The Clock Starts Ticking
Starting tomorrow morning, you’re going to practice English, Spanish, French or other foreign language. For the following 6 days, for 8 hours per day, you’ll work on grammar, pronunciation, watch videos and listen to audio materials. You’ll write short notes, grocery lists and play games in the target foreign language. All well and good – BUT – a week from today, is it really reasonable to think you’ll be fluent in English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese or any other foreign language?
Of course not.
Could you learn a lot?
Could you manage key words and phrases?
Could you conduct a very basic “conversation” with someone in the foreign language?
Yet many language institutes and foreign language programs give prospective learners the distinct impression that in 48 hours, a weekend or a week, they can “speak” the foreign language of their choice. This is misleading for the learners, but often quite profitable for the language institute or program directors.
Learning any foreign language is not an easy, quick or simple affair. Real mastery, if indeed it ever truly comes, may take years of practice and painstaking effort. This need not at all to be a dull, boring affair. Foreign language learners can, and should, enjoy the majority of the process. They should continuously applying their continually improving foreign language skills to chat with friends and neighbors, conduct everyday life tasks, interact with target language-speaking locals on the job,, to shop, to sample a variety of foods and in general soak up the culture associated with their target foreign language.
When considering or continuing the learning of a foreign language, you should pay no heed to outrageous claims of super-rapid foreign language acquisition. Instead, focus on developing functional ability.
You might think, for example, can you:
o Ask for or give directions?
o Tell the time?
o Shop and bargain for purchased goods?
o Conduct a bank or other financial transaction?
o Introduce yourself?
o Order food and drink in a restaurant or on the street?
o Haggle with a street vendor?
o Make “small talk” with a stranger?
By focusing on what you can do in the foreign language, you will shift your view of its acquisition to long term vs. short term progress, enjoying your skills development along the way.
So, starting tomorrow morning, you’re going to practice English, Spanish, French or other foreign language. For the following 6 days, for 8 hours per day, you’ll work on grammar, pronunciation, watch videos and listen to audio materials. You’ll write short notes, grocery lists and play games in the target foreign language. Only this time you’ll be focused on your functional skills development – that is, what you’ll be able to do in your target language.
No, you can’t learn a foreign language in 48 hours, but you can take a few steps forward towards greater fluency.