Four times in the last 2 weeks I have initiated or responded to a conversation in Hindi. Admittedly, although I understood what I said and I gleaned only a small fraction of what was said back to me. But, the thrill was there nonetheless! It was a big step for me on my journey to speak the language. And that’s my handwriting above. It says Hindi in Devanagari, the alphabet I am learning.
It’s an incredible thrill for me. Hopefully in six months what I just did will be a piece of cake. That’s how learning works, right? When we’re avid, we get wins that we then eclipse as we move forward. Except that is not my experience. It’s more like I feel very good about my learning pace and then suddenly I am in a plateau and nothing seems to gel. I look at all I have accomplished and it feels like so many puzzle pieces laying on the table but no big picture.
Just a few weeks ago I went searching for help in learning a new language. I don’t mean help learning Hindi. I have a great tutor for that. I wanted to understand the best way to actually learn any language. I found this internet guru who retired from the State Department speaking 15+ languages.
He had a lot to say about what he considers the best way to learn a new language. One of the first things I learned is that my experience of plateaus and feeling like my brain wasn’t putting the pieces together is normal, part of the path, and to be persevered through. Eventually one starts feeling it come together. That has proved to be true, multiple times, for me.
He also said writing is imperative. I had been attempting to learn only to speak Hindi, thinking I had no use for it other than conversation. I learned that documenting what you are learning, processing it with your eyes, and forging links between symbol and sound and meaning are all great tools for comprehending and wielding a new language. So, now I am learning to read and write, too.
My adventure in Hindi is about so much more than I originally anticipated. Learning about learning really helped me. What kind of learning are you involved in right now? How might you improve the process for yourself?
“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.”
– Johann Wolfgang von Goethe