Learn a language requires intention

Why engagement matters when learning a language

In this blog post, the Education Excellence Manager of Swedish for Professionals, Noa Lange, explains why engagement and intent are paramount for learning a language.

The cliché “say what you mean and mean what you say” actually hides a deep truth when it comes to learning a language.

Sometimes, learning a language feels like mindless rote memorization. You repeat things you hear others saying, but that doesn’t mean you will effortlessly retrieve a specific word or sentence at the moment it matters most, or that you will be able to anticipate novel responses from fluent speakers. In the end, parroting things doesn’t feel like gaining practical knowledge.

But if you start believing that the funny-sounding strings of consonants and vowels that make up a real sentence in your target language carry real meaning, they may start to become integrated in your mind and reach beyond the local context in which you’re practicing them. Don’t just ask someone “Hur är läget?” because it’s Step 1 in your mental flowchart of things to say—ask it because you genuinely want to know how someone is doing! And when you’re alone practicing, don’t just try to nail the grammar and pronunciation, but also the intent and an idea about the different contexts where it may be useful.

At Swedish for Professionals, we believe engagement is paramount. And while practicing “believing” what you’re saying is possible over the holidays (and encouraged!), if you’d like to convert your New Year’s resolution of starting to learn, or becoming fluent in, Swedish into a reality, we will be glad to help.