Calathea, Begonia Maculata, Anthurium, Monstera Adansonii, Monstera Deliciosa, Peperomia, Ficus Tineke, Golden Pothos, Scindapsus Pictus Argyraeus, Tradescantia Zebrina, Caladium, Impatiens… If these words immediately trigger an image for you, you must belong to the plant lovers club. However, if you’re not particularly passionate or knowledgeable about plants, this might sound like a foreign language. That’s probably why my colleagues were very impressed. During our weekly call, when I was showing them my plants, I was expecting to receive compliments for their beauty (I’m a proud plant-mum). However, they seemed to be more amazed by my knowledge. They pointed out that it's clearly my passion and that's how I manage to remember so many names and which plant is which. While all this seemed obvious and easy for me, it clearly wasn’t like that for them. This realization made us reflect on how my interest for plants was reflected in my language and how easy it is to remember things we are passionate about. Obviously, this applies to learning a foreign language in general.
When you’re passionate about something, there’s so much joy and reward in it that any effort becomes easy. Whether it’s remembering when to water your plants, or memorizing their names, it’s a fun activity rather than a task. So how can we use this for language acquisition and memorize foreign words with ease? Simple, just focus on your passion and let it trick your mind to acquire a new language. Many schools are teaching a specific subject like math or science in a foreign language. And they actually achieve great results by focusing not on the technicalities of the language itself but on a specific topic. The students are forced to apply the language right away and since they’re doing it for a subject they’re interested in, the process is much more enjoyable and effective. You don’t have to go back to school to give it a try. Instead, go on Youtube and watch a video about something you’re passionate about, whether it’s fashion, science, art or cars. But search for it in German (translate the word beforehand, if necessary). Or if you're into Netflix, switch your audio and subtitles settings to German. Or read a book in German about something you're passionate about. For example, I just happened to receive a plant guide in German: "Das kleine Handbuch für Pflanzeneltern". It’s a topic I enjoy and I already know a lot about. So, even if I never thought to look for plant care advice in German, I’ll make a nice, fun, and entertaining reading out of it, while also learning new words.
Now what if you don’t have a passion and you’re thinking “there’s nothing I’m so excited about, that I would even enjoy doing in German”? We are often told that we have to “discover” our passion, as if we were secretly assigned one at birth and we’re destined to find it. I believe that you can (also) grow your passion from a tiny seed. If you invest time and dedication into a mildly pleasant activity, you might soon discover how rewarding and enjoyable it has become, to the point that you somehow got addicted to it. What else is passion if not something you cannot imagine not having in your life? When people ask me whether I’ve always been into plants, I don’t really know what to answer. I haven’t had plants until a couple of years ago. I always liked them but didn’t feel the urge to bring plants home. Then one day I bought one for my office. Then I was gifted another one. Then winter came and I took them home and started to speak to them. Then I couldn’t part with them, so when I moved abroad, I just took them with me in my new home. And I slowly kept adding to my collection. However, it wasn’t until this spring (also known as “The Lockdown”), that I started to really put energy, time, and dedication into it. It was a gradual change, an increasing affinity for plants, that grew into a true passion. And now when I look back on it, I feel that I always had it in me, I just didn’t pay attention before. Don’t settle with not having a passion. Be open to new things, invest some time and energy in them and actively look for beauty in activities you haven't tried before. Soon enough you’ll find at least some of them rewarding and you will have grown a new passion.
And, most importantly, remember to integrate the language you’re acquiring in this passion. It will be so much easier than just learning random words and phrases or grammar rules. That’s why your UNUmondo journey always starts with asking what’s YOUR personal need for the language. Do you want to use it socially or for daily activities, with your colleagues at work or with the team you’re doing sports with? What are you interested in? Once you’ll connect your need for the language with something you really enjoy doing, the learning journey will be motivating and easy. You should actively use it in your life. Therefore the language you learn must be relevant and meaningful for you, it should enable you to connect to what you enjoy doing and to people, to make yourself understood and communicate in real situations. Ultimately, it should make you feel better and enrich your life, because it brings so much more than just one more language on your resumé.
And maybe, you will discover that learning a new language in itself has become your passion :)