The Language Learner Wonders… “Why am I doing this?”

In tough times, the “why” is what keeps us going. When we feel like quitting, we ask ourselves the question “Why am I doing this?” and depending on the strength of that answer, we either keep going or throw in the towel.

From an outside perspective, when we see someone who speaks a language they have learned really well we often think that they are just someone who is good at languages, or that they have been learning for a long time so they’re good at it. But we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Say we see them speaking that language for 30 seconds — fluently, smoothly, showing no signs of mental strain and the native speakers around them react totally naturally. That is only 30 seconds of the total time they’ve spent with the language. We don’t see the day they started learning, the hours they spent struggling with making the sounds correctly, and the pain they went through. We also don’t notice the little mistakes they make, the inaccurate pronuncations or awkward intonation. It’s like looking at a painting through a pinhole — how can we possibly see all the work they’ve done?

And still we often find ourselves either jealous of them, wondering how they got so good, and worst of all, wondering what must be wrong with us — because we aren’t that good. Clearly they must be better than us. Right? Wrong. The one and only difference between us and them is time. I believe Jonson, my friend and podcast partner @SpongeMindTV put it best:

잘 하는 사람은 오래한다는 것보다 오래하는 사람이 잘 한다.
It’s not that those who do well keep going, it is that those who keep going do well.

So the next time we wonder, “Why am I doing this?” let’s not answer that question. Instead, let’s rephrase the question and ask “How much time can I spend with my language today?” And then, we do it. Small investments add up over time. So all that matters — really, ALL that matters — is time.

So invest, my friends. And think not of the rewards. For those who work for the fruits of their labor, spoil them. It is those who love the work itself who are blessed with the sweetest frutis. The reason we are learning is not the point, it is the learning itself that we are here to do. Love the journey, enjoy the process. Be the explorer who loves the road. For we create the path with each step we take.

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