The other day I came across this great saying “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts” attributed to Winston Churchill. What a great quote, I thought and wondered whether Churchill ever said this in relation to language learning. Despite his knowledge of French he didn’t relate it to language learning. According to the International Churchill Society he didn’t say it at all!
Such a great quote! If Churchill didn’t say it, maybe it WAS a language learner!
I remember a primary school boy many years ago who proudly told me that he finished all his graded reader stories. That was a huge success for him as he managed to work his way through all the levels. He then said to me “I’ll never have to read again!” ☺
Why are you learning a language? To pass an exam? Passing a language exam is a huge success. You’ve proven that you can speak, write, listen and read in another language and that’s brilliant. But is it final? What happens if you then stop learning and using that language? How many of you passed their final French exam at school and then not spoken French until that holiday a few years ago. Did you get past ‘je m’appelle…’? Maybe, maybe not.
Once you’ve succeeded in something you need to keep on using it or it will be lost – not forever, but it will be hard to regain it. Even if you started another language, make sure you still use what you’ve learned. It is easy to forget our progress and undermine it.
Oh, and that little boy? Last time I saw him he had a book in his hand. He did realise that those final stories weren’t the end. Instead they were the beginning of a life full with interesting books.
We don’t like to fail – well, I don’t. I hate making mistakes and I guess you do, too. And yet, making mistakes is useful. It helps us to get right whatever it is we’re working on. That also applies to language learning. I have a student who loves making mistakes. He says, while correcting the mistakes, it helps him getting it right next time.
So, no matter how frustrating it is to fail when learning some German grammar, it isn’t fatal! Because …
And that’s the important bit. Have courage! Don’t dwell over your mistakes! Have courage and continue and you will get past the problems.
I’ll leave you with two more quotes, this time they are Churchill’s.
“The greatest tie of all is language.…Words are the only things that last for ever. The most tremendous monuments or prodigies of engineering crumble under the hand of Time. The Pyramids moulder, the bridges rust, the canals fill up, grass covers the railway track; but words spoken two or three thousand years ago remain with us now, not as mere relics of the past, but with all their pristine vital force.”
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