How many vocabulary words? What score on the test? Can you read the newspaper in your second language? These are some of the ways we quantify the value of our language learning. In our view, however, there is a lot more to language learning than just the quantitative data that you get at the end of a course. Learning a language, any language, comes with the added benefit of many life lessons.
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Life Lesson 1: Hype is to be Ignored
When you explore the world of language learning, especially online and via study aides, books and apps, you will quickly discover a world of hype and inflated claims. The most outrageous of these specific to language learning is that you will become fluent in 30 days. Just as this is untrue, so too is just about every bit of hype you find in marketing, media, so-called reality TV and even in the words of people around us in our homes and workplaces. When you tune out the hype, you are not easily disappointed, and not easily distracted from more productive hard work.
Life Lesson 2: Hard Work and Consistency Pay Dividends
Some people expect to learn a language like people do in those montages in TV and film. It’s actually a painstaking process involving a lot of repetition, practice, mistakes and reviewing things that went wrong to fix them up again. In this sense, learning a language is a great reflection of life itself. Only when you work not just had, but consistently hard over a long period of time will you eventually get the rewards that you seek. Those who think that the reward will come after a short burst of exertion and hard work do not understand how the real world works.
Life Lesson 3: Learning Never Really Ends
When learning a language, we can complete courses, complete textbooks, take and pass exams, but the learning never truly stops. When you are finished in a formal classroom setting, the next stage of learning begins. This is an important lesson for life. Education doesn’t stop at graduation. In fact, the opposite is true. We are a species that will continue being curious and continue being in need of training, education and improvement.
To gain such improvement, we must be ready to always re-wear our student hats; to periodically become pupils and learn from others with more experience than us. That requires humility and a good amount of patience. Not everyone has it, but language learners do. Language learners know all too well that the deeper one delves into a language, the more you realize that you actually don’t know about it.
Life lesson 4: Realistic Goals are Important
Anyone who starts a language course thinking they’re going to learn 100 words a day for the next two years until they are fluent is deluding themselves. Setting unattainable goals in language learning is just a recipe for disaster; it’s setting yourself up for disappointment.
This skill of forming realistic and achievable goals translates well into our everyday lives both personal and professional. When we set goals that we can accomplish, we invariably accomplish them. Doing so fills us with greater confidence and energy to achieve more goals, and so the positive cycle goes on. The opposite happens when we set ourselves up for failure.
Life Lesson 5: Always Learn to Walk Before You Run
Once again, there are some who fancy themselves as aficionados in their target second or third language before they’ve even begun to study it. They don’t want to deal with the nuts and bolts, the basics in vocabulary and grammar; they want to charge head-on into the meatier “more substantive” content.
These are students who are trying to run before they can walk. A successful language learner knows that in order to build more advanced skills, one must first master the basics. It is upon those foundational lessons that we then construct our intermediate and higher knowledge, and so it is with life.
Life Lesson 6: Having Two Ears Means We Should Listen Twice as Much
Finally, since many experts point to the fact that listening is the key to success with learning another language, we say that it applies to life equally well. After all, our bodies come with two ears, but only one mouth. It follows that it might be a good idea to listen at least twice as much as we speak.
Learn a Language; Live a Life
If language is life, then learning a language is like living a second life. In any event, there are many more lessons outside of reading, speaking, writing and listening skills. See how much you can learn by trying out a second or even third language today!
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