A while back, I received a guitar as a gift and decided I would learn to play it. I jumped right into it, using online lessons and a simple beginner’s book the same way I learned to play the harmonica and ukulele. But I found that it was much more difficult than I expected. Also, since the guitar has many similarities to the ukulele, songs that I struggled with on the guitar have been easier for me to play on my uke, so after getting frustrated with my guitar, I would put it away and play the song on my ukulele instead. This isn’t the only situation where I have been experiencing this, though. I learned Mandarin by taking a class, and then it was pretty easy to learn Cantonese by self study after that. But now that I am really trying to learn Japanese, which has very little in common with Chinese, I find that my progress is much slower than I like.
Do you readers find you have similar problems learning something new? Here are some things to consider:
Keep a positive attitude! In many ways, this is my secret to life. Whether I am having a rough time with work or I am just frustrated by lack of progress in my latest unusual hobby, a positive attitude does the most for carrying me through it. I know that as long as I keep practicing I will improve, and even if I don’t want to practice, I know that the results will be worth it. I look for the light at the end of the tunnel, and I know that the future will hold better things.
Is it worth it? Sometimes I forget to ask myself this. If I am too busy with my job or my personal life, and my unusual hobbies are causing me undue stress, sometimes it helps to pause and think about it. Earlier in the year, I wanted to take up photography. However, after I started doing more photography, I found that it was difficult to make the time, and I wasn’t enjoying the daily sessions I was trying to force on myself. In my case, I decided it was best to give up photography as a serious pursuit–at least for now.
Swear off the other. If you are trying to learn something new that is similar to what you have already learned, this may be worth trying. For example, when I decided to learn Japanese, I gave up practicing Cantonese. For one thing, studying two languages at once is very difficult, and it is nearly impossible to focus on both to the extent that is necessary in order for there to be progress. Additionally, there is a high degree of negative transfer, where learning both languages at the same time can interfere with each other. I try to think of vocab words in Japanese, but all that comes to mind are the Cantonese words. By taking a break from one, I can focus and improve on the other. If only I had the will to do this with my ukulele so I could learn guitar . . .
Set goals. This goes hand-in-hand with a positive attitude, and accomplishing your goals can make it easier to keep the optimism. Make sure your goals are attainable, but don’t make them too easy. With my guitar playing, it can be as simple as, “I will be able to play this whole song without pausing between chords.” With Japanese, maybe it’s, “I’m going to go to this restaurant and order without using English.” These things are attainable, but still a challenge for my current skill level. But I know that if I build on it, I will eventually progress to “I’m going to learn this entire difficult song,” or “I’m going to understand a movie without subtitles.”
If it’s what you want, then never give up! Don’t get discouraged, and stay motivated. If you know that the end results are worth it, then be sure to keep it up. Look back at your progress and realize that you have come a long way, even if you feel you still have a long way to go. For me, I know that guitar may be more difficult, but once I reach my goals, I will know how to play a much more versatile instrument. Japanese may be a struggle for me now, but once I can speak a bit, I will be able to communicate better with my Japanese friends. These things make the challenges worthwhile for me.
What about your struggles? Are you having frustrations over something that you’re trying to learn? What worked to help you overcome your obstacles? Leave a comment and let me know!