Should You Self-Study Languages?
What are the things that pop in your head when you realize you want to learn a new language?
- Which language school is the best?
- How much does it cost?
- How long is it going to take?
- Self-study the language.
- Depends but most likely cheaper than enrolling in a language school.
- Entirely up to you, your schedule, and learning ability.
Of course, that’s the short end of it. As someone who’s self-studying Korean, I’m a little biased.
The thing is, deciding to learn a language can happen in a heartbeat, as the experience with mine when I decided to learn Korean. A story for another time.
Learning to self-study a language, however, requires a bit more introspection. So what should you be asking yourself when you’re thinking about learning a language? Let’s go through them together.
How flexible is your schedule?
Just to get this straight, I’m not opposed to enrolling in classes. In fact, I’m a big fan of e-courses. But for some reason I decided that I wanted to self-study Korean. The biggest factor that played in this decision is the flexibility that self-studying allowed when it comes to scheduling my own learning.
For me, I liked the ability to speed up or slow down if I have to. If work ever got busy, I can always lessen the days of the week that I study. Or if there’s a long holiday up ahead, I can devote those days to going deeper in my learning.
You may be working from home and thus have more flexibility to attend classes. Or you may have stricter or shifting schedules that it's going to be a challenge to get to class on a specific day and a specific time.
How hands-on do you want to be?
I feel that classrooms are suitable for more passive learners. And I mean this in contrast to self-studying where you’re more active and involved in your learning. In self-studying, nobody’s going to structure your lessons for you nor would there be anyone to keep tabs on your progress.
Immediately thinking you have to enrol in a formal school with a classroom set-up isn’t anybody’s fault. We’ve spent decades in educational institutions that when we think of learning, we immediately default to thinking schools hold all the keys to knowledge.
Self-studying is fun for people who want to be able to pick up parts of learning a new language and spin them on their heads. For me, this meant going straight into conversational vocabulary versus learning Korean words for all the colors of the rainbow, body parts, or even names of animals. Because of my interests, I decided I wanted to learn more Korean words for sports, movies, and food.
How committed are you?
If you’re thinking that self-studying is easy because it fits nicely in your schedule and you get to dictate what you’re going to learn, you will be in for a surprise.
Either you’ll go a year without learning anything or making any real tangible language progress. Or you would have given up within the first three months.
Self-studying a language requires a commitment to learning that gives you results. It requires the gumption to draw up a learning plan and following-through despite the setbacks.
I want to really emphasize on that last bit about setbacks. The path to learning a language, as with everything, is not a straight and easy one. Encountering setbacks means having to constantly refine the learning plan to match your learning needs in conjunction with the practical aspects of life. And these things are not fixed variables.
How does this fall into the grand scheme of things?
Ha! I’m not trying to be philosophical here but I must ask this question. This is especially important for those who want to be fluent in a foreign language.
For me, learning Korean is rooted in my desire to explore deeply the culture and life in South Korea. I feel that learning the language will give me a richer experience for when I travel there in the Fall. In the grand scheme of things, South Korea is definitely a place I am looking at as the next city for my life’s adventures.
As you can tell, self-studying requires a bit more from a person than someone who only has to show up for class. And given the kind of attitude needed to self-study a language, when the going gets tough, it’s knowing how it falls on your grand plans (a.k.a. your WHY) that will get you through those potholes and speed bumps.