For years, I have desired to learn Spanish, and then I have wanted to improve my guitar playing skills and I have wanted to learn to fly … and a hundred other things. I have started on a couple of the above on several occasions, never getting any farther than the first few steps or stages. The attempts always left me disappointed, discouraged and blaming myself for lack of discipline and perseverance. While that might partly be true, it is a great relief now, coming to understand following the reading of Josh Kaufman’s First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything Fast, that it is not necessary to beat myself up so badly after all.
Looking back, the realization dawns on me; my failure was on account of a lack of awareness of the ten basic principles that are essential for acquisition of skills in a short period of time. These principles are clearly defined by Kaufman. Good intentions and hard work alone could not get me to my destination, since they were poorly directed and fell short of a strategic plan. Now I have excitedly launched on a journey which I started and restarted without much success in the past. However this time around, it is definitely going to be much different and one that will certainly end in its intended destination. The only hitch lies in my present travel and intensive ministry time that prevents me from making the focused commitment of time and effort required; nevertheless, the journey begins with the awareness of the nature of the road ahead, the roadblocks on the way and the milestones that will be taken into account as each one is crossed. Learning from the errors of the past, I am moving forward with a greater confidence, better prepared, with the right expectations and greater clarity, understanding the difference between learning and the acquisition of a skill. Along the journey, a couple of friends are invited to help and hold me accountable.
The desired skill is one I have longed for; and that is to be able to communicate in Spanish while travelling in Latin America and during meetings with my Spanish speaking friends, which I now I perceive as a problem to be solved rather than an achivement. Kaufman quoting Karl Popper writes, “The best thing that can happen to a human being is to find a problem, to fall in love with that problem, and to live trying to solve that problem, unless another problem even more loveable appears (Kaufman n.d., 286).” As in former days, it is not my desire to speak the language perfectly but to acquire the skill of simple communication with a 1000 word vocabulary to begin with. The perfect enunciation and diction can and will follow later through practice and use of the skill.
Having given due consideration to Kaufman’s valuable advice: “ Taking a moment to identify critical tools before you start practicing saves precious time. Practice time is maximized by ensuring you have the resources you need before you begin (348),” time has been invested in research and identification of new material in order to create the required ‘scaffolding’ that Kaufman mentions as one important item on the check. Rather than another attempt to learn the language, the choice has been made to select a program to acquire the skill of communicating in Spanish in short simple sentences. I will jump deeper into the program and become move forward more systematically once I get into a routine schedule on returning home in a couple of weeks from my present travel. For now, I am ploughing on, learning five new words and one sentence each day, happy and encouraged with the progress I have made over the past ten days. Latin America, Here I come!
Kaufman, Josh. “The First 20 Hours: How To Learny Anything Fast.” Penguin Group. Prod. Worldly Wisdom Ventures LLC. New York.