My life is wonderful, yet sometimes I imagine I’m supposed to be living a different life than the one I’m living. At those moments, I get overwhelmed by so many things, find I’m not letting myself sleep enough, and feel down. Languages are my passion, but they’re not everything in my life, or even the best part of my life. They make me feel alive and happy. The moment they no longer make me feel good reminds me to take a step back and look at the totality of my life and remember how wonderful my life is. What am I really doing in my life? What progress am I actually making in my language?
Not enough progress
Sometimes I get down on myself for not making fast enough progress in language-learning. Let me tell you what that sounds like. One day, I may feel that I’m not where I want to be, so I interrogate myself:
“Why don’t I use my calendar more to schedule language time?”
“Why don’t I write out my goals and stick to them, come hell or high water?”
“Why don’t I talk to native speakers more, whether in cafes or on line?”
“Why don’t I focus on language-learning and let more of the other stuff in my life go?”
Comparing myself to others
Then I compare myself to others, and jealousy creeps in:
“Why am I not ‘fluent in three months’?”
“Why can’t I create a money-making website to teach others to learn languages more quickly?”
“Why don’t I have a YouTube channel to show my progress?”
“Why don’t I live life on the road, learning languages, country by country?”
I make myself feel so small that I have little energy left to do any work. I just want to escape from my own heavy hand for a while.
Take a look: Progress might be better than you think!
To ease up that dominating, demeaning voice, I have to remind myself that I am making progress and working on my language. Here is what I’ve done this week:
- I took a page out of the Aaron Myer book (see his website here, and this great interview with him). I wrote a short passage in horrible Somali about why I started studying Somali. Then I sent it to my Somali teacher. It was so bad that he requested that I send him the English for the second paragraph.
I’m happy about this. Progress. Now I’ll learn great things. I will get into some grammatical nitty-gritty that is practical for what I enjoy talking about. I look forward to continuing with Aaron’s method and recording myself reading it so I have my own comprehensible input. (See my post on “comprehensible input” here.)
- My Somali teacher has started a grammar quiz on a Somali news site. One problem caused by the history of education in Somali is that many Somalis are not literate in their own language. Many Somalis have taken it upon themselves to help their fellows with literacy, hence the genesis of this quiz. With regards to my language progress, I answered the question and I got it right! I’m grateful that my language love brought me to a place where I can answer these complicated questions.
- I still work on translation. I struggled with a passage about elections in Somaliland that my teacher sent to me. I managed to make sense of it, and sent it off with misgivings. My teacher congratulated me on my translation and told me that this was an advanced exercise. He had to clean up a bit, but it was overall good.
This list of accomplishments makes me happy. I’m not trying to toot my horn; I want to look at reality. This list is also meaningful to me because I know how busy life has been.
Life is good!
The solution, I found, is to remind myself that I have a good, busy life:
- I have a wonderful family with active children.
- I have some of the kindest, most loyal friends in the world—but who don’t learn languages.
- My job provides for my family very well, even though it doesn’t involve languages.
As of this weekend, I had a fulfilling week of swim meets, house-cleaning, and going out with my kids. Work has also been busy with some new projects. I’m helping out a professor of mine with a non-language related project. All of these are wonderful!
I have a very good life. I’m lucky. I’m blessed. I’m fortunate.
What is holding you back in language-learning? Are they good things or bad things? Do you want to give them up? What makes you happy?