The Importance of Making Learning Fun and Enjoyable has been transcribed from Steve’s YouTube channel. You can download the audio and study the transcript as a lesson at LingQ.

Hi there, Steve Kaufmann here again with my new lighting, which I hope is better. I’m going to talk about something that I consider very, very important in language learning and that’s feeling good, okay? I think we all are aware that if we do something well, if we have an achievement or if something happy happens to us, it could be as simple as our favorite sports team wins a game or you know I play Old Timers Hockey, I scored a nice goal, silly things, but you’ve got a livelier step when you’re walking. You feel better about things.


Language learning is something that’s so dependent on the learner’s attitude. Again, I repeat, it’s the learner’s attitude, number one, the time you spend with the language and your ability to notice. Well, not only is the attitude itself important, but it influences how much time you’re going to spend with the language. If you’re motivated you’ll spend more time, if you’re motivated you’re going to notice more things, so that attitude is such an important factor and I think this is sometimes neglected.


What happens in class? The teacher has a curriculum, a program that you have to follow. Certain things are taught, you’re tested on them and you may not do well on those things because, very often, the things that are taught take a while to click in. It takes, in fact, a lot of exposure to the language before certain grammatical aspects start to become clear to you, before they start to make sense, let alone before you can actually start reproducing them. If you do poorly on the test then, of course, that’s discouraging and when you’re discouraged you lose your motivation.


You know I was thinking of this, for example, with regard to the videos I put out at YouTube in different languages, Spanish, Russian, you name it. Inevitably, there is someone who comes along and criticizes me. There was just someone on Russian who came along and said you’re pronunciation is terrible, your cases are awful and it’s pretty rough, stuff like that, which is probably true, depending on what your standard is.


Compared to a native speaker, I’m all of those things and worse. However, compared to someone who can’t speak the language at all, which is where I started from five years ago and, similarly, with my Czech, which is worse than my Russian which I started let’s say a year and a half ago, now I’m someone who understands the radio, can read books. I have a sense of things Czech, things Russian. I listen to the arguments on Ekho Moskvy. I follow the events in the Czech Republic, the direct election of their president and all. Whatever is going on, I can follow it in Czech well.


Making Learning Fun by Giving Ourselves Credit


So rather than having a teacher tell me that my cases are wrong or some guy gratuitously on YouTube telling me that my cases are wrong or that my pronunciation is not very good, we as learners have to condition ourselves to give ourselves credit for what we have achieved. I had a discussion in Czech the other day and I stumbled and bumbled, but that doesn’t discourage me because of all the ways in which I am able to enjoy the Czech language. I focus on what I have achieved. Wow, look, I can pick up a book. I can read it. I can make sense. I can participate in things Czech. I can discuss the Czech presidential election via Skype with a person in the Czech Republic in Prague well.


It’s very important that we find ways to give ourselves credit so that we have a sense of achievement because that sense of achievement is very encouraging for us and it keeps us going. If you’re at school, for example, if the say French program is discouraging because you’re getting poor marks or whatever, this carries over into other subjects. In other words, any success we feel in our language learning makes us more positive in other areas of endeavor. So if we are satisfied with what we have achieved in our say independent learning of a language, that makes us better at other things we do.


What I’m getting at in all of this is that very often traditional language learning focuses on testing, focuses on trying to make sure what was taught you have, in fact, learned and I think that’s largely counterproductive. Obviously, we need testing in math or engineering or like a brain surgeon, people like that that have to meet certain standards, but what are we looking for in language acquisition. Except for a small minority of people who are going to be translators or interpreters at the UN or something, most people just want to communicate and so it’s important to bear in mind that these are the goals.


The person who wants to work towards that ultimate goal of sounding like a native, which I don’t I think is feasible for 99% of people, speaking correctly and stuff is good. Those are laudable goals and we need to have those goals, but we need to give ourselves credit. We need to feel comfortable, confident, feel good about our learning and teachers should make that their number one goal, to make the learner feel good about his or her learning so that they have a positive attitude, feel confident, put in the time, enjoy it, try to make the language their own, all those things.


I had a conversation today with someone and I was explaining LingQ to them. This is a potential corporate customer for LingQ and they sort of said well, what is the pedagogical basis for what you do and credentials, all this kind of stuff. Yeah, we’re a group of people. We help each other. Native speakers helping others learn the language of that native speaker. Lots of interesting content, if people enjoy what they do, they put in the time, they learn. That’s the pedagogical basis.


This person said you have to teach the basic structures. It has to be this structure, that structure. As I’ve said many times, I find it very difficult to learn the basic structures. I don’t think the basic structures just slot into place like that. I think, eventually, over time, with enough exposure, you get a better and better sense of how the language works, but you don’t just go out there and acquire the basic structures. I don’t think it works that way. Rather, what happens in our schools is a lot of people are discouraged by the way languages are taught and they never continue. They never continue. Once they leave school, they don’t bother with it and so that’s a great failing.


So, just to summarize again, I think language instruction should focus on the issue of making the learner feel good about learning that language, wanting to learn that language, feeling good about their achievements, rather than point out through tests or through other critical comments where the learner isn’t quite up to somebody else’s standard.


So I hope that makes sense. Thanks for listening, bye for now.


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