Extroverts and Learning Languages

For those who know me, it is no secret that I love to talk and I love languages. I love learning them, practicing them, deciphering them, learning about them – I guess I am a little bit of a hobby linguist. I am a native speaker of Norwegian, and consider myself fluent in English, Spanish and Italian, with a decent knowledge of French (I can speak it fine, I can read it fine, but sometimes struggle with understanding spoken French), and an intermediate level of American Sign Language (ASL.) I could, at one point, read a little Hebrew too, but that was mostly limited to sounding out words, and not understanding what they meant! But it was fun to tackle a new alphabet for the first time and I wouldn’t mind picking it back up. Oh, and I can understand quite a bit of Portuguese (one former boss was Brazilian) and people say I have good pronunciation when I give it a try. (I did a Pimsleur CD course back in 2008 when I went on vacation to Brazil – the listening only-method works well for practicing pronunciation.)

This was basically a very long way of saying that I enjoy languages, a lot. But my real point with this post was a small revelation I had the other day, when reading the wonderful blog of a Norwegian woman living in Belgium, C’est la vie! I have read her blog for a long time and feel her perspective very interesting, and sometimes, but not always, familiar. She writes a lot about language, the struggle to learn French, to reach a level where people take her seriously, where she can make good friends, all that very important stuff. Some of it I recognize very much, while other things seem kind of foreign to me (pardon the pun.) Then I came across an older post of her that I had somehow missed: It’s time for quiet. Here, she writes about the best-selling book of the same name, and how it gave her a revelation: being an introvert can be pretty difficult when it comes to learning a new language, a new culture, new social norms. She writes about how her integration process has often been painful and how part of that is related to the fact that as an introvert, she recharges her batteries by being alone, being quiet, while language learning and integration is a lot about being with people, engaging, conversing. Fascinating!

I have of course noticed before that I have certain personality traits that make it easier for me to learn languages: I like to meet new people, I talk a lot, and I am never worried about making a fool of myself when trying to speak a new language (or adapting to a new dialect, like here in Argentina.) But I had never thought about languages and being an extrovert before, but it makes a lot of sense! Because for me, it is refreshing and somewhat relaxing to sit around with a group of people and try to talk. It gives me energy and makes me feel good. So it means I don’t have to force myself to do any of those things that are important for language acquisition; they come naturally to me.

I found all of this very interesting and I am so glad fellow blogger C’est la vie made me aware of this book and therefore, made me have the same eureka moment that she had. The difference of course is that for me, it meant that my personality makes it easier for me to learn and practice languages. The downside of this, of course, is that I am not the linguistic genius that I thought I was! 🙂

This entry was posted in Norsk i Argentina, Norway in Argentina, Personal, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Extroverts and Learning Languages

  1. John Michael says:

    Dear Irene,

    Anyone fluent in four and 3/4 languages, only two and 3/4 are romance is a linguistic genius.

    Re French — I have the same problem. All the slurs and silent letters make one appreciate Spanish.

    One of the last gigs I had before retirement was to train individuals in rural counties to learn qualities and techniques of leadership. The first day everyone took a personality test (I think it is named Myers-Briggs after its creators). I was surprised to find that I am an extrovert by their definition. But their “extroversion” is different than the general assumption. Their typology defines extrovert as a person that gains energy from other people. It is not necessarily related to being outgoing and sociable.

    Thank you, though for encouraging me to speak other languages. It is making a real difference
    in my progress with both Spanish and French.

    See you soon

    John Michael

    • Dear John, thank you for your very interesting comment! And yes, I am familiar with Myers Briggs and their definition of extroverts; it definitely applies to me! I feel recharged when I am with people and get bored if I go too long without social interactions. There is a funny blog called Extrovert Problems (http://extrovertproblems.tumblr.com) and some of them are just so true for me. One says: Extrovert problem 22: Being home sick and having no-one to talk to. Yup!

      Looking forward to seeing you soon and we’ll speak lots of Spanish!!

  2. Wenche says:

    I A- magasinet fredag 8. november er det en spennende artikkel om å være innadvendt. Skrevet av Pål Johan Karlsen. Han skriver om Susan Cain. Twitter: @susancain
    Aftenposten har også artikler om dette nå, finner ikke den avisen akkurat nå…..skal lete mer.

    Hilsen mamma

  3. Så ikke denne før nå! Interessant å lese ditt, en ekstroverts, perspektiv – og tusen takk for veldig hyggelig omtale 😀

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