What Would You Like to Learn?

Almost everyone, in my experience, has a list of things they would like to learn. Be it figure skating, trout fishing or sewing, there’s always some skill people would like to master. The dream, however, is usually stronger than the reality. Learning something takes time (which most people do not have) and effort (which is hard to come by after a busy day at the office).

My list used to look like this:

  • karate
  • Spanish
  • knitting
  • baking

I eventually managed to learn how to knit, then discovered I lacked the patience to finish an entire jumper. I know how to bake simple cookies, but Mary Berry-like cakes are probably out of reach. I once managed to bake brownies which, upon taken from the oven, collapsed into a sweet chocolatey pool. Which tasted delicious, but it wasn’t quite the effect I was going for. One has to admit one’s weaknesses.

Karate, on the other hand, is a skill I turned out to be fairly good at. I’m a green belt now, so about halfway on the road to black. In the process I’ve learned that black belts can achieve ten different dan grades (the last of which requires you to be able to levitate, more or less). In other words, there’s no way I will ever be done learning.

But maybe that’s the point. Learning is something that never finishes. This might be the reason why people spend their time dreaming about being able to play acoustic guitar, rather than actually learning how to do it. Learning processes can be boring and time-consuming. Mastering the skills appears to be much more fun than the long road towards it.

On the other hand, I’ve gone back to my Spanish books a few days ago. This, in terms of success, is by no means a big step but at least a tiny nod in the right direction. I’ve even started practicing my skills using Duolingo, which is an incredibly addictive online learning tool. There’s a Dutch course as well, in case you’re interested.

Is this just a superb form of procrastination? Perhaps it is. I’m ploughing my way through my thesis, writing chapters and giving myself terrible headaches wondering why that one sentence does not work. But it’s refreshing to do something entirely new once in a while, start easy, make progress, and learn how to tell people that “el caballo come las manzanas.” You figure out the meaning itself. I’m not sure how I will ever fit this sentence into a conversation, but one has to start somewhere.


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