“I haven’t learned that yet”

Baby covered in spaghetti


Late August was spent in Europe being surrounded by various different nationalities who could switch from their native tongue into English without difficulty.  The annual frustration of not being at least bi-lingual if not multi-lingual surfaced again.

Now, if you are a mono-linguist, like me you have undoubtedly used the “I don’t have the language gene”, or “I hated languages at school” excuse. The horror of the stare from “Mr Murray” glaring at you as you once again demonstrated a lack of correct German grammar, is still imprinted on the frontal lobe!

However, two interesting articles I read at the weekend puts the learning into perspective.  Jon-Erik Jordan highlights the approach by his colleague Matthew Youlden who speaks a variety of languages.  Included in the article is that you should enjoy the experience and embrace mistakes.

Matthew’s advice “We learn by making mistakes. As kids, we are expected to make mistakes, but as adults mistakes become taboo. Think how an adult is more likely to say, “I can’t”, rather than, “I haven’t learned that yet” (I can’t swim, I can’t drive, I can’t speak Spanish). To be seen failing (or merely struggling) is a social taboo that doesn’t burden children. When it comes to learning a language, admitting that you don’t know everything (and being okay with that) is the key to growth and freedom. Let go of your grown-up inhibitions!

As another linguist, Tim Ferris advocates:-  “you can take advantage of the Pareto principle here, and realize that 20% of the effort you spend on acquiring new vocab could ultimately give you 80% comprehension in a language—for instance, in English just 300 words make up 65% of all written material. We use those words a lot, and that’s the case in every other language as well.”

Hence the photo at the start of this article. The young man will get to grips with a knife and fork eventually and master the art of controlling the spaghetti – but whilst he is learning, he’s having fun, embracing the mistakes and looks like he may well be enjoying the experience and undoubtedly in time he’ll adapt his skills for chopsticks, carving or paring knives or other culinary implements.

The same can be said for learning in the training room.  Whether you are getting to grips with management; presentation skills; telephone skills; stress management; minute taking; coaching and mentoring – when you start out, you’re like a toddler – learning the basics so you can practise, improve, gain confidence and master the technical complexities like a pro.

So, the challenge is to rethink your learning –  when you say “I can’t manage”, change the thinking to “I haven’t learned yet how to manage”.  When your response is “I can’t present”, alter the thinking to “I need to learn how to present”.

It isn’t reasonable to expect you will leave the training room with all those new skills honed to perfection.  But if you embrace the learning, accept that mistakes will be made (and that’s OK), constantly practise what you have learned , you will achieve what you set out to do – become proficient in your new skill and then you really can progress.

We are so fortunate to be able to work with enthusiastic delegates who embrace the opportunity to develop their personal goals, and our trainers enjoy the ride with them, learning together and taking the opportunity to acquire new skills.

….now “où est-ce que français dictionnaire”

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