Thursday, April 03, 2008

Professor-Student (again)

It's time to start registering for classes for the fall term, and I have been trying to decide whether to sign up for the third year of the language class I have been taking.


This class meets 5 days/week and there are buckets of homework assignments and quizzes and presentations and such, and some weeks the last thing I need is to study for a midterm exam. (Students reading this will not sympathize, I know..).


I really love taking this class (and the ones I took the previous 3 semesters). Although my speaking ability in this language lags behind my comprehension, reading, and writing skills, I have made a lot of progress and I feel great about that. After nearly two years, I can't imagine not taking this class. Can one become addicted to language-learning?

A third year course in this language has not previously been offered, but my fellow students and I lobbied for a third year course, and it looks like we were successful. Even though I'm not a real student in the sense of working towards a degree, I do register for the courses (pass/fail), so I count in the enrollment numbers.

OK, I will probably sign up for the course. I've managed so far, I am enjoying it, and I'm making (slow) progress. I feel like I'm using a different part of my brain in these courses, and that feels good to me, though I don't know why.


Anonymous said...

While studying for my BS, I completed a minor in a language I'd learned in high school and took 1-2 semesters each of 3 others. A typical semester was:

Upper-level main language and/or intro other language
Math course
Physics lab
Two physics courses

(No kidding -- I escaped the area requirements.)

Anyway, my point is that the language courses were always my favorites -- refreshing and worth arriving at 9 am. I was invariably among the most enthusiastic and talkative students.

So I am with you on this: in my first year of (sci/eng) grad school, I feel acutely deprived. I'd been looking forward to establishing my competence and finishing relevant coursework so that I could propose a language elective to my advisor; having just won a fellowship that seems to frown upon such elective coursework, I am almost wistful. (Not that I'm in any way complaining!)

Despite this, though, I don't think I would have been happy with the reverse situation (language focus/science hobby). The language coursework in the right dosage was a fun break, and I don't believe I would've gotten any more physics done without it. Kind of like how you wouldn't want a cup of milk with just a little coffee, but removing the milk from the coffee entirely certainly wouldn't help you to guzzle it any faster.

So yes, perhaps it's a form of addiction, but more like feeling better when one gets regular exercise than anything detrimental. I say go for it!

jonah said...

I'm in precisely the same situation! Except for being a graduate student and not a professor. I think despite the late nights grumbling about studying for quizzes instead of spending the extra hour on a problem set, these experiences are worth it. It refreshes the brain and gives you a different window on the world. And that's always important for developing perspective, even in science.

Mrs. Smith said...

I say go for it! I love learning languages. 4 years of French was my favorite. Right now I am wrestling with Hindi. Next on my list is Italian. (I miss the comfort of a Latin based language plus, I really want to go to Italy!)

stepwise girl said...

Hurrah for learning languages! Especially when it is enjoyable.

Really need to get back to the self-learning thing I started last year with some success but then gave up (for bad reasons of course).

lost clown said...

I say go for it. If you're having fun....

Anonymous said...

On another matter (sorry for the divergence): You readers might enjoy this:
Commentator Peter Sagal is incensed. He went to see "Horton Hears a Who" with his wife and three excited and happy daughters, and he was irritated by something even more annoying than Jim Carrey's tics.

In a new subplot added by the filmmakers, the Mayor of Whoville has 96 daughters, yet only one son.

Guess who gets all his attention? Guess who saves the day?

The offspring with a Y chromosome.

Listen to this on

Anonymous said...

Good job on your successful lobby for a the course. Continue to enjoy it; when you stop enjoying it, then stop learning. However, it sounds like the language has sucked you in so you'll be there for a while.

Anonymous said...

It is definitely possible to become addicted to language-learning - I have become addicted and now I am a language major in addition to my physics major. I truly believe that a person can never know too many languages, so there is no point dropping the class, especially if you enjoy it. Keep exercising the other side of your brain!

Katie said...

Good for you. It seems like when life is so busy, you just have to force yourself to do the things you enjoy. I'm sure you will be glad you took part when you look back on your semester.

Anonymous said...

Do it.

You know all of the good arguments for it, and they're all the best ones. The detractions mean absolutely nothing in the face of those. There are so many regrets to have in life--you're in a great place to remedy one.

Mickey Blake said...

To answer your open question: Can one become addicted to learning languages? I would say, absolutely! I'm on #10 myself. My passion for languages is part of the reason that I wound my way out of the physical sciences and into linguistics.

Anonymous said...

Sign up. Give the class the most time you can afford. You don't have be an A student- *gasp*

Anonymous said...

Even though it will be a time-crunch I say: go for it! There is a chance that 3rd class won't be offered again any time soon, and leaving a time-gap between courses will lead to some loss of fluency.

You clearly have enjoyed the other sections. Continue challenging yourself!

Ms.PhD said...

Hooray for exercising all parts of your brain!

Yes, I think it is possible to become addicted to language learning.

But I think those of us drawn to academic careers have already demonstrated an addiction to learning.

Anonymous said...

Any chance you can arrange to attend a conference in the country speaking the language you are learning? Nothing is more motivating than immerging yourself, even briefly, in the culture.

Female Science Professor said...

Sorry for the slow and intermittent comment moderation today. I am on the road and the internet connections so far have been rather lousy.

Wanna Be Mother said...

Have you been to livemocha? It's great for practicing and learning new languages. However, I still think a class is better.

Count Iblis said...

Hmmm 5 lessons per week. Must be a really hard language to learn. Are you learning Chinese?

Anonymous said...

Wow! Thanks for your story...I've been contemplating learning a new language while studying science in grad school, but it seemed all against the odds.

Now it seems possible. I'll consider talking to my prospective advisors regarding this.