Mar 17, 2015 | By: A Woman

Learning a new language - Day 508

colour of words by wosene kosrof, via art propelledI've been in South Africa for more than 3 years now but I always refused learning Afrikaans - I kept on telling myself that I must first perfect my English before attempting to learn another language, that English is tough enough, learning another language will be too complicated... I can really give you a long list of excuses of why I should not learn Afrikaans but the truth is - I believed that I can't, that i am too old to learn a new language and mostly, I believed that I am unable to learn and integrate new information effectively enough and I didn't want to risk seeing that my assumption is real.

My high school learning experience wasn't one that empowered me to succeed and the imprint that was left inside of me since high school was of a failure. It was not that I was failing per say, I actually got very good marks but I could have done better if I wouldn't give up on myself since the first time I didn't succeed in a test as how I expected of myself. It was a struggle for me to consider higher education and with a lot of pressure from my family, I eventually studied law and business and even though I felt inferior all the way through university, my marks were again pretty good even though I invested very limited time in studying.

It is interesting how even with having good marks and achievements in university, my internal experience was of a failure. There was a part of me who knew that I could have done more, be more, if I wouldn't accept my own self-limitations. But the fear of proving to myself that I am a failure when investing time and effort in studying new material was something I was not willing to face. I preferred investing as little time as possible in my studies and make the best out of it because I always found a way around it, if that make sense.

The experience of being inferior and failure when it comes to learning followed me ever since which was why learning Afrikaans was something I was not willing to do. It is interesting how an idea of oneself becomes self-prophecy through which we use our experiences to validate our ideas of ourselves. With me and Afrikaans - every time someone would try and teach me a word, I would repeat it and try to remember it but inside of me, there was a 'knowing' that I will forget the word the next moment because after all, I am a failure so I didn't even bothered expanding my Afrikaans vocabulary.

In the past few weeks, Afrikaans was spoken more frequently around me and I became annoyed that I don't understand what people are speaking about. I kept on asking them to switch to English but every so often the Afrikaans kicked in again and I felt disempowered for not being able to participate in the discussions around me. So, I had to make a decision - Am I going to be annoyed each time I hear Afrikaans and within that accept my own limitations OR, I will expand my reality and learn Afrikaans? Well.. I decided to go with Self-Empowerment lol.

I asked a friend to teach me Afrikaans and she gratefully took upon herself the challenge. In the first few days, I made a decision to only integrate one word a day as at that stage, I still believed I was limited, failure and unable to integrate more than one word a day. 2 weeks have passed and I increased my Afrikaans vocabulary with 14 words lol and then, one day, I had couple of hours during a drive to a training function and I thought to myself, I might as well use this time to learn a few more words. So she started teaching me the days of the week and I surprised myself because an hour later, I could speak the days of the week with confident. Then she wanted to teach me to count and I for a moment said 'No, it has already been 7 words while I should only do 1 word per day. BUT, I just proved to myself that I could easily integrate 7 new words so why not just give myself the opportunity to learn to count? Again, I surprised myself with being able to count to 10 after just a few minutes with the ability to recall the information of all the 21 words (+ a few more random words) I integrated that day. today, I learnt to count to 100..

Someone asked me HOW am I doing it - how did I move myself from not being able to integrate any word in Afrikaans to now being able to learn and recall what I learnt in a very short period of time. My answer was.. "I Made a Decision".

They asked me "Decision? What do you mean?" I said: "You can decide to accept and allow your own created self-limitations or you can decide to accept and allow your own self-empowerment and growth. Once a decision is made, you still have to decide to consistently stand by the decision that you made in any given moment and that was all that I've done"

With understanding how learning works and what are the methods that assist me the most to effectively integrate information, I can choose to expand my reality and push myself to succeed. So, I am in the process of learning Afrikaans now which I find to be a fascinating process as it showed me how I am the creator of my own self-limitations and if so I choose, how I can also be the creator of my own self-empowerment and growth.


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