Succeeding in learning a foreign language, especially one very different from your native tongue, requires many traits: a good memory, time management, the ability to experiment and learn to pronounce foreign sounds, listening skills, and an analytical ability to comprehend and use various grammatical constructions.
But there is one critical trait that is often overlooked and can mean the difference between giving up and becoming fluent: humility. [謙虚 (けんきょ) in Japanese]
Humility, or being modest, makes it easier to recognize your own mistakes, and leverage the constructive feedback you receive from others to improve. It also allows you to study more closely with your peers and learn from them, regardless of the amount of experience they have studying the foreign language in question.
Staying humble allows you to keep learning more about a foreign language with five, ten, or even twenty years under your belt. I think many people after some point will decide within themselves that they are “fluent” or “fluent enough”, which will reduce how much new information they absorb, and prevent them from becoming truly fluent.
One great thing about learning foreign languages is that no matter what other subjects you excel in, odds are that – unless you are a linguistic genius – learning a new language will take a huge effort and time investment. Even if you live in an environment where you hear that language spoken on a daily basis, it will take years until all the cracks in your knowledge are filled up. So throwing any preconceptions about what you are good at, or think you should be good at, will just make the learning process faster.
In the spirit of humility, I’d like to invite anyone to offer corrections or comments about any of my past or future blog posts, from beginning students to native speakers of Japanese. Even though one of the main purposes of this blog is to teach things about Japanese to others, I still have a great deal to learn, and I want to keep that in mind every time I make a post.
On occasion, I also post comments on other people’s blogs about unnatural, or incorrect Japanese. Please don’t take that the wrong way, and if you think I’m wrong or don’t appreciate the comments feel free to let me know (: