As we have mentioned earlier in a previous post (HERE), language is something that ought to be lived and not studied or viewed as a school subject, in which a person can achieve a pass grade and then simply forget about it. Language is a difficult thing to master and learners tend to lose level far faster that the obtain it. This is because achieving fluency is a strange concept. It is not something that one can set as a target, it is very difficult to measure and actual learners generally find it difficult to see their own progress. So if a learner is generally unaware of their own progress and it is difficult to measure, how can we truly say that we have achieved fluency in a language? And while we are at it, what does being fluent in a language actually mean?
Fluency is intangible, it cannot be measured with a 1-10 or A, B, C score. A learner´s language level will fluctuate with time and also according to the mood or confidence level. Fluency is generally defined as a person´s ability to use a language in a context in a confident way. For this to occur, it is obvious that language learners need to build their confidence in a language by having as many experiences as they can in that language to best prepare them for the likely situations in which they will need to use it.
The only measure that a learner can put into place to ensure that they maintain language level is to use language level in a consistent way (HERE) to ensure that their confidence level is at an optimum. As language does not have a set level that we seek to attain, it can be difficult to maintain motivation. Learners ought to set themselves small achievable targets that can be carried out with ease, not go all out and attempt to study at every free moment they have for a short period of time. Through this learners tend to suffer from burn out and they tend to give up sooner or later. the key is progression, no matter how slow or fast, just keep moving forward and not think about the end result.
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A great way of setting small targets is to take advantage of those small moments in the day that you generally waste. Instead of picking up your smart phone, how about flicking through some flashcards or even using your smart phone app to learn a language?
Try these things and you will see the progress that can be made:
- Listen to a podcast as you walk to work
- Think in English as you do the washing up
- Go through some flashcards for 10 minutes while you have a coffee on your break
- Send WhatsApp messages to your language learning partner (HERE)
A good idea is to write things down and keep a log of what you study, this way you will have a visual representation of what you are learning. It will make you feel confident about your progress and also serve as a great language learning resource.
No language learner, however good their memory is (or even how many languages they can already speak), is able to master a language is a very short period of time. The truth is that language learners never stop learning, the process just becomes easier. There are some simple tricks (HERE) that can be used to enhance the memory, but it is always a lengthly process. The best way is to find what you find enjoyable and an effective way of learning and to do it for a long enough time so that you can notice the progress. What language learners must do is accept that fact, and only then will they go on to achieve great things. The key is to learn little and often and to also vary the way you study and learn. If the learner enjoys the learning process, it will not be seen as work or effort, but more as something to look forward to. As a learner, you should try to enjoy the small things in the learning process such as recognising a word you have recently learnt in a text or even understanding the lyrics to a song.
Language is a way of life and when you take on learning a new one, you should accept that it will change you; it will change the way you feel, think and even act! This is when you have truly become fluent in a language!
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Exactly, if we set small and well defined goals at least we can begin to objectively track our progress
I couldn´t agree more. Also, that way students will notice the progress far more