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“I’m just not a
languages person”

“I’m just not a
languages person”


“I’m just not a languages person”

Have you heard this? Or have you said it??

Bec Howie from Irregular Endings and I had such an in-depth chat about so many things, I saved the second half of our discussion for this blog post. I interviewed Bec and published the first part of our interview on Language Learning Stories. 

We explored topics such as why Australia has such low levels of language learning, the pressure of achieving ‘fluency’ and what even is ‘fluency’ anyhow, and we sowed the seeds for what has now become Language Lovers AU – a community for language learners in Australia to share knowledge and hopefully facilitate meet-ups and possible language-related events in Australia.

Thank you again to Bec! You can read more about Bec here at Language Learning Stories, and be sure to check out her gorgeous products at Irregular Endings.


What’s your view on why people in Australia don’t learn a language as much as in other places? Why are we so adverse to learning languages?

I’ve got a couple of theories because I think about this a lot as well. I think if you’re already interested in languages like we both are, it’s even harder to understand why people don’t want to learn languages.

Australians really love to travel, so that has always puzzled me for people who love travel and from an immigration perspective and origin point of view, we are very multicultural and especially in Melbourne, we are really lucky to be surrounded by all of this stuff. But language is a part of this that just seems to get missed.

I’ve heard people say “I’m just not a languages person”. Australians seem to think about that in a particular way. Europeans think it’s quite natural for people to speak at least one other language than their mother tongue. I think we can be adverse to the idea – maybe it seemed hard at school or you had a bad experience and maybe you’ve decided language learning isn’t for you…

I think we need to get past that…

This is a quote from someone else – “you already speak one language, you can’t not be a language person” you just have to find the right way of learning that is interesting for you. You can decide you’re just not interested in learning a language but to say you can’t do it, is just a bad excuse! You can do it! Maybe sometimes people are a bit scared in putting themselves out there.

I don’t have the answer, but I think there is an inherent lack of confidence – in English speakers generally, not just Australians. English is a dominant language worldwide, and this can be useful, but it also narrows our horizons.


We put this pressure on ourselves if we’re not fluent or we don’t see ourselves even getting to fluency, so why would we bother getting started with a new language?

I completely agree, no one has to be fluent, you don’t have to aspire to be fluent. I think that learning a few words is fine, getting things wrong is fine. Getting to a point when I was ok making mistakes, was a huge moment. I am naturally a very perfectionist type person, especially when I was younger. Studying a language really helped me get out of that. I am still tempted to double/ triple check things, but now I am much better and just post things!

People come back and say “nice try” or we probably use this word instead and this is also so helpful as it helps me remember what not to do next time.

Things don’t have to be perfect when you say them.

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Posted by Irregular Endings on Sunday, 14 October 2018

Here in Australia, we don’t get exposure in putting ourselves out there in a new language, and if we can’t say something in a perfect way, we freak out.

Why would I bother learning French, Japanese, when everyone there speaks English, but actually no, they don’t and there are heaps of other reasons to learn!

It makes me die a little bit inside! It is true that more people speak English now, but there are so many benefits to speaking or just learning another language. Just knowing a few words, completely opens up your mind to how you see everything!

I hated French for the first 7 years I learnt it as a primary school student – we learnt animals and colours and I was bored!

Suddenly we were taught some verbs – and now this was appealing. I can say more than a single word in isolation. I distinctly remember this moment – but when I first realised Bonjour (means hello) and means Good Day -bon – good and jour – day it blew my tiny 13-year-old mind!

From then on I found compounds within words, I see this in English and in Italian and in German. This was a huge moment of understanding in my head!

Language learning is fun, but it doesn’t have to be all about presenting to 800 people in French, sometimes it’s more on a micro level. And humans are amazing, we made this stuff up!


Do people ask you what level you are? Do you use the Common European Framework of Reference for Language levels (A1, B1 etc?)

I don’t use these references, and we don’t use them much in Australia, but people often ask me.

I probably felt I was fluent in French when I was there last time in France. At the moment, my French feels pretty good, but I’m not confident talking about anything or any topic. It just goes up and down, whether this is fluency or not, I don’t really know.

It’s all about what you want to use your language for. When I was an au pair in France, I was very confident writing essays and speaking on all kind of things, but talking to a 5 year old was a whole other challenge! I’ve still got my vocab lists in my diary from that time – with all kinds of 5 year old boy words – dragon, sword, soldier, fighting, war – all kinds of random vocab!

You could be academic fluent and kids beginner!

Feels like it’s becoming a personal mission – if a friend says to me “I’d love to learn Spanish”- I say – go do it! I will convert you! And I can send you all these resources!

Maybe we should start a little movement!

There are some great language events around the world – LangFest, Polyglot Gathering and Polyglot Conference, but we don’t really have something like that in Australia.

Maybe if we could come up with something locally?  Watch this space, everyone!

Lingo Mama – a follow up to our interview which was recorded in early September …

Since this time Bec and I have been busy creating something for language lovers – Language Lovers AU.

Please join our group (Facebook) and belong to a community of language learners and language lovers in Australia.

We hope to bring you exciting language-related events and be a central place for language lovers to share ideas and resources.

See you there @LanguageLoversAU!


As always, please leave your questions for Bec or me below! We love hearing from you!


Until next time,

Lingo Mama


Penelope Wilson


  • Karina

    08.11.2018 at 21:48

    I really like the point that the end goal of language learning doesn’t have to be fluency. It provides both motivation and encouragement to just do something!

    • pennywilson

      12.11.2018 at 19:37

      Yes exactly! I think we can sometimes get caught up wanting to be perfect and to be ‘fluent’ but really the process of just learning a new language is something to be proud of.