How To Never Learn A Language And Ruin Your Life In The Process

  • Donovan Nagel
    Written byDonovan Nagel
    Donovan NagelTeacher, translator, polyglot
    🎓 B.A., Theology, Australian College of Theology, NSW
    🎓 M.A., Applied Linguistics, University of New England, NSW

    Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator. Founder of The Mezzofanti Guild and Talk In Arabic.
  • Read time3 mins
  • Comments1
How To Never Learn A Language And Ruin Your Life In The Process

One thing that I’ve really tried to cultivate here over the past 5 years is a sense of community.

Whilst language learning is usually thought of and undertaken as a personal endeavour, we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that spoken languages are an interpersonal skill and therefore have everything to do with other people.

It’s hard to succeed at anything when you’re surrounded by the wrong individuals.

And I’m not just talking about people who intentionally drag you down either – indifference can actually be worse.

No matter what you’re trying to accomplish in life, you’ll have a far better outcome if you strive to situate yourself in a constant atmosphere of encouragement and positivity.

How I’ve succeeded at learning many languages and adventuring around the world for over a decade (and how I nearly didn’t)

I’ve lived all over the world this past decade and had many experiences that in retrospect I can’t even believe I had.

I’ve lived in remote areas of Egypt and learned Arabic fluently (I “nearly” married an Egyptian girl who spoke no English), travelled to and lived in Georgia (the country), Russia, South Korea, Eastern Turkey, the Irish Gaeltacht, Qatar and the Italian alps to name some.

As well as Arabic, I’ve had a chance to learn many other languages such as Russian, Irish and Korean.

I succeeded at doing so much that I set my heart to.


Because I made a serious decision long ago to remove and distance myself from negative, damaging personalities and environments, and to surround myself with people and things that build me up.

I placed an incredibly high value on my time and my attention.

I’d like to say this was an easy thing to do but it wasn’t.

It often meant taking a cynical and snobbish approach to relationships (Is this thing going to help me improve as a person/Is putting up with a person’s negativity or indifference worth my time?).

In many cases the answer was no (although it’s not always immediately apparent).

Reaching goals is not just about hard work (though of course this is crucial) – it’s also about discerning necessary/advantageous obstacles vs. obstructions to success.

You’ll never learn a language successfully without making drastic changes to your environment and relationships

My first Arabic teacher once said this to me:

“When you learn to speak Arabic, you’ll have two personalities – your English personality and your Arab personality.”

I understand this now (at the time I didn’t).

Not just the learning of the language but actually replanting myself into a new community surrounded by supportive people (both native and learner alike) meant that not only did I become a speaker of a new language but a new me developed.

The context that I chose to exist in and assimilate to is the reason why I’ve consistently succeeded at it.

Remove yourself from indifferent and/or negative environments and friendships, make drastic changes and allow it to change and improve you.

Not only will it improve your success with pursuits like foreign language learning but it’ll make you a better person overall.

🎓 Cite article

Share link Grab the link to this article
Copy Link
The Mezzofanti Guild



Who is this?The Mezzofanti Guild
Cardinal MezzofantiCardinal Guiseppe Mezzofanti was a 19th century polyglot who is believed to have spoken at least 39 languages!Learn more
Support me by sharing:
  • Reddit share
  • Facebook share
  • X / Twitter share

Let me help you learn a language

Donovan Nagel
Donovan Nagel - B. Th, MA AppLing
I'm an Applied Linguistics graduate, teacher and translator with a passion for language learning (especially Arabic).
Currently learning: Greek


Comment Policy: I love comments and feedback (positive and negative) but I have my limits. You're in my home here so act accordingly.
NO ADVERTISING. Links will be automatically flagged for moderation.


I have learned that a great way to improve your language skills is to accept criticism and to even solicit critique of your abilities. In my opinion this is true for other areas of life as well.

Obviously it hurts when anyone criticizes something about you. The key to success is to accept the criticism, understand that it is not a critique of you as a person and make an adjustment, if necessary, to improve upon the critique.

I spent three solid years, living in-country, spending over 95% of my time speaking the language, when one day I made a random statement, and a friend started laughing at me. In between her cackles and my annoyance I asked her to explain what was going on. Turns out I’d been pronouncing incorrectly the word “function” and for literally years no one had brought it to my attention.

I could have just gotten pissed off at her for making fun of me, but fortunately took a different path and took a step closer to speaking that language as a native.

Unfortunately, not everyone takes the time to differentiate between a personal attack and a constructive criticism. Those people constantly are missing out on opportunities to improve themselves.

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."
- Ludwig Wittgenstein
© The Mezzofanti Guild, 2024. NAGEL PTY LTD. All Rights Reserved.
Join The Guild

Let Me Help You Learn A Language

  • Get my exclusive language learning content delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Learn about the best language resources that I've personally test-driven.
  • Get insider tips for learning languages.

Language you're learning...

No spam. Ever.