Look at these four words. Choose the odd one out:
Swim Run Learn Cycle
What was your answer? I’ll take a guess and say your answer was learn. And if this was an exam, you’d be right. But this isn’t an exam and there is no odd one out.
You see, learning, especially learning a foreign language, is just like playing sport. Both can be challenging, difficult, easy, boring, exciting, and fun. Sometimes we can’t wait to get out and run to class, and other times we have to drag ourselves just to get out of bed.
Take swimming. It’s one of the best ways to get an all-round workout for your body. And learning a new language is one of the best ways to get an all-round workout for your brain! When you have to learn new words, grammar rules, unusual ways of telling the time and using numbers, different areas of your brain have to get working and they have to get working together. And it all helps to improve your logical and conceptual thinking too.
And what about discipline? Playing sport and learning languages can be fun, but both require some effort in order to improve. Want to run a marathon? Most of us just can’t get up one day and run 42.2km. Want to become fluent in another language? Most of us can’t just land in China and instantly speak Chinese. We need to put in some effort, consistently, even when we don’t really feel like it. It might be hard now, but your future self will be so happy when you cross the finish line, or have a chat to a local on a bus in Beijing.
But you know what is really great? Confidence! With every new expression you use, and with every extra kilometre you run, you feel better and better, knowing that all the effort you keep putting in is getting you closer to your goals.
So go and get that workout you’ve been thinking about. And just keep swimming!
Lenise Collimore - English teacher @Una Paloma Blanca Language School