(Note: I composed, titled, and scheduled the following post long before Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine. Completely unrelated.)
A few years ago, when I started using Duolingo, I wanted to find a language that would be interesting enough to motivate me to practice.
There were a few prerequisites I came up with for choosing this language.
For instance, I didn’t want it to be anything too similar to English or too easy for English-speakers. I wanted it to be something exotic, something that James Bond would casually reveal himself to be fluent in to the amazement of all around. That ruled out languages like German, French, Dutch, Spanish, Italian.
I also didn’t want it to be something I’d taken classes in before. It had to be something I was starting fresh, learning completely on my own. I studied French in high school, and I did a semester of Mandarin in college, and I took a couple years of Greek and Hebrew and Latin, so all of those were out as well.
So I picked Russian. It took me a year to get through the Russian tree on Duolingo. It was hard work, and by the end I was far from being expert at Russian … but I’d learned a lot.
And then here’s the craziest part of the story. Once I finished the Russian course, I decided to erase my progress. All of it. I started again from scratch.
Why? Why in the world would I do that? (I still have to ask myself sometimes!) It was to prove something to myself, and to express my confidence in myself.
I knew that even in losing all I worked for, I would still keep the good habit I had built up. That was what mattered to me. And I proved that to myself. It was tough, and painful. And it felt very good.