One of the first pieces of advice you might have heard when starting learning a new language is that you need to get out of your comfort zone to ever get fluent. The proponents of that strategy claim that the best way to reach a good level at your target language requires you to go out and start communicating with people who speak it well so that you get real-world experience and pick up actual vocabulary. And that you should get started with that approach as soon as possible.
However, there are also great benefits to staying pleasantly in your comfort zone during your learning process.
Why do people tell you to leave your comfort zone?
You can hopefully see how the people urging you to go out and practise your language skills have a point. There is indeed a certain point at which passive learning doesn’t help you anymore and you’d need to start practising with actual people to keep improving. After all, language is first and foremost a tool for social interaction and that is what it should be used (or so they say).
It’s also true that getting out of your comfort zone and practising as much as you can will certainly give you quick results, especially with speaking. But that still doesn’t really mean you should jump in head first. Staying well within in comfort zone can be the best language learning strategy for many reasons.
Sticking with it
For example, one of the best things about your comfort zone is that it’s, well, comfortable. And when it comes to language learning, there really aren’t that many magical strategies that you can follow (although you can definitely try a few). The most important part is consistency.
So even if you jumped out of your house to harass every person on the street to help you with your target language, it wouldn’t be a winning strategy if the experience ended up being so traumatic that you stopped learning right then and there. If getting out of your comfort zone is something that would make you give up on learning your target language, it’s definitely not a good idea to try to leave it.
People have different goals
Another thing that people promoting a vacant comfort zone usually have in mind is that it helps with your speaking skills. And sure, to get better at speaking your target language, you really need to practise actual verbal communication. However, it might just happen that speaking isn’t very high on your priority list.
Many professionals need to only learn to read in their target language, for example. And in that case, getting out and talking to people won’t help them do that one bit. In those cases, leaving the comfort zone only adds unnecessary stress.
Your comfort zone works for you
As any great teacher will tell you, the single most important thing about learning anything is making the process work for you. This point goes back to the first one about sticking with your language learning process, but there more to it. If you are not so attached to your comfort zone, by all means, go out and practise your target language as much as you can. However, if you’re like most of us and enjoy your little creature comforts in both life and learning, there’s nothing wrong with taking it slow in your target language practise. Additionally, creating a learning environment you find relaxing and pleasant will definitely help you acquire more than a stressful one.
Conclusion – Comfort zones make learning pleasant
The best thing you can say about any comfort zone is that it keeps you coming back to practising your target language. The most important part of your learning process is making it work for you, so that you return to it day after day, improving yourself constantly. While getting out of your comfort zone can show you quick results, there is more to be gained through deliberate and constant practise than a short burst of intense effort that would end up with you quitting learning altogether.