Another language? No thanks, I’m full.

In the Martial Arts class I attend, our trainer keeps repeating one important principle: it’s better to train only a few effective moves to the point of perfection than to train haphazardly by dabbling in several techniques without mastering them.

Even though the use case may be different, this principle also applies to learning languages.
Of course, I can start learning, say, three languages right now. Depending on the language, I’d be likely to advance quite fast in anything germanic, romanic or slavonic. But right now two points hinder me from doing so:

1. Lack of identification. For me, this is one of the most important factors for learning a language. Without identification, I can barely brace myself up for investing time and energy in any language. For example, knowing German and English, learning Dutch would probably be a matter of weeks for me. But right now, I don’t feel any connection at all to that country. And so, even if I’d get a decent discount on this language, I’m not inclined to learning it.

2. Lack of time and energy. Let’s not fool ourselves here. Learning a language to the point that it’s actually useful requires a huge workload. I invested about 1,000 hours in learning Polish until I reached level B 2 (with listening still being a bit worse). In order to attain level C 1, I figure that at least 3,000 more hours of work will be necessary.

If I’m not willing to invest hours of study on a regular basis, I don’t see much sense in studying at all. Admittedly the workload might be reduced in cases like Dutch, but it’ll still eat up some time. And this is also time I could invest in maintaining and improving those languages that I already know!
It’s easy to learn the basics of any language. But it’s an art in itself to advance in it, and only at this point, learning gets interesting.

Languages are like weapons. And I like my weapons to be sharp.

Published in: on May 2, 2011 at 7:54 am  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] finally, I guess it’s also a matter of identification – though I’m not sure to what extent this issue applies to other people. Some people […]

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