If you really want to learn a language, do you need to live in the country where it is spoken?

Marian Herud

People often seem to judge the quality of your language by how many years you’ve spent in an (in this case) English-speaking country. If I say I’ve been to an English-speaking country only once, they frown. There is an omnipresent belief that the longer you spend in, say, Ireland the better your language will be. And it is a brilliant excuse for laziness and subsequent failure. “Oh, I would have to go to the country, and I would definitely learn the language. But I can’t go there, you know, I have a family, job…so..” Nonsense! A great deal of immigrants to America are not really good at English, even though they’ve spent there a good couple of years. Not only they speak with a thick accent, but their speech is mistake ridden. What needs to be realized here is that what we often do is learning. And whether we do it in Slovakia or the USA – it is still learning. Learning is a deliberate process and inevitably carries certain amount of effort and time that needs to be put in and glistening sweat. In Texas, for example, bilingual programs failed to teach English to Hispanic children and they see dual language approach (using both languages in the teaching process) as better suited for that goal. In 2004, more than eight out of ten seventh- and eighth-graders with limited English skills failed the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test. It is widely known that French immersion programs in Canada are nothing but a failure just to prove that spending come time in these countries is not a panacea for the obstacles related to learning English.. It is very naïve to think that just moving to another country will magically turn you into a fluent and competent speaker. The most important thing in learning a language is motivation, feeling that what I do actually makes sense to me and makes (or will make) me a better person. Improvement also doesn’t happen overnight and one has to put certain amount of effort (not so much as it is often declared though) in learning to progress. But then, if you are motivated, truly motivated, and if you are willing to sacrifice time, then you don’t have to bother travelling anywhere just to learn a language. Especially in this time and age when you can literally immerse yourself in a foreign language without leaving your room. Having said that, I genuinely think that there is an added value if you are surrounded by native speakers, the culture, you can soak in the way of life, be a part of the language. that  But, you know, if somebody doesn’t want to/can’t learn, they won’t learn wherever they are using  “the best methods“ ever compiled.

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