Have you ever just gotten so frustrated, you wanted to curl up in a ball and not move? That was me this week with language learning.
I know I wrote recently (well, within the past few months) about overcoming perfectionism well enough to survive without pulling all of my hair out; but the truth is, I still have my days. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t convey the idea that I still desire to speak coherently, without nervousness, etc. It’s a work in progress. But as many people in various communities I’ve been in have put it, including my gracious Korean teacher, “language learning is a marathon, not a sprint”.
I intellectually understood this idea, because, well, hey – logically it makes sense. But actually incorporating it into my psyche is a different thing altogether. One concept I’ve noticed I need a lot of help cementing into my block-head is that you can know something exists, but you might not truly get it. Understanding is a fundamental need all humans have, but I imagine – just from experiencing myself in my own life – very few people achieve that nirvana.
How does this relate to language learning? For one, burnout is a thing. Though, I’m learning it’s perhaps something you can’t avoid, perhaps under certain circumstances, or perhaps at all. The feeling I was left with this week, of absolute “rage against the machine” that is grinding towards a goal, is an example of burnout. I simply couldn’t take my imperfect nature anymore.
It’s funny: people joke that if you just put your mind to it, you can do anything. Even the hardest tasks become easy in light of the big picture. I agree with this. But for me, what really did me in was knowing I could get so easily tongue-tied speaking my favorite foreign language, even after a long time of consecutive sessions chatting away. Sure, I had to pause my marathon at times due to general “life” getting in my way, but maybe that’s just an excuse.
And then I think, maybe I set my standards too high. Multiple people have told me this over the course of my studies; and yet, it’s what got me to the level I’m at now and what continues to impress people, or so it would seem. Thinking about this leads me down all sorts of rabbit-holes. What if I tried harder? What if I… didn’t? I can think of every reason to stop or start, but none to actually improve, and that’s where I get stuck.
I don’t think have a way to solve this just yet. I threw my hands up and gave into instinct, which told me quite triumphantly and confidently to quit. I listened. That little inner voice had been speaking to me for a while, probably since I’d started this whole language learning business. Drama doesn’t suit my style, but if ceasing my studies is what I have to do in order to move forward with my life, then I’ll do it.
My point after all this rambling is that, much like the song from the 80s band Whitesnake states, “[I’m] going down the only road I’ve ever known / Like a drifter I was born to walk alone”. I think that sums up the path of any kind of learner nicely. We’re all in the game for a generally common goal – to learn – but we must do it by ourselves, solely responsible for the outcome of our efforts.
Obviously, I won’t abandon this blog. I still have much to say about learning, literature, creativity, and myriad of other things, but right now I’m having a bit of a tiff with one of my hobbies and it’s dragging everything else down. It’ll be interesting to see how I feel come a few weeks’ time.
Let me know if you can relate. 👍