Bear with me while I bare my soul a little bit.
Language learning is inherently personal. It just IS that way. I don't know exactly why. Perhaps it's because language is the gateway to our mind, to our hearts. There are very few other ways of connecting to other people that are more personal, and of course those non-linguistic-languages are really limited by the nature of your relationship. I hold my little two year old, and I don’t necessarily say anything to her, but obviously I am communicating deep love to her.
It’s been 3 months since I have started learning Czech, and I have learned a lot. I still have a lot left to learn. But I basically decided something very important this past weekend: I decided to stop obsessing over the “strategy.” The Plan.
If you google “scope and sequence”, you will immediately know why this is something I have thought obsessed about with my Czech learning. Every K-12 educator (at least in the states) thinks about the scope and sequence of their teaching quite a lot. It’s very “meta.”
But you can really find yourself drowning in it.
I talked at length about this the other day with my friend, and I realized that he’s totally right: there isn’t really a wrong way to learn Czech, unless I somehow get so discouraged that I quit.
To be true, there might be some more effective strategies, methods, textbooks, exercises, etc. And obviously, it is definitely possible to actually learn concepts, words, pronunciation, grammar etc. incorrectly. This is why it has been so important to me to find real life collaborators who can help me. Czech isn’t translated English. It’s its own thing, and I can’t know what I don’t know yet. I need kind people who are willing to tolerate my enthusiasm and help me stumble down the path. Rather, bush-whack my own path.
But focusing on meta-sorrow is really unhelpful. This of course is stating the obvious. Every time I start bemoaning the tools that I don’t have, and wish I did have, but which apparently don’t even exist, I get in a really super sensitive mood, become extra anxious, and need a lot of extra ego-stroking to come back to that space where my language learning is effective.
Basically, I have decided to stop feeling self conscious about what I lack. The fact is, Czech is a less commonly taught language for English speakers, and so that presents some very unique (and uniquely challenging) situations. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to learn, and obviously it doesn’t dampen my enthusiasm. If anything, the challenge somehow makes it more tempting/enticing for me. It’s like this really beautiful mountain beckoning me to climb it. I still feel like I am at the bottom, but the more I stare at it, the more I long to scale it.
I just need to stop looking behind me…
I guess everybody in the world is slightly self-conscious and insecure. We all really strive to fit in with some group and be part of something bigger than ourselves. We cling to our families, our friends, our communities, and our countries. We become part of a tribe, and it somehow defines who we are.
This is why I am studying Czech. My ancestors were Czech. I can’t physically travel to the past and meet them, but I can “go” there in books (if when I can read them). But beyond books, I can begin to understand my ancestors much better by understanding Czechs of today. And then, more interesting even than my ancestors, come the questions about myself: Who would I have been had I been born Czech? How would my life have been different? What would I believe? How much of me is dependant on where I was born, and how much of me is inherent?
Learning Czech has taught me a lot about friendship, actually. It makes me wonder a lot of things about who are my close friends, what exactly makes a close friend, why I need friends, and who those friends should be. One thing is for sure, the more I care about Czech, the harder I find it to feel satisfied with my local friendships with people who couldn’t care less about Czech and Czech-ness.
I decided that just as I plan to not feel insecure, self conscious, and anxious about my Czech Language Learning Plan (which is, by the way, constantly evolving), I plan to not feel this way about the fact that most of my closer relationships are shifting to be with people halfway around the world, and/or people 25%-100% older than me, and/or people who do not share my faith, and/or etc. I have come to the realization that I prefer very much to accept myself for my weird quirks and not feel ashamed of them.
One of my quirks is an un-fading (unflappable? haha) enthusiasm and endless tenacity, currently directed towards learning Czech. “Bullheaded Bohemian” I think is what they would say (though “they” aka my great great grandparents, would never have said that, because, “ty jsi Morávec!”). It’s totally okay that other people don’t share this obsession; I’m not going to feel bad about it though.