(Photo credit: http://bit.ly/2CxICyW)
I do think that this is a little discussed point in the learning of any language and is something that teachers do need to press more. When someone is learning a language in a classroom there is obviously a chance to practice, but usually it is based on the very specific concept taught that day. Language is a vehicle and needs to be used for everything and anything to get some traction. This is what I like to describe as ‘flying’.
There is definitely a point when someone is learning the grammar, the technical side of a sentence, the vocabulary and their meanings, the important idioms and what they really mean and so on. But these are all just bits and pieces that add up to a language formation. The only true moment when the language becomes active is when the person simply allows themselves to ‘fly’ with it.
Flying is scary – I know I fly all the time! But flying isn’t just about risk, it’s about making those mistakes publicly, changing direction at whim and forcing yourself to move further into the language because you simply have to because you started something (a sentence) and have to now finish it.
Flying when speaking English for example can also be very exhilarating. The joy of hearing yourself say the words or phrases so naturally, so effortlessly like you can’t believe it is true – that it almost feels second nature – this is the truth about flying in a language.
When I was in primary school we had a trampoline in the gymnasium. The most interesting thing about the trampoline was that everyone initially felt uneasy and would fall over as soon as they stood on the trampoline or tried to. But slowly as we gained our balance, we would learn to enjoy the sensation of simply jumping up and down because we could go so much further the more effort we put into it. After a while we would try something new like falling sideways or trying to do the splits in the air, trying to do a flip landing on our back, trying to jump with a partner in synchronised jumping and so the creativity and enjoyment of flying through the air began.
Flying with English is just the same. Those first few fumbles are important, but once you feel that exhilarating sensation of flying, you just want to keep going and going – just like the trampoline. Before long there is a huge queue lined up behind you wanting to take a turn, and you know sadly that your ‘flying’ turn has ended and someone else has to have a go now.
Think of English like this and the importance of flying with it will never get boring or difficult. Just like the trampoline, so too will the students language gain confidence, enjoyment that you will never want to stop!