I was pondering the question of when I would ‘finish’ learning Swedish in the car this morning, as I listened to the news headlines.
There was an interview with a former minister, I think it was, about how Turkey is continuing to block Sweden’s application to join Nato.
That’s a topic that interests me, as I began my teaching career in Turkey a long while ago, and still follow what happens there (nothing good lately.)
Unfortunately, I didn’t understand much of the interview.
Perhaps it was because I missed the start, which doesn’t help. Or maybe the former minister’s language, accent, or general way of talking was unfamiliar.
Both of those things can easily block comprehension.
So there I was, beating myself up about having neglected my Swedish, for months, for years, actually for almost all the time I’ve been learning the language, when the next news item started, something about property prices falling, and I understood all, or nearly all of it!
Also the one after that, and the one after that, too. So maybe it was, after all, that I hadn’t been paying attention when the former minister started his explanations.
But anyway, I should know better than to wonder when I’ll ever be finished learning a language.
You can finish a course, a level, pass an exam, or simply end with any efforts you’ve been making to improve your knowledge of a language.
But does that mean you’ve finished ‘learning’?
Not if you’re continuing to use the language, even if just minimally. Such as, for instance, my listening to the news headlines in Swedish on my commute, speaking Italian to Roomie and her keepers, or exercising to France.info.
If you have any self-awareness at all, the contact you have with your foreign language(s) will turn up in your mind uncertainties, moments of not-fully-understanding, questions about meaning, grammar and culture, and as above, doubts whether you’ll ever ‘finish’.
That’s the good news, actually. If you keep at it, you should get to the point when not being finished is the fun of it, in effect, the whole point.
I know enough Italian and Swedish so that I continue to learn ANYWAY, notwithstanding, in fact because of, the uncertainties, the doubts and the continual inaccuracies.
But I don’t ‘study’ at all.
Note carefully the distinction I’m making between ‘learning’, which everyone enjoys, and ‘studying’, which is only for secchioni.
What of your options?
You could set yourself an artificial goal, such as finishing a course, a book, a level, or passing an exam.
Any of those can be great motivators, and help stem the thought that it’s all hopeless, that you’ll never get ‘there’.
You could do what I do and focus on ‘using’ the language, say to consume media, to learn more about the country, or to make friends.
Or you could just quit, which solves the problem very neatly.
Don’t forget to read/listen to Thursday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news, will you?