Um…I guess I’m going to keep this short. I went on a really long walk today, through forests and leafy neighborhoods and narrow streets. Anyway, near the very end of the walk, it occurred to me that learning a language is like boiling water.
When the water has boiled, you have reached fluency. Thereafter, you can keep the water at boiling point with less input (of thermal energy) than it took to get it there in the first place. Where a lot of people right now fail with language-learning is, they try to boil water…but then they keep turning off the fire, and when they do turn it on, it’s only for a short time (they’re being three-day monks). So they wonder why their water isn’t boiling, after all, they turn on the stove for 3 seconds once a day(!!!?!?!??!). And then they think: “maaan, water is so hard to boil!!!”
Yes, let’s blame the task instead of realizing that the process is faulty. Doing things that way is not the way to boil water. In fact, doing things that way, the water will likely evaporate before it boils — the language itself will change or the learner will die before ever having learned it.
Turn on that fire, and turn it on high, and keep it on high. The way to boil water is in a single, continuous stream of intense heat. Forget your worries about whether or not the water is going to boil or whether your pot is the right colour — leave that to the laws of physics — just focus on keeping the fire lit.
I guess a picture of boiling water would have been more apropos…