Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

Innate talent or a learned skill?

Over on FB a friend posted about how she doesn't like the concept of "talent" and prefers to think of how with regular practice (within reason) anyone can learn a new skill to a high level. Someone then commented, "Why on earth do you wish to denigrate talent?"

Here's my answer...

Because it can be used as an excuse. How many people do you hear say, "Oh, I have no talent for maths!" In fact what happened was that they found it difficult and never bothered to try, preferring to believe that those who could do maths had some innate talent that they lacked. (Bad teaching also plays a part as the belief in talent extends to a lot of school teachers.)

Emphasising talent also downplays the hard work that so many "talented" people have put in. Some years ago when I did a B.Ed degree, I did a case study of a new way of teaching Welsh to adults. As someone who learnt Welsh as an adult and who (at the time) did not feel confident or fluent, I was doing the research partly in the hope of discovering the "one weird trick" that some people seemed to have. Why did some people, following the same courses as others, become fluent while others never got to use the language outside the classroom? My research showed that those who were more confident and spoke more fluently simply did more work. They practised diligently between lessons. Once I committed to spending an average of 45 minutes per day learning and practising Welsh, my fluency and confidence increased dramatically.

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