losing my inhibitions

This past week was not a demonstration of my best effort in language learning. While I did put in some work, I didn't reach my weekly goal for omuzanyo and I didn't find time to work on Luganda each day. Most of this is because of a low-grade cold I picked up that stalled me across the board. Headaches are bad news for sustained language learning, turns out. But, I also hosted a friend and then my dad and uncle towards the end of the week, and I was not as diligent about fitting Luganda into those days as I should have been.

I just got off of Skype with my language mentor, which has me reflecting on some of my emotional progress as it relates to language learning.

A year ago, after a weak week (haha) of studying, I would've been a basket of nerves prior to meeting with my language mentor. I used to sit down and review like crazy just before our meetings, worried about my (lack of) progress and what he would think of me.

My attitude has changed a lot over time. Instead of fear, I now feel a lot of relief when it's time to meet with my mentor. Especially after a week like this past one, where my progress hasn't been great. It's a wonderful way to re-set, and it's just such valuable practice. I always feel like I've had an hour of productivity and that feels amazing. Perhaps most importantly, it motivates me to do more during the coming week.

A huge part of this attitude adjustment is that I have been actively working to decrease my inhibitions about speaking Luganda. I've documented this a bit in prior blog posts: when I spent my spring break speaking Spanish, and my attempts to use Luganda in as many contexts as possible this past summer.

The importance of losing one's inhibitions really struck me last week while we discussed the book Polyglot by Kató Lomb in our Multi-language Seminar. According to Lomb, one of the essential ingredients to language learning is a lack of inhibitions - in fact, she says that all of the work one does is divisible by their inhibitions. The less inhibitions, the more learning. This really resonates with me, since I have struggled with putting myself out there as a speaker in every language I've learned. My fear of making a mistake, of embarrassing myself, has caused me to hold back and not engage in speaking practice. And whenever I have pushed through my embarrassment and discomfort, I've been rewarded with a lot more progress than when I only read and write the language.

It is good to recognize my attitude shifting in real time. It's helpful to realize that I no longer feel nervous or afraid of my time with my mentor because it shows me that I am learning to approach language learning with as few inhibitions as possible. To me, this reflects an ability to continually learn how to learn, which seems like one of the biggest keys to success. So, despite a lackluster week of actual Luganda work, I know I am making progress in the broader scheme of things. And that knowledge helps me live to learn another day!

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