You Can’t Learn a Language by Osmosis

I hear your sarcasm right now, thinking “Really? Give me more fascinating insights.” But just think about it, you would-be language learners. How many of you have taken a class, or bought a grammar book, fulling intending to learn the language by yourself? I’m not even going to get into Rosetta Stone or other computer software. And honestly, you were expecting to learn, to improve…by simply doing this:

Okay, you weren’t consciously planning to learn a language by napping on your dictionary. Learning languages takes time and conscious effort (unless you’re an infant). And we’ll get excited about the idea of learning a language, buy the books, register for the class, and then….nada. Just owning a half-dozen books on Spanish grammar doesn’t make me perfectly fluent (yeah, I have a sparse library over here, what can I say?). Getting a major in Spanish doesn’t mean I feel confident explaining the problems with my refridgerator. It can, both can. 

I keep running into Spanish people who really really want to learn English. So they’re “taking” English classes and they meet up with me to drink and chat. But they stumble through basic conversations and relapse into Spanish. Because taking an English class, skipping 2/3 of the class, and sleeping on your textbook will hardly improve your skills. Because having English classes all the way through school (preK-12th) does nothing if you don’t actively use the language. Yes, it is a royal pain in the ass to practice, to constantly mess up and be the source of mockery for your friends.

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