comingtogetherI have recently seen some rather nasty attacks launched by members of the language learning community against other members. In any large group, there are bound to be some friction between members. It’s only human. Not everyone is going to get along with everyone else.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve seen hostilities, either. Some people who want to be seen as better will lash out to push others down, thinking that will help them. I’ve even seen one member telling others not to post on a Facebook group because their English, as a second or third language, was not like that of a native. Such activities like that go completely against the whole ideology of learning a language.

So what upset me with these recent events?

First, they were launched against people who have worked long and hard at not just learning but also in teaching, inspiring, and supporting others. The targets were people who have done an incredible service for language enthusiasts everywhere, often providing a stepping stone or guiding light into the multilingual world.

Second, the negative feelings towards the individuals seemed to be more personally based rather than factual. That is, the angered member felt they needed to tear down the other out of a personal dislike, then justify it by accusing them of things which could not be proven or were completely false.

Now, this is common among people in many areas. We build someone up over time, or they strive to become celebrities in their own right because of the work they do. Then, we reverse course and start becoming envious. We feel that their success somehow must be stolen or wrong as a way to justify our own failure to achieve the same, so we start demolishing them. Whatever they do, we object to. Rather than praise them for what they have done, we dismiss it all. We are almost literally building an idol to praise then yanking it down again because we feel inferior.

Why seeing this made me angry and frustrated is because language learning is not a competition. What one person achieves does not take away from what another person does.

Furthermore, those who have pushed themselves further are also often the same ones that will turn around and help others. They write blogs, sharing their stories and advice. They create videos to inspire us. They publish books to help us specifically with a language or to pass along more general information about the path to fluency.

So what were the complaints of the “haters”? They doubted the capabilities of the others, questioning not only how fluent they are in a language but even impeaching their passion for languages.

When the other made any income off of helping others, they were accused of “just doing it for the money”, even when that was obviously not the case. Someone doing what they love and earning money doing it is most people’s ideal situation, so why do we need to condemn those who manage it?

I even saw one person go so far as to make a video, accusing another person of being a “scam artist”. Really? So rather than spend the time learning, helping others, or creating something positive, this person chose instead to accuse another language learner of being false.

Languages, our passion, bring us together, and together, we can all help each other. We also use languages to meet other people around the world, to learn about their cultures and lifestyles.

We must never use them as a means to tear each other apart.

  • dandiprat

    Sometimes other language learners do rub me the wrong way. Maybe once or twice I’ve sounded critical when I shouldn’t have. Particularly many of the younger polyglots. I feel bad about it. Usually there’s a lot I’d like to say to these people, but I do my best to hold back. I should do better. I know. Thanks for this post.

    • Erik Zidowecki

      I think most of us will become angry at some point with certain people in the community. That is natural. No one likes everyone. I see a major problem when someone uses that in a very public space, like Facebook.