Sunday, 20 July 2014

It's a Real Challenge

One of the things mentioned often when telling people how to manage retirement and getting older is to keep your mind active. Challenge your brain, they say. Don’t become mental couch potato. Just because you are no longer working doesn’t mean your mind goes on a permanent holiday.
what I'm learning now - how to knit using
double pointed needles

In fact, they (the people who think they know) say that it is just as important to keep your brain active as it is to keep your body active. It is a good way to keep you both interested in life and an interesting person, and at the same time stave off depression and dementia. Check out this BrainyApp from Alzheimer’s Australia.

There are many different lists of things to do to keep the brain active, but some items are on ALL those lists:
  • Learn a language
  • Exercise
  • Learn a musical instrument
  • Do crosswords, or other such brain games
  • Be creative

Well, not trying to be negative (actually, thinking positive is another item that is on many lists), but for some people, these just aren’t going to happen. Maybe these are just excuses, but this is my story.

the Serbian textbooks and notepad,
along with books about other things
(creative things) on the To Learn list
I had all good intentions of learning a language. I enjoy words, discovering the stories about words, and learning how other languages work, so it seemed a good idea. But which language to learn? English is coming pretty easily to me these days,so not that language, although sometimes I just can’t find the word I really want to use. I studied German for my HSC so try something different. I had a brief flirtation with Spanish when I had a holiday in Mexico, so again, I wanted something different. I know! Go for something where not only the words are foreign, but so is the script, to make it even more of a challenge for me – Serbian!

I found an online resource where I could progress through structured lessons, and hear the words being spoken. I got some books to help. I even knew a person who spoke Serbian fluently. I set myself a goal of learning at least one new verb (fully conjugated) each week. I made heaps of notes in my notepad (the paper kind). I took my notepad with me everywhere, and got some strange looks as I was practising words on the train. All good so far.

But it just wasn’t sticking in my brain. Gradually I did less and less, until eventually I stopped altogether. It just wasn’t going to happen for me. My excuses:
  • I didn’t have enough opportunities to practise with other, real, people
  • I chose a language that had too many new things to learn (words and script)
  • I chose a language that isn’t very common in Australia, and particularly in regional Australia
  • Whilst I enjoyed learning a new language, I didn’t enjoy it ENOUGH – well not enough for me to try to overcome the problems I was having and make it a priority

These days, the words that have stuck are the ones you would expect – hello, please, and cheers!

the exercise bike is a bit dusty
the victim - testing the glove for size -
double pointed needles have NOT beaten me!
Maybe I will get back to it and increase my vocabulary a bit more, and at least re-learn to count. Then I will be able to work my brain and my body when I’m counting repetitions during my exercise. Yep, there’s a story there too – stay tuned!
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