Setting aside the ego in language learning

I’ve thought about this quite a bit, and I don’t have all the answers, but nonetheless I have some thoughts.

So often when we’re in a language context, a context where we are learners, we feel the need to perform. Whether it’s with a teacher, or with other learners, or even with students. We feel this need to show, to prove that we know stuff, and we can do stuff, and importantly, we know and speak better than you.

Which is pointless and stupid. But we do it anyway, don’t we? Did you ever correct someone because you wanted to demonstrate that you knew Greek better? Did you ever stay up late polishing your preparations for a translate-and-autopsy reading class, to show how good a philologist you really are? Did you rephrase a simple sentence into an epic Ciceronian period with a sprinkling of obscure vocabulary you prepped earlier just for this very purpose?

Wherever you are in your language learning journey, that’s where you are. It doesn’t matter where I am. It doesn’t matter where the learner in your class next to you (1.5 metres away, perhaps, or a digital ocean) ‘is’. And if your one of my students, you don’t need to prove or show off to me. And if you’re a teacher, your job isn’t to demonstrate your mastery to your students. What matters is? Is one more step:

The next word, the next sentence, the question and answer. Are they in the language? Are they understandable? Are the communicating? Keep doing that. And you’ll keep progressing. And they will keep progressing. And that way we all win, because we all move along the path.

Language acquisition is a mountain-climbing in a team. And throwing people off the mountain doesn’t help. Supporting and helping each other helps us all.

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