A complaint I often hear is “I feel dumb in Spanish”. I don’t just hear this complaint from other students. I hear it in my own head as well.
It’s not a huge surprise we feel this way. But why does it bother us so much?
In this week’s mindset podcast episode, I explore the idea of feeling dumb in another language. I explore why it occurs. Why it bothers us so much. And what we can do about it.
In your target language, even if you reach mastery levels, you still aren’t going to be able to articulate yourself as well as you can in your first language. You aren’t going to be able to shape your ideas as precisely as you want to. Or express that emotion or feeling that perfectly captures the moment.
But this is natural, right?
Obviously, you aren’t going to be able to turn a phrase as well as you can in your first language. But why then, do we still feel so inept?
The strange thing is, in our first languages, whenever we feel dumb, we tend to get over it pretty quickly.
Sometimes when it isn’t a question of speaking a foreign tongue we embrace being dumb. We often approach the idea of a lack of intelligence as a badge of honor. We sometimes like to appeal or even promote our inner less articulate side.
On the other hand, some people like to use an apparent lack of intelligence as a strategy for persuasion or influence.
Yet, despite the advantages that being stupid—or thought of as stupid—poses in English we still cannot bear the thought of appearing dump in front of foreigners.
If you do encounter this thought pattern you need consider ways to push past this mindset hurdle. If you can’t, you may face a steep uphill battle on your language-learning journey.
The quote for this episode is actually a Spanish proverb:
“En boca cerrada no entran moscas” – Spanish proverb.
Literally – Flies don’t enter a closed mouth.
An equivalent in English might be: “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak and remove all doubt”.
Also another similar English expression: “loose lips, sink ships”.
How can you get over the feeling of being ‘dumb’ in Spanish?