Motivational Blues: Pt. 2

It’s really a huge project, learning Latin. It, uh…takes awhile. At long last, here is Part 2 of the post about common causes of feeling unmotivated in the middle of your Latin studies. (Part 1 is here.) And just like before, I will suggest to you some solutions to these common problems. Are you are currently feeling so blah in your Latin-fluency project because:

You have lost perspective.

If you are absolutely sick at the sight of the books/DVDs/PC you are working with and learning Latin with, perhaps it is because you have forgotten why you wanted to do this in the first place. If so, it’s time to talk to yourself again:

  • Why are you learning Ecclesiastical Latin?
  • What did you originally hope to be able to read, understand, or translate?
  • Do you still want to have the knowledge and skills to apprehend these Latin texts?

Spend a good three minutes going over the answers to those questions. If your original reasons for tackling Church Latin do still matter to you, then set the timer and begin studying once again. However, you might find that your old reasons have faded away by now, for whatever reason. Here is an official permission statement: Feel free to abandon the Latin-learning project for now. You can always come back again later. You can begin again when it does matter to you, and keep yourself going strong. As I have heard, “Latin is not dead, it is immortal”–and it can certainly wait for you.

You aren’t using appropriate material that works for you.

Do you know how you learn, what makes remembering things easier for you, and what you are naturally adept at? Know your strengths, and use them! Find what methods and materials work with your learning style and level of expertise.

For example, if you are an extravert who can’t sit still for two minutes together, you’ll need to respect that fact in your Latin studies.  Don’t expect to sit down with a book and a piece of paper for three hours of uninterrupted work every morning if you are naturally sociable, in motion, and aware of everything that’s going on around you. You will probably want to take a class!

Always work with your temperament and natural styles, not against them. Fit your projects to your personality.

You are frustrated because it is taking too long. 

Maybe you are simply looking for humungous gains in your Latin fluency improvement much too quickly. Realistically, it takes years to really get good at something, especially an inflected language. “There are no shortcuts,” one of my favorite educational writers (and school teacher), Rafe Esquith, reminds his students.  If you can be more patient with yourself, you’ll enjoy the whole journey through the Latin language, and your explorations and diversions while you are making them.

  • One trick I have to use on myself is making milestones for measurement. If you are improperly measuring your progress or the size of your project, it is easy to feel like you will never, EVER make it! Solution: Establish mini-goals during your project, and ways to test yourself. (More on this below.)
  • I have also learned that suffering of this kind can be alleviated by accomplishing some immediate application. Find a way to use your Latin now in a small way. Count how many words you recognize in the upcoming Sunday Gospel (in the Latin version). Translate the Introit verse, if you can. Write up a short summary explaining everything you have learned about Latin grammar up to now, and why it is important. Find a quick way to show what you know, and document your progress. Step by step, you will achieve your goals–and each step is valuable.

You are just completely floundering and feel helpless.

Consider if for all this effort you are making to learn, what you really need is a mentor/guide/helper. Sign up for a Latin class, hire a tutor, or enroll in a study program. Sometimes we just aren’t able to do it alone, and that is okay. With your enthusiasm, willingness to learn, and hard work, you will be someone’s dream student. Mentoring will benefit both of you.

On a smaller scale, perhaps what you need is simply an accountability partner or outside structure. You need someone besides yourself to observe and measure your progress. Again, sign up for class, or perhaps you can call a bossy friend. Always remember, work with yourself, not against yourself, or in spite of yourself. You can do this! There is always a way.

You feel you don’t have a sense of accomplishment/closure.

If you can never tell if you’re done, or when you will be done, with a learning project, this is probably because your evaluation methods/measures are faulty. For each project we do, we need to measure progress within it properly. Of course, some projects are easier to do this with than others. Often, books have objectives and end-of-unit reviews built in. And if you’re learning to build a model plane, for example, you can mentally gauge what percentage you are through a project, ultimately knowing that when all the pieces are glued together, it’s done.

Based on your current Latin-learning project, create your own milestones that make sense for you: celebrate every finished chapter, mark down every completed 25%, commemorate every newly-developed skill—and look forward to achieving each of these milestones throughout your project.

 *   *   *

There you go: now you have a total of eight tips to help you combat the study motivation blues. I hope you can use them to pick yourself back up and restore some zest and exhilaration to the work of your Latin studies. Be sure to leave a comment if you’ve thought of some more!

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