A lot of you are probably planning your New Year’s Resolutions. You know from many guides and life hacking sites that your goals should be actionable, doable and measurable etc. And some of you probably don’t strive for a high grade on your language certificate, but rather choose to wait for the day you dream and think in your target language. BUT WHYYY?!
Let me tell you this:
IT MEASURES NOTHING.
Let me tell you one more thing:
IT LEAVES YOU JOBLESS.
OK, OK, some of you will argue that you don’t want a job in the language industry whatsoever. But one day you just might want it. And it will be too late! You cannot reverse the process of acquiring the language to think in it. And this is detrimentory to your skills.
They tell it’s the best way for you – make flashcards with pitures on one side instead of translations, because that lets you pass round the brain circuits responsible for your mother tongue; or watch movies without subtitles and totally immerse yourself within the language… that leaves you crippled mentally. What you should practice instead is dynamic switching between your languages. And let me tell you what you miss out when you aren’t a “language switcher”:
1. Language Tandems
Most of them are melting pots of languages. Language exhanges seldomly work like two halves of a soccer match where you score to a different goal each half. If you cannot recall how to say a word in the language your partner asks you about, you fail. You’re not helping anybody. It has to be a seamless communication act (even, or maybe especially, online) and looking stuff up in a dictionary every other second is not the way to achieve that. Some lnguage tandems use even 3 or more language (one of them being common for both speakers and the others are their targer langagues), in what language do you want to think then, huh?
2. Being a Teacher
In language exchanges you had to be a notorious switcher. Even more so if you stand in front of a class that bombards you with a cannonade on vocabulary questions. You are, after all, their main source of language, even more important and interesting than a dictionary. As this is a very common way to travel – to become a foreign language teacher or a teacher’s assistant – think about how quickly you are able to switch, not how well you think in their language.
3. Translation and Interpreting
This should be obvious. If your conciousness has no connection between “dog” and “Hund”, “lake” and “湖” or “to study” and “uczyć się” – you are no material for a translator nor interpreter. And that’s a good deal of money oftentimes. Why not use it for more classes, language materials or a trip? The sole act of translation is the firstmost classic and popular way of learning another language. Yes, it can be dull and boring, but that’s not the only option you have, right? But to be given cash for a part of your study – isn’t that alluring?
4. Linguistic Jokes
Polyglots (and less skilled non-monoglots) are among the most interesting and funny people you can get to know. But they have a peculiar sense of humour. Only if you can switch your monolingual (or rather: one-language-at-a-time) thinking off for a while, you can get a joke like that:
イヌはいくつまで数えられますか。 （Up to what number can a dog count?)
The pun here is bilingual. “ワン” (Wan!) is the sound a dog makes in Japanese, but it’s also prounanced similarly to English “one”.
Another such a case:
Dlaczego w Watykanie nie grają w bilard? (Why they don’t play pool in Vatican?)
Bo papamobile. (‘Cause papamobile.)
“Papamobile” is the Italian name for “Popemobile”, the vehicle used by the Pope, but in sloppy Polish prounanciation is sounds like “papa mo bile” which roughly translates into “Pope has the (billiard) balls” – hence no one else can play.
To sum up, you’ve already missing out on cash, friendship and having a good laugh. And probably more! Do you still want to think in your target language 100% times you are speaking it?