Life is a constant learning process. I don’t think there is ever a day that you don’t learn something new. No matter how small the lesson is, it’s still a valuable lesson. Although I have decided not to continue extend my education and upgrade to a degree, that doesn’t mean that I have stopped learning. The say that “you learn something new everyday” is starting to ring true. During my training at work, I learn new things. During my bus ride to work I learn something new. Even while sitting around doing nothing, I somehow learn something.

The first thing I can remember learning is English. Anything before that is vivid and I can only believe what my relatives tells me. When I came to Canada in the summer of 1986, I didn’t speak a word of English. My parents enrolled me into Grade 1 at Stinson Avenue Elementary School. I remember that they placed me in an ESL class along with some of my Cambodia friends.

One day, I attempted to use my new language while walking home with a Canadian friend. What came out was part English and part gibberish. “Hi! My name is Don. blah Blah blah siclah blah blah blah.” Yes, I said “blah blah blah” because I didn’t know much else. The only thing I have learned so far was how to introduce myself. At the time, I thought I was doing pretty good. Now that I look back at it, I don’t know what I mean by “blah blah blah.”

There are three major areas when it comes to learn, or so I’ve been told by a friend. First, you need to listen, then you speak and finally you elaborate.

You start off by listening and during this phase, you’re absorbing information. When you’re talking to a baby, it just sits there and stares at you while you’re “goo-goo blah-blahing”. People who sees you probably think you’re and idiot for acting like that but to the infant, it probably thinks that you’re speaking an actual language.

During my college years, I spend a lot of time with a group that spoke Urdu. I didn’t understand a word they were saying so I could do was listen. Eventually, I started to pick up some words due to repetition. I remember one day some classmates and I were sitting around talking. Then one of them switched over to Urdu. My Bosnian friend and I didn’t speak the language so we looked at each other and shrugged. Aamir, who was talking at the time, focused his attention at me and started talking to me. I gave him a confused look because I did not understand what he was saying, at least, not all of it. I asked him, “What are you looking at me for? I don’t know the language.” He said, “Yes, but you understand a little bit of what I’m saying.” That was true but I didn’t understand enough to have an conversation with him in that language.

In the movie “13th Warrior” Antonio Bandaras’s character had to travel with a group of Vikings. He didn’t understand their language so they didn’t know if they were making fun of him or not. During their nightly dinner gathering, he would sit there and listening. As time went by, he slowly picked up small words here and there. Then it came to the point where one of the Vikings made fun of Bandaras’s character’s mom. “My mother!?” The Vikings were baffled that they understood their language.

I got the same reaction from my coworkers. The other trainee spoke Spanish so every now and then he would switch over to Spanish. The trainer told, “Hablar Ingles, no Espanol.” But it couldn’t be helped and he switched back over to Spanish minutes later. The trainer told him the same thing again. “No problemo, entiendo Espanol pero no mucho.” They were surprised that I understood. The other guy said, “Now we can’t make fun of you in Spanish.” That’s what I like to hear.

Spanish was one of the easiest languages that I’ve managed to pick up because I have a background in French. We’ve learnt French since Grade 4 and continued to learn it until Grade 9. I was proficient enough in French that I was exempted from the final exam in Grade 9 but I still went to it. But with Spanish, I didn’t have a teacher there all the time to teach me new words. I picked up new words and I went. After sitting around and listening, I attempted to use the language when I could. During my second semester in college, I met a Spanish guy, Gustavo, mi amigo. Every now and then I would practice speaking Spanish with him. Nothing complex, just the basic, “Hola! Como esta? Moy bien.” Then at work, I picked up some more Spanish from the cleaners. Every night when they get to work, they would test me on what I learned the previous night. It was because of that, that the new information stayed with me.

The final phase in learning is to elaborate on what you’ve learned. I’m not sure how to explain this part but it’s something like learning on your own. You start speaking the language but you use words that weren’t taught to you by someone. For example, take computer programming. You are given a method to do something but you have to know how to put them together to make it work the way you want it to. Eventually, you find ways to code so that it runs efficiently.

Anyone who stops learning is limiting their capabilities. The human brain does not seem like it has a limit as to how much it can stored. Neither is there a limit on how much it is able to learn. Some people think that I’m a genius because I know so much about so many things. But I’m no more of a genius than the next guy. I prefer to think of myself as a jack of all trade. Scratch that. The “Don of All Trades.”

2 replies on “Learning”

  1. dude, if you can speak multiple languages, you should be seeking job positions in the ottawa area. the pay/demand is greater for bi-lingual IT workers (the more languages, the better). Plus Ottawa is awesome.

  2. I don’t think I’m that fluent in the other languages. I can probably ask them for directions to the nearest washroom but that might be it.

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