Do What You Feel Like

Harry Potter A L'Ecole Des Sorciers“Do what you feel like” can be devastating moral advice, but for language-learning that doesn’t have an impending deadline, it’s a great way to maximize joy and success. Here’s what I mean:

This morning I felt like reading young adult fantasy fiction in French. Fortunately, I had sitting by my bed a copy of Harry Potter à l’école des sorciers from the library, so I read a chapter. I was able to do what I felt like while pursuing my language-learning goals.

Sometimes I feel like keeping up on Spanish pop music, but I didn’t this morning. Sometimes I feel like playing a mindless mobile game while listening to a Latin lecture, but I didn’t this morning. (I did last night, so I played Temple Run 2 while listening to a lecture by Terence Tunberg on the Humanist Jacobus Pontanus.)

The point is, if I hadn’t had that French copy of Harry Potter, I wouldn’t have been able to do what I felt like and probably would have either not bothered to do any language-indwelling this morning or forced myself distractedly to do something I didn’t feel like, which wouldn’t have been very effective.

(See also: What Is Your Favorite Thing to Do?)

In a way, then, the title of this post should be “Make sure you have access to a ton of resources so that, whatever language-indwelling activity you feel like doing, you can do it.” But I also really am encouraging you not to bother too much with language-learning activities you don’t feel like doing, because you probably won’t get much out of them.

I like to have on hand, or have easily accessible through the internet, an array of content that covers the following:

1. All the languages I’m keen on these days

2. Written, audio, and video content

3. A variety of genres–fiction of different kinds, news, humor, history, pop culture, comics, etc.

With these three axes well covered by content I have checked out from the library, found on Pinterest or Youtube, or otherwise assembled, I can be fairly sure that, whenever I have time to spend on language-learning, I can do just what I feel like. And since I don’t have an external deadline for any of my language learning, I don’t have to worry about not reading French or listening to Spanish for a few days. When I feel like it again, it’ll be there. If I never feel like it again, why would I make myself do it? (If you do have a deadline, you can still maximize your joy and success by making sure to have axes 2 and 3 covered.)

What language-learning activities do you often feel like doing, and how easily can you access them?

See also: Your Language-Learning Happy Place
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  1. Japanese was supposedly my frigoen language, which I haven’t touched since I graduated from college. A trip to Japan would be a good incentive to brush up the language.Chinese… (you know the story…)Took Latin for two years in high school as a tool to help learn the roots of vocabulary. Continued for three more years in college. I don’t consider it as a frigoen language because people don’t really speak it. It’s more of a written language that lays the ground for other Romantic languages.

    • Dear Grace, Thanks for reading and commenting! I hope you do get the chance to brush up on your Japanese.

      Re Latin’s not being spoken, you might be surprised! I just got back yesterday from an annual event called Living Latin in New York City, where 140 participants from all over the country hung out speaking Latin. (Here’s some footage! There are lots of similar events throughout the country and the world. My students and I speak Latin in all our Latin classes, both in person and online. It’s actually a pretty common thing, because enough people have realized that it helps so much with actually internalizing the language, even if one’s ultimate goal is only to read it or build one’s vocabulary. See the Latin Listening Project for more, if you’re interested!

      Either way, all the best to you in your linguistic journeys!

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