I’m an English teacher, linguist, and language nerd. However, I can’t speak any foreign languages; well, not properly anyway. I really do get turned on by reading about grammar and how different languages have differing strategies in how to approach any given area of communication. It thrills and delights me. People see my interest in languages and assume I’ve reached a pretty decent level in several. So they’re always disappointed to find out I only know English. “So, you’re not really a linguist then, are you?” they aggressively assert, apparently angered by being swindled out of what they thought was a genuine encounter with that most impressive and rare of beasts, a polyglot, an English polyglot to boot! I always retort that the greatest living linguist, Chomsky, only speaks English. Well, that’s nothing more than a grown-up version of the child’s comeback that,”I am rubber, you are glue…” Doesn’t convince me, doesn’t convince them, barely saves face. And Chomsky’s getting on, so I won’t even have that lame retort for much longer.
My problem is that I’m such a procrastinator and I always find an excuse to get distracted before I achieve my goals. I genuinely think I’ve got some kind of climax fear; I’m a bit of a perfectionist and this often holds me back. It manifests itself in all areas of my life; for example, chess: I always set up my pieces into a solid defensive formation, a real fortress, and then what? I just sit back and wait for my opponent to make a mistake. I get a kind of performance presure paralysis when it comes to me taking the first move. I think, when you get down to it, I’m generally scared to take the initiative because then it opens me up to possibly failing. It’s like I’d almost rather do nothing, and blame my crummy circumstances on everything else, than take the jump and put myself out there to get knocked down. My Dad was highly competitive, too, and would always say, “If you come second, you’re still a loser”. Nothing was good enough but perfection. Combine that with shyness and my Mum’s procrastinatory skills, and bam! Thanks, Mum and Dad! Reminds me of the Larkin poem This Be The verse.
They fuck you up, your mum and dad./
They may not mean to, but they do./
They fill you with the faults they had/
And add some extra, just for you.
But I’m tired of dreams filling my head, dreams I never come close to accomplishing or even acting on at all.
And so, in the year in which I’ll hit the big three-oh, I’ve decided to get a grip, at long last, and achieve my goals. And this time I’m for real; I’ve even bought a plastic ringbinder. I have moved beyond, ‘failure is not an option’, to, ‘even failing is a sign I am moving’. And moving is the first step towards moving forwards. So let’s start failing forwards instead of failing through inaction.
There’s several languages that I’ve had a desire to learn for a long time now. But let’s just limit myself to languages I’ve already got some real knowledge of. Currently I know:
- Spanish to GCSE Foundation level / A2 (Common European Framework)
- Swedish to A2
- Ancient Koine Greek (well enough to read the New Testament mostly unhelped)
In order to keep me on track, I’m going to spell out my goals and have a yearly update on my progress. My five year plan (language-wise, at least), so to speak, is to:
- Carry on with Spanish, course after back-to-back course, until I have achieved DELE (Diploma en Espanol como una lengua extranjera) C1.
- Do one Swedex Swedish qualification a year starting with A2 this year. I will then achieve a TISUS (C1 level) in four/five years.
- Successfully complete, again, (1) Duff’s Elements of New Testament Greek, and go on to do, (2) Taylor’s Greek to GCSE part 1, (3) Greek to GCSE part 2, (4) Taylor’s Greek Beyond GCSE, (5) a Classical Greek GCSE, (6) a Classical Greek A-Level.
- Start to learn Modern Greek: do GCSEs and A-Levels in it.
- Start to formally learn Basque (I already know some basic stuff). But I won’t start this for maybe three years until I have boosted up my Spanish, Swedish, and Greek.
So, I’ve written it down, now: the Internet Gods will not be best pleased if I give up. Check back in a year to see how well I am failing forwards.
© 2014 Bryan A. J. Parry