At the moment, I’m sitting at a very nice restaurant, with an outdoor seating area, just a five-minute’s walk from where I just completed my fourth day of an intensive Italian course – language that is, with lots of additional cultural add-on’s to round out the picture. It is an incredibly warm and sunny day for February (here in Rome), and I am having a nice glass of Nero d’ Avola (from Sicily) to congratulate myself on “staying the course”.
During this first week of the course (out of four weeks, 20 hours of class a week) I have experienced two prevailing symptoms. Firstly, I feel like a sponge that has been overly saturated, and I’m desperately trying to keep it all in. Secondly, my brain hurts. It says “I don’t wanna…” This part of my brain feels like a vintage car that has been stored in the garage under a tarp for too many years, without being exercised with a regular spin on the open highway. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a lazy brain. I DID pass the Italian driver’s test last year, and I had similar feelings during the 9-month journey to securing that sweet little piece of plastic that resides now in my wallet. How is this different? I am swimming now in Italian, and the English speaking center of my brain is putting up a fight. I think that is to be expected, and perhaps it just needs to tire itself out.
But, dammit, I’m going to go after this with everything I have. I won’t be deterred by facts touting that the prime language learning years are those of a child. I just have to rouse my sleeping language learning center from a long hibernation. And, that will require patience, and a dedication to getting LOADS of sleep. The latter was drilled into my brain after having the privilege of hearing Dr. James B. Maas, of Cornell University, discuss the importance and power of sleep. Believe me, until I heard Dr. Maas’s lecture, I abused sleep like there was no tomorrow. I now understand that even the most dedicated efforts at learning can be quickly lost, or undone, by insufficient sleep.
Because I’m still at the beginning of this long journey, I’ll stop writing until I have more experience, and expertise (hopefully) speaking Italian, to pin to my chest like a Boy Scout badge. I’ll leave you with a few things to ponder. Attached are links to two very informative YouTube videos. The first is a TedTalk regarding learning a new language. I found it helpful in crafting my approach and adopting an emotional “state” before embarking on this journey. The second is a talk give by Dr. Maas. I strongly urge you, if you do nothing else, to watch this video. If you’re like me, it will be a wake-up call to the power of sleep vs. adopting some crazy, macho attitude of bragging about how little sleep you get.
Stay tuned for weekly updates on my progress in school!