Friday, December 21, 2007

Six Steps to NOT Learn a Foreign Language

My Esperanto escapades have come to a close. I never made time for it, so the week I spent actually studying never stuck. Now it is lost to me.

This is a habit of mine. Not necessarily the quitting, but the act of starting a language that I want to learn, then losing momentum in the long term. At least once a year I start thinking about how wonderful it would be to learn a second language and the rest of the pattern goes something like this:

1. Gather Resources

This is the easy part with Google. Thanks to the Intertubes, I can be neck-deep in "Introduction to " and native foreign websites as fast as I can download it.

2. Understand the Structure

This is the part that I think I enjoy most. If I can't understand "How" the sentences work, it consumes me. I’m pretty sure I shouldn’t care about this if I don’t know what the words mean, but figuring out the pattern holds a special kind of reward.

3. Build Vocabulary

I fail miserably here. Usually after I memorize my first list of words, I’m burned out. Rote memorization is hell for me.

4. "Lack of Necessity" Epiphany

Now that I have enough of an understanding to decipher sentences with the help of a dictionary, I ask where can I apply it in my life? More often than not, anything I want to talk about or learn is available in English, so my incentive to master the language for speaking is small. Then I start looking at all the other cool stuff I could be learning instead and…

5. Lose Interest

Yeah, it would be neat to communicate in a foreign language, but going out of my way to find someone to talk with doesn’t interest me. Remember, I am an introvert.

6. Wait x Months and Start Again...

For some reason, I can’t stop trying though… And I don’t mind. I enjoy being exposed to different cultures that surround the language under scrutiny, so I consider this time well spent, even if I never become fluent. At the best, I can inspire someone else to be curious (probably my kids) and help someone who wants to learn by pointing them to good resources. At the worst, I’ll always have a couple phrases that stick with me forever…

Mi kredi mia pancreas estas Elvis!

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