Learning a language is not about talent, or classes and teachers. It’s about your desire and motivation.
I fully believe that there is nothing a teacher can teach you about language which you can’t figure out for yourself. Even complicated grammar points become clear on their own if you spend enough time with the language. You might not always be able to explain it but you’ll be able to feel it.
If you happen to encounter a good teacher, you are fortunate.
Environment should not be ignored
This is an invalid statement. First, I think you really mean “being able to learn a language”. Second, one needs time, resources and motivation to learn a language. If you are missing time or resources, you will fail.
Does anyone think talent is part of it? Are some people just better at it than others?
For sure some people are just better at stuff naturally. My wife is very good at noticing in languages quickly. Some people just have to put in more effort for the same outcome but rarely anything is achieved with no effort on the part of the learner.
If you have never done it, it seems impossible and therefore they see a successful language learner as some kind of genius.
This is a good point. Cantonese isn’t any more difficult than mandarin structurally, but the lack of learning resources and written cantonese makes it seem much more difficult. However if you move to hong kong it will be easier for you to learn cantonese than mandarin. Unless you are lingosteve who went to Hong Kong to learn Mandarin.
Nice to have, but not a necessity. Another factor that some include is method. They have a point, but I think it’s pretty rare that a method is so bad it will make you fail.
I think all ‘methods’ boil down to the same thing. Even if you want to just speak, you are forced to find/learn words in order to even use them. It’s all just a case of getting words and learning to hear them in real contexts/conversations.
In my opinion, some people are gift to learn several languages. It might be a matter of effort and personal goals driving to acquire a new language, but there is certainly a little bit of talent. For example, some people can listen to others speaking in a foreign language and understand them better than talking to them. In my case, it is different because I feel a huge difficult to speak because I am not so good in listening.