Yesterday I was frustrated. I was trying to talk but had forgotten how to. The words were on the tip of my tongue, but I just could not remember them.
Knowing a language, and then forgetting it, is (I would imagine) a bit like knowing how to walk and then losing the ability to do so.
It’s a painful process, throwing yourself back into the grasps of the unknown known. Your mind has to catch up with your memories. And it can be an extremely frustrating process.
Yesterday I had to remind myself that I’m a student learning (or, rather, relearning) an entire language and that takes time. But as a perfectionist, it’s really hard to sit at a table with my tutor and start to relearn things I knew in elementary school. I want to excel, to run ahead and know everything instantly. I guess it’s a little piece of the brat in me – wanting to get things done WHEN I WANT THEM.
But, I think this is giving me more of an appreciation for the process of learning anything. And, in addition, a sense of awe for anyone who comes out of a situation where they have to relearn basic principals again. Relearning to walk, relearning to talk, relearning to know people, things or places. Stubbornness isn’t even a word that begins to describe what you have to be equipped with.
A reminder came this week, though, while I was reading with the six year old I nanny. He was struggling through the words, sounding out each one painfully and struggling as though he was pulling a heavy weight behind him. He wanted to read about his favorite soccer player Clint Dempsey, so he had insisted that the pages he read for the day were from the internet (instead of usual school level reading books) .
As he went along, he started to realize the task that had been put before him. It took 20 minutes to get through a paragraph. And that was with a lot of assistance, and breaking down words syllable by syllable.
He could have given up. He could have walked away from the table and decided to have books read to him for the rest of his life. But, instead, he pressed on. Grasping for an understanding of each character on the page. Wading through the sentences as though they were a bog trying to suck him down into its muddy ground. But he is a fighter, and he fought his way through each and every sentence. I think I learned a lesson from this sandy haired little six year old.
I learned that it takes practice, it takes determination and patience – but most of all it takes tenacity to continue on through something that seems impossible.
The ability to see things as a promising future, that currently looks like a horrible mess, is not a skill that can be taught, but rather, a piece of each of us that has to be discovered. Each time I go to practice French it breaks my heart to admit that I’m not as proficient as I once was. I have to swallow my pride and ask for help on words and meanings that I used to have mastered.
But every time I sit there struggling, I remember the tenacity of my little six year old, and press on. Because, at the end of the day, it’s not about how much struggle there was to make it to the finish line. Only that you made it there.