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February 18, 2009

Swimming with the Dolphins

In many resorts in warm climates, one of the options is to swim with the dolphins. This is sort of like running with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain - except much safer - and in water.

I mention it in relation to language learning because...

...learning a language to the degree that you make it your own is all about the flow. Are you comfortable enough with your new language that you can speak it with native speakers and "flow" with them as you might with a school of dolphins?

A term to describe a person who has a mastery of language is "fluent" or to have "fluency". Fluent merely means "to flow".

As a child develops fluency in the language they were born into, they absorb words and rhythm from every song, conversation, song, TV show or movie they encounter. Those of us who study (or teach) language call this immersion. We learn best when we learn from every available source and experience - in short, when we "swim" with those around us.

A friend of mine teaches public speaking. One day he invited a class of EFL students to observe the speeches. At the end of the session, the EFL students were ecstatic. When asked why, they responded "They make mistakes too!"

Yes, native speakers make mistakes, too.

We are all learning and we all make occaisional mistakes. The difference between a mature and an immature learner is that a serious learner learns from mistakes and keeps going.

Learning a language is real work - but it should always be joyful. Consider your language journey an exhuberant splash alongside worthy companions.

About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf spent about six years working for a Native American Tribal College, a few years teaching various humanities, English, writing and ESL courses with the community college system in Washington State (including one year as part of a faculty exchange program with The Beijing Foreign Language University). While in China, Morf was briefly a radio host for CRI (China Radio International) and did recordings for the "English can be enjoyable" book and tape series. Morf currently teaches English and writing for a local technical/vocational college with many international students. Morf prefers international and independent films, foods he can't pronounce, music no one else likes and riding his bicycle in unlikely and ridiculous situations.

Morf is also quietly anticipating that unexpected, but lucrative job offer.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

Posted by mmorf at February 18, 2009 02:31 PM

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