When we were taught modern languages at school there was a vital lesson missing. In French we were tested on our ability to recall lists of vocabulary, our capacity to remember the gender of our nouns and our knowledge of verbs.
But what did all this testing and pressure to rely on memory compromise?
We were taught in a way that neglected to build confidence because it taught us that language is something to be tested. We learned that it is judged to be right or wrong, and something that we can fail at. The type of failure that discourages us. So we seem to belong to a nation of people, very few of whom can speak modern languages particularly well. Yet there is a huge apetite to learn, and regret for many people that they never really had the chance.
So…What happened at school?
We didn’t have our failure encouraged.
Failure is good because it leads to learning and growth. The most important part of learning another language is developing the confidence to fail. Having the confidence to fail means we have the confidence to try, and what’s the worst that can happen when we give it a go?
Perhaps a misunderstanding or a lack of understanding, and the opportunity to try again.
Language is fun, and learning it should be relaxed and full of humour. It can only really be learned through experience because experience means failure. That is the whole point of anything that must be learned in such a way.
The way we are taught languages is closely tied to what we believe about our own creativity, and attitude towards the world at large.
As a musician everything I know about how I write, perform and play has been learned through experience. We can substitute the word experience for ‘experimentation/failure/success’ etc. They are all the same thing in this regard.
I have learned what works, what doesn’t work and what might work if I just work on it a little bit. None of these things can be learned from a theoretical standpoint or by simply thinking or writing about them. The theory only makes sense in light of what I understand through my own experience of music. It enhances and gives definable terms to the things I do, but it doesn’t underpin my reasoning for why I do it.
Theory should therefore never be a starting point for creative endeavours, because it will always cloud the experiential learning process that must take place prior to it.
In this episode of the podcast I talk about why the confidence to fail needs to become a cornerstone of education. I suggest that exam and targets driven educational culture is a key in stopping failure from being encouraged and nurtured as it needs to be.
The musical sounds this week are provided by the following great artists. All available on Bandcamp. If you like them, support them. Be a real patron of great things: