For many of use who don’t learn a new language, or who are learning a new language just for fun, we often forget how difficult and stressful language learning is. Sometimes I think I take for granted the fact that I know English and never give much thought to people who are say… taking a university degree in English, which they barely learnt for a few years.
I can only imagine the stress that they have to go through to pick up a language in the shortest possible time and to use it immediately in a tertiary education setting. Figuring out the language is hard enough, they still have to pick up the content and knowledge and write exams in English.
Sometimes English speakers take for granted our proficiencies and then wonder “they have been learning English for YEARS. How come they are still so inadequate at it??”. It’s somehow assumed that just because many people are learning English and quite a number get good at it that English becomes somehow associated as a ‘easy language to pick up’. And not being good at it somehow becomes associated with being bad and inadequate. Which is so not true. So next time, before we try to judge someone’s ‘bad English’ (I admit that I did it sometimes), think again. Do you think you will be able to be fluent in another language even though you are thrown into that country for a few years and undertook intensive language courses for like a year or something???? I highly doubt so.
We seldom think of a non-native fluent speaker of English as WOW THE PERSON IS SO FLUENT IN ENGLISH but we will be super impressed if someone non-native is fluent in say…. Russian.
I’m now studying Korean history using Korean and truly appreciate how difficult it is to do so even though I have been studying Korean for 4 years and can be considered as ‘advanced’… to a certain degree. But I can’t imagine myself being thrown into a Korean university and taking courses in Korean, writing exams in Korean etc.
I’ll probably die. It’s a thing to be reading a history book for leisure purposes and a totally different thing to be doing required readings in Korean. Whereas all my Korean classmates will breeze through the readings and focus on the content, I have to spend 3 times (or more) the time and effort to be able to understand all the new vocabulary, in addition to actually learning about the history and picking up the knowledge. And I can’t imagine writing an essay in Korean. I will probably struggle so badly with the language part, not to talk about making good arguments and writing a coherent and concise essay. ><;; And giving a presentation in Korean??? mmmmm I’ll probably write a complete script and be super nervous about it.. ><;;
So, please don’t take for granted that a non-native speaker has to be good in English, even though said person may be living in an English-speaking country. Using the example of English because it’s the most common 2nd language, but yeah, applies to all languages.
And I shall continue to work hard so that I can be totally fluent in Korean and read books damn fast.
p.s. I’m always most inspired to blog when I’m studying Korean. Tsk. Now back to the history book!!