Are you pushed or pulled towards your languages?

Something occurred to me just now regarding personal motivation in the study of languages.

It often starts with a push. School pushes us. Parents push us. Some of us get a taste and want more during the school years; lucky them. The language begins to exert its pull on them.

Others already know what they want to achieve and where they want to be in x number of years. That desire, coupled with effective study habits, is their manageable link to the language, the future.

Looking at my circumstances, I realise that I am learning my languages for personal historic reasons. Between the ages of 5 - 13 I wanted to be able to speak:-

Russian because the first male voices I ever heard were Russian. This interest was rekindled here in England and only this year I have started enjoying learning Russian, all the years before I felt an utter failure at it.

English because I was fascinated by the American soldiers stationed in our little town. They were so clean and healthy and always seemed to laugh when we walked past their barracks on our way to school (a couple of villas in a very posh street, the barracks, not the school). School soon cured me of my fascination.

I decided on French long after my debâcle with it at school while I was on holiday in St Tropez with two suitors. Neither of those passions survived, but I never let French die completely within me. LingQ made it come alive for me, finally. MissTake, Marianne, Serge and other tutors helped greatly.

Swedish interested me when I was 11 or so. My mother used to have a Swedish penfriend during the Nazi years and this Tante Berit wrote to me also, from time to time. But then in 1958 Sweden beat Germany (totally unfairly from my point of view at the time) in the World Cup due to their psychological-warfare chants of “Heja, heja Sverige” and the Swedish language lost its attraction - mind you, I had not even started learning it, apart from “jag älskar dig” which I had planned on saying to Tante Berit’s son Lennart when I made my first trip to Sweden. When I joined LingQ I remembered a friend had moved to Stockholm and Swedish became interesting again. I found it extremely hard. It is only this year that I am enjoying the language and the progress I am making.

Italian because a really nice girl in my class took private Italian lessons when we were 13. Her parents had in villa in Italy. I was so impressed that somebody would do extra classes to learn something - I tended to bunk off school - that I thought it would be good if I also learnt it. I never did. Now, thanks to LingQ, I got a good reading understanding.

Japanese because as a child I read “Tsushima” by Frank Thiess. I wanted to be able to talk to people whose navy had been able to beat the Russian navy. (I was rather a militant little girl it seems.) No success so far, despite some wonderful Japanese members here on LingQ. At one point I was able to read two of their scripts.

There was one exception:

I wanted to learn Spanish because husband no. 2 loved it and I wanted to understand what Spanish had that interested him so much. LingQ and Berta and alsuvi helped me find it.

As you can see most of my language history is a child’s daydreaming, none of them had a strong pull for me. Now I find it is more about enjoying the journey and enjoying every little progress.

I realise this post would fit in well with another thread which was running for a couple of weeks not so long ago. Perhaps I should have searched for it.


Happily enough, nobody pushes me towards learning foreign languages. In addition, nobody pushes me away from the environment where no other language other than Japanese is necessary. I am simply enjoying writing in English, in other words, I am trying to express myself in a language other than Japanese. German constitutes my nostalgia. I want to revitalize some part in my brain where German words and syntax are sleeping.

Every one has nostalgia in his mind; some one even feels nostalgic to the word nostalgia. The German language constitutes part of my nostalgia in my mind. I wonder if I am breaking ordinary collocations in the English language, intentionally or unintentionally.

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What a lovely post, SanneT

As an English speaker I guess I have to say mostly Pull,

For me French was a Push… a parental decision since I started Elementary school in a 80% French language curriculum…going to about 50% at age 12 and 25% at ages 15 -18. French Immersion for those who know the Canadian school system. So French has been a strong second langauge for me since I can remember. Despite 10+ years of almost total neglect, and thanks to a large part on the motivation and resources of LingQ, I am pretty advanced in my passive skills and at least high intermediate in my active skills at moment.

German has been a Pull… due to my father being a German immigrant from Berlin ). I am not very good at it but I have heard it being spoken all my life and can muddle through most simple conversations. I also spent a highschool year in Hamburg, but my classmates all spoke English to a degree that it just felt troublesome trying my German on them.

Chinese… a Pull… I thought at the time it would be the ultimate achievement to learn this glyphic script. Now that I have learned it to a moderate degree I realise I will never really learn it as I foolishl once imagined.

Arabic, a Pull… for the same reasons as Japanese. Still rock bottom beginner 3 years later… unlike the other languages I guess I can say i have a few other higher priorites like family and job etc.

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@SanneT - Interesting post. (Your username reminds me of “Sanity”. Is that intentional?)

Should ‘intentional’ read ‘international’ or something?
Although my sarcasm detector is not complete, I sense something strange in the usage of the word.

(This comment erases itself soon, for some reason.)

@Yutaka - SanneT and ‘sanity’ are homophones. That is, the words sound the same. I think it would be funny to have a username “sanity”. That is why I asked her if she meant to create a username that sounds like “sanity”, was it intentional or just a coincidence? “sanity” is nice. Better than “insanity” for a username.

I should use caution when making jokes involving language with an international audience.

Some times something sounds different in another language. For example, in Korean, to be polite, you say the person’s name plus ssi (씨). My name + ssi has a rather regrettable meaning in Korean. Don’t ask. Makes me blush. Before I knew that, I joked that I didn’t care what the Koreans called me, now I am very particular about how my name is spelled in Korean.

I don’t think they are homophones. If I am not mistaken, ‘T’ is pronounced differently from ‘-ty’. The latter sound is shorter than the former.

@ All

Thank you for the roses. Let our pushes be turned into pulls where languages are concerned and may our pulls be strong!

Wish I could claim intent as to my username. Years ago I was asked the same question here and the reply I gave then is still valid: “Sa…T” stands much more for fluffy chaos than for sanity.

You and @Yutaka are both right concerning the pronunciation of ‘my’ -T", the way I stress this username does give it a longer sound.

An English native, however, from wherever around the globe, not familiar with my real name, would automatically think of the “ty” pronunciation.