Focus on skills instead of knowledge

We all have / had our favourite subjects at school. For some of you, mathematics flowed into your brain as easily as taking a deep breath. Others got the thrills just by hearing the word “maths”.

However, most of us are perfectly able to adapt the quantities of a recipe to the number of guests coming for dinner or to calculate the price of gasoline we’ll have to pay when we tank up.

In a nutshell: it’s much easier to adapt theory to our daily needs than to adapt our needs to theory.

The same goes for languages. Most of the time, we learn a language because it serves a particular need (professional, family…) and not for the pleasure of theory (although some people do learn for the sake of it).

That’s why it’s much easier to remember things we can use on a daily basis instead of random grammar rules and vocabulary lists.

In the context of languages, we call “skills” the things we’re able to do with the language, how we use it.

We call “knowledge” any theoretical element you need to develop your skills (grammar, vocabulary, conjugation…).

How to make a difference? Here’s an example:
Skill: presenting my studies and career during a job interview.
Related knowledge: past tenses in French, time markers (in 2015, then, before, after…), relative clauses…

If you’re learning French for a job interview, the number of grammar rules and the quantity of vocabulary you’ll have to learn is narrowed down to certain aspects of the language only.

Indeed, Job interviews are quite codified. Although the vocabulary they require has quite a wide spectrum (professional skills, past studies, community engagement, hobbies…), it’s highly probable that you won’t have to exhaustively learn all possible aspects of French grammar and its 30 000+ words to perform well.

You’ll simply learn what you’re most likely to come across and build yourself a set of communication tools for the situations you don’t yet master.

You see, by focusing on skills instead of knowledge, you’ll only work on the aspects of theory that are necessary for your project and save yourself a lot of time.

What about you? What skills do you need for your language project? How did you define them? Let us know everything in the comments.

Expatlang’s experts have a long experience creating tailor-made online french classes for expats. Are you interested in our services? Contact us for any information.