The word studying has gotten a bad reputation in the last few years.
Mention the word and you see people cringe in agony.
For many, to study is to die a long painful death due to immense boredom.
Language bloggers who dare to use the word, risk the chance of being called old fashioned and outdated.
We no longer study a language, we learn it instead.
Studying is learning about a language, usually with boring books, often associated with school, often deemed ineffective.
Learning is going out and conversing, often deemed effort-and-book less and, of course, blazingly fast.
Or so they say….
Your Language Learning Experience in School
People associate the word studying with more traditional language learning methods. Especially those they use in schools.
In school your only motivation was probably to pass the exams, not to really speak the language. Void of any deeper motivation, it was a pretty meaningless experience…and possibly one you hated.
And maybe you studied for hours and hours but still wasn’t able to order a Pizza in Italian, a Taco in Spanish or a Pot-au-feu in French.
The problem in schools isn’t just a lack of student motivation either. Often the methodology used is incomplete as well.
When learning a new language, the methodology should be adjusted as you go.
If you’re an intermediate and you want to advance more, you can’t keep spending the majority of your time with books. Yet, this is what they do in schools. (Or at least, what they used to do, as I’ve heard they’re improving things.)
So, no motivation + flawed methodology = a miserable experience.
It’s not your fault if you arrived at the conclusion that you … freaking hate studying!
Problem is … when you start to learn a language on your own, you take your previous experiences, and your high school mini traumas into this completely different learning situation.
Luckily, but somewhat unknowingly to many people, studying on your own is a different kettle of fish.
Books Don’t Suck – Studying is Okay
Both in elementary and high school I was a mess. (I’m still picking up the pieces btw.)
I was bored everyday and felt that all the learning material was doing was shrinking my grey matter instead of expanding it.
“Why do I have to learn this shit?” was one of my popular thoughts those days.
At that age, all that matters is having fun…TODAY. If I had to put in a lot of effort over a long time to achieve something worthy, then I wasn’t interested. I preferred my little daily pleasures.
A case of extreme short-term vision.
It was only in my early twenties that I managed to slowly shake off this mentality.
And language learning was a big part of that.
Suddenly, I was studying (yeah, and learning as well…don’t worry) for something I wanted to achieve. I was working toward my own goal with authentic inspiration instead of superimposed “motivation”.
So with the context changed, it didn’t take long for me to realize that old-fashioned studying can be a pleasurable activity.
Now books should never be your only learning source, of course. But they offer some distinct advantages:
The main one is that while the speed of the learning source — in this case books — goes down, the depth of the learning can actually increase because of it.
If you’re not yet at an intermediate level, you won’t learn much from fast learning sources like real-life conversations. But you can learn a lot from slower learning sources, and books are one of them.
Another advantage is that books don’t present much potential distractions.
Computers, Smart Phones and Tablets are generally nests of distractions and therefore not always ideal learning environments.
With books you can reduce your learning environment to just you and the learning material.
Worth a Go
Studying the old fashioned way is still a good tactic to learn a language.
But it’s just that….one tactic, and one tactic is never enough to learn a new language well. It’s not a complete strategy.
But just because you had some less than stellar school experiences, doesn’t mean you should dismiss studying as a language learning tactic.
As we just discussed, it has certain advantages over other language learning tactics.
So if you haven’t already done so, why not give it a go?
If you don’t, you’ll never know if you really hate studying, or if it’s just your bad experiences in school.
But do give it a real chance.
It may take a little while before you shake off all the negative associations the school system imprinted in your head.