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3 Life Lessons For Foreign English Speakers to Learn From ARNIE

3 Life Lessons from Arnie for Foreign English Speakers

I grew up watching Hollywood action films starring actors such as Sylvester Stallone, Jean-Claude van Damme and most notably – Arnold Schwarzenegger, otherwise known as ARNIE ❗

Well, I’m pretty sure I don’t have to be telling you that Arnie’s a former bodybuilding champion having won Mister Olympia title seven times.

His acting career and his trademark catch-phrase “I’ll be back” from the Terminator franchise is also something that EVERY person on the planet has heard of.

OK, I’ll admit he mightn’t be THAT popular nowadays among teenagers for the simple reason that new actors are constantly replacing the older ones and jacked up guys like Chris Hemsworth, Jason Statham, Hugh Jackman and dozens of others have claimed their place in the Hollywood action film scene.

You can’t deny, however, that for as long as Arnie is alive and kicking – and also beyond – he’ll be known as one of the most successful and iconic people on the planet.

And guess what?

He’s a foreign English speaker – just like you and me!

He’s been ridiculed because of his accent, he’s lost the count of times he’s been told to stop pursuing his unrealistic dreams and did you know that up until his early twenties he didn’t speak any English at all?

It didn’t stop him to pursue his dreams, however.

He didn’t give a damn about his lack of English skills or his terrible Austrian accent.

He focused on his dreams and goals eventually becoming the Governor of California (which is, believe it or not, the ninth largest economy in the world!) – and all that despite him not being a native English speaker!

Fair enough, me or you aren’t like Arnie, but there’s still a lot we can learn from him! 😀

Arnie’s Lesson #1: Critical Language Acquisition Age Is a MYTH!

There are people who strongly believe that once you’ve past your adolescence, there’s no way you can learn a foreign language to a degree of proficiency to rival that of you native language.

I’m pretty sure if you asked those people (scientists, linguists, whoever they may be…) the following question:

Can a 20 years old foreigner whose English is virtually non-existent, learn the English language to a level availing him to become a successful Hollywood actor and Californian Governor?

… they would be laughing at you!

They would most likely say:

No way! Once you’ve past your teenage years, your language learning capacity is rapidly declining and it’s not feasible to learn English at the age of twenty to achieve such ambitious dreams!

Well, Arnie’s life flies in the face of the critical language acquisition theory, and he’s proven something that those scientists will probably never understand.

Namely:

If you’re WILLING enough, you can achieve ANYTHING.

You can defy any rule of nature and science, and just make things happen.

If you don’t focus on English grammar and don’t spend your entire time filling in gaps in textbooks but instead live your life through the English language, your language learning curve is going to be 10 times faster.

I’m sure if Arnie was focused solely on his English improvement before he tried to make his other dreams come true, he’d still be probably poring over advanced English grammar textbooks in order to learn everything there is to know (it simply stands to reason that it’s just impossible to learn EVERY grammar aspect and EVERY English vocabulary word; our lives are just too short!)

Basically Arnie is a living example of how important it is to…

focus on goals (his acting career and civil service) rather than what’s needed to achieve those goals (excellent level of English). Had he been focused on the latter, he would have probably never achieved his primary goals; focus on the former enabled him to achieve English fluency at an accelerated rate.

Arnie’s Lesson #2: Foreign Accent is OK!

When Arnie just started his acting career and got his first role in the film Hercules in New York, his Austrian accent was so thick it’s actually quite hard to make out what he’s saying.

You may want to check out this video with highlights of Arnie’s speech from that film:

Please note that Arnie’s 22 years old at the time of making the film – so it was quite clear to everyone there was no way he’d ever learn to speak JUST LIKE a native English speaker in terms of accent and pronunciation (this is something I have to agree on – while it’s totally possible to achieve fluency in English in your later years, native-like pronunciation is a different kettle of fish…).

It would discourage just about ANY typical foreign English speaker from trying to achieve any proficiency in the language; their reasoning would normally go something along these lines:

  • I’m not capable to learn to speak in English with proper pronunciation and I’m really ashamed of even trying to speak;
  • Everyone’s going to judge me based on my accent and they’ll never consider me a fluent English speaker;
  • So what’s the point in trying anyway? May as well keep living in my own language bubble for the rest of my life!

Arnie didn’t give a damn.

He improved his English pronunciation to an OK level (so that people can understand what he’s saying), and that’s all that was needed for him to succeed in life!

He basically proved a very important concept:

Fluency and native-like pronunciation AREN’T THE SAME THING!

It’s totally possible to be fluent and speak with a foreign accent; Arnie is a living proof of that and even more – he’s used his Austrian accent very successfully as a trademark accent to distinguish himself from other native English speaking actors, and it’s actually worked to his advantage!

Of course, we’re not movie actors, but the very concept of not being ashamed from your foreign accent for as long as you’re understood is VERY IMPORTANT.

Arnie’s Lesson #3: Confidence Is ALL You Need to Succeed!

Was Arnie the biggest and most shredded bodybuilder of his time?

Nope! There were bigger and more muscular guys competing on stage, but Arnie beat them all with his CONFIDENT DEMEANOR. He impressed the judges with his stage presence and looked bigger than he was – and all thanks to his winner’s mindset.

Is he a very talented actor?

Nope! His acting skills are arguably just above average, and he would definitely not have achieved anything in Hollywood if he tried to beat native English speaking actors in their domain. What he did instead is the following – he created his own niche (a muscular, no-compromise macho man going around crushing people’s skulls) in the movie industry and dominated it for a decade!

Is he a super-intelligent human being?

Nope! But he never strived for perfection (perfection is a dead-end; you may waste your life trying to become perfect in some field and miss ALL other opportunities!) – he just wanted to achieve what he’d envisaged and that’s all.

His CONFIDENCE has always been the common trait in whatever he’s trying to achieve in life, and that’s the critical characteristics determining his success.

Now, what you and me can learn from it?

It’s pretty simple my friends:

  • You may find 101 excuses why your English is not good enough to achieve something (to land a new job, make English speaking friends, whatever!);
  • You may be shying away from human contact because you’re afraid of speaking in English with a lot of mistakes;
  • You may even be a super-perfect English speaker…

… but you will still suck at everything…

… if you don’t ACT CONFIDENTLY!

So, take these 3 lessons from Arnie on board, and you’ll see how much difference those concepts make in your life!

Thanks for reading,

Robby 😉

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • it is inspiring indeed, and I also have to admit that some people mightn’t even realize that up until his early twenties his English was next to non-existent!

  • Thanks Francisco,

    I used to watch his films all the time – as a matte of fact, I must have watched Terminator 1 about 20 times at least – to a point where I knew everything they were going to do and say! 😉

  • You’re dead right Sergio! If you’re aiming for perfection and you’re settling with nothing less than that, you’re doomed to fail right from the get-go. If, on the other hand, you’re trying to achieve your life dreams and ambitions and improve English as you go, your improvement process is going to take care of itself without you even realizing it!

  • Sachin

    This is really amazing… i bet very few people probably know he is a foreign English speaker and concurred the language in later stage.

    Really inspiring to all of us !

  • Francisco Javier

    Another excellent article, Robby.

    I’m used to watching Arnold movies and I can understand him easily. That speaks for itself.

  • Sergio Pinheiro Rodrigues

    The main lesson I can learn from Arnie’s example is that perfection doesn’t exist in English learning proces. Achieving fluency must be seen as a mean not as an end in itself.