Learning a language is like… falling in love

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Learning a language is like falling in love. Learning a language is like painting a picture. Learning a language is like getting to know a city. Learning a language is like driving a car. Learning a language is like learning to dance. There are plenty of metaphors floating around about language learning. Wait! What is a metaphor?

metaphor is a figure of speech that describes an object or action in a way that isn’t literally true, but helps explain an idea or make a comparison.

Here are the basics:

  • metaphor states that one thing is another thing
  • It equates those two things not because they actually are the same, but for the sake of comparison or symbolism
  • If you take a metaphor literally, it will probably sound very strange (are there actually any sheep, black or otherwise, in your family?)
  • Metaphors are used in poetry, literature, and anytime someone wants to add some color to their language

If you brag that “the world’s your oyster,” you’re using a metaphor from Shakespeare, who knew a thing or two about figures of speech. To make people think about what language learning means to them is something that’s quite difficult to put into words in a literal sense but by getting them to think about metaphorical depictions of what language learning is like, you will hear deep, genuine and interesting replies! Below I collected for you some amazing metaphors about what language learning is like.

  • To my latest language flame: Language learning is like falling in love. In fact, I have to be in love to learn a language, and I’m in love with you, my newest language. It’s just an affair, though. I don’t have to marry you to get to know you. I can even have an affair with you now, and then move onto another language affair later. But while I’m learning about you, I’ll be faithful to you. I know I learn faster when I’m faithful to one language… Read more »
  • Learning a language is like driving a car: When you learn how to drive a car, you should learn all the traffic rules, but it doesn’t make you a driver yet. You need hours and hours of practice to learn how to apply all those rules on a road. With a new language, you learn the rules first, but rules alone won’t make you a speaker – you need a real life practice. The shock a new driver may experience is similar to a shock a language learner gets when he or she tries to speak the target language for the first time… Read more »
  • Why learning a language is similar to playing music? Music and languages both take a lot of boring, routine practice. In order to excel in music, an aspiring musician should practice every day, and most of the time it is just about polishing technique and memorising the material. You have to be really passionate about music to overcome this boredom. Only after that a musician may start enjoying the freedom and happiness of expressing self. Freedom and flexibility comes with persistent hard work. It is also true for language learners… Read more »
  • Learning a language is like an archeological dig: Language learning is a process of cultural excavation. At first, you’re simply pondering over shards and fragments, holding them up to the light, trying to put them in context. Little by little, the culture behind the medley of artefacts starts to come through. The ways people think and behave – and have thought and behaved over time – reveal themselves through the bits and pieces you’ve uncovered… Read more »

Learning a language
is like doing a jigsaw puzzle
of a million pieces
with a picture that keeps changing.
It’s like getting lost in a foreign city
without a map.
It’s like playing tennis without a ball,
like being an ant in a field of grasshoppers.
It’s being an acrobat with a broken leg,
an actor without a script,
a carpenter without a saw,
a storyteller without a middle or an end.

But then gradually
it¹s like being out in the early morning
with the mists lifting.
It¹s like a chink of light under a door,
like finding the glove you were looking for,
catching the train you thought you were going to miss,
getting an unlooked-for present,
exchanging a smile.

And then one day it’s like riding a bicycle
very fast downhill.

Learning a language for me is like becoming a child again. Do you ever think about the languages you speak, learn or have learned in the past? Has this post engaged your thinking? Can you come up with better metaphors for language learning?
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Learning a language is like…falling in love

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2 thoughts on “Learning a language is like… falling in love

  1. Russel Ray Photos

    I think learning a language is like falling OUT of love!
    I made all A’s in high school except for 2 B’s. They were in Spanish. I grew up in deep South Texas so you would think that Spanish would kind of come naturally. Nope.
    I college I made all A’s and B’s, except for 1 C. Computer programming. I do consider it a foreign language. I had an F going into the final exam, but I thought outside the box and came up with a creative solution. Professor called me into his office, told me he had never had someone come up with the solution I did, and gave me an A. Since the final was 50% of our grade, I brought my F up to a C. Anything lower than a C and I would have had to take the class again the next semester.


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