I want to learn how to play tennis, to draw, to write short novels, to code, 折り紙 (おりがみ) paper-folding, to play the piano! But how should I go about doing it? But of course! Lets look for the answer on the Internet. You will find that an innumerable number of search results will turn up. And now it is your first task to sift through them to find some of the more helpful results to guide you. Say you want to learn to play the piano. Type in “learn piano” in your favourite search engine and look at the results. “Learn piano with …”, “You can learn the piano …”, “Learn to read notes with …” Doesn’t look very promising, because every second website offers their content on a pay-per-view basis. Pay 59,99$ and you get access to my lessons, a community, and monthly magazines! This is not very helpful at all in case your wish is to find out whether or not piano is for you in the first place.
You can also start out by asking “how can I learn the piano” on one of those answer-websites. And you can be sure to find the answer you were looking for there. In a best case scenario the person answering you also hints you in on a website or two you can then check out. A website you can find everything for free. Great! Let’s go there! This is usually how it all begins. Your wish is to learn something and you find plenty of resources for it. As life goes it can happen that you will spend more time searching for something, than spending time on the things you actually want to learn. In some cases the information will make you believe that it is not worth to learn, because it is too difficult, it costs too much money, the way the lessons are prepared aren’t geared towards your learning style, or the learning material is boring to no end. So instead of learning to play piano you give up and turn to something else you might hold an interest in.
This is a situation I have been in numerous times. The wish is there to learn something was very strong. Once I found all the material I was recommended to get, and the sources to check out to find out more about it, I began to see the bigger picture of things and … gave up. This was not because my wish to learn was not strong enough. I think the reason was that countless times I got to hear something along the lines of: “this will be difficult, you should have started earlier, it takes very long, you might not find it a to be a fun thing to learn”. In some cases it was boring learning material or the lack thereof that kept me from learning what I wanted to learn. This was so with Japanese back in the day the wish sparked to learn it. A lack of learning material, and the learning material I had, it was boring to no end.
Would I have had everything available back then that I have now, I might not only have become fluent, but my life would have probably taken a turn for the better. Who knows? Even if there were more books available to me back then in my native language, which is german, I couldn’t have learned it. Everything is available now, books, websites, and resources in my native language. But everything is so dry and boring, that I wouldn’t have had the motivation to start it. Let me get back to the example of learning how to play the piano once more, because this is a very good example actually. I beg your pardon that the following website is in german, but bear with me, it is only to make a point. musica.at This website has it all, it explains how to read notes, what an octave is, and you also get multimedia content. I was bored out after reading five lines of text, explaining the chords. Now take a look at the following website. pianobychords.com It is a bit better compared to the german website, but still, I wouldn’t want to learn piano from it. And this is coming from a person who thinks that every available source to learn should be used. But, it can’t be helped. This is the way I feel about it. This goes for everything that I think I want to learn, or that I thought I wanted to learn.
What, then, is the difference between “Learning Something vs. The Deep Desire to Learn Something”, which is what this article should be all about? In one case you have the motivation to learn something new, and the other involves a deep wish coming right from the heart to learn whatever. But there is more to it than a motivation, however weak or strong it is initially, and whether or not it survives the first obstacles. It is the way how things are described and presented that makes something easy or difficult, boring or funny, that makes all the difference in the world. When something is presented in a funny way you will have no trouble to hang in there, even when you come to the more difficult parts, or major challenges. I noticed this when I started to find out about philosophy, history, psychology, heck even medicine and millions of other things. What was boring in my native language became most interesting in English and it kept me going. I began to understand, I learned new things, and discovered new interests. The same is true for spanish, which has a rich history, but I have yet to dive into it. And yet there is still more to it than presentation and motivation. It is a deep desire invoked into the heart to learn. A wish that becomes so strong that you simply can’t resist, something you can see through, that you know you are going to master.
My wish for the longest time was to learn Japanese, and I started learning Japanese, in the hope to master it someday in the future. It became my first dream after a long time of hopelessness, it became an obsession, and it has become a part of my life. So many hurdles, so many times I thought “is it worth to follow this path?” Was it a case of “Learning something” and no “Deep Desire to Learn Something”? I only now came to realize that it was a wish to “Learn Something” in some way. Yes, it was my goal wish to spread out my wings, to get to this far off place, to stretch out both my hands and my heart to reach the people in Japan. But my first and foremost goal was to understand the language, to learn it, so I started to learn in this mindset. Determined to overcome every obstacle placed in my way. Simply understanding parts of something felt like a great achievement. Or rather it was the major source of my motivation.
On a “can and can’t list”, the things I can’t do yet outweighs the can list by far. Until now I kept searching for ever so many new things I am interested in. Which, a three weeks or so ago, has led me to a website about the 万葉集 (まんようしゅう) or “a collection of ten thousand leafs”, by far the oldest Japanese song collection. This, for one, was totally incomprehensible, even with annotations. On several different websites I visited that day I couldn’t make heads and tails of anything at all. I got the readings of words wrong, there has been a ton of words worth with unexpected readings. In short, it was a horrible day. This was one of the moments I had in the past as well. Usually when something like that happened, I convinced myself that I have invested too much time, that now it is too late to quit. 3 years after starting to learn a language, nobody would normally be expected to simply give up, just because it becomes a bit difficult at times. What has helped is a list of things I could understand, and this became easier, because the list grew over time. It kept me going in a “Learn Something” mindset.
Between then and now much has changed. I think I was able to overcome the last obstacle on my way now. I know now that nothing is going to be able to stop me. But haven’t I said this before? Many times over? Yes, I did so. I was convinced that I would be so. I convinced myself that it must be true even though I knew better. Even though I wrote it out here, and even though I was telling myself it is so, something was missing. It did not come from my heart. It has only been words to express my determination. It is not that I want to learn the language or to become fluent in the language anymore. It has become a deep desire burning in my heart to know, to feel, to experience and the language to be a part of myself. This is my goal. And maybe it should have been so right from the start, but I wasn’t able to see it.
I think that this also made me blind for other things. One of the things is as essential as learning something new. With this, let me return to the piano learning example just one last time. I have shown you an Austrian (no, not Australian!) and an English website. Here is a Japanese website, because this is what my blog is all about after all. happypianist.net Do you notice the major difference between the first two and this website? It is all fun and play. There is no word about how difficult it is, there are no dry explanation how and what one has to learn, nothing of that kind. The website authors encourage, they give hints and shows ways to overcome problems that might arise, all this in a rather unique way. Before one realizes, there is this deep wish to continue to learn all things that need to be learned.
This piano website is only one example of many. No matter what it is, there is a book, or a website for that matter, that doesn’t teach but makes one want to learn something, anything! Books with cats on it for learning the C# language, websites to learn how to code for the Windows phone, with Manga figures and dialogues. Even things about law are taught in that way, 市民裁判制度 (しみんさいばんせいど) people judge system, and so on and so forth. As for me, I can’t resist, I have to learn. With other resources I learned HTML5+CSS, coding for windows phones, and some games. While I was doing that I also learned more Japanese.
My real goal is has become clear to me now. All I have to do is to follow it to the end, because it is worth doing it. And with a deep desire to learn it’ll all be downhill from here.