You probably would have seen my rants and raves online about French. Don’t think I’ve lost the plot or something. If anything I’m letting off some steam usually because I think I should be at a level higher than where I’m at the moment. However, it’s all my fault of course. I’m more angry at myself than anyone else.
Let me explain.
The reason that many people don’t take up a personal learning skill of some sort that they’ve been thinking about for years such as learning to play the piano, or learning a language is that it takes TIME and COMMITMENT.
These skills are ones that have to be continually practiced in order for you to maintain them and to make them part of your life. It means having to forego something else in your life to make room for these – and then continue doing them for months, years to come.
I’ve added up the hours I’ve devoted to French this year and it goes something like this:
- Daily – listen to French (podcast, news, music, TV show – anything – as long as it’s in French) 1 hour (3 times a week multiplied by months I’ve been doing this (8) = 72 hours
- Formal Classes with the Alliance Francaise – 3 courses at 10 hours = 30 hours
- Homework from the Alliance Francaise – 2 hours for 10 weeks = 20 hours
- My own self directed learning – 1 hour at least 5 times a week (20 hours per month) multiplied by months I have been doing this (8) = 160 hours
- Total hours devoted to French this year: (hope my maths is right) = something along the vicinity of 282 hours (I’d say more because I spend hours on YouTube French videos too)
So with 282 hours devoted to French, much of it written exercises and aural listening skills and very little talking, I can say that by all accounts, if I spend 282 hours TALKING to a tutor/coach by now I would have been fluent – certainly a LOT more confident.
Truth is, I’ve been feeling a loss of confidence with it and getting disheartened at times when I realise that all these hours have been spent on this new skill for me and I feel that I’m not progressing as quickly as I’d like to.
The other alarm bell is that because I’ve devoted this many hours to this new skill, it means that I’ve NOT focussed on any other development such as learning more about Microsoft products or things that will help me with my work – that is, work related learning.
Short Term and Long Term Learning
In my head, I’ve split “work learning” as ‘short-term learning’ in my life (because let’s face it, Microsoft changes CONSTANTLY) whereas language learning is ‘long term learning’ and will not change drastically over time. There’s also this idea that for me, I’d much rather learn things that have long term and future appeal than short-term. The latter gives me just enough to learn something, dabble in it, experiment about with it, see and apply some workplace contexts, blog about it and that’s pretty much it. I’m not going to spend too long on it UNLESS it changes some current behaviours or mindsets that will help us in the long term.
So I don’t want to go to my deathbed saying that I liked learning about <insert tool here> and instead hopefully, saying that I lived a full life one of learning and laughter.
Herein lays my problem with French (not the language per se – but the idea that we devote these hours and don’t see immediate benefit) is that I am fighting these massive guilty feelings that I’m using my time to learn a long-term skill, it’s at the expense of a learning a short-term skill that will get you new work, new projects, or help you and your work colleagues immediately.
(For example, I wonder if I had spent the 282 hours learning Power Automate and Power Apps, I would have been a jet developer by now adding a new skill and qualification to my repertoire which would then have supported my work and my employer). Do you see the dilemma?
It does explain how many people in their younger years give up learning how to play a musical instrument, dropping the arts and languages to instead focus on the so-called ‘harder’ subjects that would help them find employment but what happens usually? After all that, when they’re older (say my age), the RETURN to their piano, their cello or the French (wink, wink) and realise that it’s these that are the harder subjects because they challenge you emotionally, physically and mentally. They become part of your life.
I think learning a language or indeed doing anything long-term is a lot harder because it challenges you in different ways.
When you don’t see it’s immediate value in your life, you put it off for many years but then it’s with you at the back of your head, and in your heart for years on end – and it niggles for attention. That somehow, everything else in your life should have more of a priority when in actual fact, this thing that you put off is really you putting off time FOR YOU. You’re not ignoring learning how to play the piano, doing that writers course or learning French, you’re ignoring doing something for yourself, making time for yourself.
I’m fighting the guilt trips every day with French but if we are to be happy, idea-generating, creative employees then doing some kind of learning that makes us feel good about ourselves – for our own mental health and well being, we NEED to be doing some kind of learning that is not always directly related to our professional work.