Slowly compounding language study

I’ve noticed just recently that some of the languages I’ve been studying are getting incrementally easier for me.

It’s hard for my to characterize exactly what’s changed. The effect of the changes, which caught my attention, is that I’m often able to read longer portions than I previously was. Some context: I translate a bit of a couple languages every day (for instance it might be some Greek and then some German or Latin), and my rule for myself is that when I get tired or frustrated I’m finished with that language for the day. Sometimes it’s not much; if I’m looking up every second word and trying to puzzle out the coherence of the sentence structure, I might get through just a clause or two, ten or fifteen words perhaps, and have to stop there. Still, a day or two later I’ll definitely be right back at it, picking up where I left off, trying to see how much further I can get.

What has shifted, then, is that the average number of words I’m able to get through in a session is increasing. That means the task has gotten easier, which probably means I’m getting better at something. I can’t say with certainty what that is. Is my vocabulary getting better? Is my feel for the grammar improving? Am I getting better at keeping the meaning in mind rather than getting lost in the formal linguistic details? I couldn’t say what it is that’s making the experience easier.

But it’s exciting. I feel like a couple years of diligent hard work is finally starting to sprout into some small bit of living growth. The hours are paying off. I always knew they should, but of course there was also a part of me that had difficulty believing that they would, until the evidence really started showing up.

Not that there’s an abundance of evidence thus far. It’s not a lot to latch onto. But what makes me most excited about it is the thought that this could signal the beginning of a more rapid phase of growth.

Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself. Probably. But here’s my thinking: the more I’m able to practice, the more quickly I’ll get better, and the better I get, the more practice I’ll be able to handle. No doubt that cycle won’t continue indefinitely, but at this point there’s lots of room for improvement still, and the more I can expand into that potentiality, the more quickly I will find myself progressing toward the sort of proficiency I dream of.

I dream of the day when my ability overtakes my available time — the day when I’ll be translating a passage of Greek and then after several minutes make myself stop, not because I’ve run out of steam, but because I’ve run out of time and need to move on to other things. On that day, I won’t be as fresh as a daisy while I cross Greek off my daily checklist, might be all but spent. Being able to read effortlessly like I do in English will be a ways further off still. But at that point, for the first time ever, it will be my available time that constrains my progress rather than my ability to read, and that will be a nice change.

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