Monday, June 24, 2013

Explaining Language Learning

I came across a guy named Mickey Mangan, and I thought his story was worth sharing with all of you. After completing 7 years of high school level Spanish, he was dissatisfied with his complete lack of Spanish speaking ability, so he did a semester abroad in Chile. He was blown away, not only by what he learned in that time, but also by the relationships that he formed. He wanted to try this again, so he moved to Germany for a year to learn German. The video below explains the project that he worked on while he was there. 


This is what it looks like to learn a language in one year. from Mickey Mangan on Vimeo.

This video really resonated with me for a number of reasons. First of all, it reminded me how organic the language learning process is. I can't snap my fingers and learn German. It is a daily process of learning small pieces of information that come together to learn how to speak in this language. No one single construction or set of vocabulary cards will mean that I am there. Each part comes slowly and subtly. 

But there are also these moments of clarity and focus. Usually, it is after an especially good conversation. I walk away and think, "WOW, I just got through that experience and understood what was happening" or  "They asked a question, and I knew the answer!!!"

The most important think that I resonated with in this video was his consistent failures and willingness to keep trying. If you watch him talking to people, there are these moments of silence. He is searching his brain for a word or phrase. Some of these moments are really funny when he tries to put concepts together and hope that it makes the correct word. The subtitles help to show that he is often incorrect. These moments are some of the most humbling in the language learning process. It is the time when you are staring at someone and they are staring at you and you are trying to say something incredibly simple, but the words just aren't there. 

But, amazingly enough, people are patient with him, just as they are patient with us. And he grows! You can see it even in the short intro how he moves from simple, child-like sentences to more complicated thoughts. This is the reminder that is helpful for me in the minutiae. Growth is coming. It may not be at the pace that I would want or would try to expect of myself, but it is coming. 

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