Recently, someone was asking whether or not having a significant other who speaks the language you are trying to study will help you in your studies. I think most people, even those who have never studied a language before, would say “of course!” So, the purpose here is not to convince you that a foreign lover will help you on your path to fluency but rather, to show you how he or she can help and also the problems that might occur with such a situation.
In my personal experience, yes, having a girlfriend who speaks the language you are studying helps a lot. “Why?” you might ask.
The reason for this is that you are able to slip in a lot more studying time without it feeling that way. Because this person is your significant other, you’re probably going to want to spend a good deal of time with him or her and you will probably end up speaking to him or her quite a bit.
Just to make things easy, let’s say you speak an average of one hour per day with your significant other. Over a week, that’s seven extra hours of practicing the language. And, of course, over a year that’s 365 hours. If you have read my ebook, you already know that 365 hours is a good chunk of time towards reaching your goal.
Not only does having a Japanese girlfriend or a Swedish boyfriend (for examples) help you speak the language more naturally, but the chances that you will run across a word you don’t know and then have it taught to you by your significant other are also higher.
Additionally, just by hearing that amount of language everyday, you will have a ton of repetition and you will grow accustomed to the language and its patterns. Because this is your significant other speaking to you, you’ll probably be interested in what he or she is saying and you’ll be more likely to go out of your way to figure out new vocabulary or grammar patterns that he or she is using.
Person A and Person B
To show you the difference again, let’s look at Person A who has no foreign girlfriend and person B who does. I’m going to do this from a male’s perspective since it’s annoying to write “he or she” and “boyfriend or girlfriend” in every sentence but obviously, this situation can be turned around just as easily to come from a female’s perspective. This example will show you how the “study” patterns differ between having a foreign lover or not and will also show the types of activities that will aid you in your “studies”. Let’s start with Person A.
Person A studies an average of half an hour per day. Sometimes he’ll study 2 hours in one day but some days, he won’t study at all. His studies mostly include trying to read newspaper articles online or trying to complete grammar exercises in his grammar textbook. He often gets distracted by incoming e-mail or by surfing the internet during his studies.
Person B, on the other hand, goes out to dinner with his girlfriend regularly as well as to other fun activities. Of course, all of this is conducted in the language Person B is trying to learn. Person B’s girlfriend introduces him to several movies and books in the language that he enjoys very much. Person B’s girlfriend introduces him to her friends who also speak the language he is studying. Person B often speaks to his girlfriend over the phone or online because he’s interested in her and speaking to her doesn’t feel like a chore. Occasionally, Person B’s girlfriend will use a word or grammar point he doesn’t understand. Because Person B wants to know the meaning, he immediately looks it up in an online dictionary and remembers it well because his girlfriend used it.
As you can see, the amount of time that Person B spends with his girlfriend (and thus receiving/producing his studied language) will be much higher than someone simply studying. Also, Person B’s “studies” are much more fun than Person A’s studies and one could argue that the language Person B is learning is more natural than the language Person A finds in his textbook.
You’ve probably noticed that you tend to remember things that you are interested in better than things that you are not interested in. I don’t know about you but talking to my girlfriend is fun so I’m better able to remember the context and usage of words than if I had learned them in some dry, written textbook context.
We’ll talk about the pitfalls, tactics and other problems of a “sleeping dictionary” tomorrow, so stay tuned.
*UPDATE* Here is part 2 of this series
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