Competitive language learning

When learning a language, it’s natural to compare your own progress and abilities with that of others. There’ll usually be other learners who know more than you, at least about some aspects of a language, or who speak and/or write with more fluency and confidence than you. You might also meet people who have been studying a language for a shorter time than you but who have achieved a higher level. This can be discouraging and frustrating, however we learn things at different rates, so such comparisons are not particularly helpful, unless you’re doing some research into second language acquisition (SLA).

Whenever I meet someone who is studying or has studied any of the foreign languages I know, I usually compare their level with my own. If they have a lower level, I feel that I’m doing ok, but if they have a higher level, I feel a bit jealous and resolve to study more. I also wonder whether I’ll ever achieve their level of fluency.

If you’re studying with someone else, some degree of competition can be a good thing, as you can encourage one another to keep going and to achieve more. Too much pressure is probably doesn’t help though.

This entry was posted in Language, Language learning.

One Response to Competitive language learning

  1. Sam says:

    I agree that comparisons are not particuarly helpful. If someone has achieved a higher level than I have, I wonder how long that person has been studying, what books or other materials that person has been using and try to find ways that I can help myself speak that language better.

    It’s just human nature to feel a bit jealous. More often, I find myself jealous of people who speak more languages than I do or who speak languages that are more different from English than mine.

    Some years ago I was on a train in France across from a man with blond hair and blue eyes who was reading a newspaper in Arabic. I mention the description because he certainly didn’t look like a native speaker. It turns out he was French and had spent some time in the military.

    I’d like to learn at least a few languages well that don’t use our Roman alphabet.

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