need to learn to go through menopause or impotence. The ability to acquire a language like a child is a biological endowment that you lose as you get older (speculated to be around puberty). Saying adults learn languages as well or better than children doesn’t just make no sense in light of the science, but also intuitively. How many adults who began learning their L2, L3… in adulthood actually reach a native-level of proficiency? For the few that do, it takes decades, whereas a 5-year-old will have acquired their L1 perfectly without any explicit instruction or effort.

    Love learning languages, and learning all things. But don’t let your personal feelings or desires cloud your judgement or your ability to accept the science

    • Mayya Shlyakhter

      Children can quickly become fluent in the spoken language and don’t have to struggle with phonetics that much, but their knowledge of professional / scientific terms and literature is very limited, and no one expects them to know these words until middle school. Adult learners are expected to acquire a broader vocabulary in a shorter time.

  • Oni

    No. Because Esperantists have been working in a conspiracy to destroy Ido for 100 years. Yet, it is in fact, the superior international language. It even has its own Wikipedia!


  • Onklo ENG

    Kara Oni

    Did Ido has the UNESCO and UNWTO to back up ? Ido is generated upon Esperanto. Thus far, did any countries have the Ido radio station ? But China has the Esperanto radio station.

  • Oni

    I disagree. Everyone should learn Ido instead.

    Soon the tyranny and cabal of the Esperantists will die. Their 110 year effort to snuff out Ido will die with it! And Ido shall reign as the supreme world language.


  • Onklo ENG

    Kara, think hard, Esperanto is recommended by UNESCO, due to the conspiracy many countries did not respect the resolutions.

    Please search Hungary Education in Wikipedia to see how many people are learning Esperanto. Unless you are able to read and write Esperanto, otherwise, you do not know how wide Esperanto is being used.

    Talking about the opportunity for jobs, Search Esperanto International Business as I cannot leave you the link here as it is banned.

    Again, I suggest you to search Malaysia Esperanto Studies Group to read the link articles.

    Hope that those monolingual can search Esperanto in the Facebook and Twitter to communicate with the Esperantists.

    Time in the internet age is no longer can hide the Esperanto in the closet. How many people are learning and using it, no one knows just as no one can count the basketball players in the world.

  • Vladimir Rogov

    Esperanto really helps to learn other languages, because people see how easy could be language learning. You need not to “sell it to the world”, just use it, just “think differently”!

  • While Esperanto is certainly an interesting language, and perfectly worth study – particularly for its positive effects on future language studies – I don’t think anyone will ever be able to sell a conlang to the world.

    Regardless of whether Esperanto may be the “best” for the job, and I think that learning and spreading Esperanto are great goals, I’m not sure what Esperanto in particular has to do with mental health as a result of language acquisition or bilingualism.

  • Onklo ENG

    Learning Esperanto is the cheapest of all the languages and Esperanto is the best business language. Search it in Malaysia Esperanto Studies Group page.

    Learning Esperanto needs less than 200 hours. Can you see the economy perspective ? That is why UNESCO recommended all the NGOs to use Esperanto in its 1985 resolutions although UNESCO already recommended in 1954.