As I’ve been reading a lot of blog posts and listening to podcasts about language learning the past few weeks, one major theme has run throughout the recommendations I’ve come across: the importance of having clearly defined goals. People may mean very different things when they say they want to “learn another language,” and it’s helpful to clarify what you mean in saying this.
Specifically, there are two questions to ask yourself:
- What do I want to be able to do in this language?
- Why? What is at the core of my desire to learn a language?
The first question is a way of stepping back from all of the talk about proficiency levels and grammar and theory, and just getting practical. Perhaps you want to be able to travel in a particular country and be able to do everyday tasks–order at a restaurant, ask for directions, or book a hotel. Or maybe you want to be able to make local friends and enjoy relaxed conversations, but not necessarily dive into philosophical discussions.
When I say I want to become fluent, what I mean is this:
- I want to be able to have a job that requires communicating with native speakers regularly.
- I want to be able to translate.
- I want to be able to have deep, meaningful conversations with ease.
Why? If my travels in Latin America have taught me anything about language, it’s that it is a tool for connecting with people. I don’t want to learn Spanish just to have another language under my belt. Though I love linguistics and find language fascinating, the language itself is not the end goal. I want to be able to connect with people from other places and cultures on a deep level, and I don’t want fumbling over language to get in the way.
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I’ll be sharing my clearly defined goals later this week, but for now I’d love to hear from you! How would you answer those two questions?
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