Languages: road or summit?

3 minute read

Whether you need to prepare for examinations in order to study abroad in a prestigious university, or whether you need to improve your language skills to land that new job in the company of your dreams, sooner or later you find yourself with the daunting task of improving or even learning a language.

Online shift

The most common way to reach that goal is to enroll in a course or institution that will provide you the services that you need in order to reach your goals. Sometimes it works, sometimes it does not. There are different modalities to try and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. For instance, now a large portion of the world has made the switch to online learning due to the unfortunate situation that everyone is going through due to the CoVid induced pandemic. And this trend seems as it might stay for a while to come.

However, no matter what or where you decide to study, the same issues appear to arise among language learners. Countless stories of language learning plateaus, not being able to improve pronunciation, fossilized grammar and missed social contextual clues. The list goes on. But what would cause language learners to stay at the same level and lead them to wrestle with the same linguistic features of the languages they are learning?

One size does not fit all

Language learners come in all shapes and sizes, and learning abilities. Some are rather good with grammatical structures, while other seem to excel in pronunciation or writing skills. Nevertheless, many still seem to have difficulty making significant progress in their overall language level. If we wanted to completely understand this, we would need to carry out a myriad of tests and research that would provide the exact reasons as to why this happens. That is obviously something that is inconceivable at the moment and inefficient for the purpose of this light reading article. One thing that we could focus on, however, is the learning process itself.

Education misconception

One big misconception that the strict, curriculum education has imposed upon us, at least in the major part of the west, is the system of assigning grades, numbers or a specific system of measuring learners’ abilities. This system is carelessly adapted to language learning and expected to accurately measure progress by a student. Languages, though, cannot be encompassed in the same manner as math is. Languages are not entirely a closed system of a few variables, where if you reach a certain level or percentage of the language you are automatically a native speaker of the language you are learning. There is no 100% in languages, at least not for a very long time. So, is it then acceptable to say that we reached the top or that we dominate a language? You cannot fill your brain with language in the same way you fill a cup with orange juice.

Another way one could look at the language learning process is like that of a road. A road that leads to places you want to be in. A road that requires constant, consistent steps in order to get achieve those ideals you have of a language. However, as we mentioned before, languages are not static. They evolved and morph constantly, every day and at every moment. Therefore, these roads are in constant change, their length varies, their colors change and sometimes the destinations they lead to change altogether.

Slow and steady wins the race

Language learning is not a number you will reach, a percentage, a level; rather a journey, a road you must take and continue to trek, continuously, in order to become accustomed to its peaks and valleys. Taking this perspective on learning your next language will allow you to have a better relationship with your learning endeavors and will allow you to identify those roads you need to stroll in on a daily basis, bringing you closer to your language destination.