This coming week, the last week of April, will be my final learning Chinese in college. For the past two years, I’ve been studying this language. Before that, I was studying Korean solitary for several years as well. In high school, I also took two years of Latin (clearly, I just like the hard languages). Languages have just always been a thing that has fascinated me, despite being such an undisciplined language learner that I struggle to find time for it. But now, after studying two languages in completely different formats, I’m curious to try to figure out which I like more.
Today I’m writing a slightly different post, though my blog is all about books and knowledge, so I guess it’s still in the same vein. I’ve talked about this topic before, but not for a year or so. So lets get into the pros and cons I’ve had with more disciplined learning in school as well as learning a language on my own.
Also, these are my personal experiences, and other language students (both school and solitary) may find some of these pros to be cons and visa versa.
You HAVE to do the work. You can’t put aside learning a language when you’re in school, since your grade depends on learning new vocabulary and grammar. It’s really easy in solitary language learning to put aside studying if you’re tired from work, or want to play video games instead. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about learning a language in school is that you can’t put it off. You have to keep plugging away or you’ll fall behind. And catching up on a language is a nightmare!
Also, it’s really nice to have a teacher correct you. Learning a language alone is difficult because you don’t directly have someone to go to to ask if you’re saying or writing something correctly. Learning a language in school is different, because you have a teacher who can help you correct mistakes.
You also have other students around you learning the same language. There is a lot of comradery in that, as you discuss mistakes you made on a test, or study together. It’s so nice to know you’re not alone when learning a new language!
In school, language classes go at a very quick speed sometimes. If you are struggling with a certain lesson, it’s not as if you can spend an extra week or two on it, since your class is already moving on.
Language learning becomes a chore in school. Learning on your own, you can try so many things to keep enjoying it: finding different apps, watching TV shows in that language, etc. However, while you can do that in school, it’s in your own time. And when I was spending multiple hours a week on just homework and studying for the class, I did not have much time to explore supplemental resources. Because of that, language learning becomes just another chore, instead of something I was really excited to do.
Since your language class probably isn’t your only class, in school there is never enough time to study a language as much as you should. For example, this semester I had seven classes including three high level history courses. The reality is, when you’re in school, it’s impossible to spend as much time on a language as you probably should.
Tailoring the learning to fit your needs. In school, you learn they wa they teach you. They pick out the books, decide on the learning style, and you have to go along with it. One great pro of learning alone is you can try different types of learning and different language learning books to see which one works best for you.
You can also go as slowly or quickly as you want over lessons. One lesson may be really easy and you breeze through it, while another may take you twice as long. In solitary learning, where you set the due dates for yourself, you don’t have to go too quickly through a lesson you need to spend more time on.
There are so many resources out there! Yes, it is a challenge to find resources, but in school I find you kind of stick inside a box when learning a language, when in solitary learning you can kind of just do what you want. Try apps, try TV shows, try language books, try Youtube. There’s just so many resources and you’re not confined because of a class.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a good program. While it does give you more liberty to find a learning book/system that works best for you, it also means you have to do the research and find resources, instead of being told to get a certain learning book and just going with that.
You don’t always have someone you can go to for help correcting mistakes. There is always the option of hiring a tutor or, if you have a friend who speaks the language, asking them for help. But it’s not quite the same as having a professional teacher who is knowledgeable about teaching that particular language.
I honestly don’t have a perfect conclusion. I will say, since I’ll be graduating from college next year, I won’t be ever learning a language in school again, though I do plan to do solitary learning for, hopefully, the rest of my life. I always like learning new things.
Saying that, as you can see by my list above, there are both pros and cons to both types of learning. While I personally think school language learning is harder, you also learn more quicker unless you, unlike me, are really disciplined in solitary learning. However, solitary learning is much more accessible to more people who don’t have an hour+ a day to study a language.
What is your opinion on these two styles of language learning? Which have you done and do you prefer one more? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, thank you so much for reading, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,