Foreign Languages: Knowledge vs Certification

Photo by Daria Shevtsova

by Katherine Reilly

Many a time, my students are overwhelmed by their anxiety as exam period looms over the horizon. Exams and certification – especially in Greece, have come to be interpreted as a matter of life or death, adding to young learners’ frustration.

What many scholars and parents neglect to comprehend is, what the true purpose of accumulating knowledge is. Are our children studying to learn, or are they meticulously trying to ‘master’ an evaluation test?

  • Learning a language is not only about Vocabulary and Grammar

Knowing how to speak a language has nothing to do with using it. When living, studying or traveling abroad, one must get acquainted with the local community’s everyday activities, habits… even their quirks.

Customs, traditions, way of thinking, festivals, holidays, history. The list is endless and one might think that studying a language is only about learning thousands of words and how to use them in a sentence. They couldn’t be more wrong.

When studying a language, a student must also look into the culture the language originates from, the country in which it is spoken and get a better feel of the way it is used. ‘Blending in’ is essential, and a proper command of the language is mandatory, not only for excelling at one’s job, but for everyday survival as well.

  • So, what are you saying? Should I avoid certification?

Absolutely NOT! Learning a language is our key goal here. Getting certified is the natural progression after learning it. It’s logical to be obliged to present your qualifications to your future employer. Without certifications, it’s nearly impossible to land a job. RETAINING that job, however, is a whole other story. That’s where knowledge and experience come to play.

As I keep telling my students, “Your main goal should be to ‘learn’, not only to obtain a certification.”

Thus, a certificate may be a ‘tool’ to get a foot in the door, but not the ‘key’ to future success. If students and parents alike come to this realization, the future generation of citizens will experience less heartache, enjoy better prospects and will have a broader knowledge of not only the language they feverishly try to master, but of all their experience at school – actually putting it to good use in the process.

Take care, enjoy what you’re learning and always strive to improve yourselves!

Ms. Katherine


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