What’s difficult to explain, but easy to understand?
A lot of language stuff, imo, is fairly easy to apply in practice but freakishly difficult to explain in theory. I know I am terrible at explaining language, or so it seems, and so it always irks me when people assume that just because you know a language, you can teach it to other people. I think knowing/being able to do something doesn’t automatically mean you’re able to teach it to others. It shows particularly well if you try to help someone learn your native language when you actually have no experience of how to teach it to non-natives. It seems easy because, well, you know the language, but it’s not. It’s freakishly difficult to explain things to someone for whom it’s just not intuitive yet how your language works. I suppose it might particularly be a problem for me because I tend to learn a bit differently than people do in conventional language schools and stuff. I learn my own way and I comprehend things my own way, which doesn’t have to be right for everyone and which is difficult to explain to other people who are outside of my mind. By my own way, I mostly mean that I don’t really focus on theory so much. Like, in normal schools and many language schools, there’s so much emphasis on grammar, and more often than not, it’s done in a very theoretical way, like rather than just learning grammar through practice and exposure and noticing different patterns in it and stuff, there’s all the notetaking about what present simple is and how it’s used and then memorising it along with example sentences, and then doing exercises in a textbook which consist of filling the blanks in sentences with correct grammar forms or place the words in the right order to make a logical-looking sentence. To me, that’s quite boring. Also, when I was going to school, I seriously struggled with all these theoretical definitions. And it made me a bit concerned that perhaps something is wrong with me and that I’m not doing something right. After learning some grammar structure at school, I usually didn’t have huge problems using it properly, though of course I’d make mistakes sometimes like any non-native and I still do, but remembering the whole theory thing… nah, it was always rather abstractive to me. Even now, if you asked me about what is, say, a subjunctive, or even how articles work in English, I may have a problem explaining it, but if it’s some structure that I’ve become sufficiently familiar with, I’ll be able to apply it in practice anyway. I used to think it’s weird and perhaps just another example of how quirky my brain is and how it so often doesn’t do things the normal way. It was only when I started to try and help non-natives learn Polish language when I realised that, in a way, perhaps my way of perceiving and learning/absorbing grammar is better, because it looks a bit more like how natives perceive their language and thus I guess is a bit more natural. Inn Polish, we have something called reflexive verbs, and one guy who was learning Polish and with whom I was penpalling asked me if I could help him figure out how that works. Well, except… I don’t know… I just use them, and I know that I use them right, because it feels right, and any other way would feel wrong. I tried my best to help him out but writing all that down in theory seemed so infinitely more complicated than it actually is. I don’t need to know the definition of a reflexive verb in the Polish language to be able to use one and know when to use one etc. I highly doubt that there are many people in Poland who aren’t linguists, teachers or real huge language geeks or something like that who’d know what reflexive verbs are at all, let alone be able to clearly explain to someone how they work, just like people in the Anglophone countries don’t memorise all the irregular verbs because they just know how to use them. Because, of course, we acquire our native languages through constant exposure to them, rather than studying textbooks and memorising definitions. By that, I’m not saying that studying textbooks when learning a foreign language is total bullshit, I do it too (assuming I have access to such things as textbooks in a specific language, I don’t have any Welsh ones for example and I don’t really feel the need to) just that, if you base solely on a textbook, it’ll never become natural. Also, unfortunately you can’t just acquire a new language as an adult, or not nearly as easily as a small child would, even with a lot of exposure and practice, but for me personally, observing how the language is used and thus getting concrete examples, is more intuitive, and far more interesting, than basing primarily on dry, often long-winded and full of exceptions to the rules textbook definitions, and it clearly gives me more than the dry learning, given how insanely fast my English started progressing as soon as I started self-teaching and distanced myself a bit from the way I was being taught at school. I also often try to help Sofi with her English homework, but I always end up exasperated at all the boring theory in there they have to digest and all the silly exercises. No wonder that the poor kid hates English. 😀
What is such thing in your opinion? 🙂