The Illusion of Language Learning

Sometime I get sick of it. Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I get upset. Sometimes I get ridiculously excited. Sometimes I get really inspired, but let me get this straight language learning is incredibly awesome, with all its ups and downs.

Language, like most things in life, is what you make of it. To me there are currently two camps in the whole language learning community. Those that go the linguistic way or are "realistic" and those that are language chasers, that want to to learn a language within a certain time, usually something ridiculously short. I often place myself in the realistic category, because I have a degree in linguistics and currently doing my Master's Degree in Hypermedia for Language Learning. Thus, I have covered a lot Second Language theory, among other linguistic theory; and just can't accept it.

But here's my deal. The two camps often have heavy debates going on. I've been caught in these debates before. Check my long post on Flashcards and Language Acquisition. However, I follow most of these blogs. Language learning fascinates me and I want to hear everyone's opinion.

Just today, on ChinesePod's Facebook Page, they posted a link to how a guy learned Mandarin in two days. Unless you're a savant, that is absolute nonsense. And this where I sometimes get irritated. This is promoting superficial learning. However, I got to thinking about this. Why does it really matter? Each one of us has a different goal. I love to get into the cracks of language. I love languages. I also spend of lot of time on linguistic forums reading up on interesting developments and get heavily excited about strange languages and interesting features. I like learning languages, just 'cause I really do. It's fun for me.

However, there might be others, who want to learn languages as quick as possible to achieve their own definition of fluency and use. To a linguist and language lover this might seem superficial and almost "wrong". I've come to terms with that. One more person learning a foreign language is awesome.

Language learning will take a long time to become consolidated into "THE" theory. The best and most efficient way is an illusion. That's what I dislike in the idealist language chasers. They believe that their method is the best. Rather than having humility and accepting that language learning is not about having the best method, but just about learning language. It becomes like a soap box and election campaign, which shifts the focus away from language learning to the politics of it. However, I have to admit, the belief in one's own method does promote a lot of motivation. That I admire.

I'm currently working on a mini-research assignment on how to revise and study Chinese vocabulary for a test using a multimedia application. I'm basing it on learning theories, but frankly I have no idea what to expect. I'm going to give to the application to Mandarin students to prepare for their test. I'm fully aware that my ideas and methods, might completely fail and that the application could be a waste of time, but that's what I learned in academics, especially the humanities and social sciences, that for a coin their's always another side.

If my application fails, I'll go back to drawing board - and here's my final point: the way you learn languages might be inefficient or might pail in comparison to other methods, but you chose to learn a language. No matter what your method, if you have the motivation, the worst methods will be become the best methods and inefficient will become fun.

Disclaimer: if you're one of those language chasers, I don't mean to offend. Your goals are admirable and I'm secretly jealous of your successes.

P.S. - I realize I sometimes don't make sense. Leave a comment anyway!