Monday, December 22, 2008

Paegan Love Song

Ever had one of those days where you're just on fire? Everything you do seems to go so well - you're flying through work, your creativity is filled to the brim, you're in tha ZIZONE ZONE and nothing can stop you? Man, I wish I had those kinds of days.

Luckily, a rare occurrence was today (technically, yesterday, but who's keeping track?) as I had an incredibly productive day of 日本語 and barely broke a sweat doing so. Normally, my mind begins to go numb about 30 minutes into my kanji reps, but this time it took closer to an hour to reach that point, and my pace was incredible. I got a heck of a lot of cards done.

The Curse of Over Analyzing and Perfectionism
You know, one thing I'm guilty of is over analyzing... in almost all things I do. It's part of how my mind works, and it certainly has its strengths, but almost as often it'll get in the way and slow me down. In this case, in particular, I'll sit there staring at a failed card for way too long, attempting to memorize it; I'll double check the mnemonic story, sometimes altering or even changing it completely - just generally bad habits for the sake of perfection, when in fact, not worrying about the little details and letting the SRS do its work would be worlds more productive.

I'd later notice my over analyzing perfectionist habits when I was going through sentences in my "other" deck. I'd just sit there staring at the card, going through the sentence repeatedly, telling myself that the next time, I'd totally have that shite! Of course, 9 times out of 10, I'd still fail it, usually forgetting a kanji reading or two. Failing the card, sitting back and letting the SRS do its dirty work, rather than picking through every last possible detail, resulted in much faster progress every time, of course. Not to mention, far less room for frustration in the process.

But that's another thing, I guess, and something I can't say I'm particularly proud of... I'm talking about failure, and accepting failure. Sometimes, I just can't bear to press that "Again" button, effectively failing the card, especially if it's an "old" car which I "know" I should have completely memorized by now... so I mark it as "hard" instead. It's silly, isn't it? So why do I sometimes submit to this silly habit?

The High Score - Competition in All Things
Because I want the high score and I'm unwilling to accept anything less, because dagnabbit, I've invested a lot of quarters into this game! Wait, what the hell am I on about?
Another side product of perfectionism, as well as the fact that I'm fiercely competitive, and topped off by a good 21 years of playing video games and suddenly, my "sore-loser" habit begins to make sense, doesn't it? Like I said, I ain't exactly proud of this characteristic, but hey, it's part of who I am, and I'm happy to possess it.
Anyway - the high score. The oldskool concept of video games of olde, whereby he who holds the high score rules all. This example has evolved over time, to include things such as win/loss ratios, race time records, overall kills and the like, but the basic concept holds true today with modern games - just look at any online leader board. Since Pong, competition has been a significant focal point of video games, and having played games almost all my life, it's simple for me to see where my competitive spirit comes from.

Applying this sense of competition to language acquisition brings the benefit of constantly wanting to improve. I'm a firm believer that there's always room at the top, and through hard work and determination, fueled by a competitive drive, I have come out on top many times... in a broad range of aspects of life, not simply limited to games. But while learning a language... where exactly does competition come in? You can't exactly rate and score one's general linguistic skills, at least not in a meaningful sense. And even if you could, who would honestly give a damn? I know I wouldn't!
But again, how does one apply a competitive drive to learning a language? Well, in little ways, really, some of which may sound trivial, or silly.
  • Whenever somebody claims that it's ridiculously difficult or impossible for an English speaker to learn Japanese, my competitive spirit sparks.
  • Whenever a friend asks me a question I can't answer regarding Japanese, I'm encouraged to learn more. When said friend demonstrates that he or she is further along in an aspect of the language than I am, you better believe my competitive spirit is lit aflame!
  • Whenever I'm poking around on the 'net and see someone vomiting up their choice Japanese word (see: 可愛い、馬鹿、皆) out of their expansive lexicon of a dozen, not only does a vein in my forehead pulsate, but so does my competitive spirit - for the love of god, I don't want to be like that! I can be better than that!
Silly, yes. But you know, it's a means to an end, and a very effective one for me. I'm by no means perfect or the best in everything I do, or perhaps anything I do, but I truly believe that through hard work, being the best is entirely possible. Even if you don't quite make it to the top, you're certain to come damn close.

Unfortunately, as with all personality and character traits, it comes with its fair share of drawbacks, as well. Going back to the example of failing cards in Anki, it may be a bit more clear now on why I'm tempted to do so. Losing, after all, isn't a particularly good feeling. Winning on the other hand - hey, now we're talkin'! So what if I forgot half of the elements for this kanji, I'll just mark it as hard and chalk it up as a victory and... yeah, it's a bad habit, and I've recently put a stop to it as much as possible. 
There's also the whole overachiever thing which comes with my quest for being the best at what I set out to do, but honestly, that's a whole other blog post for another day.

On one last note, I added about 30 sentences to my sentence deck today, and the process is really getting a lot faster and more comfortable. I'll have more to discuss on that very shortly, but needless to say, spirits are high and I'm optimistic as ever. 

Then again, that could be the egg nog talking.

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