Hello, and greetings from Europe! By now I’m back in the United States, but I have written this post from across the pond. So this post will come to you slightly later than most of them, partially because Europe doesn’t have the Internet but primarily because as I’m writing this I don’t think I could navigate the seven or eight steps it would take for me to take this from my computer and put it online. My brain is absolutely melted. Why? Because after practicing Spanish for three months (not counting the two years I took in high school, which at this point seriously don’t count), I am in a suburb of Madrid spending the holidays with my girlfriend’s family. There are 12 of them, or 35, or 143 – I don’t know, I can’t count anymore – and only one of them speaks English. They all talk 4 trillion miles an hour, and occasionally some of them try to tell me jokes. I tend to think of myself as an intelligent person – I got a positive score on my ACT, and there was this one time that my trivia team won our bar league tournament – but right now I feel about as dumb as a bar league trivia champion possibly can.
And, since I imagine you might be in the middle of trying to learn something new and daunting – a new language, a new computer program, the intricacies of our new health care code, etc. – I thought I would give you a few tips to help make that process as difficult and unrewarding as possible. I’ve thought about each of these things in the past few days, and I hope you can take the final step and actually act on them. Here we go!
Get Mad at Yourself Because You Don’t Immediately Know Everything! Learning is a process, and the more you’re trying to learn, the longer that process takes. There’s really no way around that. But you should get mad anyway. Truly smart people don’t need time to learn stuff. I mean seriously, it didn’t take you very long to learn how to breathe or eat, did it? So shouldn’t you be ashamed of yourself for not already knowing everything that you’ll ever need to know? I think you should. If it helps at all, I’m ashamed of you.
Get Mad at The People Around You Because You Don’t Immediately Know Everything! Yeah, I realized when I was writing it that getting mad at yourself was a really dumb idea when there are almost certainly other people you could get mad at instead. Learning is hard, and the best among you will start yelling at the people who expect you to learn stuff. After all, it’s their fault for speaking another language in the first place.
Just Quit Trying! As I’ve said, learning takes time, and taking time on things is dumb. The average person knows and uses approximately 10,000 words in a given language, which means that if you learn 10 words a day it’ll take you approximately 1,000 days to become proficient – less than 3 years. Seen through the lens of incremental progress, learning a new language doesn’t seem too daunting. Which is why you should never see things in that light. Nothing worth doing should take more than 24 hours to do. And why should I learn Spanish when they could learn English instead? Don’t they realize that everybody who’s anybody will eventually emigrate to America?
So there you go. I know you might not be trying to learn a new language right now, but hopefully you can apply the principles of indiscriminate anger and a refusal to accept the natural process of knowledge accumulation and use those skills to your advantage. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go ask where the bathroom is. Because that’s something I know how to say in Spanish – and seriously, beyond that, what more do you really need?
P.S. I was kidding about Europe not having the Internet. But they really don’t have any decent peanut butter, which might go a long way towards explaining their current recession.
Image from Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mikecogh/2196256713/