Just as training with a partner can make it easier to get through your gym routine, studying a language with a partner can make language learning much easier too. And if your language partner knows more than you, or starts making more progress, well, that certainly sets the blood racing! A healthy rivalry is always beneficial to learning languages. Having a competitive partner/friendly rival by your side can make learning lots of fun.
I first realised how vital my brother was to my language learning when we were teens. Our parents had booked a holiday to Portugal, and, anticipating the trip, Matthew and I took out a Portuguese course from our local library. We started learning together, listening to the cassettes whilst sharing the book, and taking turns doing the exercises. A few days into learning Portuguese, I got home after a particularly grueling football practice to discover that Matthew had already completed chapter 4 after basketball practice, heaven forbid! Even though I was exhausted, I just had to catch up. Giving up wouldn’t have only been letting myself down, it would have been letting him down too. That’s the thing about a good rivalry; it requires balance. Well-matched rivals are actually partners because they need each other in order to achieve their own personal bests.
By learning together, you essentially double your resources. Not only do you have someone who can help you with any queries, but you gain an extra person with whom you can converse in your chosen language on a daily or weekly basis. Even the mere presence of your “rival” can give you an extra motivational boost: you’re more likely to keep studying if you can see the progress they are making, and you both serve as reminders to each other of your obligations and the choices you’ve made. If you’ve pencilled in to learn in the evening, but you could use a nap and you’re tempted to postpone studying for the day, then your partner/rival will soon sort that out. Of course, the rivalry always has to stay professional, clean, and above all, healthy. No cheating and no malice!
Having a partner does not necessarily mean that you both have to learn the same language. It can be just as entertaining and useful when you’re studying separate languages. For example, I am currently learning Hungarian and Albanian, whereas Matthew is learning Dutch and Papiamento. We’ve learnt many languages together over the years, but our interests do sometimes diverge. Regardless, we can still be on hand to test each other on our knowledge by going over vocabulary, asking questions from a textbook, etc. It isn’t imperative in these cases that the tester knows the language. A good partner is someone who’s willing to test you, and who doesn’t see through weak excuses!
I would most certainly like to learn Dutch and Papiamento in the future, and am sure that Matthew would equally be interested in learning Bartok and Kadare’s native tongues. When the time comes, it will be very useful to have a partner who already understands the language you want to learn.