What really matters when learning a language?
Does pronunciation matter? Does correct grammar matter, or does making yourself understood matter more? How good do you have to be before you can say you’ve learned the language? What does being good in a language mean? And how do you know when you’ve learned a language?
Every one of those questions is built on the premise that language is something you learn. Like how records are things you play, frisbees are things you throw, and whistles are things you blow, languages are things you learn, right?
Language is a thing you use.
More to the point, a language isn’t even a “thing”, so much as it is a system of conduits, like city streets.
It’s not a “thing” that you “use”, as much as it is an “avenue” that you “take”.
It is a structure that stands on its own, in the minds of those who know it, and when you subscribe to it, you too can fill in the lines with your own colors.
For example, once you can say ‘I feel’ – which is structure – you can fill in the blank with your personalized content – your color – to say ‘I feel good’, or ‘I feel great’, or ‘I feel…whatever’.
That’s what language is: structure and content, constant and variable, solid line and color.
Even vowels and consonants are structure and content. Vowels, vibration, like a musical flute, are the basic structure of sound, and contain within it consonants, which are like the fingers of the flute player who changes the sound.
From syntax to sound, It’s structure and content all the way down.
So how do you learn it, which is to say, how do you become a member?
The structure must be established.
The structure must be established so that it will stand alone; so that even when you aren’t speaking the language, for example because you are sleeping, you could be speaking the language if you chose to because you know the language, which means the structure is still there.
And how do you build the structure?
YOU don’t build the structure.
The CONTENT builds the structure.
The content itself builds the very structure that will come to hold it.
Just like how moving water carves a river into the land, each time you express a thought, it leaves its mark in your mind in the shape of the language.
Over time, the system becomes more refined, and more defined. The bends are carved into rock, rather than mud, and you can say whatever you want to say. At the extreme end, it can becomes difficult for people to change the way they speak, which makes it difficult for people to change the way they think.
But in the meantime, while you are building the structure, understand that each time you express a thought in the language you’re learning, you are deepening and expanding the structure. And most importantly, in that moment you’re communicating something, or using the language to some end, which is the purpose of language.
Once a thought is expressed, it blows away like the colored sand of a mandala. But as it’s being expressed, it makes its impression in the rock.