The need to speak is a powerful force, isn’t it?
Speaking, whether to express opinions, complaints, suggestions etc., or simply to establish and maintain human relations, empowers. Having a voice is a democratic freedom enscribed in constitutions and universal declarations. It’s a ‘Right’ that has been fought for by suffragettes, revolutionaries and dissenters. It has been tortured, suffered and died for. Communication, beyond animal grunts, was the earliest and most unique attribute of our species. It remains the most important. Remove it and you remove identity. Communication skills create social identity. Having identity means being alive.
Establishing identity in the anglophone world means learning English. By contrast, living in France means I have to establish my identity through the French language. This is done by improving my French language skills, overcoming timidity and losing fear of making errors. Yes, babies have distinct advantage over me. They have no inhibitions nor any previous language already etched upon their mental linguistic templates. Their trials to communicate and establish individual identity are just beginning.
Speaking is the key. That’s something the baby girl in the clip instinctively knows. Speaking is both the path and the goal of language acquisition – and thank goodness for loving parents who patiently encourage and guide. Adult learners, on the other hand, take language lessons with patient language-loving teachers to guide them on their way. Alternatively, if fortunate, they immerse themselves in the new linguistic environment with partners to help their new language speedily progress.
Both scenarios are opportunities to speak and practice. They are forums, communal or private, for the display of ideas and self-identity. During lessons content of speech is not analyzed for its profundity or verity. Language teachers are not philosophers, gurus, scientists or priests. But what is important is the act of self-expression, however clumsy this may at first feel, for those nuances of meaning can only develop this way. All babies get there eventually. Second language learning adults too!
So speak out and speak up! Any subject is good. It’s the way to progress!