When I first started blogging about language learning, I had a very clear and well-defined goal, Mandarin Chinese fluency by the Summer of 2015. Did I achieve that goal? No, not by my own measure of fluency. I may have held my own in a handful of conversations during my time in China and managed to navigate the basic travel necessities, but I often found myself lost and falling back on English or a sheepish 听不懂.
“Fluency” is a nebulous term. Is it ordering food, checking into a hotel, reading a newspaper, watching television, or is it native-like comfort in a 2nd language? One language learner’s “fluency” can be another’s minimum survival level. And therein lies the problem with the blog’s previous name, CrossingTheFluentLine.com. There is no definite finish line.
As 2017 came to a close, I took stock of my various projects to decide where to move forward and where to pull back. It would be easy to pull back on language learning and blogging, but of all of my various interests, language learning is one of the few that I can point to as something I enjoy. So I decided to continue learning and blogging about it, hopefully much more frequently, but to continue blogging, I wanted a more appropriate name for the site.
I’ve been plugging away slowly at Chinese for 10 years now. When I say slowly, don’t underestimate just how slowly. It’s not unusual for me to study only 15-20 minutes per week, and there have been multiple, extended periods during which I haven’t studied at all.
Why so slow, you ask? Easy. I can be unbelievably lazy.
Should I read this book or lay on the couch watching television?
Should I find a chat partner or watch another movie?
Should I study my flashcards or play a game of free cell?
As you can probably guess, I often choose the latter over the former, at least when it comes to language learning.
In my fitness pursuits, I’ve trained myself to choose running and strength training over being a sloth. In the past 8 years, starting in my late 30’s, I’ve gone from 220 to 165 pounds. My 5K time has dropped from 30 minutes to 20 minutes, and my marathon time has dropped from 6 hours to 3.5 hours. How? I built habits and strategies to help keep me active. I learned how to subdue my inner sloth.
And that’s the same approach I want to bring to my language learning at this site, LanguageLearning.SubdueTheSloth.com.