Are Brits Terrible at Learning Languages?


Are British people terrible at learning languages?

Youtube duo Joel and Lia set out to prove otherwise, each undertaking to learn a foreign language in 30 days with the help of Rosetta Stone. – watch their video diary to see how they got on.

The problem with being British…

The British are not renown as the world’s greatest linguists. Few school systems demand less foreign language learning from their children and having a native language that is the ‘lingua franca’ of the world, tends to make Anglos lazy…

“Growing up in the U.K. is so different to anywhere else because as young people we are told that no matter where in the world we find ourselves, whether for work or travel, we will always be met with an English speaker. I remember my parents once saying “Don’t worry everyone knows English, so you’ll never find it difficult to communicate”. In school, our curriculum encouraged us to learn a language, usually only French or Spanish, but it was never deemed as important as other subjects such as Maths or Science. As much as we have found this stereotype to be true, it really does bother us and it isn’t something we Brits are necessarily proud of.”

The 30-day challenge

To prove the stereotype wrong, Joel and Lia have been working with Rosetta Stone, learning Spanish (Joel) and Japanese (Lia). They set themselves the challenge of seeing how much  they could learn in just 30 days: “We wanted to challenge ourselves to see if British people really are ‘terrible at languages’, a stereotype that has existed for as long as we can remember.”

Here’s how they got on….

Joel learns Spanish

“I started learning Spanish in the classroom back in secondary school. Although I’m English, people sometimes ask me if I’m Spanish because I have olive skin and dark features. But there is more to it than that! I wanted to learn Spanish because it’s something I started and never finished. My level of Spanish was very basic and since age 16 I’d forgotten a lot. Obviously, I know that learning is an ongoing process, especially with languages, there is always more one can learn.

The Rosetta course has been amazing so far, I’ve found myself enjoying the way that the lessons feel like you are figuring things out on your own. It doesn’t spoon feed you any of the answers. It will show you one image – you’ll hear the word out loud, then another image is shown and you’ll hear the word out loud, and then it’s up to you to decipher what the meaning of the third image is. If you’re already on your Rosetta Stone journey then you’ll know what I mean! It’s like putting together a puzzle. Whenever I’m learning I do find myself thinking howBritish language learner effective the method is. Lots of my friends in London have complimented me on my progress and I’m looking forward to practising with them as my confidence builds up.

One really great feature of the app is that if you’re on the go – there are still lessons for you. Listening is so important, I could be on the train and listening to my Rosetta Stone app, and save my speaking class until I’m in a more suitable place for it. It really is built to suit people who are eager to learn but perhaps don’t have hours and hours of spare time to set aside.”

Lia learns Japanese

“So I’ve been learning Japanese. Yep, Japanese! Initially, I was going to choose French but I thought to myself, when am I ever going to have the opportunity to learn Japanese from scratch with a course as good as what I’ve heard about Rosetta Stone? It was now or never. I’ve always been obsessed with Japanese culture, food, and traditions. My favourite writer is Haruki Murakami, his books have been best sellers in Japan and translated into 50 languages. I fell in love with his novel Norwegian Wood, it’s such a beautiful love story. It’s an ambitious goal of mine, but I’d love to be able to read one of his books in Japanese one day. Bear in mind I’m a complete beginner! Excitedly, I started my course with Rosetta Stone. 60 days in and I’m still as excited to work on my Japanese as I was at the beginning. The lessons are fantastic, you choose from pronunciation, grammar, vocabulary, listening, and reading.

I find that I make the most progress when I repeat parts of a module that I’ve done the day before. Obviously, this can add a little bit more time onto the 10 minutes a day, but it’s so worth it. Repetition is key to making sure it sinks in (it is for me, at least). As a slow learner, I can’t fault the app in any way.

British language learner1

I’m really grateful that I get to practise Japanese with some of our viewers on YouTube over a video call. Whilst at first this was nerve wracking, it has been amazing to see how many people are willing to offer up their time to help me with learning their language. I really had nothing to fear. I realised on this journey with Rosetta Stone that my only obstacle was myself. As long as I have determination (and WiFi) I can do anything!”

Both of us

“Overall we would like to thank Rosetta Stone for this fantastic opportunity. We are so grateful for the courses they have created, our experience has been a hugely positive change and one we’ve wanted to make for a while. We are both quite geeky when it comes to efficiency and productivity, and you’ll be surprised how amazing it feels doing 10 minutes of learning every day. We chose to make it a morning activity, and what a great kick-start to the day it has been. Make it part of your routine, accomplish your goals, just go and make it happen!

You can watch our progress video. You’ll also find our discount code in the description box! Don’t forget to leave a comment on YouTube if you found our channel via Rosetta Stone’s Magazine!”


Joel and Lia

About the Author Joel and Lia

Making videos about all things British!

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