The Power of Mindset


The most basic prerequisite of effective language learning is to genuinely believe that you can become proficient at the language you have chosen to learn. Combine this with clarity around your WHY for learning the language and you are starting your language learning journey from a solid place of 


Chaos on a Surface Level

Language is a medium we use to communicate in the real world. Among other things, the real world is built on complex systems and individuals living in their own separate realities so quite naturally when we take it in on a surface level there is a tendency to feel overwhelmed and lost.

When taking languages at their face value it is easy to get lost in the chaos of the very many details that make up the whole. Not unlike when I feel stuck in the real world, I often begin to feel stuck with language learning when I experience tunnel vision. 

This tunnel vision closes me off to perceiving the multiple possibilities that exist in any given moment. We see classroom learning as the only environment there is to learn in, not because we think it is the place that we learn best but because it feels familiar. We see grammar books as the only place to learn grammar instead of using these books to supplement the gaps from our real world interactions because we lack a frame of reference for this type of learning.

Consider this quote from Peter Senge, a systems scientist, about the difficulty of letting go of what feels familiar to organisations of people:

New insights fail to get put into practice because they conflict with deeply held internal images of how the world works … images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. That is why the discipline of managing mental models — surfacing, testing, and improving our internal pictures of how the world works — promises to be a major breakthrough for learning organizations.

Simplicity in Depth

When I first discovered language hacking I initially felt that this wasn’t something I could do. I didn’t see myself as an independent, critical thinker. Years of spoon feeding had led me to believe that I was either too lazy or too stupid to really think for myself and do things that I hadn’t seen other people in my immediate environment already do.

Nevertheless I was hooked and I thought I could at least learn from the language hackers through osmosis.

However as time past , I began to discover that language hacking was a lot simpler than the traditional way of learning I had picked up in my formal education. It wasn’t that these guys and girls were much more intelligent than the rest of the population, instead I started to see that they simply thought differently and perceived the world in a different way.

Hacks and principles like 80/20 started to make practical sense to me and began to shed light on a question that had been on my mind:

how can some people learn up to 10 languages or more within a couple of years?

As a language hacker I also started to focus more on similarities between languages rather than their differences. I used my brain to break conversational topics into groups and learn the keywords within those groups. I began to become more aware of myself and my self limitations.

Naturally when you find yourself speaking 2 extra languages within 3 months, you begin to start asking yourself:

well what else can I do now?

was it me that was holding myself back all this time?

Mindset Shifts

What stands in the way between a language hacker and a person who doesn’t believe they have the ‘language learning gene’ is simply a series of mindset shifts.

There was a time when I assumed that to become fluent in French I would need to reach a day where I wouldn’t not know a word. My mindset shifted around this the day I asked myself:

well is it true that I know every word in English?

There was a time when I thought that you couldn’t learn two languages at once, especially if they were of the same language family. I thought that I would only confuse myself and not learn either language. The following Confucius quote came to mind:

The man who chases two rabbits… catches neither

That was until I decided to do it anyway and found I did sometimes mix up the languages but I realized that the person I was talking to often understood and would teach me the correct word.