Are You Up For An Experiment?

Day 379. Learning French on Duolingo and LingQ

If you’re learning another language, I’d love to hear which language(s) you’re learning, how long you have been going, and if you’re using any apps. Go ahead and leave a comment if you feel like sharing.

Why French, and why Duolingo & LingQ?

I picked French for the pure fun of it. I love the sound of it but to be honest, it’s a case of “unfinished business” for me. I thought I’d “pick up” some French when I studied languages in Saarbruecken, at walking distance from the French border, back in the early nineties. Turns out, my professor was right when she said we wouldn’t have time to “pick up” a third language while getting a translator’s degree in two.

But now it’s the perfect “guinea pig” for my language acquisition experiment.

So what’s the language acquisition experiment? And how can it possibly help you grow your business?

Well, I’m a pattern spotter, and I’ve seen how applying certain language acquisition principles to business building can help you make progress faster and with much greater ease. Let me explain.

I’ve been fascinated with foreign languages since long before I had my first Russian class at age 11 (Russian was the first foreign language taught back in East Germany). What I find most intriguing though is that despite schools and universities applying “proven teaching methods”, plenty of people never achieve fluency in another language, even if they live in a country where the language is spoken. Just like so many people looking to grow their business follow proven methods but don’t get the results they were promised and hoping for.

Something seems to be missing.

Then one day, I stumbled across a video titled, “The Difference Between Language Learning and Language Acquisition.” It caught my attention because, in my mind, there was no difference.

There is.

Turns out, there is a different approach that gets better results much faster

Language learning is about consciously studying vocabulary and grammar rules. It’s about analyzing, trying to figure out, memorizing, working hard, and passing exams. Chances are, it’s how you’ve been taught whatever language you might have studied. Chances are, it’s the approach you’re taking when it comes to growing your business. The thing is, there is often a sense of information overload, overwhelm, pressure, and stress.

Language acquisition, on the other hand, is about “getting out of the way” so that your brain can naturally, unconsciously, absorb and make sense of the information, and build the new skill effortlessly. It’s like children learn, and research shows that’s how adults learn best as well.

Language acquisition is about Trusting Your Magnificent Mind.

So, how does it work?

If you’ve used language learning apps like Duolingo or LingQ, you’ve experienced the principles of language acquisition in action:

  1. It must be interesting and relevant – everything is easier when you’re focusing on something you want and/or need
  2. It must be fun – nothing feels like work when you look at it as a game or an experiment
  3. Get a feel for the whole – immerse yourself in the language, not trying to understand, simply allowing yourself to get a feel for the sounds, melody, and rhythm of it
  4. Expose yourself to comprehensible input – it’s about connecting something unknown to something known, not throwing yourself into the deep end and drowning
  5. Get a mentor/guide – you make more progress faster when you have a guide – just like a parent guides a child learning to speak – someone who has your best interest at heart, who walks at your pace and stretches you gently so you can expand
  6. Take tiny steps without stopping – “When it feels hard, you’re skipping steps,” I tell clients all the time. Doing a little bit every day gets you moving farther faster than trying to get a whole lot squeezed into a day
  7. Focus on the “basic pieces” first. Once they are second nature, you’ll naturally start differentiating, appreciating, and understanding more subtle details
  8. Progress, not perfection – Mistakes don’t matter, in fact, they are needed. They offer invaluable information that helps you decide on your next move
  9. It’s not a race – no matter how many “Learn Spanish in 30 Days” books you buy, developing mastery takes some time. And there is nothing wrong with that
  10. Trust the process. Know that you’re getting better every day even if you’re not aware of it
  11. Keep going. No failure is a failure unless it’s your last move. “Everything works out in the end. If it hasn’t worked out yet, then it’s not the end,” Tracy McMillan says. I have nothing to add.

The first language I learned this way was Spanish over 20 years ago. After 9 months of study (just a few evenings a week, after work) I felt more comfortable and confident speaking Spanish than I felt after 6 years of full-time university study to become a translator for English.

These days, apps like Duolingo or LingQ make the Trust Your Magnificent Mind approach accessible to anyone. Just watch out, you might get addicted 😛

What if you applied the same principles to growing your business?

Imagine approaching all learning and creation, including for your business, as a series of experiments, fuelled by curiosity, without unnecessary pressure and distorted expectations, without worry about getting it right, being good enough, or reaching goals faster…

From my own experience, and from working with clients, I know that when you operate this way, what drops away is doubt, overthinking, fear, worry, indecision, procrastination, and overwhelm. What you’re invariably left with is what creatives know and love as FLOW: Effortless focus, a limitless fountain of creativity, feeling relaxed and joyful, and astonishing levels of productivity.

How would that show up in your business?

“For the first time in ages, I’ve been sleeping for 8 hours in one piece. I feel so relaxed and inspired. I don’t get caught up in other people’s little dramas, I get things done so much faster and frankly, the quality of my work has improved noticeably,” my client Vanessa shared after 2 weeks in “the experiment.”

The thing is, I’ve invited, well .. challenged 😊.. quite a few people to give this approach a try, even if it’s just for a few days to start. It feels unnatural and scary for most.

“But my business is important to me. I need to get stuff done and reach my goal. I can’t just go with the flow and treat it as an experiment!”

Well, if the way you build your business works for you, great. Don’t fix what isn’t broken.

But if it feels like hard work, harder than you thought it would, if it requires rigid rules, rituals, and discipline to whip you through your never-ending to-do list, if you’re exhausted at the end of a week, if it feels like you’re pushing a boulder up a hill, let me plant the seed in your mind that there is an easier way…

If you’re game, try it out.

If you’ve experienced Duolingo or the likes, if you got hooked on playing a little bit each day and looked back sometime later, amazed at how much you’ve learnt without any apparent effort, I invite you to take the Trust Your Magnificent Mind approach into your business. Start with just a day or a weekend and see what happens.

If you can’t imagine at all how that could work, I’m inviting you to sign up for Duolingo, pick any language that sparks your interest and give yourself a week.

Are you up for the experiment?


Anke Herrmann
Anke Herrmann
Anke started her entrepreneurial journey in 2004 when she quit her software developer career in the UK, moved to Spain, and started a sewing business, specializing in custom flamenco dance costumes. It felt like riding a wild elephant until she realized that building a business really is a CREATIVE PROCESS, just like sewing a dress or developing software - a magical mix of vision, skill, and soul. That insight inspired her to train as a coach so she could support other purpose-driven mavericks create a business and life THEIR way, but not alone. Now she brings everything she's learnt about business, tech, creativity, and psychology to help coaches and educators take their big mission project from idea to reality and beyond, to serve their clients through impactful online offers, without tech headaches - as their strategic thinking partner, trusted advisor, coach, and Tech Monster Whisperer. She loves her dogs, she's a passionate (certified) coach, author of Taming the Tech Monster, teacher, programmer, dressmaker, translator, and always learning. All her favourite quotes are Albert Einstein quotes, like this one: "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."

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