So, it is rather clear that I cannot keep up with my ‚once-a-week‘ update target that I set myself. I am therefore moving the goalposts a little closer. From now, I will attempt to update at least once per month. On this day, then, the last day of April, I ask you to consider the following question: Is language an art or a science?
Without defining all three of these words, it is a little difficult to continue. By language, I mean the ability to speak, understand, read and write. ‚Art‘ and ’science‘ are words I am using to describe two different approaches to speaking, understanding, reading and writing. Whereas the artist will use their intuition to communicate, the scientist will use logic to deduce the ‚correct‘ way to communicate. The artist will say what they feel to best express themselves, the scientist will say what they know to be correct.
So, is it better to be an artist or a scientist? Well, at first glance, the scientist is the winner. Teachers teach the ‚correct‘ way to speak, the correct grammar, the dictionary definitions of words. Verbs are drilled, tables are learned, and the diligent student will achieve a good level of accuracy and fluency. The student will probably be able to write essays of surpassing quality; they will eventually be able to read academic literature at a level considered too challenging for most natives. They may even achieve native-level fluency in this way, if they work long and enough. However, the chances of this are reasonably low. For that, we need an artist.
Native speakers themselves are artists, of course. Does a native consider the implications of using the past instead of the present perfect? Not often. Do they always use the ‚correct‘ word? Not at all. We natives can be rather creative in the words we choose; sometimes we even create brand new ones just for the occasion. Scientists will often pause before they begin to speak, a check-and-double-check buffer that gives them the confidence that what they say is accurate. Artists have little or no ‚buffering time‘ when they speak, and yet the majority of them, most of the time, will speak perfectly comprehensible English. They may even be more engaging than the scientists, more idiomatic and colourful.
I am not saying that the artistic approach is the best. Neither am I saying the scientist is the superior, more intelligent being. I am merely saying that taking time to be both artistic and scientific at different times in your learning will yield positive results, while the opposite approach, perhaps, eventually, will hold you back from being the learner you could have become.