Saturday, January 12, 2013

Then and Now 56 - My Studies

Then and Now 56 - My Studies
Time: Before I got married.

I've learned three foreign languages in my life. I learned the first in high school, and it took me three years to become semi-capable in it. The second I learned in college, and it took me five years to become pretty good at it. The local language of this country, on the other hand, I mostly learned in just three months. It's not because it was easy or anything; it's because I found a way to remember things extremely efficiently, and from that skill, I devoured the local language through a dictionary in just a handful of months. But I'll back up a bit.

I actually took some time to learn the local language in college, but over the nine or so months I was learning it, I didn't get much else besides very basic grammar and a handful of words like "I" "student" "book" and "dog." It's no surprise that I was such a bad student when I was in college, seeing as how I was so self-destructive during its first half. In primary school I got straight A's and B's, but when I got to college, everything about my life, including my memory and grades, slipped heavily. I still remember being so frustrated in my apartment at college, looking at a word list from one of my language classes and trying to remember just one simple word: "confirm." I even repeated the word and its translation a hundred times each in succession, and still forgot the next day.

It wasn't until I was a few months from moving here that I had had enough. I was improving my character, and next, I had to improve my memory. I went on Google and typed something along the lines of "remember things quickly easily." And one of the top results was the page that would make me the semi-fluent speaker of the local language today: mnemonics. It's annoying to spell, though, so from here on out, I'll just call it "nicking."

I still remember the first thing I nicked, which was an example from that page: remembering to go buy some milk and fix the door by imagining myself pouring milk on a door. The image was so disgusting to me, and involved two things in my permanent memory (milk and door), so it was the perfect way to remember those two concepts as they applied to daily chores.

A few days after I got to the country, my bud and I went to a local bookshop to get me an English-localspeak dictionary, and I spent every night writing down simple words from it, and into a notebook, to learn for later. It was only a short time after I first got to the country that I found myself missing an opportunity because of my poor language skill in Then and Now 54, and that was the moment I really started to dig deep into my studies.

My notebook filled very quickly as I worked my way from A to Z. I wrote down every single simple word, and its translation, on the notebook to learn for later. Directions, prepositions, animals, colors, clothes, body parts, basic verbs, countries, furniture, languages, materials, the all-important language-doubling word "opposite," and so many more. Day by day and page by page, I went through the dictionary until I hit the last word and was done. In the process, I even copied some dubiously useful oddballs, like "cancer," "holy" and "surf."

When I was done writing all these words down and had worked through about a hundred or two, I was only a few days away from moving out of my bud's aunt's house and to the hostel. Every night there, after having a fun adventure through the day and talking with friends at night, I created stories and nicked another dozen or so words every night. And whenever I wanted to learn a new word from someone who didn't speak English, all I had to do was combine simple words into a question, hear the more complicated word from them, then finally nick it, and I was even further along towards fluency.

I even taught Ken how to nick while we were taking a bus back to the hostel together, by giving him a simple, easy and fun story to remember the word "protect." After that, he never forgot the word. Another time, when he and I were in a taxi heading home, he asked the driver what "the line that protects my body in the car" is. We both learned "seat belt" right then and there.

I was practicing these words on Ken, local friends and tutor students all over the country, and they all taught me even more: my bud's aunt taught me "polite," Ken taught me "cheese," Tina taught me "hate," Eli taught me "french fries," Nate taught me "ticker" (the little news bytes running by on the bottom of news channels), and the "Three Musketeers" taught me "scary" and "scared."

Unfortunately, the weakness in my studies revealed itself when I realized that my dictionary taught me the formal/scientific/legal versions of many words, like "present" instead of "show," or "sputum" instead of "snot." When I realized that about a quarter of my words were overly formal and causing confused stares, I had to review and double check my entire vocabulary list with Tim and Jessie, and later Nate. I'm still in their debt for their kind help.

Even after that hiccup, and after settling into my apartment, I had successfully nicked over a thousand words. Then, with more free time on my hands at night and on the weekends, I upped my studying from a dozen words a night to twenty or thirty. And in just a week or two, I was completely done.

I still remember the day I nicked my final hundred words: I was playing Samurai Warriors on my PSP and using it as a "dog treat" reward for memorizing ten words at a time. Memorize the words, fight one battle, review them, fight one battle, memorize another ten (including any I forgot in the first place), etc... At the exact same time that I finished the game with my last general Ina, I had nicked my final ten words. I set the game aside, watched TV for a bit, had a smoke, then spent about an hour testing myself a final time on every single word I had learned since I got abroad... and I remembered them all. Seconds later, I crumpled up my vocabulary papers, all of them, and threw them in the trash. And I never needed to use them again.

Thanks to my dedication in learning the local language, I had the impressive skill that I had back in my single days. It helped me make hundreds of friends and several job prospects, and almost a dozen girls wanted to date me. People to this day compliment me on my skill, which doesn't say much for the other foreigners here.

Today, I still learn words where I can, usually filling in gaps in my knowledge for my classes and stuff. In the past few years, I've learned such words as "diamond," "mist," "criminal," "raft" and "limit," which have served me well in my English lessons. But other than filling in gaps in my language skill, there's not much point in learning any more. Marriage has robbed me of my friends and free time, and there are very few people I can talk to while I'm stuck in my house, working or dealing with chores all day. It also makes little sense to learn any other language now, because I'm not leaving this country for another fourteen years so I'll never use any other languages until then. Also, with my 95% successful first attempt retention skill at nicking, I'll be able to semi-master any language I shoot for in less than a month when I finally get my freedom back.

I learned more of the local language in three months than most men who come here have learned in decades, grunting and gesturing like cavemen when they interact with the local populace. And yet, they are the ones who get dates, money and adventure, while I'm left to stagnate in this wedded prison. I've attempted to share the concept of nicking with almost a dozen foreigners whose language skills were pathetic and infant-like to give them the best possible time they could have here. Every last one of them thanked me, then when I checked up on them a few months later, they all admitted that they hadn't even started. Even though it would take them twenty minutes a night to permanently learn fifty to a hundred words, most of them fed me the lie that they had no time, and then continued on with their disrespectful life of ignorance.

In fourteen years, I will be a new man. Jealous thoughts will have no place in my mind, and I'll continue my ascent up the mountain of life, with no marriage to ever shackle me again. Perhaps I'll learn ten more languages before I pass, when I will be eternally free from this enslavement.

No comments:

Post a Comment