nevergiveup© Gaye Wilson 2013

Well, I finished my Russian diploma in 2011, and started a new language: Italian. As with the Russian, I am learning it by distance, which means that I do not attend classes.

The way distance learning works is that you log onto a web site where all the materials are, including recordings of the lectures. It is up to the student to listen to all the recordings, do all the reading, and submit all the assignments on time.

Is this hard? Yes it is, especially when you are learning a foreign language.

The first year of Italian gave me a good grounding in the language, approximately equal to matriculation level from high school. This year, Intermediate Italian, is proving to be harder. Why? Because the lectures are given in Italian!

At the end of my first year of Italian, I found that I could read simple Italian fairly well, or at least could get the gist of it. But I could not speak it, write it easily, or understand anything said at normal speed.

Hmm. Some more work needed.

As I said, this year the lectures are conducted in Italian. That will help with understanding the spoken word. I am finding that it’s not as hard as I expected, and I suspect that I have one advantage over the people who actually attend the classes: I can stop the audio and look up words or make notes, and not miss anything.

So I am pleased that this year will address one of my issues with the language: the spoken word.

One of the other major problems I have with this project is that I cannot write Italian very well. Or at least, not without spending ages looking up words, conjugations and grammatical structures.

This, too, is being addressed this year. This semester we are buddied up with other students and are required to conduct email conversations with them throughout the semester, with a minimum total of 200 words.

Now, I have a problem with this. Yes, it’s giving me practice in writing Italian. But no, it’s not giving me feedback from a native speaker and I don’t get my mistakes corrected. I have asked my buddy to correct my Italian if she sees mistakes, and I do the same for her.

But my BIGGEST problem with this course is the other distance students. They are whingers. They complain that it’s all too hard. My original email buddy decided it was too hard to learn the language by distance, even though she comes from an Italian family and can practise on them.

What??

It really bothers me that there are people who embark on a new project, such as learning a language, starting a business, or doing a PhD, who then complain that it’s too hard.

Listen up, people.

It’s supposed to be hard.

A past Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Fraser, once said “Life is not meant to be easy.” Hmm. I’m not sure of the philosophy, but in a way he was right. Life is hard for many people, but the ones who accept it and forge ahead anyway are the ones who are successful.

Change your language. Instead of saying ‘It’s too hard!”, say “It’s hard! YAYYY! That means I get to stretch myself, overcome some obstacles, and learn a lot.”

Changing your inner language is important, because it is the only way you will be able to change yourself.

When something is hard, celebrate that you are attempting something that is hard for you, and work out how to accomplish it.

Make a plan.
Ask for help.
Stretch yourself.
And never ever give up.