Disclaimer: I’m aware it’s “tone deaf.” It’s a pun, okay? 

Confession time:

I’ve spent two weeks on the same 17 vocab words. When I’m looking at them, I get all scatterbrained. Do I learn pronunciation first? Translation? How to draw the characters? Where do I start? I’m trying to learn another language like I study for a test, and while that’s functional for learning what the words mean in English, it does me little good in pronunciation or application of them. And what about grammar, for that matter?


jonathan kos-read Photo CC-by Jonathan Kos-Read, also, I have no idea what this says

Focus is Key

My biggest problem with this learning project so far is that I’ve been trying to spread myself too thin, bouncing around between things I need to learn. I don’t remember learning English, it’s just something that comes naturally. My teacher has done some lessons in this language before, but it’s been while. I find myself asking more questions than I can answer at once – I’m already constructing basic sentences out of words I’ve picked up and my very (very very) loose grasp on the grammar, but I’m trying to do long division before I even know how to add.

That, and I’m busy, man. Seriously. I know this project is something we chose, I know it’s something I want to dedicate time to, but when my options are “do my Chinese homework” and “start this take-home test due Tuesday, then practice for my lesson on Thursday so it’s not a total shitshow” my priorities re-arrange themselves a bit.

I guess that’s something else I’m learning besides Chinese: how to juggle responsibilities. I’m a bit jealous, really – I give my student a writing prompt and the first draft is finished that same day. I highlight it, give my criticisms, and the edited “final” version is done that same day. And I’ve yet to memorize my first 17 vocab words. Damn.

Theen Moy Photo CC-by Theen Moy, and I can’t read this either.

At the end of the day, I don’t have excuses. I need to carve out time for this. When I sit down to do it, I’m always fascinated. I’m never bored. There’s an immense hurdle for me to jump, and I don’t back from a challenge. The trouble is, there are too many directions for me to go. Because I’m an egotist and a bit of an attention whore, it does my heart good to see my pupil excited about writing and eager to continue learning new things.

I wonder if she’ll let me borrow some of her enthusiasm. This is my last semester for my Bachelor’s Degree, and it’s beginning to feel like it.


  1. tristyfishy says:

    Nope. My enthusiasm is my own. However, if you feel you are spread too thin, we can lay off of the characters and we can focus on pronunciation/sentence building. For instance, focusing on the difference between “hen” and “fei chang” was a very good step for you. You asked very good questions.

    I have that same test; I just happen to be a writing addict and have a tendency to procrastinate on the stupid homework and get my fun “homework” done…and then do some more of it…

  2. This is always a challenge in this class–and in several of my classes. Postponing the “fun” homework to prioritize other things. It’s interesting to me because the independent learning project are completely self-chosen, so it ought to be a high priority, and yet we all struggle to prioritize what we most want to do.

    • jamcfarland says:

      I think we all just perpetually stress ourselves silly about our responsibilities and deadlines. I know any time I’m loafing or doing something recreational, my due dates are still lurking in the back of my mind. The process my mind goes through consists of “Yeah, I could learn to be a better teacher or do my Chinese homework, but I have an exam due on Tuesday…”

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