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Actual knowledge

Have you ever had that impression that the level of your knowledge of a language isn’t impressive? Or you can say just a few words? Or you know how to construct sentences using only one tense?

Why do we think about our level? Why are people interested mainly in numbers, categories, diagrams or statistics? Shouldn’t we take pleasure in learning and do it because it’s for us and our self-development?

Many learners try to measure everything connected to a language. Nothing wrong but, unfortunately, they do it too often. They do not focus on their actual knowledge and on what they can really produce in a foreign language. They count how many words they know and how many tenses they mastered. Numbers and statistics. Are they really important?

I do not claim that monitoring your progress is wrong. Moreover, without it you cannot state how much you have learnt. I encourage you to note everything you got to know. Thanks to this, after some time you can say ‘wow, I really learnt many new words!’; it’s good for people who claim that they learnt nothing or little. Although keeping an eye on our progress is desired, let’s do not pay too much attention to this. Pay attention to your actual knowledge and the fact that you can make a creative use of it. Remember that writing whole lists of sentences you can make isn’t the evidence that you really can use them in various contexts. ‘I can talk about colours’ sounds much better than ‘I know blue, red, green and yellow’. Don’t limit yourself and your knowledge.

Imagine that you’ve just started learning a language, for example Spanish. This is the list of things you have already known:

  • Personal pronouns – yo, tú, él/ella/usted, nosotros/as, vosotros/as, ellos/ellas/ustedes
  • The rules of making regular verbs using present tense + 5 basic verbs
  • Conjugation of the verb ‘soy’ (to be)
  • How to make questions and answers

Much or little? You will probably say ‘oh, just a few rules and words…’. Really? Look in how many ways you can use that knowledge:

  • You know in general 6 verbs. Six times 12 versions of personal pronouns equals 72 possibilites.
  • In Spanish questions are made just by adding question marks and/or interrogative pronouns. If you know the answer, you’re able to make a question easily. And vice versa.
  • Add a conjuction ‘y’ (and) and create more complicated sentences.

Your potential and possibilities are actually infinite! Look how many sentences you can create and how many ideas and thoughts you can express!

The same thing is with English and every language. Of course, some languages are more difficult than the others (because of a different writing etc.); however, the idea remains the same. Monitor your progress but don’t pay too much attention to details. The most important thing is to make use of your whole knowledge and to develop it regularly. And remember: you know more than you think 🙂



A language enthusiast, a teacher, a learner and a student of English and French teaching at the University of Warsaw.

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