Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Learning the Hard Way

It is no secret - learning Croatian has been extremely difficult for me. As I mentioned earlier, being shy hasn't helped, nor has the eagerness of many Croatians to practice their English with me.

But in my struggle to learn how to learn Croatian, I've realized the best way is to act like I know Croatian. Crazy, but true.

Before I realized this concept, I often acted as if I had to humbly apologize for my bumbling tongue before beginning whatever it was I had to say. Whether I was talking to a cashier, an acquaintance or a drunk man at the cemetary, I was constantly self-conscious of my grammatical ineptitude. And everyone could tell.

But the other day, I confidently walked into the book store, asked for 60 envelopes, a poster board and several copies. I probably made 5 grammatical errors in the process. But I received everything I asked for along with a compliment "Dobro ide!" ('it's going well' - referring to my progress in language learning) and a smile.

I thanked the lady for the pleasant words and realized the whole acting thing was a good idea.

As I thought about the exchange, and my new approach to learning Croatian, I remembered that C.S. Lewis talked about this sort of concept in Mere Christianity:

"Do not waste time bothering whether you 'love' your neighbor, act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him. If you injure someone you dislike, you will find yourself disliking him more. If you do him a good turn you find yourself disliking him less."


Enoh's not concerned about the fact that he doesn't know how to walk like me yet. He just walks the best he can. And you know what? The process of "acting" like he can walk will naturally turn him into a professional walker. Nor does he care that he can't say "goodnight" yet, his "Ny, Ny" communicates just as well.

Whether it's learning a language or how to live like Christ, I'm finding that action has a big part to play in the process. Thankfully I have a child who's helping me learn.

1 comment:

Leah said...

I lived in Velika Gorica for two years and learning the language was a huge frustration, and then completely fun. I did the same thing: faked knowing the language and dropping a "moze" here and there. In not too long I wasn't half-bad!