Raking and Breaking

I'm reading a really fascinating book right now.  It's called "Dreaming in Hindi," and it's a memoir based on this woman's experience of moving to India and learning the Hindi language through immersion.  It's a language drastically different from English in every way possible (sentence structure, written form, etc), and she chronicles her struggles.  For example, early on she is living with a host family and they basically can't communicate at all because they don't speak English and she doesn't really speak Hindi, other than being able to say, "Yes, the rice and lentils were good," and other simple things like that. She can't sleep at night because her brain is rattling with unintelligible Hindi that she can't yet comprehend.  She writes about her personal experiences, but then ties them in with research done in the field of second language acquisition studies.

One such theory (and I'm going to be paraphrasing to a great extent) is that at some point, all second language learners (particularly those in immersion programs) reach this breaking point where they can't stand to speak the language anymore.  When individuals hit this breaking point they basically give up - stop speaking the language all together and convert back to their original language, in an almost obstinate way. You're just SO SICK of speaking this other language, and yet it's the only option that you have in this strange and foreign country that you're living in.

Where am I going with this?  Well, that "breaking point" theory really hits home with me when it comes to manual labor.  Dave notoriously chides me for always going "90 percent" but never quite finishing the job.  I - however - believe that this me simply hitting my "breaking point" and that it usually happens right around the 90% mark.

Yesterday we had to rake leaves.  We HAD to rake leaves.  We couldn't see the driveway.  Murph was slipping down the hill on the slick coat of leaves.  Enormous mushrooms that "pop" when you touch them and then spew bright green dust in the air were popping up everywhere from the excess moisture that was being held under the leaves. 

I dread leaf raking.  Dreading it in the way that I can see my breaking point before we even start.  But yesterday we rented a commercial leaf blower and not only did we finish the job in record time, but I kept going even after Dave had stopped.  That was remarkable. 

In language learning, once you reach this breaking point and overcome it (not everyone does - in many cases people give up around this point), by the time you come back to the language (in this case, Hindi), you're surprised to find that your knowledge in that language has increased by leaps and bounds even though you weren't actively trying to improve.  It just goes to show how stepping away from a project can actually create dramatic improvement. 

Maybe I should step away from leaf raking more often...


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