Learning a new language is like…

When I decide to learn a new language I usually first think of getting a map. I need a book to tell me the basics – how the present,
past or future are encoded, if I need to build every statement in the order who-did-what, how the difference between ONE and MORE THAN ONE is made clear etc. I need to see the system, the territory ahead of me.

I then start worrying about the words that I have to stick on to the patterns and rules in the system. Here it’s more a matter of coverage:
words are needed to talk about free time, about work, about favourite books or music, about problems etc. And it feels like I’m painting a
house: I need to cover this wall, and that wall, and the other wall… It takes a lot of sweat, but seeing the colour on the wall with every
stroke of my hand does give me the reward to push me further.

But the last step is actually the hardest: I need to sort of forget about the rules and just let go. Just breathe in and put the words together in
a completely new sentence of my own, for which I have the full copyright. I do pick words from here and from there, and I do pour them
in this pattern or in that pattern, but the result is always 100% mine – and this is the great step.

So you see, for me learning a language is like hiking in a virgin forest, painting a house with dozens of rooms – and ultimately skating on an endless rink.

And what’s it like for you?

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