Learning A Language Well Enough

I’ve realized that there’s a particular point in the language-learning process that I’m excited to reach with every language on my list.

“Good enough.” That’s the first big goal.

Obviously, “good enough” is not the end goal of language learning, but rather “proficiency,” whatever that might mean for a person’s particular goals, is the true aim.

Still, “good enough” might very well be the most important milestone on the road to proficiency. What does it mean? For me, “good enough” basically means being able to puzzle my way through a given short text in the target language, without being forced to give up.

I want the language to be good enough that I can read through real texts, slowly, with appropriate supports.

Currently, I’m nowhere near good enough with Arabic to add it into my reading rotation. I can’t quite even pronounce the script consistently, let alone consistently recognize eg the difference between a verb and a noun. With Russian, though, the gap between me and “good enough” is not nearly so wide. I’ve studied substantially more Russian than Arabic currently, and so at some point in the next while, if my schedule will allow, I hope to review a bit and work Russian into the cycle of languages that I read regularly.

Once I’m good enough with a language that I can begin reading in it and learning by encountering it directly in texts, then, in a way, I can coast. All I need to do is read, and keep reading. If I read a lot then I’ll learn more quickly, and if a little then I’ll learn more slowly, but all I need to make sure to do is to keep reading the sorts of things I want to be able to read.

Reading real texts in a language is incomparably useful for learning that language. It gives a sense of what the language is really like, what sorts of sentence structures are actually common, which words are important, which tenses are less common to see. Reading texts enables more targeted learning, focusing more on the most important components of the language rather than learning the whole thing evenly.

Besides, reading texts in other languages is the whole purpose of learning languages, for me. I might as well start on it as soon as I can.

So I’m most excited to get my languages to that point.

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