It can be enough to read

Surface languages, in addition to being a language learning site, is also where I give voice to my thoughts.

One of the things that I have noticed recently is the emphasis on speaking when learning languages. I like reading, and I like reading in other languages. So if I decide that all I want to do is read in a language and nothing more, does this make me a bad person or devalue my achievement? I think not. And yet, there are not many people putting an emphasis on this (less flashy) learning style.

I was musing, while walking my four legged friend, that too great an emphasis is placed on speaking languages, with the idea that speaking well is the pinnacle of achievement that must be reached at all costs. It can definitely be motivating, focus the mind and force you to learn certain expressions, and I also like the sound of my own voice. Essentially though focusing on speaking, helps you speak, but strangely not so much to read well. Speaking is not a massively efficient way of rapidly increasing your passive vocabulary. i.e. the words that you can understand but not reproduce. Converselt, it is an extremely good way of increasing your active vocabulary.

However speaking and reading are different skills, and is speaking always necessary, or even desirable? I mean why bother?! I work from home and can spend hours in complete silence, or maybe with the radio on or streaming something to listen to. Don't worry, I do go out every now and ... communicate. Still, what I'm saying is that it is possible to spend hours without speaking. I've also worked in some offices like that, where noise (of any type) was strictly frowned upon.

If you are interested in languages, and want to learn more than one, or two or however many you consider reasonable, you will soon run into the barrier of time, or lack thereof.

Now, I find Afrikaans interesting for family reasons. My grandfather spoke Afrikaans, and through him (and quite illogically) I feel an affinity for the language. But, I also know that I'm never going to learn to speak more than the odd words or phrase or two. I'll never speak it, because I'm never going to be in an environment where it is spoken, and given the time I have available to learn/play with languages, have to prioritise. I like languages, but probably have no more than an hour a day (or less) to spend playing with them.

I have to be honest with myself, and admit that I will never speak Afrikaans but also that is fine. The temptation is to flit from language to language, learning nothing. I just don't have the time or need. But that doesn't mean that I can't have access to and interest in Afrikaans. I like the sound of it, which is why there are already Afrikaans Sentences on Surface languages before more commonly spoken languages.

It is an order of magnitude easier to learn to read, rather than speak and understand another new language, and Afrikaans grammr is straight-forward for English speakers. I bought Teach yourself Afrikaans, to help with the pronunciation. I want to know how the words are pronounced as I read them - even if I only pronounce them in my head.

In general I read using a Kindle, although in Afrikaans there is no decent English/Afrikaans dictionary which can be installed on it. I've been reading (extremely slowly) Die ou met die snor by die bar by the rapper Jack Parrow. If you are a language purist, it isn't for you, as there is some mixing of English and Afrikaans. I've been reading this book as I like his music, and from time to time, try and decipher the lyrics, with the vain hope of understanding them when I listen.

This concept of access to culture isn't discussed widely, with perhaps a disproportionate emphasis on speaking, but it seems like a no-brainer to me to sometimes set yourself a goal of reading only.

So read, feel proud of your achievement, and free yourself of the burden of speaking and of comprehension;)