When asking people what their language-related goals are, you might get replies such as the following:
- I want to understand what’s going on around me.
- I want to be fluent.
- I want to use the language at work.
- I want to be able to speak the language with my children.
- I want to be able to communicate with my in-laws.
My perspective on the exercise is the following: if you spend time thinking about what you want, great. But understanding what it takes to get there is a little different. This makes up the difference between “it would be nice to…” and “I’m willing to do [blank] to get [blank]” I’m going do you a favour and tell you the truth: learning a language is time-consuming. Luckily, many time-consuming things are worth doing, and you do them because you enjoy them! So why not give yourself the chance, not just to like, but really savour and, dare I say, love the present moment?
We love our clear-cut approaches, strategic planning and the like, but depending on our personalities, chances are a lot of those approaches and plans, as beautiful as they are, will never be implemented in the ways we intended. Since life is messy, let’s try something a little different and get passionate about the little things! Susanna Zaraysky calls it falling in love; you can call it whatever you want!
The point is that you need to search for and identify the things that you love about a language, a culture or anything in between. Here are a few examples of my own…
When I moved to Finland, I was absolutely amazed by the Finnish language. To my ears, drunks were poets. Finns were superhuman (the existence of a cemetery near my house confused me). I was in awe of people’s drive to spend life outdoors, usually involving sports, despite cold weather. And their ability to inhale and produce sound at the same time! Most of all, people used to get really excited when they heard me or other foreigners speaking their language as a beginner.
It may not seem like much, but it’s enough.
The thing about my list though, is that it was never a list. I just lived these things every time I went out and interacted with people. I rarely spent time reflecting on my list (that’s what hindsight is for) but they kept me going! If you’re having trouble motivating yourself now, find these things in your daily interaction, and savour them each step of the way.
If something you admire is part of the culture or even scenery, find ways of communicating your appreciation to local people. Because I’m pretty sure that where ever you are, most nations love hearing what others think about their country. It gives them the opportunity to see their surroundings through new eyes. And with this, you have a great way to connect with people.
I told you mine, now it’s your turn to tell me yours! Leave a comment below describing what you savour in your day-to-day that keep you enjoying living abroad and staying near the local language!