It’s only been a few days since my 5-week-Romanian update, but my plans have changed. I’m quitting the mission. Yes, that means I only had 2 and a half weeks left on my mission — I was half way there!! — but I’ve decided that it’s not worth it. Romanian is an interesting language, but my heart’s not in it, and that’s vital.
Why we learn languages
You’ll often hear polyglots saying that you shouldn’t give up. If you want to meet your language goals, you need to find ways to motivate yourself, reasons to keep going, and you need to push through it for the long haul. A language takes time and effort.
I agree with that completely.
However, we learn languages for a host of reasons. The most successful language learning missions are out of intrinsic motivation. What that can mean is different for each person. And that goal we are striving towards has to bring joy, betterment, or general value to our lives.
Sometimes just knowing that we did it is enough. Sometimes what we want is to strengthen our connection with our community, open up a world of arts and literature, or feel confident during a vacation.
Quitting for the right reasons
Unfortunately, learning Romanian satisfied none of these for me. Though I hoped to use it as a way to broaden the languages of my meetup group, it would probably have been more useful to collaborate with the group to find a language we could all do together (an idea for the future?). Likewise, if my goal had been to communicate with more people, there are plenty of other languages I don’t speak, but that I hear around me, that I could have chosen (namely Russian, Arabic, Japanese, and Korean).
I love delving into a language for a week or two. It’s a great way to explore, learn new things about language and cultures, and generally have fun. But as I mentioned in my update, after that point the motivation drops. And if you can look towards the future and see that your goal isn’t all that appealing, or more importantly it’s getting in the way of other goals, then yes you should quit.
In the startup world it’s not uncommon to hear people say you should fail fast and fail often. This may seem counter intuitive at first, but what it really means is that if you are wasting your time, you need to find out and quit as quickly as you can so that you can move on to the next thing. And then, you need to keep failing and quitting until you find the thing that isn’t a waste of time.
Does it mean you should just quit on your languages all the time? No. It means that you should let go of languages that don’t inspire you so that you have time and energy for the ones that do! As cool as Romanian is, it just wasn’t doing it for me.
I mentioned in some previous posts and videos that I had a project planned for just after Thanksgiving. I’ve decided to move it forward, and start it today.
You can checkout details on my next mission here.
In the Meantime
What have your experiences been with quitting language projects. Are there projects you’re glad you quit? Are the ones you wished you hadn’t quit? What kinds of motivators keep you from quitting? Share with me in the comments!