Written by Dyami Millarson
Being open to the experience of boredom and laziness is good for learning languages. Laziness increases efficiency, for one would not waste one’s limited energy, whilst boredom increases relevance, for one would not waste one’s limited attention span. Humans gain energy from consuming food and drink (grammatical note: it should be “drinks” in normal modern usage, but I am wont to speak and write archaic English where “drink” may be an uncountable noun). This is a very precious source of energy. As we consume, our body ages. In other words, the aging process progresses with each time we consume food and water. This means we have a limited amount of energy we can obtain during our lifetime, and thus our energy – as well as our time – is precious. Much people do, however, not realise how important efficiency is. When one works hard, one ought to be highly efficient as well. Just hard work does not suffice for learning languages fast and well. Our goal is to learn languages as fast and as well as we can.
Aging means the accumulation of damage, and as such, we are sacrificing our body each time we are investing our valuable energy and time in something. We ought to know that we cannot keep investing endlessly, and that is where laziness kicks in. Laziness is our body’s natural response in order to conserve valuable energy. Giving in to our body’s natural response is a way to maximise our efficiency. I am a lazy learner in the sense that I try to minimise how much effort I put in and I try to maximise how much I gain from the learning process. This may sound counter-intuitive to those who believe that they should only put in large amounts of effort in order to yield the best results. Over a longer period of time, I put in a large effort, but my effort has been well-coordinated for the sake of efficiency. My own experience a few years ago with a crippling intestine surgery has helped me to appreciate the value of laziness; energy conservation has been one of my main priorities ever since that operation. My daily energy is limited and therefore I must make quick and wise decisions as to how to spend my energy each day.
While learning any language, I am usually bored by much of the information that I encounter. I have little interest in almost everything, and this helps me to shift between what is relevant and irrelevant. I know that the overwhelming majority of information is not worth remembering. For instance, when I read a grammar book, I skip almost everything while skimming through the book looking for relevant data. I do seldom experience interest in any particular word or grammatical form. I am completely indifferent to much of what I encounter, because that is the strategy that works for me. My memory probably retains much more than what I am interested in, but I have no desire to actively attempt remembering much of the boring information that I encounter. Accepting and coping constructively with boredom is vital to language-learning.
Boredom itself is a powerful tool one can use to optimise one’s language-learning efforts. Almost all information that we are exposed to is not worth remembering, and this is the realisation that drives my strategy to language learning. I do not really have a method, but I have a strategy, whether it be conscious or subconscious, and this strategy is ever evolving as I am adapting to different circumstances. I do not advocate sticking to any particular method, because that reduces flexibility and adaptibility. My goal is to be highly flexible, adaptive and efficient; I would not trade this goal for adherence to a method that promises me “success” but at the end of the day only constrains my possibilities for achieving something much greater by relying on my own ingenuity. It is vitally important that we be free to make use of our impulses and instincts in such a way that we can maximise our potential; we should not limit our own creativity.
Definitely, it is good to take note of how others do things and what methods exist out there, but adaptability and flexibility really are psychological items that are not worth trading for anything cognitively rigid and constraining. To me, it is hard to describe all the processes that are going on in my brain while learning languages; I make so many spontaneous decisions that it would be hard to keep track. What I describe here on our blog are the essentials, yet my daily decisions regarding how to approach learning any particular language are so numerous that it would take book volumes to explain them all. Moreover, I make decisions faster than I can ever write them down; my brain thinks much faster than I can ever speak or write, and so it is hard to keep up. Neither should I forget to mention that I see the complexity of adaptive learning; it has basically no form. We may describe evolution, but describing all the possible forms of evolution is really a complex task; this is why I see talking about methods as a waste of time. After all, we can never cover the whole set of possibilities out there, and attempting to do so would only give the wrong impression, and may even reduce our efficiency and ultimate success within a limited period of time significantly. Methods are actually time-consuming, and that is why I do not rely on them. In my eyes, methods do not exist and I do not consider them further, because they have no benefit to me. However, what I do believe in is embracing our inborn human tendencies, such as laziness and boredom, and use that to try and achieve our fullest potential in language learning.