As an attorney, I have this complex about following rules. I’m definitely somebody who doesn’t like to cross the street when the “Don’t Walk” sign is lit–even if no cars are coming. So once I make my own “rules” for learning or practicing, it’s hard for me to break them even when they aren’t working. I’ve been stuck in a rut in both languages and music because for some reason I refused to admit that maybe I need to change the way I study.
When I first started studying Polish, I was pretty determined to not make the same mistakes I made with my German. By that, I meant that I would actually learn the grammar properly first, so that I wouldn’t need to re-learn it in the future. I also decided that maybe I should wait until I have some knowledge of the language before I start actively using it too much. I certainly don’t want to fossilize mistakes in the beginning. So what do I do? Of course I focus on the rules of all the cases, make my tables, and do every exercise in the book. End result: I can understand what I’m reading, but I doubt I would be able to reproduce it myself. Clearly, this method is not working.
After admitting to myself that I need to actually start writing, both to keep myself motivated and to be sure that I’m internalizing the language, I wrote my first Polish text and posted it online. It was HARD for me to do that. What I wrote was incredibly basic and not at all eloquent. But what was important is that I actually used the language.
There’s obviously a reason we set “rules” for ourselves. For me, it keeps me focused on what I should be doing. However, sometimes these don’t work as well as we had anticipated. When that happens, it’s okay to admit that maybe we need to change our approach, or try something new. It doesn’t mean that our old approach was bad or wrong, or that it can never work, it just means that it doesn’t work right now.
I hope that 2013 will be a year where all of us can learn something new and not be afraid to change our approach!