As a student I never liked language subjects. Portuguese, English, French. But now I regret not have taken more advantage of it. Specially the French. Portuguese is my main language and English is so global that you would learn it anyway. But French and others escaped.
Although I regret not have learned more languages sooner, I believe the blame is not entirely on me, neither on all the students that struggle with the education system. In fact I believe there is something very wrong about how education currently works.
I believe we all are beings of emotion and expression need. And of course, languages are means of expression. But by focusing in the inner function of the language artifacts, like grammar nerds do, the fundamental purpose is lost, and with it goes all the passion of learning.
I can tell you the better way to have learned French was to have found a French girlfriend. Need is the mother of invention they say. That is true, but also, learning is something emotional. We are not robots, our emotional apparatus is fundamentally involved with learning. This is very well known. Old school teaching relied on physical violence to enforce students to learn. Pain is a very good persuasive. Our nervous system does a good job sending a very powerful message when something painful should be avoided, and we understand it very well.
Fortunately the old school physical punishments are gone. Now the pain comes only from the teaching method itself and boy, it is a very strong disincentive. I know something is very wrong because learning should not be painful. I’m 100% certain of that because our success as species has only to do with our amazing talent for learning, and that cannot be made without joy. But class rooms are empty of joy. Quite the opposite, they are full of boredom.
Now when someone says “I don’t like language subjects” I see it in the same way I see people saying “I don’t like to read books”. About that I have to say that nobody goes to fish because they are in love with the fishing rod. Like fishing rods, languages and reading are not the end goal itself (unlike some grammar nerds may reveal), they are only means to ends. Someone goes to fish because of the experience as a whole. To deal with the unexpected, to hope for a big fish. To drink a couple Belgian beers and talk with other folks while fish don’t bite.
Learning languages by its internal rules is like going to fish because of the love for the rod. Of course someone needs to know how to use a rod, but it is just a small part of the experience.
In the same way, reading by reading is infertile. If you don’t believe me try to read the dictionary or the small letters of any random contract or terms and condition agreement. Reading is about fulfillment of some of our emotional apparatus. It is about fantasy, discovery, insight and fulfilling curiosity. Compassion, vindication, love and hate. It is also about aesthetics, melody, rhythm and composition. It’s Heritage, property, humor and belonging.
Humans accomplished a lot, thanks to the powerful capacity of learning. The irony of our accomplishment is that sometimes we forget the fundamentals. We get lost with processes and ignore the purpose.
We live in an era full of richness, technologies, artifacts. I believe we need to bring back something much more fundamental, our emotions. It’s time to throw out of the window all the grammar classes that fill entire rooms with boredom.
We need to explore the emotional triggers that lay in every single human being, the rest will just follow.