In my school, I’m often in and around reception when people come in for enquiries, level tests or to sign up for courses. All too often I hear: “How long will it take me to have a ‘good level’ of English?”; “When will I be able to speak perfectly?”; “I know ALL the grammar, it’s just the speaking I need”… and so on.
In my years of teaching, learning about teaching and learning about learning, I have gained a fairly solid understanding of language acquisition, and yet I find it almost impossible to respond to these ridiculous questions and statements which I meet on a daily basis. How can you tell someone: “You’ll NEVER finish learning a language (neither your first nor another)”; “It will probably take you at least five years to get anywhere near what might be considered a ‘good level’ of English (including a lot of hard work and some considerable natural ability)”; “The fact that you know the names of some verb tenses in English and may even know the form does not mean that you know the grammar, just that you may recognise a few steps as you start back up the ladder”?
My colleagues and I strive hard to give honest, realistic and knowledgeable advice to those looking to undertake any course of study with us, but it seems that fewer and fewer are prepared to stop, listen and consider what we’re saying.
Is it a sign of modern life that people are loath to accept anything other than a ‘quick fix solution’ for their needs? Is it the knock-on effect of the desperate situation we find ourselves in here in Andalucía in the current economic climate where people cannot bear to think that their prospects will have to wait longer still before any real improvement is discernible?
We carry on chip-chipping away, trying to make others see the long,at times arduous, yet often beautiful road that is learning a language in the hope that they will sign up and let us walk with them for a while.