I want to master Portuguese. No, sorry… let me rephrase that.
I NEED to master Portuguese!
Beginning July 20th, I’ll be taking my second Portuguese language challenge, and this time failure isn’t an option.
? That was a little dramatic, and technically untrue ?
The first challenge was a success. Back in November 2016 I studied hard. After 90 days, I could just about hold a 15-minute conversation. If you want to feel uncomfortable and have the time to burn, check out my final 90 day video here.
I’ve run 20km assault courses that were easier, but I managed it and I was proud.
Fast forward 4 years, with over 1.5 of them living in Brazil, and my Portuguese skills are not that much more advanced.
Why do I suck so much? What went wrong? Why will this time be different?
Why do I suck at learning languages?
I’ve taught myself hundreds of skills and abilities:
- Website coding
- Digital marketing
- Many, many more
Some were easier than others. Some required weeks and months of tears and rage, others flowed freely.
One skill which has never flowed freely for me is language learning.
Be it Latin, German or French in school, Spanish, Samoan or Portuguese on the road, sometimes it just feels like my brain is broken.
The section of my brain that handles foreign languages has a leak. Words and phrases go in, float around for a few hours or days, but then they dribble away, never again to be recalled.
Why? Why is learning a second language so different to learning anything else?
I still remember how to code a website in html – <p>, </div>, <head>… and that was over 25 years ago! I haven’t taken a single class, lesson or course since, yet I still remember it as clearly as if it was yesterday.
After a lot of soul-searching, I’ve come to a few conclusions. I sat for hours, listing all the potential reasons for my years of failure. I mentally revisited scenarios and situations, analysing and scrutinising every conceivable reason.
Here is that exhaustive, definitive, conclusive list:
There’s no brain hole. No mental deficiency. No scapegoat I can blame and wag my finger at.
While it’s hard to admit, when it comes to language learning, I am lazy.
Why am I so lazy?
Because learning a language is hard!
I’m sure this comparison is ridiculous and makes no sense, but hear me out.
Learning a ukulele is easy.
I love the band Pearl Jam. If I want to learn a PJ song I go to Youtube, find a tutorial and learn it. Can I play the ukulele as well as Eddie Vedder? Not in a thousand years. Can I play a song well enough that any PJ fan could say, “Oh, that’s XXX. I love that song”? Yes, I can.
With language learning there’s no instant gratification. There’s no 5 minute tutorial to success.
Learning a language takes habits, not just lessons.
To be successful you need to gradually rewire your brain, and that takes time.
My laziness isn’t cynical. I don’t actively wake up thinking, “How can I avoid studying today?”
I just don’t put in enough work with enough regularity for it to sink into my brain. I’m too passive.
Why will this time be different?
Because this time I’m going all out. This time I refuse to be beat!
I’m fast approaching 40 and I need another win before then. The Fluent In 3 Months Challenge finishes on October 23rd. That gives me a full 2 weeks before I enter my 4th decade.
Plenty of time to master Portuguese!
This time I’m studying at least 1 hour every day, 7 days a week. I’ll be using apps, programs, courses, binaural beats, spaced repetition, books, music and a few extra rabbits up my sleeve.
If, like me, you’ve had a rocky ride with languages so far, hopefully the next few months of posts will give you the inspiration and tools necessary to succeed on your own journey.