You have several options once you decide you want to learn a new language. There are a lot of offers of language schools from the ones with loose schedule to the super-intensive courses, you can go to a private teacher, you can DIY, not to mention the combination of all these. But there is one thing even the most enthusiastic language learners often forget.
What is language? Several attempts have taken place from philosophical definition of the ancient greeks to Saussure’s theory and to Noam Chomsky’s generative grammar, not to mention the sociolinguistic approach. It is a very interesting project to compare these aspects, but there is a conclusion that you can come to just by using common sense. Language is something that is spoken, written, read and heard. All of these parts are the essence of language and are equally important.
Now, the mistake most language learners make is that they simply forget it. There are ones that start reading a huge amount of books writte in the language they are learning, ones that watch a lot of movies, and grammar geeks who spend days and nights studying the grammatical and syntactical system of a language. What’s the problem with that?
It’s imbalance. First of all, it is a pain in the *** for most people to start talking in a language they just started learning. It is easy to understand: you find the situation inconvenient – the person you talk to probably speaks it as a native, therefore they notice a lot of mistakes you make. And not just grammatical or syntactical errors, but also the pronounciation, the intonation and so on. The other problem with having a chat is, it is not only you who is talking but your partner, too, and it is way harder to understand a spoken text than the written one. If you read it, you can take as much time as you want to understand it completely, but you just can’t keep asking back or asking the speaker to slow down, repeat what they said and so on. That’s definitively a challange, but you can’t run away from it. Why? Because, as mentioned above, spoken language is an aspect of language and is just as essential as the other 3.
So what’s our advice? Try to harmonize your learning by taking into consideration all of these aspects. Don’t just read, also listen. Don’t just watch movies, read newspapers written in the language you are learning. And, even if it’s hard, speak, speak, and speak more. It is very important to have live chats – even if you don’t understand much, at least you’ll remember the language-specific intonation, and the more you speak the more words will move from your passive to your active vocabulary. See? That’s what balance is about. If you only study the language at your desk and never speak it, you probably learn a lot of words, but if you never use them, your work goes to waste. And the same applies for all the situations when you refuse to keep the balance between reading, speaking, listening and writing…
So keep it up, and you’ll be glad about the results!5