Chapter 2. Getting started with your Language Resource Person
Now you have some idea of what I mean when I speak of learning the language by using the language as language. Let's get to it. You need a language resource person. That is the same as saying that you can only learn to communicate if you have someone to communicate with. Often, the best way to find the person or people you need is to go through people whom you already know. If you don't know anyone, you may need to just start asking around. It is better if you do not make a long term arrangement with anyone to help you in this way at the outset. If you make a long term arrangement, and then the person turns out to be unsatisfactory, you have a problem. If several people help you once or twice, not expecting to do more, and out of them one or two become regular helpers, no one's feelings are likely to be hurt, especially if you continue your friendship with all of the people who initially helped you.
It may be good to make it clear that you do not want someone to “teach you the language”. Otherwise, they may send you to an esteemed expert on the “high” language. You may have difficulty learning mundane everyday language from such a person. In addition, such a person may have very strong ideas about how languages are learned, and those may not be the most helpful ideas. You might tell people that first you need to learn the common language, and then when you can speak the common language you will go to that person to learn about the high language.
As people help you during your early struggles with their language, you need to be sure that it isn't a one-sided arrangement, where you get a lot out of it, and those who help you get little out of it. Realize that if people exert themselves for you, you owe them something. Fortunately, many fruitful language learning activities can go on in the context of friendship and social visiting. To the extent that you need a regular, scheduled format with an LRP, you need to take care that your helper is adequately rewarded.
When you are seeking people to help you, you are likely to find that some people automatically light up at the idea. If this doesn't happen, you may need to do some careful relationship building first. Start with people you know, and become friends with their close friends and relatives, and then in turn with those people's close friends and relatives. Spend time with people. As people are people together they tend to do things for each other, and soon there is a sense of mutual obligation. Get it? Mutual! At that point you should be able to get someone to at least give an hour to serving as an LRP. You might do that with a few people. Hopefully, someone will enjoy it enough to want to do it often. If you end up arranging a regular schedule, you should consider paying a fixed amount. If you don't pay a fixed amount, then try to make sure that the benefits to the LRP cost you at least as much as you would pay if you did pay a fixed amount. In many parts of the world, the going hourly wage may be low by your standards, but it is best to stay close to it. In other parts of the world you may pay five or ten dollars an hour. In that case, you'll surely want to have a powerful strategy for using the time to the full, and come to your language learning sessions well prepared, and tape-record all that you do in the sessions, and make extensive use of those tape-recordings following the sessions.
For further thoughts on the language learner's approach to relationship building, see Thomson (1993c) .
- 2.1 Your very first language session
- 2.2 After your language session is over
- 2.3 Some more advanced techniques for increasing your ability to understand the language
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Page content last modified: 15 September 1998
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