Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, made a painful point in a 2004 lecture. The lecture is on the topic of theological education. In context, what he says about language acquisition is only a passing remark to help clarify how he would identify someone educated theologically. Yet it is an unfortunate fact for language teachers the world over, even the proverbial elephant in the room, I would argue:
We might say it would be very strange to learn a language without learning how to speak it – although that is as you all know the way many of us learn languages.
Williams' point is that in any type of education (musical, language, theological) has some practical goal, as it would be odd and rather purposeless to complete a course of study "in the absence of any acquisition of a skill – any capacity to do something in a particular way."
So why do so many students finish one, two, three, four (or more!) semesters of language study without the ability to speak the language? Why did you?