I’ve not written a language post for a while. The reason being that I’m in a rut the size of the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley.
As an old friend of mine is fond of saying, at times like these, it pays to “have a word with oneself”. Nothing to lose by giving it a go, I suppose…
* * * * *
I: I’m frustrated as hell. I’ve been trying to learn Portuguese for an entire year now. I’m getting nowhere with it. I started way too early, I should have waited for my Spanish to solidify enough before tackling this. I feel like shelving the whole project for a couple of years.
Me: If you abandon this now, you’ll have to start from zero again a couple of years down the line. Is that what you really want? Your teacher tells you that you speak quite well.
I: I pay her. It’s in her interest to stroke my ego. But I see her rolling her eyes all the time, because I can’t work the present tense of even the most basic regular verbs.
Me: And why can’t you?
I: Because I’m not putting in enough time.
Me: Aha. What is it that you tell all those people who come to you every week to practise their English and their German?
I: I tell them that for every hour of formal class, they need to put in three more at home. I tell them that they should spend at least half an hour every day practising/studying their target language, rather than cramming it all into one two-hour session once a week.
Me: And what did you do with your Portuguese last week?
I: I… rushed through all of my homework on Monday, a couple of hours before class.
Me: I see.
I: But I do my Duolingo lessons every day. And I have been for ages. I’m on a 146-day unbroken streak!
Me: And how long does it take you to do one of those?
I: ten, fifteen minutes…?
Me: Aha. I can’t help but wonder… if you’d also been practising those pesky verbs for 15 minutes a day for 146 days, don’t you think you’d be running rings around them by now, and your teacher wouldn’t need to be rolling her eyes quite so much. Just sayin’…
I: I hate verbs.
Me: I know you do. What else do you suck at?
I: Listening comprehension. My teacher plays me a dialogue, I hardly catch anything. She implores me to listen more at home.
Me: And you’re doing that?
Me: There’s this one girl you see fairly regularly. Her spoken English is quite good, but she has real trouble understanding what’s being said to her. What’s your advice to her?
I: That she needs to listen at home. I’ve given her links to some good podcasts. She nods her head every time I broach the subject, but she doesn’t follow through.
Me: Do you roll your eyes at her?
I: I do.
Me: I know you’re fond of dead people’s quotes. Here’s one by some medieval German scholar called Thomas von Kempen, it goes like this:
“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”
I: Ahrwgh… sod off, will you!
Me: Just sit down and get on with those bloody verbs, will you!?!
Have you ever had to have a word with yourself…?