This week I reflected on an event that made me feel very uncomfortable but in hindsight, my mind made it into a mountain than a molehill it was.
I have been learning French for a while now and doing it in my own way through creating my own personal learning plan which I have blogged about previously – or check out the tweet below.
Today I wrote out my learning plan for French. I will have to bite the bullet and the fear and go have a language aptitude test to determine my level. Doing this exercise makes me think hard about what I’m learning and why. #alwaysbelearning pic.twitter.com/CSxklUBSlt
— Helen Blunden #AlwaysBeLearning 🤔🧠🦉📚🥇 (@ActivateLearn) April 23, 2020
I’ve got my own activities that I do mainly centred on reading, writing and doing grammar exercises and activities however, it did not escape me that in order to really learn the language, I have to speak. I can’t deny the fact that I NEED to speak to people. This was a scary thought and if I was entirely truthful to myself, I kept putting it off – as well as applying for a language aptitude test to determine my skill level.
So I tweeted out my concern and two lovely ladies whom I hadn’t met responded and said to me that they would be happy to act as my chat buddies so I can practice my french.
I organised a time with Elena first and you should have seen the sweat dripping off me when I connected and saw her face on the other side. It dawned on me that I hadn’t ever spoken French to anyone since Strasbourg early this year and I was SO EMBARRASSED with my simple sentences and wrong grammar but at the same time, I was excited that this was going to push me further ahead.
I had to become uncomfortable in order to progress.
While we chatted, I did notice my own body relaxing but I would say the limit of my oral capabilities were at the 30 minute mark. I found an hour quite exhausting because it was such a mental exercise to listen with attention, then think about the English sentence, translate that sentence into French in my head and then say it out loud considering the correct pronunciation and grammar.
It reminded me of the time I wanted to learn how to play the ukulele and learn how to read music and I must admit the difficulties were pretty similar with the amount of brain power needed in the “translation and application; retrieval, practice and feedback” that I had to do. Read about it in How to Play the Ukulele in Less than 10 000 Hours.
So learning is bloody hard and it is uncomfortable but boy, is it wonderful and addictive at the same time.
The ultimate result from my chat with Elena is that if anything, it made me realise that I want to make French part of my life. What this means is that I decided that I’m in it for the long haul.
Learning needs motivation and commitment. It means not being half-hearted about it and deciding once and for all that this is something that is going to be part of you and your life from now. It means that you have to accept to feel like a fool in front of others, be constantly corrected (and feel okay about it), put yourself in a position of vulnerability with others who may be more experienced than you and who may laugh at you. It may mean that you have to be open about it (otherwise, how will others find you, help you or you help others?)
There’s a case for making your learning open despite how uncomfortable it makes you feel. If you’re simply hiding it from other people or views, or working alone at something, or waiting until it’s perfect before you show it or seek help, then you may be more at a risk of making excuses not to do it, or perceive yourself being better when in actual fact, that may not be the case at all. In such situations, what are you REALLY afraid of? Your work OR the fact that you have to make a commitment to something publicly that you yourself may have no desire of being accountable to it for the long term?
Learning is discomfort. I know. I pick at the skin of my fingers every time I write responses in French to Instagram posts, YouTube replies to French channels or have to speak it to anyone. I’m SHIT SCARED that what I’ve written is wrong, or I come across as a clueless person but I have to really overcome these feelings because the desire to learn is far greater than being made to look like a fool.
In fact, learning something new that makes you feel uncomfortable and vulnerable should be commended, respected, applauded and acknowledged. Instead, our society tends to value who give it lip service – or don’t know how to do this themselves, or are set in their own ways.
Learning something new means that you have to immerse yourself hook, line and sinker into the language and make time for learning it EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Many people give learning lip service but I sincerely believe that you have got to
- Want it
- Believe in it
- Fall for it
- Obsess for it
- Be inspired for it
- Make time for it – every single day by incorporating it into your work and life.
It’s made me realise it’s a MINDSET more than anything else.
Without this mindset you’re unlikely to be curious, creative and courageous to try out new things – accept that you like to be within your comfort zone so why bother trying to dress it up with excuses?