Why is it difficult to learn a new language in a formal language classroom?

Learning a new language is always a fun as long as you don’t have a language teacher around you! There is nothing more interesting in life than exploring and appreciating the beauty of a new language. Many language teachers, unfortunately, do not accept this simple truth. They make the life of a learner miserable by using their ill-conceived theories of language acquisition and language learning. It’s a pity that many language teachers frighten their learners with their ingenious pedagogical practices. Ask a child if she is afraid of her language teacher and you will find out the grim truth! Why can’t the language classroom replicate the universal success in the acquisition of basic language proficiency that a child spontaneously achieves outside the classroom?
When I was young I fell in love with a language which belonged to an alien language family. The songs and the folktales of that alien language impressed me so much that I learnt how to respond to that language even without knowing the intricacies of its grammatical rules. The language called ‘garao dima” by its native speakers is popularly known as Dimasa, a member of the Bodo group of languages which come under the Tibeto Burman family of languages. As a speaker of an Indo-Aryan language, I found it very difficult to learn a tone language in which the adjective follows the noun: ‘a beautiful girl’ in that language is a ‘girl (malasa) beautiful (Majangbi)’, If you pronounce the word ‘hatai’ with a level tone, it means ‘tooth’, but if you pronounce the same word with a high tone, it means ‘market’. If someone asks you: “bra thangma?” (where are you going?) and you reply “hataiha” (to the market) with a level tone, you will mean that you are going to the “tooth”! It should be “hataiha” with a high tone. My rendezvous with that fascinating language came to an end rather abruptly when I had to leave the place called Dima hasao. But the echo of that language resonates in my ears even when I am thousands of miles away from the beautiful land of the Dimasas.
In retrospect, I am amazed to recollect how I learnt Dimasa informally, from the market place, from my chats with friends, from my interaction with villagers in interior villages like Didambra and Nobdilangting and through my immersion in Dimasa folk songs and folktales. In those days, I knew nothing about the “top down” and “bottom up approaches”. There was neither CLT nor CALL, but I learnt a language just because I loved it and was surrounded by the sounds and the rhythm of that language. Many of my friends of my youthful days used to laugh at me as I lived for years together in a hut built exclusively for me in a Dimasa village by a large hearted person who appreciated my tryst with a little known language. It was total immersion, total dedication and an unconditional love for a language. All the theoretical discussions on the role of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation for learning a new language were meaningless for me. I learnt it as I got a total exposure to that language.
Years later, when I started learning Kannada, (ಕನ್ನಡ)/ˈkɑːnədə), I was amazed to find out that ‘I had breakfast’ is “Naanu tinDi tinde” in Kannada but ‘I finished my lunch’ is “ooTa aaytu.” The word for breakfast is “tinDi” but I can’t say “Naanu tinDi aaytu”, it is always “tinde” not ‘aaytu.” No language teacher taught me this usage, I learnt it the way the Kannada speakers use it. To cite two more examples. (a) When to say “hEgideera” (How are you) and “hEgideeya” (How are you)? (b) “What are you doing?” means “Enu maaDutta ideera?” as well as “Enu maaDutta ideeya?”. Well, it depends on the context, for elderly people, I would say, “ Enu maaDutta ideera?” but for my friends or juniors, I would say “Enu maaDutta ideeya?”
Language is a social behavior, don’t spoil it with the prescriptive grammar. Listen to the people, talk to the people, love the people, you will learn a language in spite of your language teacher. Using a language is a performing art and while performing in a new language context, we should remember ‘who speaks what language to whom and when?’.

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