On learning a new thing…while learning a new thing

by Gigi Griffis
Mark Manson book section title page interior in Portuguese

For a few months now, I have been consistently committed to learning Portuguese. I’ve graduated from picture books for four-year-olds to chapter books for eight-year-olds. I’ve gone from watching YouTube videos with English captions to watching with Portuguese captions or none at all (as long as the video host is speaking slowly enough). And I’m always on the lookout for ways to make my learning process fun and creative.

Which is how I ended up graduating myself from chapter books to a grown-up self-help diary (of the Mark Manson variety).

The language is still pretty straightforward, but now I’m learning swear words (which is always fun) and psych talk. And instead of just reading, I’m writing, too. Making notes in the book, in Portuguese. Doing the exercises the diary calls for, also in Portuguese. 

I love it.

It only takes me 15 to 30 minutes a day, but I can feel the little progresses. Both in vocabulary and, perhaps even more crucially, in confidence. I’m starting to trust myself more.

Diz a lenda.

And it got me to thinking about something I’ve seen true polyglots talk about. Once they start to feel somewhat proficient in one language, they use that language to learn a new one. They buy Japanese language learning textbooks in Spanish. Or tools to learn Russian in Japanese. And so they do double duty, practicing their new language and learning a third or fourth or seventh or tenth.

Now, I’m nowhere near something like that, but the underlying strategy strikes me as one we can all borrow. Using our basic skills in our new language to learn something else new that we want to learn.

Be it self-help skills from a Mark Manson journal or classes or instructional videos for a thing you’ve been meaning to try. Like yoga or dance. Drawing, knitting. Sewing, DIY home decor.

Whatever strikes your fancy, you can probably find a resource to learn about it in your new language. 

I’ve had a few people write to ask me to talk more about my language journey, so here’s the next installment. Of me finding things I already want to do: journaling my thoughts, checking in with my values. And doing it in Portuguese.

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