The past 3 or 4 weeks have been hectic for me, with “real life” (that is, not language stuff, alas) throwing some curve balls at me. I’d love to say that I’ve diligently carried on with my language learning endeavors, but I can’t. I’ve not picked up a grammar book or dictionary for weeks, nor have I even read much in foreign languages. My German deck in Anki has over 500 cards due!
While that’s certainly not a good thing, some good has come from it, and that is this: I’ve been reminded once again that one is allowed to set aside language learning for a while, and the world won’t come crashing down. That may sound silly, but for many months now, language learning had become a major part of my daily routine, and at times, I let it slide from “extremely enjoyable hobby” to “work.” On some days, instead of thinking “I want to work on Russian now,” I’d instead think “I need to / must work on Russian sometime today.” Particularly when tackling a number of languages all at once, such thinking quickly leads to feeling down about not meeting all of your obligations – real or imagined. Russian didn’t really care if I met with it on Tuesday or Wednesday, but in my mind, Russian did care, in a bizarre way. Russian felt neglected.
Thankfully, languages are much more forgiving than people are. Shelve them for a week or four, and they’ll wait around for you. Furthermore, while I do regret having been away from my languages for so many weeks, the break is proving to have been helpful, as I’ve been able to see that what I’ve learned so far won’t disappear if I miss a few weeks. For a long while, I was quite in the mindset that if I missed a day or two, what I’d learned would drain out of my head like water out of a sink. That hasn’t been the case at all. This past weekend I was out of town for a few days, with none of my Russian materials; I hadn’t studied any Russian for weeks. Yet I was still able to think a bit in the language, bringing to mind words, sentences, and bits of grammar that I honestly expected to have completely forgotten.
I’ve written a few posts like this now, I think, but I do think it’s a point worth stressing: don’t turn your hobbies into work, or you’ll learn to hate your hobbies. Perhaps this doesn’t apply to many people, but I know it applies to me. I tend to be serious about most things I do, which has its ups and downs. It’s good to work diligently at things; it’s another thing altogether to let those “things” dominate your life. When you’re regularly feeling guilty for not paying enough attention to “your languages”, it might be time to reconsider how you’re doing things. 🙂
Has anyone else had similar positive experiences with taking a decent sized break from language learning? Before answering that in the comments, though, let me make it clear: you’re not going to learn any language by ignoring it all the time. But breaks can be beneficial, I think.