It was the summer of 2019, and by that time I was calling Amsterdam my home . I had just started learning Dutch, and as usual, I was feeling a bit guilty about not doing enough. I was in a café, and I decided to strike up a conversation with the person next to me. It was a Dutch woman, and she had a joke for me. She said, "Why did the Dutchman cross the road? To get to the 'herring' side!" We both had a good laugh, and it was at that moment that I realized something: no matter how hard I tried, I would never be perfect at speaking Dutch. I knew then and there that learning a language was all about embracing mistakes, and never giving up.
One of my students told me this story and that lesson keeps me sane when I try something new. Whether it’s learning a language, to play an instrument, or becoming the new latte art wizard, the same principle applies: you have to keep trying.
Get rich or ....
That’s why I’m so proud of all of you who are learning a new language. It can be so frustrating to learn a language.
If I had a dollar for all the students who have said to me:
"I should have done more this week",
"I don't know enough words",
"I thought I would be able to have a conversation with my neighbor",
" I wanted to have a conversation with a Dutch, but I chickened out",
"I was at a party and I just tuned out because it went too fast for me."
Please allow me to say this to you: there will be days when you feel like you’re not making any progress. And there will be days where you want to quit. But remember: you are making progress, even if it doesn’t feel that way. The only way to get better is to keep going, no matter how hard it is or how small the steps are.
So if you’re feeling guilty about not doing enough to learn a new language, don’t.
Persevere and keep pushing yourself. And if you’re feeling down, just remember that Dutch joke my student heard all those years ago.
It’s a reminder that even if you make mistakes, you’ll still be able to get to the “herring” side!