In this series of articles I will be sharing my personal experience in foreign language learning. By reading what I have gone through and my reflections, maybe you will find some useful bits that are helpful for you.
As you might have read/noticed, I am a non-native speaker in English. My mother tongue is Taiwanese Mandarin Chinese (with reading and writing ability) and Taiwanese (listening and speaking). At the moment when I am writing this article, I have been learning English for over 14 years, including 6 years in private English education institutions and schools, 3 years of courses provided by schools only, 4 years of university education, and 1 year of self-learning.
Personally, the path of English learning for me was far from smooth. The first 4 years of the process could be recalled as a nightmare due to the stressful teaching and learning style in the class. Things did not get any better in the year I was in a private junior high school.
The class I was in in the junior high provided customised English courses that was designed to equipt the students with senior-high-level English, and thus it was far from suitable for me, who neither started to learn the foreign language earlier than the peers, nor got tutor or any especially intense classes before entering the high-school-level class.
For the whole year, my English did not improve in the class that was clearly too advanced for me, on the contrary, I became even less confident knowing I could never catch up the peers in the class.
So far it seems that the first 5 years of learning brought me little more than frustration and stress, however, the second private English education institution I went to changed the whole story around.
The second institution I went to after leaving the private junior high school for a public one had a theme-based curriculum structure, which might have stimulated my interest in learning.
In the theme-based lessons, the students were given sufficient time and chances to have conversations and discussions with the teachers and the classmates. Various topics discussed ranging from news, property, celebrity, environment, science, to culture, tradition, arts, sports, technologies…, etc., inspired and encouraged me to explore the mass information both on and off line.
In the second and the third year of senior high school, which were after the end of the levels in the private institution, I did not take any English courses other than the ones provided in the school. Nonetheless, my learning process did not stop. Not before this point did I realise that I have picked up a self-learning habit back when I was still attending the extra-curricular courses.
I know it sounds like today’s episode of things that never happened, but it surely did.
To me, not until I found how creative I could be with the language did I start to push myself further in sharpening the ability. People need to be aware of where they are going to to keep the motivation up.
This is also when I told myself maybe I could even try another language. When I had the successful experience in learning the first foreign language, the courage for exploring other options emerged naturally. Therefore, among the given choices in the school, I chose French.
7 years of on and off after the beginning of the learning process, now my level of French is somewhere between A2 and B1, which would probably not be considered as ideal for a learner who took courses for around 3 years in total. The main reasons why I have not got a satisfactory learning result can be concluded as the followings: First, I did not invest in as much time and effort as I did for English; second, my motivation has not been as strong as that of for English.
Learning French has been more like a hobby for me rather than a need or an ambition, therefore, there is not as much urgency or desire in knowing more as when learning English.
Language learning is a lifelong journey. The more I learn about the languages the more I realise how insufficient my ability and knowledge is. However, I know for sure that both English and French will always have their roles in my life.
Now you know my story about acquiring foreign languages, in the next episode I will talk about what I have learnt from my own experience. Hopefully my story can provide you thoughts about your own learning.
See you in the next episode. Ciao!