On Language Learning During Illness

2016-10-31-19-21-52

(For those of you who recognize the character, I will avoid from making sickening puns of any sort)

Been a while, hasn’t it been?

I woke up one day in November 2015 having any variety of optimism sucked out of me completely, unable to focus on any task and feeling both energetic and tired in all of the wrong ways.

There was absolutely no positive feeling anywhere in me.

Worse yet, I had a game design conference to attend later that month. Thankfully for the first few days of November, I thought it would be a temporary thing that would pass, but after it lasted a week it became clear that it wasn’t letting up.

These feelings resulted in me walking away from every single one of my projects. Up until November I was updating this blog every week, and even looking forward to making one of those “polyglot videos” (for those unaware: filming oneself speaking a lot of languages one after another).

And thanks to the feelings incurred, I did the previously unthinkable and I shut down my Facebook account from November 2015 until June 2016. I genuinely wanted to retreat from a lot of my previous commitments and passions, and I had no idea why. I felt an extraordinary energy definciency and sometimes I fear that I still do have it.

Suffice it to say that thanks to one of my students, I was diagnosed with Lyme Disease in time and it was treated in time. It is easily one of the most difficult diseases to detect, and it is likely that I caught it in a Connecticut forest while visiting my parents during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot.

Thinking back to my time of treatment (and struggling to identify the disease) as well as various other illnesses I’ve had during my polyglot career, I didn’t see anything written on this topic.

Granted I have had the good fortune to not have undergone anything worse than Lyme Disease during my life, but I think that I should write some words of encouragement about learning a language during sickness. It could be something lasting, it could be something that may cause you to “not feel well”, for one day, but the truth be told is that..

You can still be in the process of moving your dreams forward, even under the most dire circumstances!

And language acquisition and retention is no exception to this!

If you find yourself not feeling well and stumble upon this blog post, I wish you a speedy recovery!

 

Some things to keep in mind:

 

Tone down judging yourself harshly

 

I come from a family of overachievers and me being the first-born sibling means that I am a lot more likely to be harsh on myself than those who are not.

Especially with the pressure of testing culture in the United States, which sadly leaves lasting scars on many people, it is very possible to feel invalidated from discouragement for too many reasons to count.

You may not be able to remember words as well, you may even find yourself forgetting basic phrases, your energy may be low and your native language(s) may also be in no great condition either!

As a general rule your passive abilities will be stronger than your active ones (although there are some languages with which can be definite exceptions to this). But even then, those may feel downsized as a result of your not-feeling-very well.

Keep in mind that if you are in one of these slump-days on your language learning journey, do not use moments like these to measure and / or track your progress! Granted, there may be some languages that you have such sharp control over that you can manage then excellent even when not feeling well!

What you should be using to track your progress, then, is how well you can manage with the skills of reading / writing / speaking and listening when you are feeling better.

But that day may be far off, sadly. In which case, you still do have hope! I remember that I was honing Irish and Finnish before Lyme Disease came in, and I didn’t even feel like doing anything.

Not visiting the respective wikipedias, not picking up a book, not even using videos or cartoon shows!

But regardless of how badly you feel, keep in mind that you can always do something.

It does not matter if it is just a handful of words, even a single sentence, or even a few minutes of exposure. The journey is always about moving forward. And those language learners who manage the best are those that move forward with their journeys.

Moving forward is not always the same is sprinting, and on bad days, you have to understand that. 

Some of you knew that I spent my preteen years in a very religious Jewish school. And one thing that they emphasized in theory (although in practice not as much) was the fact that every deed of religious observance, or good deed in general, no matter how small, was to be treasured.

On good days as well as bad days, you need to learn how to think like that with regard to your goals.

Moving slowly is okay. When you are not feeling well, whether with a fever or not enough sleep or even something far worse, it may even be expected of you. And so don’t push yourself too harshly and don’t treat yourself too harshly either.

Just because you are a polyglot or a polyglot-in-training, doesn’t mean you have to be superhuman. In fact, no one should ever expect that of you!

Happy days will be ahead of you, and realize that, while your language learning attempts during illness may seem underwhelming to you, they are actually greatly heroic acts that you will look back on with pride!

 

(P.S. about the video, I’m starting a YouTube channel soon [well, it is live already, actually!] and I’ll be honing my video-making skills along the way and delivering you a polyglot video when the moment feels right! Sorry to keep you waiting even more!)

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s