Finding Space Again for the Things I Love

I love learning languages. For a long time I just found joy in learning on my own or taking a class. I didn’t have a desire to communicate with others or make friends from other countries. As a child, making a friend would be a happy by product but I was too reserved to consider that to be a real reason for me to learn another language.

I thought it was so cool to speak a different language. I was intensely disappointed in my grandparents and great-grandparents for not passing Swedish down to my parents or aunts and uncles. My family is also big on traveling. Bike, road trip, fly, you name it we were down for it. So, I grew up with dreams of explore far off places completely different from my hometown.

Flash forward to the present and I traveled to several countries, lived long term in a few, and now have a decent, if dwindling, command of Japanese, and the faint impression I once had to write a term paper in French. I’m finally feeling some recovery from grad school-pandemic burnout/depression and new country cultural shock. I want to work language study back into to my life without throwing my recovery and new healthy habits out of whack.

Since my thesis is utilizing bilingual interviews (English-Japanese) I feel motivated to brush up my Japanese skills. That is my main focus for now. Once the majority of my thesis is written and I am closer to graduating I want to work a little more on my Finnish. Once I have graduated I want to revive my French brain in preparation for Canada. Yes, I know I can get by normally with English but I think it will be a good professional move in the long run.

Today, I just watched Lindie Botes latest video on ‘How to restart learning a language after a break’. (link to Lindie’s channel) It resonated with me as I have started to study Japanese again. I found her tips quite helpful. Particularly, “ease into it slowly” “Review your old notes first” and “Find a language friend.”

I do a language exchange with my Japanese friend and classmate Junko. I try my best to only use Japanese even when I don’t know a word. I hope to strengthen my grammar and practice speaking more polite Japanese as I am pretty comfortable in speaking in day to day situations.

“Ease into it slowly” was such a good reminder for me. I’m the type of person with many interests and when I find something new or return to an old hobby I go all in. This usually leads to me burning out or losing interest because I don’t actually make it a habit or schedule it appropriately. My main focus is my studies and writing my thesis, so it is important for me to keep my priorities in order and allow language to stay sustainable. Language learning, like all education, is a long term investment. Sometimes the best results come later. I also find this excellent advice for adults who are looking to start a new hobby or revisit an old one.

And finally, “review old notes.” I can’t really do this for Japanese because I Ieft most my notes at home in the USA. But I do have one or two textbooks with me that I can review. I am actually more excited to do this for when I start revisiting Finnish in a few months. Remember, I might live in Finland but I am a full time student writing a thesis. Baby steps. I took some beginning Finnish courses my first year and I took some awesome notes. I can gradually start reviewing those and try working it into my daily life. However spoken Finnish is very different written/standard Finnish, so I might try to find a friend who has some free time to do a few exchanges in the new year.

I am cautiously optimistic about this plan. I’m taking everyone one step at time. I am just really happy and relieved my love of language learning is returning.

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