I met a Scandinavian couple the other day, who had visited Portugal countless times. They waxed lyrical about the country, its beauty, its history, its food, its people (I can, by the way, impartially confirm that their comments were spot on), and told me they would be moving there soon. Paperwork, housing and banking matters were all good to go, and they were delighted to have found a native who could answer their less bureaucratic questions.

I met a Scandinavian couple the other day, who had visited Portugal countless times.

They do?, I thought, wondering what everyone and English might mean, whenever anyone says what they’d just said.

The cumulative facts that I use more than the magical number of just two languages in my daily life and that I ‘work with languages’ apparently make me unsuitable to speak for the learning of new ones.

It tells me and other language learners that we’ve learned our languages because we were, literally, given something that we didn’t need to have merited to earn.

It says that in order to be able to learn languages we must be good at languages.

I’m saying that arguing that you can only learn to use new languages if you’re gifted for languages makes as much sense as arguing that you can only learn to use new smartphones if you’re gifted for smartphones.

Let me leave you with two other nuggets of wisdom about learners and learning: Aristotle’s “Consuetudo est altera natura” (‘Habit is second nature’) and Quintilian’s “Consuetudo certissima…

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