Every so often I read up on some translation studies out of a desire to take up the profession at some point. In the past, I translated many, many Brazilian newspaper articles for my Brazil-focused blogs, but being that I’m not a professional (translator), surely those translations were missing something or other.
Last night, I read a correspondence from a new translator who said she and her clients thought her work is excellent and professional, to which a seasoned translator (on whose blog she was leaving the message) said: Imagine a “future you” reading this and looking through your current translations in 25 years time. What would the future you, with all the life/work experience say or think? Most likely that your current translations are bad and rather unprofessional (in the case you’re specializing in an area you don’t have the expertise in yet).
From that point of view, my translations are very likely quite poor. Teaching yourself a language is a relatively similar process, even if you only need to wait a few years to become the “future you”. In the meantime, you put in the work, day after day, and you may even think you’re doing well (and, compared to when you didn’t even know how to say “hello”, you are!) but it’s only way later that you realize your rookie mistakes. This, in and of itself, is a great reason to hire a language teacher, because that gap between mistake made and correction given becomes so small, comparatively.
Thinking about teachers and students, I’m reminded of the main motto at Facebook which is “Move fast and break things”. I believe language learning is best done in this manner. However, I’d change “fast” to either “consistently” or “steadily” because some learners prefer a slower pace (but that doesn’t mean they can’t be consistent with their learning schedule). The part about breaking things is, of course, related to making mistakes. That is, don’t be afraid to make them as it’s crucial to your progress.
As for what to focus on, I’m sure your teacher has lots of suggestions designed for different kinds of learners. But when you’re not in class, be mindful to keep all four areas (reading, writing, listening, and speaking) as developed and leveled as possible. We’ve all seen that guy at the gym who only works out his upper body, resulting in “chicken legs”. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid that linguistically, too. ; )
Other Articles about Language Learning:
- Three Tips For Language Learners
- Language Learning: How to Create Immersion from Home
- Tips to Overcome Language Learning Frustration