A friend of mine today was telling me about his summer learning project. He was in Guatemala, learning Kaqchikel, one of the dozens of indigenous languages spoken by the Maya. He’s been at it for a couple of years, and he said this summer he felt a breakthrough. Of course, ever since he started, he’s been fighting off some pretty unimaginative people who say “Kaqchikel, WHAT are you going to do with THAT?!”
The answer to that question is always, “I’m gonna talk to some people in that language, dummy.” I think some people think that there has to be some kind of million dollar business opportunity at the end of it, otherwise it’s not worth the effort.
Anyway, my friend went on to say that he told himself that it was about the journey, and that he made a decision to enjoy it. So he enjoyed Guatemala, he enjoyed his teachers, He enjoyed the process.
This is the Way of the Language Learning Jedi. The satisfaction and gratification don’t come at the end of some long road of suffering and toil If it’s not fun along the way, you’re doing it wrong. It’s supposed to be fun.
I’ve been doing language learning for 25 years now, and I hope people don’t think it’s because I have some kind of special talent, or I have some kind of amazing memory, or I somehow enjoy suffering. None of those things are true. I’m a serial language learner because I find the process rewarding. I’m a serial language learner because it’s fun to do. I get to travel and meet people, try new foods and do new things. Sure, crappy people can be a drag sometimes, but that happens if whether you learn language or not… why not just learn language.
Sometimes it’s little fun. Sometimes that “fun” is that tiny spark of self-satisfaction when you remember a vocab word in the wild, or when you meet cool native speakers who are happy to talk to you, and treat you like a person. Sometimes that “fun” means soaring above the mountain canopy in a sky lift to a tea house, where you drink tea and over eat for hours. Some times that “fun” means drinking a little bit of beer and then nominating your friends to kiss at a loud, screamingly funny Japanese-themed restaurant so that your table can get free pork. Sometimes it’s big fun.
Anyway, I’m glad for my friend, and I love to hear success stories from people that get it.
Speaking of loving to hear success stories from people that get it, my friend Frank’s kickstarter campaign for Lingo Interactive dropped earlier today, and I hope he gets funded! I met Frank seven years ago in Shanghai, and we’ve been good friends ever since. For as long as I’ve known him, Frank has been passionate about language learning media, and wanting to get it right. He’s got a few demos made over at the website Lingo Interactive, and they are sharp. I’m excited to see this project take off, so please support the fundraising effort to get it off the ground!