The Language Wagon and ideas of Happiness

To everyone who has read through this blog, I appreciate the time you have taken to enter my mind somewhat. Those who have “truly” perused this blog must know that I have had significant issues with what I call “motivational hurdles” and i’ve written about it quite a bit. Now, I fell of quite a bit in my Japanese study, even though I was making epic progress doing massive immersion and hardcore Anki sessions. But I lost steam mostly because I wasn’t able to “enjoy” my progress and I couldn’t “enjoy” any of the goals I had set.

What I realized was, in general I wasn’t very happy.

For the longest time, I didn’t realize that this was the major deterrent to my progress. I thought it was the stress of learning the language, some unusual form of perfectionism and a host of other things, but what I didn’t realize is that, feeling “normal” is the key to active and balanced study. I’m used to being “under pressure” and sometimes I feel that a “high pressure” system is actually something beneficial and shows that you are working hard. But most of the people I meet who do well with learning languages aren’t necessarily “gung-ho” but they just seem upbeat, relaxed and have balance in their lives which makes their language study simply one of many things they do.

So again, I learned, to have a balanced life. Do different things, engage your mind in different ways and make your language goal one of several things you are doing. Also I wrote a very long post about giving yourself some props. I wrote this because to a specific fault, I never saw much of what I did as significant. This is not humility necessarily. Humility is when a person knows they have done interesting or positive things and they don’t have to shout it from the rooftops. But sometimes people do things and feel nothing at all; no sense of pride, no excitement, no sense of progress and just… nothing. I wrote that post because I was like that too… for the longest time I was simply “doing” things and not really taking stock of my accomplishments and giving myself some more cool points for the goals I have aimed for and hit.

So, after crashing and burning and stopping my Japanese study for about a year I took stock of a lot of things in my life and started to figure out why I put so much pressure on myself and I eventually learned that I was in a fog of low-vibes. I’ve taken steps to deal with that situation and I can say that i’m much clearer and generally focused and i’m operating on a very low-stress approach to language acquisition. 

What does this mean?

It means instead of me completely freaking out when I don’t understand something, I just research it, or ask someone what it means and then move on. Instead of comparing myself to other people, I simply set my own basic goals. But most of all, I am not locked into a bizarre mental space where I am both the student and the taskmaster, setting over the top expectations for myself that will cause stress. Feeling “normal” is a great thing. This doesn’t mean learning methodologies change or become easier. One still listens to a lot of whichever language one is interested in, one speaks it often and attempts to read it as well. Its just behind it all, there is no pressure, just an active purpose, relatively free of stress.

Late last year, during an unusual burst of positive-vibes, I started to learn French. Constant experimentation with efficient ways to learn Japanese gave me some serious “rapid language acquisition” skills and in only 4 weeks I was able to have reasonable conversational ability in French, and also a strong understanding of upper-intermediate French grammar. I even posted a video on youtube after week three, just to show where I was at the time. Again, I made ridiculous and RAPID progress in a language. That time, I was aiming for fluency in three months, because with my present level of knowledge, I know that is possible (based on how you define fluency).

But again, even though I had made such progress, I fell off. There were many things in my life I wasn’t happy about, and even my crazy progress in French wasn’t enough of a boost to take my mind out of the funk. Maybe one day I’ll write all the grisly details, but the long and short of it is, I took significant steps to ensure that I HAD to feel better about MANY things in my life. Language learning exposed the core of several self-imposed frustrations, and a deep sadness based on things from a long time ago. In a way I am thankful I pushed myself so hard because the more I pushed, the more I exposed things deep inside myself I didn’t like, that weren’t helping me at all.

So now, I am on a path where I am actively shifting my entire view of my existence. Call it a form of self-actualization, call it being more positve or call it trying to experience happiness often. But I am finding this is the numero uno way to approach a new task. So, what does this mean for Japanese?

Well for now I am doing French again simply because I can bounce back faster. I’m in the immersion/Anki sentences phase and it is going reasonably well. Doing all these things with zero pressure helps greatly with retention etc. My plan is to focus on French solidly for about 8-10 weeks (speaking, reading, writing etc) and then rebuild my Japanese.

I will be writing about a new method i’ve found of getting a very strong handle on Japanese grammar to help with speech, based on my French studies. I recently chatted with a few people in Japanese and my skills aren’t terrible, in fact for someone who hasn’t spoken/read Japanese in over a year, it is impressive what I can recall and say. So the technical data behind the methods are nothing without the casual positive approach. You can follow my French progress here:

Jamaican Learning French.

As you can see I was blogging heavily for about a month last year and just completely fell off. I will post occasionally there on observations I make, but for now I am more focused on simply enjoying the process. Look out for Japanese-related posts soon, and thanks again.

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About marcusbird

Writer, Designer, Filmmaker
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3 Responses to The Language Wagon and ideas of Happiness

  1. Paul Nogas says:

    I like the method of ” trying to experience happiness often”. You need to enjoy the path to your goals more than the goal itself because when you achieve the goal you probably get enough happiness to compensate all of your struggles to get to that point. Here’s a poem and a video I like that touch on this issue:
    http://www.inspirationalarchive.com/2810/the-station/

    Also I watched your french video. I was REALLY impressed! You can speak French much better than I can with my 9 years of French “education” in Canada. But, as you explain, I didn’t like learning French at that time. It was only mandatory education to me. So it didn’t stick. I think it is the same with many Japanese with respect to English.

    Anyways good luck with the language(s). health and maintaining balance in your life!

    • marcusbird says:

      Thanks for the words and the video. Like i said in the post, its a bit deeper than what I wrote about here and maybe one day I will write more about the general situation. But at the end of it all, balance is key. So that’s the ultimate goal right now, le balance

  2. Paul Nogas says:

    “when you achieve the goal you probably WONT get enough happiness to compensate” ^

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