This is such an interesting concept. I've been giving it some thought and doing some review of "core-concepts" in both linguistics and TESOL for what would be threshold concepts. I have come up with one for each that I think matches the bill:

For linguistics, the idea that there is no correct way to speak a language throws a lot of students for a loop. Many students enter the field after years of having "correct" grammar and pronunciation drilled into them through their school work. We usually see this framed as "prescriptive vs. descriptive" in language education and research. When students understand this, they begin to be able to find areas of interest for themselves and to create research goals that develop the literature for a given language.

For TESOL, similarly, the idea that fluency is not a goal by itself (or rather it's an unattainable one). Students have to understand that fluency is a waveform with peaks and valleys depending on experience, education, practice, opportunity, feeling, and, most importantly, other speakers. It is so easy to be fully fluent in one area of your life in a second language while being completely overwhelmed in another area in the same second language. Once learners understand this, they begin to be able to think about how and in what situations they want (or need) to be "fluent."

But I could be wrong. :) At the very least, I've got some more reading to do. Great post!

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