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  • mono 11:30 am on January 25, 2009 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Foreign language, , , perplexed, talk, understanding   

    Fragments on an Unknown Language: Perplexed on a Sunday Morning 

    Listening to an unknown language, we are confronted with the limits of our imagination. Understanding nothing at all about a foreign language, yet listening closely, only results in a better understanding of not-knowing. In this case, we must ask questions. It is only through asking questions (learning how to ask the right questions) that we might be able to grow in shifting the limit of non-understanding.

    If we are socially competent enough, we may be able to use our imagination to take account of the situation and come to some understanding (again, absolutely limiting) about what is being talked about.

    We forget the wonder of being able to understand the language of another when we are always immersed in the language that we understand (that we speak). Thrust into a situation where absolutely nothing makes sense, we come face-to-face with awesome connecting power of language. As it connects, it can utterly disconnect. It is up to you to develop those capacities in yourself that will lead you to understanding it.

    So, what is language for? And, how is it that we can understand or grow with another who shares none of our language? Is “real” talk only a function of spoken language? What is it that comes out from behind and through our language that makes us understandable to the other?

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  • mono 1:37 pm on November 23, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Foreign language, , , , , , , Struggling   

    There are no short cuts 

    Eric Hoffer, in his book “Reflections on the Human Condition,” writes, “People who cannot grow want to leap: they want short cuts to fame, fortune, and happiness (47).” For Hoffer, life lies in the ability to grow, that is, in the ability to learn and continue learning. The less attuned you are to the importance of the growth-process, the more you will struggle with outcomes that aren’t to your liking.

    No great undertaking that you embark on will be easy. There are no real short cuts. If you take a hard look at how you were able to achieve something great, you will probably find that it was not an easy process.

    Eight years ago I began learning the Japanese language and now, eight years later, I am still a perpetual beginner. My use of the language how gotten me to great places (at least great in terms of where I wanted to go). Nonetheless, it has never been easy. Mistakes were made and plenty of embarrassing moments happened. The fear of not knowing how to “go on” in conversation or getting caught up in assignments or conversations that suddenly hurtle out of my comprehensive range happen all the time. I’m perpetually struggling to catch-up and tune-in. I know, from this first hand experience, this first-hand struggle, that anyone who speaks, reads, or writes Japanese “fluently,” went through countless hours of preparation and struggle. There is no way to short cut yourself to fluency in a second-language.

    Developing your capacity to grow and learn is necessary if you want to change who are. An adult attitude of “I know it all” will constrain and limit your vision. Again, think about learning a foreign language. There will always be things that you don’t know and there will always be situations that you are not 100% equipped to deal with. You must stay in the learning-mode as much as your capacity allows. The paradox here is that the more you learn, the more you grow and the more your thinking changes. Steer your learning so that it benefits where you want to end up and devote yourself to it wholeheartedly and you’ll be in the stream of growth, the stream of recognizing that if you truly want to achieve something, you’ll have to recognize that there are no short cuts. The more difficult it seems, the more you are growing.

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    • Michael Pick 2:01 pm on November 23, 2008 Permalink

      Nice piece, and a much needed antidote to the hordes of snake-oil shysters peddling their fifteen-second work week, “get rich fast” online sleazebabble.

      Great to hear someone so far along still open to the idea of having a lot more growing to do.

  • mono 6:22 pm on September 2, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Foreign language, , , , , theory,   

    Living Constructively: Effort 

    The productivity of your day depends on you and the effort that you choose to exert as you move toward your goals. The time between when you wake up and when you sink into sleep is limited, is a finite experience. The effort that you exert today will change your life, whether that effort be getting lost in a television program or building a house; you are always in the process of building your life.

    The things that we do today produce results whether we like it or not, the results come regardless. You, too, are a result of the efforts of others and the efforts that you, yourself, put forth in your daily life. The food that you eat today may not have been grown by you or was purchased with money that was given to you by performing some task in accordance with the support of others. The connectivity of ourselves to others is like a sticky web, a sticky web of social relations and dependency. The line between self and others is sometimes hard to define.

    A conversation occurs between people or between the various voices that one manifests for oneself “in your head.” The voice of the other is influential as it is readily understood. While we hover the surface of a foreign tongue, hearing the peculiar tone or mash of sounds, it is quite difficult for us to turn voices heard in our native tongue into incomprehensible babble. In sharing a language, we share a way of being, a way of perceiving the world and a specific way of interacting with the world. While language seems to emerge naturally “out of us,” it is also one key to our interdependence, our reliance and intertwining with the others in our life. It might be important to take the time to thank those people that taught you what you know, even to thank the the books that you read in your studies. The author may not be present, but the words sink into you, become a part of you and you them as you bring them to life. It is a magical act.

    When you wake up in the morning, it is good to get up. It may be time for you to get up, it may be time for you to do something, despite the comforting feeling of the bed. Balance is difficult. Sometimes the things in our life that are most important, are also the most difficult, but also, ultimately, the most rewarding. The productivity of your day depends on you and the effort that you choose to exert as you move toward your goals. It is the moving that is important.

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  • mono 8:29 pm on May 24, 2008 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Foreign language, , , , , , , tuning in   

    Tuning in Silently 

    signal

    I have seen consultation sessions here in Japan where the client/student sit in enclosed silence while the therapist/teacher silently and patiently waits, neither saying a word until the end of the session. Perhaps it is through such silent meditation with another that we can truly penetrate to that internal space beyond spoken language, that beautiful nothingness. That is, when our spoken language fails to meet the expectations of the other due to linguistic barriers, how to we deeply learn from each other? How do we help each other? It seems that the Carl Rogers way of empathic understanding would work very well in this situation and sometimes it may only take a smile and time to sit together to open up the situation and create a comfortable space between self and other.

    I think that sometimes listening can be more difficult than expressing. Perhaps listening itself is a form of expression. What does it mean to actively listen to another person without forming our opinions and judgments during their talk? Even though people seem to value the quick response as a valid method of replying, I think we should take a note from the Japanese way of communication and learn to become better listeners. If we look at music, the beauty of electro-acoustic music or environmental recordings is the attention it demands of us. It can be very challenging to engage in the sound of crickets. How does one listen to the uneven sound of the evening rain? How do our environments change when we truly listen?

    Recently, I was asked for a method of learning a foreign language. More specifically, I was asked how one can better develop listening skills. One way is to practice the art of “tuning in.” When I am in a public place, I concentrate on all of the conversations taking place around me. Since all of the conversations are in a different language (Japanese), I can become aware of the limits of my listening abilities. I see the family enjoying food across from me and in their conversation with the owner of the restaurant I can observe interaction and lose myself in tuning in to their conversation. There is no ill-intentions in this act, simply the desire to enter into an attuned state of listening. Similarly, the train announcements at the station, the recorded messages on the bus, the radio, a Japanese podcast and so on. When we really tune in to the myriad of sounds around us, we let them enter into us and we eliminate the barrier between our own comprehension and the actual sound of the foreign language. During the state of tuning in, the mind is silent, even though thoughts and recollections of understood vocabulary may drift in and out. The purpose of the exercise is to develop one’s ability to tune in to the sounds and to let them merge with oneself.

    All in all, listening promotes empathic understanding of the other and develops concentration skills. Of course, in the example of second-language acquisition, I think it is also very important to balance your listening with a host of other exercises and strategies (self-experimentation as to what methods work the best for you are encouraged). In the case of silent listening, sitting together and creating a language-less space may increase and deepen awareness between you and the other. By simply experiencing the flow of life, the flow of mind, you may come to a richer understanding of the present moment.

     
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