Language learning is not about performance

Athletes compete to see who can run faster, or jump higher, or execute their moves with more precision, or score more goals. Athletes train in order to improve their performance. Learning languages is different. It is, for me, about communicating and enjoying another culture. In fact the learning process, itself, is enjoyable, regardless of the outcome, regardless of the performance. It is possible to enjoy languages without performing at all, without speaking. And when we speak we do not want to be judged, or at least I do not.

I often get comments on my foreign language youtube videos along the lines of:

“your Portuguese is not very good, don’t you care?”
” your Japanese sounds a little American, you should work on your accent.”
” you made a mistake in your Russian.”

Well, I don’t care. I am not in competition with native speakers, nor with other non-native learners of any language. If my mistakes are pointed out, it is likely that I will make the same mistake the next time. I know what gives me trouble in these languages. I try to pay attention to these things when I listen, read or speak. But I know that I will continue to make mistakes and will only gradually improve.

I have spent over 3 years on Russian. If we had had Czech or Korean at LingQ I would probably have spent time on them as well, and less time on Russian. But it does not matter whether you go in depth in one language or dabble in three. The main thing is to enjoy the process, not to chalk up more languages to your credit. It is not just the language, it is the culture. For me, in Russian, it is all the books and articles that I have read and listened to, the lively discussions from radio stations about things of interest to Russians.

When I get into Czech and Korean I will enter new worlds, and the quality of my performance will be the furthest thing from my mind. It will be what it is and gradually improve. And whatever it is, I will be satisfied, and just keep going.

One thought on “Language learning is not about performance

  1. It seems like many people are scared to speak up because they are nervous about being judged. I think speaking is a necessary thing, but pronunciation and small mistakes shouldn’t be all that people worry about – after all, in the long run, most people learn languages simply to be understood. Everyone improves in time, with practice.When language learning becomes a chore rather than play, it is a sad day for language learners. I’m a firm believer in fun.šŸ˜‰

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