counter to my nature

Last week I wrote a bit about how I have figured out how to use my personality quirks to my advantage in language learning. This week, I realized that sometimes I actively have to work counter to my personality in order to make progress in independent language learning.

You see, as my classmates can certainly attest to by now, I am an extravert. A really-extreme-on-the-continuum kind of extravert. I wither without human contact, and I seek out company at all times. Being around people gives me energy, and I have designed much of my life in such a way that I can take advantage of this.

However, as with anything, there are drawbacks. Because I prize time spent with people so much, I will oftentimes choose to go along with whatever the group is doing rather than prioritize my own needs. A major example of this in my life is photography. I’ve long said I’d be a better photographer if I was less interested in spending time with whatever group of people I happen to be near. A photographer oftentimes has to stand outside of the group, has to be willing to sit in one place and wait for an image to show up, or to go to strange places to capture more interesting perspectives. This is hard for me. For example, if I’m on a hike, I’m loathe to put space between myself and the rest of the group to wait for a moment to capture.

This weekend, I was in Boulder, Colorado with a group of my closest friends. We have made a tradition of taking a trip together annually, coming from all over the country (and sometimes the world), to spend time together. These trips are quite relaxed and at various points, people usually need to do some work, study for an exam, or care for a baby. On Saturday, people were lounging around the house, and I noticed my friend Sam had found a cozy spot near the fireplace and was getting a bit of work done. I realized in that moment that some of my problems with Luganda study while traveling or hosting don't stem from being lazy, nor do they always come from a lack of time to study. I realized that the act of prioritizing my own needs, and of straying from the pack, goes counter to my people-obsessed personality.

The second I had that insight, I grabbed my computer and worked on some of the long-term learning exercises on Quizlet next to Sam and the fireplace. As I worked people streamed in, and at one point I was handed my 11-month old goddaughter. So, as I went through my flashcards, I would say the words in Luganda aloud to her, just for a bit of fun. (Maybe I'm giving her a head start on future Luganda learning!)

I'm so glad I had this little insight - that it is in my nature for me to prioritize being with a group rather than pursuing my own needs. To know this about myself in the context of learning will help me identify when it's happening, and allow me to change my behavior, even when it's counter to my nature.

One of the best things about the course this year is it has taught me to be more highly attuned to my emotions and my responses to situations. In turn, this attention has helped me become a better learner. 


Apart from keeping up with daily study while on the road this week, it has been a fairly normal week for me. My time spent with my mentor was much more productive than last week, and I did a bit of newspaper reading and listening to the radio, as usual. I have been really enjoying the Quizlet long-term learning process, which tests different words across time to determine how well you are mastering different vocabulary. It helps keep language drilling to bite-sized chunks, and tracks progress over time. It's working really well for me!

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