Back in the first lockdown – it would have been March, or maybe April – my hitherto rather sedentary wife chose to leave her couch and Netflix subscription in order to participate in an (outdoor, distanced) exercise class, run by one of our neighbours, a newly-unemployed gym instructor.
There was some fuss about what she should wear. An appropriate outfit was borrowed from a daughter. We had to purchase an exercise mat, though, and eventually those little weights, one for each hand (though at first she made do with water-filled plastic bottles). And away they went, with a certain trepidation – three times a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays!
The effect on her posture has been remarkable. Plus she’s renewed friendships with a broad circle of local women, and has even got our daughters involved – online, from their various universities.
Each time, before the session, I get to listen to a degree of moaning – it’s cold and misty outside, she’s had a long day, the last session was too demanding, the instructor’s choice of Eminem as workout music fails to inspire her.
But really, she wouldn’t miss a session for the world. It’s got to the extent that our working lives are, if possible, rearranged so she can join in, even from the school if necessary, bopping along in her officewear in one of our classrooms, while I’m teaching the kiddies in the ‘aula’ next door.
Well done, by the way, to everyone who recently made the HARD CHOICE to try a free online lesson with one of our teachers.
Our Teaching Management Assistant reports that feedback, from those who have already taken their live online lesson with a club teacher, has been excellent. It wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be, they tell her. I enjoyed it! It was fun! As intended, some of the free trial people have already bought more lessons, and so will continue.
Yesterday, I did my third or fourth French conversation lesson, which was also fun. My teacher is young and smiley, and the thirty minutes passed quickly, talking about the Italian education system and its various failings (she’s working as a ‘lettrice’ in a school in the city that we both live in.)
As my wife was, about her first lockdown gym class, I was nervous before the first French lesson, and reluctant at various points after that. Do I really have time to learn French, as well as Spanish, and maintaining my Turkish and Swedish, I ask myself.
But as with the exercising, the fact that it’s actually fun, the pleasure of interacting with people, the obvious benefits, make the merits of continuing much more obvious than the attractions of quitting.
For the good news about making hard learning choices – hard, usually, because they’re things you’ve not done before, things that might scare the pants off you, things that you are uncertain you will be able to do successfully, things that might potentially be a waste of time, and money – is that it doesn’t STAY hard.
Do something that you haven’t done before – for example, read/listen to our FREE EasyItalianNews.com bulletins three times a week – and sure, it’ll be unfamiliar, it’ll be a challenge, it’ll test your faith in yourself.
But later, hopefully, it’ll be something that you just do, and perhaps wouldn’t miss, something that continually adds value to your day or week, and so to your life, something that accelerates your progress with Italian.
Other examples? A couple of years back I got a subscription to Le Monde, which costs me €13 a month, which in turn motivates me to read something in French each day (OR I’M WASTING MY MONEY). Keying in my credit card details was the hard part. Picking out something interesting to read and skimming through it, ormai, is routine. It would be hard NOT to do it, now.
Languages are spoken by a community of users. It might seem, at first, like a hard thing to choose to participate in that community in some small way – it is, after all, FOREIGN – perhaps by interacting with a native speaker or consuming media. But once you choose to begin, it becomes part of your day or week, and quickly, just something that you DO, no hard choices necessary.
I’m keeping this short because in fifteen minutes I have a half-hour session with a Swedish club member, who agreed to chat with me in Swedish each week in return for an Italian lesson with one of our teachers.
I guess he was as scared as I was before our first online meeting, more than a year back. But I suppose that for him, as for me, the regular conversations/lessons have just become one more thing that we do each week.
The hard part about choosing to learn a language is making the inital choice – join a class, take lessons, teach yourself, watch TV only in the language you want to learn – whatever that might be.
If it’s the wrong choice, or if it doesn’t motivate you, then sure – quit, and go try something else!
But the good news? Assuming there’s at least some logic to your decision, the learning choices you’ve made will get easier. Usually very rapidly.
And as time passes, you’ll be kicking yourself for not having started earlier!
Many people, perhaps most people, don’t spend much of their time learning new things. Especially enormous, complex, challenging things, like foreign languages.
I was telling my students this last night – yes, this is hard, yes, you may never understand it perfectly, yes, you could be at home watching rubbish TV. But you’re not home, you’re here, giving it your all, listening to me drone on.
Brava! Bravo! Bravi! Brave! I told them (actually it was ‘Brave!’, as the class was all female.) Give yourself a congratulatory pat on the back!
Those of you who’ve read this far deserve the same encouragement. Take a moment to think how unusual you are, how able, how motivated. You are amongst the elite.
Now, go find something useful to do, something that you’re not already doing, so as to build on the progress you’ve made so far. Here are some links: