Discouragement and Encouagement

The other day, I was feeling very discouraged about my Chinese. I felt that I wasn’t going anywhere, that I wasn’t improving. I have been learning Chinese for 27 years, and felt like my language skills were nowhere near where I wanted them to be. Disheartening, depressing, discouraging, take your pick of words to describe my frustration.

But then a coworker lent me a local news magazine, and I was thrilled to find that I could read it without having to look up more than a few words. I noticed many words that I had learned since starting language lessons here in China. I realized that I was actually learning a lot.

So what was the cause of my discouragement? If I was actually improving, why did I feel like I wasn’t? I wondered about this for several days, then I had an epiphany: it was because my notebook was full.

I usually carry a Moleskine notebook to write down new words and phrases in Chinese. However, I bought another notebook a few months ago, and recently used it up. I leafed through it to review what I had written down over the last few months, and was surprised at how many words I didn’t remember. Maybe that is what triggered the feeling that I wasn’t making progress? I was writing down words, then immediately forgetting them?

Well, my new notebook is a Moleskine, and I see now what my problem is. The Moleskine has many more pages than that other notebook. If I don’t review the notebook until I fill it up, and my notebook has so many pages in it that it takes me six months to fill it, then by the time I review the notebook, enough time will have passed that I actually will have made more progress by the time I review it.

The lesson that I learned from this experience is: use notebooks with more pages.

Here’s the notebook that I use. I’ve been using these notebooks for almost ten years, and I love love love them. I will never be unfaithful to them again!

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