The Language Dabbler

The most common kind of language learner is the Language Dabbler. Here is a short guide to help you spot one in the wild.

Pulquería, Tlalpan, Mexico City

Pulquería, Tlalpan, Mexico City

A Language Dabbler is someone who starts learning a new language for no identifiable reason other than the coolness factor.

At the beginning, when they’re learning common nouns, the Language Dabbler’s motivation is high. Coffee cup! Hat! Dining room! The Language Dabble still can’t say anything yet that doesn’t fit into one of the formulas they’ve learned so far, but they feel like they’re really advancing. They just know it. The software tells them so.

After a short while, the Language Dabbler has told quite a few people about the new language they’re learning. They are really blazing through the levels on Duolingo and Pimsleur. You should try it, too.

The Language Dabbler does not put themselves in situation that would requiring using their new language for actual communication. They’ll do that soon.

Around the time that their new language gets hard — when the messy realities of authentic language set in — the Language Dabbler will start thinking about what their next language will be.

The Language Dabbler is that person who is in love with falling in love, but quits when the honeymoon is over. The Language Dabbler is that person who joins the gym in January but by February is nowhere to be seen.

Don’t be a Language Dabbler. You can’t do much of anything with Beginning Spanish except get to Intermediate Spanish. Don’t give up on Spanish before you can actually do something with the language. The actual rewards of a speaking a new language are the joys of using it for real communication. And those rewards are directly proportional to your skill in that language.

Don’t listen to the sirens. The good stuff is right around the corner.