I'm too busy to learn a second language

Exhausted woman in an office with her hands on her face because of low employee engagement

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I panicked when my boss asked if I wanted to take language lessons in addition to doing my full-time job. 

I thought, “When will I have time to do that?” I work full-time, serve on the board of two companies, have two small children, a husband, friends, hobbies, etc. The idea of adding something else to my plate seemed overwhelming. 

I signed up anyway. 

I’ve been documenting my language learning journey (I’m currently enrolled in Italian lessons). While I’m tempted to share this journey through rose-colored glasses, that’s not the reality every day. I’m busy. We’re all busy. I have been tempted to quit more times than I can count. I’m still enthusiastic about learning a language; the benefits outweigh the hurdles, but I know I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the idea of taking on ANOTHER thing. 

Does this sound familiar? Has your boss asked you (or even demanded) that you learn another language to be more successful at work? Are you managing a remote team and need to communicate with them in order for everyone to feel included and heard? You should learn a second language to gain confidence while presenting at work or communicating with neighbors in a new location. Whatever your reason is for learning a second language, the need and the fear can live alongside each other. I know it does in my world. 

Here's how I hype myself up when I feel like sitting through an hour of Italian lessons is the last thing I want to do. 

1)    I remind myself why I’m doing this in the first place. I could have said no to my boss, and he would have understood. But his request isn’t what keeps me showing up to my lessons. I started because I wanted to connect to my heritage and communicate with my grandma before she passed away. My “why” is uniquely mine; it motivates me to continue because it’s so personal. 

2)    I allow myself to be present during lessons. I could make excuses and check my email or Teams messages during a lesson, but I don’t. If I’m going to do this, I’m going to do it wholly. I don’t take much time for myself (at work OR home), and one hour of being disconnected from all my responsibilities doesn’t make the world come to a screeching halt. I’m allowed to learn new skills and expand my mind in a way that benefits me. You’re allowed to, too. 

3)    Learning a language is actually kind of… fun? I didn’t do great in the traditional language learning setting in school. It was boring, disconnected from my life, and just a means to an end. It was a grade to pass, not an actual language to learn. Learning Italian with my teacher in Milan is the exact opposite of that experience. I told her what I wanted to learn and why, and she tailored her lessons to my life and circumstances. For example, during my lesson yesterday, we learned how to order wine in a café. I asked for that because it’ll be my first order of business the next time I travel to Italy. We’re not conjugating verbs or memorizing vocabulary – although I’m sure she’d teach me those things if I asked. We’re connecting as two people with mutual interests, and it’s pretty refreshing. My hour with her once a week allows me to chat with someone I like to talk to while learning. 

Learning a language takes time. Anything worth doing well does. If you think you don’t have time to add a new skill to your plate, you’re not alone. But if you’re willing to put yourself out there and take some time to prioritize learning and expanding your knowledge, you’ll never regret it. In a digitally connected world, not having to leave your house or office to learn a language is incredible. 

If you’re interested in learning more about bringing language as a benefit to your organization, let’s chat. Our expansive network of world-class teachers means that we have someone uniquely qualified to teach you a language in a way that makes sense for your life. 

To learn more about Patricia, check out her bio

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