Linguistics ≠ Language

I was a linguistics major in college.

As I'm positive I have said to each of you reading this at one time or another, linguistics is not the study of languages, it's the study of the nature of languages. It's metalanguage, kinda.

The distinction is somewhat subtle, but it's something I'm painfully aware of. I am strong in linguistics, weak in languages. This came from a series of mistakes about my self-identity that I made as a child. One of those mistakes was to say "I hate memorization". As a result of that belief, I ended up passing on many things that I now realize I would have thoroughly enjoyed... including languages.

Where I grew up, languages were not an option until High School, where they were essentially required. ...And I kicked and screamed into it. I chose German, 'cause I thought it was the coolest of the (meager) offerings (French, Spanish, and Latin were the alternatives). No other reason.

I went into class with heavy disdain: I wasn't there to memorize. I "suck at spelling". I don't care about history, and learning about cultures wasn't pragmatic. It's surprising I managed to get the Cs that I did!

Of course, I've recently discovered how easy memorization is, and so I've finally taken up the Languages torch. But today it really dawned on me just how much damage I had done in the past. ...I have a very, very late start, and a long way to go to catch up. I've spent the last six months working on it, and I feel good about my progress. This week, I chose to put the Hindi book down for a while and really focus on becoming fluent in German. In the past week alone, I've gone from scratching my head on 80% of the material I read/hear, to understanding 70% of it. Of course, this is mostly the effect of "it's like riding a bike": after all, I had four years of HS and 2 years of college in the damn language... so it's mostly just "coming back to me". But still, it feels good. On the other hand, I'm still a long, long way from fluency. A year or two, if I push it. But anyway...

...What beliefs did you form in your youth that have hindered your goals as an adult?

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