Wisdom From Kids

Some years ago we talked with an aquaintance about learning languages. Her opinion was surprising: She was strongly convinced that whatever foreign language you are learning, you should not use it until your skills are just perfect.

Why?

Because that would be extremely awkward if you say something wrong! I couldn’t agree with her and I am sure that there are many people who agree with me.

It is probably not possible to become proficient in any language without using it outside of the classroom and without making any mistakes. But when the situation comes where we have to speak foreign language, many of us still avoid doing it.

My Experience

I am not an exception either. In 2004 I spent my first six months as an exchange student in Helsinki, Finland. I used English to sign up for a library card or buy tickets in a movie theater.

My Finnish was pretty clumsy at the time, but it would definitely have been enough to manage in aforementioned situations. Now, when I think of it, I see how stupid I was – what could have gone terribly wrong if I had made a mistake in signing up for a library card?

Four Kids, Four Languages

Some years ago we went to a trip to North Africa with four ladies of my family.  My niece, three years old at that time, was with us. While her mom, grandma and aunt sipped nice cocktails in a restaurant, she ran around with some of her new friends, having lots of fun.

All four spoke different languages: Estonian, German, Turkish and Swedish.

The party was absolutely not annoyed by the absence of common language! We couldn’t believe our eyes when at one moment, the kids took each others hands and walked towards the children’s disco that was held on the other side of the dining area.

In complete understanding, just like they had agreed about their plans in a language that they all share. That was amazing.

How do the kids, who just learn to speak their mother language, do it?

I believe the answer is simple – they are not scared of making mistakes.

They are curious and they can’t even think about the problems that us, adults may have: is it correct to use past simple here or would the progressive be better choice, or is this verb regular or irregular?

Things that in adult’s world may cause, as my acquaintance put it, so much awkwardness. The goal for kids is to make sure that their friends understand them and that they are understood by their friends.

Adults Have A Lot To Learn From Kids

We should not be scared of making mistakes! Saying that, I mean a simple communication situation, not an official letter or email that with no doubt has to be written and translated perfectly. Otherwise it can even dismay the recipient.

But next time when you need to communicate in a foreign language, forget about all the fear and shame and focus on your goal. If you still think that it would be wise to keep learning until your foreign language perfect, you may miss many interesting moments in your life.

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