Tag Archives: Goals

Patience and The Linguist

One of the biggest problems with the approach of formal language education is that there seems to always be present a growing need for the students to learn faster. Faster. Faster!

The pressure to absorb information quickly is an on-going issue. Because so much of learning is about digesting information, actual learning takes time.

However, those in charge of educational systems around the globe seem to think that large quantities of information being, quite literally, shoved down a student’s throat is productive. And when the student can only retain about 50-70% of what they have learned, long-term, and they can only use that information with moderate accuracy, it somehow becomes the student’s fault.

But I have some thoughts…

  • Why do we require language students to learn the same amount of content in one year that a native speaker would take 2-3 years to learn?
  • Why do we not acknowledge that a brain that has already adopted and been shaped by a native language is not going to be able to learn a second language at the same rate as native speakers of said second language?
  • How do we not see that the filter of one’s native language is used to process information about any subsequent languages? (This filter adds additional steps for the language learner to think through, if true mastery is to be achieved.)
  • Why don’t we acknowledge that memorizing vocabulary and grammar constructs is not the same as actually learning a language?
  • Why aren’t we allowing language students the time to digest information before requiring them to learn more information?

I am two years and nine months into my Chinese language journey. According to native and non-native Chinese speakers, the consensus would be that my Chinese level is lower than the level of my peers who have learned Chinese in a formal setting. The chart below demonstrates how my language skills compare to those of my peers.

MIRACLE PEERS
HSK Level (1-6) 2-3 3-4
Pronunciation Skills Intermediate Beginner
Amount of Grammar Memorized Beginner – Intermediate  Intermediate – Advanced
Ability to Use Known Grammar Advanced Intermediate
Speaking Skills Beginner Intermediate
Reading Comprehension Intermediate Intermediate
Translation Skills (Chin. to Eng.) Intermediate Beginner
Listening Skills Beginner Intermediate
Writing Skills Intermediate Intermediate
Dedication/Consistency Extremely high Varies
Motivation Extremely high Varies
Joy Extremely high Varies

 

SnailI learn slowly, but I learn well. I review often and compare Chinese grammar constructs to those in English. Slowly, but surely, I am starting to actually FEEL Chinese. The language no longer just abides in my head. The language is starting to become a part of my being. My goal is to one day speak this beautiful language from my heart – not from my brain.

This is the difference between memorizing aspects of a language and becoming one with the language. Language is a living and breathing entity. Approaching it as such, while giving it the respect that it deserves, I believe will ensure exceptional success with the language in the future. So, I am in this for the long haul. I may be moving at a snail’s pace right now, but the benefits of learning with patience with show in the future.

In regards to my current Chinese level, I may not be able to communicate in the language as well as my peers at the present time, but I fully expect to catch up to my peers within two years, and to surpass them within four years. My goal is to speak clearly, to use grammar naturally, and to comprehend spoken and written Chinese more like a native speak with each passing year.

In summary, by many accounts, I am not performing up to par. But, I believe that my patience and my attention to detail will pay off in the end. This is the ground work for the linguistics research that I expect to be a part of in the coming years.

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Set a Goal

No matter where you are on your English journey, you surely have pronunciation goals that you have set for yourself.  Maybe you have big dreams of being able to speak English like a native. Maybe you want to earn a promotion at work.  Maybe you want to study at a university in the US. Maybe you just want to be able to sound cool with your friends.

 

Whatever your English pronunciation goals are, you have to identify them clearly before you can expect to make any significant progress in the desired areas.

 

Once you have identified your goals, you will then want to identify the key tools, resources, and people who can help you reach your goals.  Keep in mind that a person is not necessarily able to teach you native English pronunciation, simply because they speak the language.  It is better to seek out someone who has been trained in the field of language sounds and how to pronounce them if you really want to maximize results in this area.

 

The majority of our students have the goal of speaking English clearly.  They want to be understood. They do not want to have to repeat themselves over and over again because the listener does not understand their pronunciation.  They want English speakers to engage in conversation with them with ease – with a certain comfort level.  It is considered a great compliment in these cases if native speakers understand a non-native speaker’s English with minimum confusion.

 

Then there are the students who set the goal of sounding as much like a native speaker as possible. They take pleasure in receiving feedback that they pronounce English words like native speakers.  They work hard to master the techniques required to speak a foreign language correctly.  Often times, such individuals are teachers, professors, and linguists.

 

But, no matter if you simply want to improve your English pronunciation, or learn to pronounce English sounds like a native speaker, or even if you strive for some sort of balance between these two extremes – understanding your goal is the first step to success.  From there, you will need to find a qualified individual who can help you achieve your specific goals.

 

Students who move forward with learning without understanding their goals often find themselves frustrated.  They go in circles without feeling like they have achieved any significant success.

 

 

And as you set your goals, we would like to remind you of the following:  A language cannot cannot be said to be truly mastered unless the speaker communicates in a way that is understood, and unless the listener possesses the skills to decipher spoken language correctly.

 

Good luck to you as you set your goals and set out to meet them.  We wish you great success on your English journey.  And if we at The Towajo English Language Institute can do anything to assist you, just let us know.

 

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