The more than one “Exponential” secret (hypothesis)

The initial 1-6 months of language learning is slow and brimming  with days, sometimes several in succession, where I feel that I am making no or marginal progress or I’m frustrated with my own lack of comprehension and ability to output, recall or retain. But I keep at it. Because a little bit every day is better than a lot once a week.

(Partially tangential parenthesis attack!)(Study everyday. Even if it’s only for 10 or fewer minutes, study. Even if it can only be a disrupted series of 30 second stints, accumulating to 10 minutes. You must do it. Every day. Okay so the world won’t end if you miss a day, but if you’re at all like me and you miss one day, you’re 50 percent more likely to miss a second and by the third day you’re 75 percent more likely to miss again ad infinity. Or however you write fanciful superfluous terms.The point is study often and regularly. Whatever method you use, if you’re only doing 30 minutes a week, you’re doing it wrong.)

Eventually after all that…

A day happens, where I’m able to express myself, in more than one sentence. It may not be perfectly grammatical, but it is understandable and I too am receivable, in that I’m able to receive corrections and input and make sense of it all. This is the turning point. Where I feel the beginning of fluency strings. (“Fluency strings” is an abstract neurological/physiological sensation that happens to me when I start being excited to express my views in a foreign language and listen to what people have to say in response.)

It’s generally from this point on that actual fluency comes very rapidly, as though all the previous time I’ve just been storing and analyzing and I’m finally ready to perform. Yes, I probably should have made this about memorizing lines and practicing a series of scenes over and over to build up the performance aspect, in lieu of talking about storing and analyzing but I can always do things backwards so long as I know what I’m doing after the fact. That’s right. Isn’t it?

The secret is, once you reach a certain place in your study/learning, your rate of learning increases significantly. I even dare say, exponentially from that point on. Because instead of having to translate into your native language or any other language with which you’re already acquainted(as I know some of us like studying a foreign language vis à vis another foreign language,) you can start translating into the language you’re learning and from there, comfort and habitude happens and before long fluency runs rampant.

What do I mean, translating into the language you’re learning?

I mean, you can listen to more complicated conversations and break it down into simpler terms that you already know, or better yet, reword it. There are so many different ways to say the same thing. Some see this as a problem, but it is most definitely a bonus. Maybe you’re not familiar with the japanese word 学ぶ but you are with the word 習う  or 勉強する. Although each of these may have their own nuances and collocations, the fact that you can hear one and recognize it and realize that it more or less has the same meaning as something else, or in this case, two other things else that you already know, you’re expanding into the language. Deepening your roots. Understanding the part, if you’re looking at it as a role in a play.

Of course that is a fairly simple example of how this can take place. It can and most likely will happen with more than individual words, when you rearrange entire sentences, perhaps changing the voice from active to passive. Whatever it may be, when you get to this point of being able to say and receive more than one thing in your target language–let me specify–more than one involved/critical thing,(meaning you’re not asking about the weather and the time of day), then you’ve reached a critical point. A point where you have the potential for exponential growth in your new language. This is also a point where at least for me, vocabulary starts becoming much easier, because I’m able to use new words in context and sometimes a variety of contexts.

Anyway, that is all the partially coherent thought I have to offer this evening. Grazie Mille. Please let me know if this happens to you, or if I make any sort of sense ever.


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