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The language "growing" process.

I have a little secret. I've recently discovered the love of gardening. As well as the frustration and hard work of gardening. The other day, as I was putting some seeds into little pots to germinate, I had an "aha" moment. Learning a language is like growing a plant! Call me crazy, but hear me out. A plant goes through many stages of growth, and they can all be compared to a step in the language learning process. Let me explain!

 

The 6 steps of "growing" a language


Step 1: the seed packet

  • Imagine picking up a seed packet of your favorite fruit or vegetable, and imagining how cool it would be to plant it, grow it, and then eat it!

  • The same thing happens in your brain when you decide to start learning a new language. You imagine yourself like the picture on the seed packet, being able to communicate with people in a new language, travelling, working, whatever you fancy. There is a long road from seed to fruit, but it's a beautiful journey, and remember, there's no rush!

Step 2: planting the seed

  • Imagine - you gather your soil or compost, a small pot, a label and of course your seeds. You follow the instructions on the packet, place your seeds in the pot, water them in, and you're done! You've taken the first step!

  • When you take action and sign up for lessons, or buy some self study resources to learn your language, or even just download a free App like Duo Lingo, you are planting the seed to start your learning journey. You may also make a plan for your learning - how much time can you dedicate to your "growth" every week?

Step 3: the initial growth spurt

  • Seeds usually pop up pretty quickly, especially in the right conditions. It's extremely exciting to see how quickly they push the soil away and become little plants. Sometimes it seems like they double in size in just one day!

  • When you first start learning a language, there is so much to learn, and you will usually find yourself learning quite quickly, especially because the basics are not usually very difficult. You will feel motivated and excited to keep learning.

Step 4: waiting for fruit

  • After the initial growth, the plant will appear to slow down, maybe it will produce small fruits, but they often take quite some time to mature. This is a time to be patient and continue caring for the plant, making sure it gets enough water, sunshine and nutrients. A lot is happening inside the stems, leaves and fruits that you can't see with the naked eye.

  • The exact same thing happens when learning a language. After you've blown through the basics, you will start learning more complex vocabulary and grammar structures, and this obviously takes more time. Your brain needs time to process all this information, and it may seem that you are learning much more slowly, but keep going and don't give up, the best is yet to come!

Step 5: problems - pests and disease

  • No matter how well you follow all the "gardening rules", it's still quite probable that you will at some point have a problem with your plant. Perhaps it will get a bit of a fungal disease from too much watering, or maybe the aphids will find it and chew on some of its leaves. This is all part of the process, and a strong plant can usually withstand these minor hick-ups.

  • In the learning process, this is what we call the "plateau" (read this post if you want some more info on how to deal with this "problem"). You will come to a point where you feel like you aren't improving, like you can't remember anything, like you can't even form a sentence anymore! Don't despair! I promise it's completely normal. This is your brain telling you that it needs a little break from learning so that it can process all the information you've been feeding it over the past months or years. Keep practicing and try not to stress too much about being perfect.

Step 6: harvesting the fruit!

  • The moment has come. Your plant has finally produced something edible. It may not be the most perfect or most beautiful specimen, but it will certainly be more delicious than anything you can buy in the supermarket, because YOU grew it! Enjoy!

  • When you can carry out a conversation in the language that you're learning, you are finally harvesting the fruits of your efforts. Will you make some mistakes? OF COURSE. But if you can communicate with someone for whatever reason you need to (work, travelling, school, etc.), it means that you have succeeded. Do you stop learning here? Of course not. Keep studying, keep talking, keep using the language, and while you're at it, congratulate yourself, you did it!

 

Glossary

  • germinate: to begin to grow, to come into existence

  • hear me out: informal phrase to say, "listen to me"

  • whatever you fancy: informal phrase to say, "whatever you prefer"

  • soil: dirt

  • growth spurt: when someone or something grows very quickly

  • pop up: idiom - to suddenly appear

  • invisible to the naked eye: expression - when something isn't visible without a microscope

  • to blow through: phrasal verb - when something comes and goes very quickly

  • pests: animals that damage plants and or property (insects, rats, rabbits, etc.)

  • withstand: synonym - to endure, to survive a difficult situation

  • hick-ups: informal - problems

  • carry out: phrasal verb - to do or to have

  • harvesting the fruits of your efforts: idiom - when you enjoy the success of a lot of hard work



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