Experience, or the Lack Thereof

Posted: March 31, 2015 in DigiLit
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m not talking about sex. Let’s throw that pun away out of the gate.

I’m talking about applying new knowledge to the real world. Rick Drumm, former CEO of D’addario Inc. (major music industry company) told me once that he had been the president of a company before ever pursuing higher education, and his real-world experience allowed him to better filter and apply the things he was learning. Along the same vein, the “use it or lose it” principal is very real with certain skills, like, new languages for instance.

And boy, am I losing it.

Len Matthews Photo CC-by Len Matthews. Relevant? Not really, no.

So, I’m lulling hardcore in my independent learning project. My book-studies are in a state of stasis that would embarrass any self-proclaimed scholar. Homework is nowhere to be seen. I mutter vocab words under my breath while I walk or drive, Ms. Fish (my esteemed teacher and better half) quizzes me on them periodically, but god knows I’m so far from any practical use or knowledge I couldn’t find it with the freakin’ Hubble telescope.

But. There are several moments, almost daily, where I get to witness something that might be more valuable than Nose-to-the-grindstone book learnin’. I have a teacher who, though she has lost some of it considering that this isn’t a predominantly Mandarin-speaking country, speaks conversational Mandarin on a daily basis.

We’ll go out to get food somewhere, (Chinese buffet, duh), and I find both her and myself listening, scoping out to see if the staff are actually speaking Mandarin or if it’s some other language – and I can recognize Mandarin. In tourist traps like Albuquerque or Mt. Rushmore, I can actively pick out when Chinese is being spoken. That’s definitely a new skill for me.

When the excited banter begins between my teacher and the waiter / waitress, I can pick out certain words or phrases. Only a few, and just barely, but I can pick them out. When said teacher has conversations with international students (or answers the phone in Mandarin because it’s hilarious), I can usually recognize commonly used conversational phrases.

It’s not a whole hell of a lot – but it is something!

Steven S Photo CC-by Steven S. entitled, “a caricature of things I”m not doing right now”

Seeing as how this is a class focused almost entirely on new / different ways to learn, we’re going to try a different approach. I’m going to start watching movies / listening to music in Chinese. Strange approach to some – but I’ve picked up a few phrases from a film we’ve already watched, entitled “Painted Skin” in English. I throw (poor) little quips in Mandarin at my teacher on occasion. Progress is slow. Like molasses in the middle of winter slow.

Buuuut, some would argue progress is progress. Right?


  1. brittanylenz says:

    Well said. I find myself in the same struggle this time of year. I want activities, not book work. The end of the semester is within reach & the weather is getting increasingly better each day. So if listening to music in Chinese and picking up on Mandarin is what you need then go for it! I think my strategy is going to be to trudge through the final few weeks. Like sticky mud clinging to a muck boot. Best of luck to you!

    • jamcfarland says:

      Thanks very much! I’ve definitely been out and about significantly more than during the winter, so sitting inside and grinding over books kinda drives me bonkers. Any alternative way I can make this work, I’m going to try.

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