Friday, 30 January 2015

Bad news for language learners? Not really...


Ever heard any of these: "Learn a language in hours, not years", "Learn a language in 200 hours", "How to learn a language in 90 days",...? We have. And we don't believe a bit of all this. As many popular jokes go, this is because we have two pieces of news for you: a bad one and a good one. Let me start with the bad one.

Learning a language is not about memorising those 2000 words that are so hard to remember, there are always situations where they will not be enough. It is also not about knowing the grammatical rules, there are always exceptions and irregularities. It is about diving into the world of native speakers of that given language. It is about understanding how people think, when they use certain words (and when they don't), what they take for granted, what do they do, what they eat,... It is about knowing the phrases, tenses and humour they enjoy using every day. All this is not something that a tool can spoonfeed you. Tools can only do the handholding while you walk your own path. And the actual journey is not for months or years, if done genuinely it is for life. Once you get into a language, you will always have a sentiment about anything that has to do with the culture around that language.

Well, after all that, now it's time for the good news: the time you take to learn a language doesn't need to be learning as in work. It could be learning as in leisure time, as in fun. Ask Raph Koster. He is one of the inventors of the massive multiplayer online role playing games genre, you might have heard of World of Warcraft and how notoriously addictive it has become. Now, you would like language learning to feel addictive so that you can submerge in it, wouldn't you. Back in 2004 Raph wrote a book about learning. He called it "A Theory of Fun". This was because, Raph argued, people experience fun when they are genuinely learning. This is when you don't plough through your daily vocabulary set because you need to stick to this 200-hour plan, but because you are curious and excited about knowing that particular language and culture.

Because of all that, at Lexicum we don't try to push you to learn the words we think it is good for you to learn. Instead we let you develop your own vocabulary, based on your own topics. We also don't push you to hold the conversations we think it is good for you to have, we help you meet the people that would talk about the things you like to talk about. Finally, we help you appreciate the little steps you make, so that you know you are on the right track while trying to achieve the goal you want to achieve. Of course, it's always good to start somewhere, but rest assured, we will be with you, even after your first 200 hours.

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