This is the first of a two-part series in which I talk about impostor syndrome as a language learner. I know many of us in the language learning community have experienced or do experience impostor syndrome – that feeling that we're faking it, we're frauds, we aren't deserving of the praise we receive for our achievements, and one day someone is going to discover that we really have no idea what we're doing. There's a lot of content out there about impostor syndrome, both in general and with respect to language learning, but after a recent private conversation I had with Elle at Speaking Tongues Podcast (you can find her podcast here and YouTube here), I started noticing conversations, thoughts, and ideals within the language learning community that, in my opinion, sort of breed impostor syndrome – things that, I think, can easily lead to this phenomenon in a person’s language journey, even if they’ve never before experienced it in other areas of their life.
Today I explore some of these connections. I talk about how vague, undefinable goals (such as fluency) sets us up to feel like frauds throughout our entire journey. I discuss the link between labels or titles (such as polyglot or multilingual), and especially the underlying characteristics or expectations we have of someone with such titles, can leave us feeling like impostors in our own journeys. Finally, I dig into how putting our language learning idols up on a high-status pedestal and comparing ourselves to their accomplishments will always cause us to feel unworthy, fake, or deceiving in our own language achievements.
Discussions about wanting to become fluent, being an aspiring polyglot, or wanting to be like the most well-known language learners out there are very prevalent in language learning spaces, and I think it's important to deconstruct these ideals and dig into the underlying thoughts, expectations, and beliefs we associate with them. For me, I see a clear link between each of these things and impostor syndrome, something I've experienced for decades, and I bring them out today because I'm interested to know if others can see the same connections I do.
Other Language Content on Impostor Syndrome:
How to Overcome Impostor Syndrome for Language Learners by Lindsay Williams of Lindsay Does Languages
Impostor Syndrome When Learning English by Ramsay Lewis on Leondardo English
How to Overcome Imposter Syndrome When Learning Spanish by Luis F. Dominguez on Spanish Academy blog
Am I a heritage language learner, speaker, or impostor? by Sumanthra Govender on Belonging, Identity, Language Diversity (BILD) Research Group blog
Dealing with Imposter Syndrome as a Non-Native Language Tutor by Heather of The Lunar Treehouse blog
Impostor Syndrome? Prescribe Yourself Some Polyglot Community! by Richard West-Soley of Polyglossic
How to Stop Feeling Like an Impostor by Scott H. Young (Note: In the episode I state that I found no other resources making the same connections I do, but I found this article after recording, and Mr. Young does, indeed, claim one of the same links!)
How to Stop Feeling Like and Impostor by Scott H. Young (podcast version of article linked above)
Why do I feel like a fraud every time I speak English? The Impostor Syndrome by InFluency Podcast
Feeling like an Impostor in English? It's not you. It's the Impostor Syndrome by Accent's Way English with Hadar (video version of InFluency Podcast linked above)