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The reality of language learning (A1 - B2)

In my opinion, being able to set realistic and achievable language learning objectives is the single most important part of any language acquisition project. Just like when trying to lose weight, the process always seems too slow or worse yet there is no visible progress. To you at any rate.

The fact of the matter is that we have all been fed false marketing which has distorted our vision of how long and how difficult it is to become proficient in a new language. You've seen the ads, "learn English in 2 weeks". Nonsense.

The truth is that language learning is a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster of progress, emotions, setbacks and breakthroughs. Understanding this before you go into your project will help you manage your expectations, allow for setbacks and celebrate the breakthroughs whilst maintaining an eye on the next phase of your development.

If your objective isn't to become fluent, but to achieve a level that will allow you to communicate whilst on holiday you don't need to perfect your grammar, nor do you need the perfect accent. If you want to be able to watch your favourite Netflix shows in VO, you'll need that B2 level but only in the comprehension skills (Listening and Reading).

The comparison with a weight loss project doesn't stop there though. Just as your new January regime will start off well, motivation and determination seemingly invincible, the inevitable drop will come and that is when you need discipline. Easier said than done I know.

Once the motivation has gone you will probably ask yourself "do I really need to do this?", "is it worth it?" or even claim "I've done enough". But have you met the goals you set at the beginning of your journey. In most cases no. In relation to learning English, a study shows that beginners (A1 level) often stop taking classes within 4 weeks. Ask yourself if the same can be said of people who are trying to lose weight or get fit? Do they often stop once the motivation has gone?

The answer is Yes in most cases.

But why? I propose that the answer is that they were not prepared for the challenges they would face. They expected a sprint but got a marathon. Just like a fitness project, learning a language is a long term commitment; certainly if you plan to achieve a B2 (Intermediate/Independent User) level, and even if you only want to use English to get the most from your holidays you can still expect to spend at least 6 months working on it.

Go into it with your eyes open, maintain your discipline and do a little bit everyday, even if that means watching a 30-minute Netflix episode where you only understand 25% of the vocabulary.

It will come!

And just like that fitness project, others will see the change long before you do. Progress. NOT perfection!

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