How do people learn?

学校が始まります。。。School is starting in 1.5 hours, I have forgotten half of what I am suppose to know by know, the kanji is mixing themselves together in my head and all I see are little squiggles on the paper, vocabulary I used to know seems foreign to me, like I see the words for the first time, and the grammar points seems more Greek than Japanese to me at the moment. Despite a half-assed effort over at renshuu.org and lang-8.com during the latest days, I can only conclude that I have to step it up quite a bit from today.

How do people learn? How do people push their brains to a greater capacity? I am trying to go back, trying to think how I learned English in the first place, how I learned HTML and CSS, how I learned to take pictures – but all of those things seems so internalized I can not remember my initial struggles with it.

I do remember asking my English teacher in 3rd grade – “In the name ‘Sonic The Hedgehog’ – what does the word ‘the’ mean?” My teacher answered me that the word “the” did not have any meaning on its own. Today I know that answer was wrong, that was my teacher not knowing how to answer that question to kid, who probably would not understand what she was trying to tell me anyway. Today there is Wikipedia, today I know that I can look up the word the on Wikipedia and get an explanation, but I am not sure sure my nine year old self would have understood it even with the help of Wikipedia. I don’t know. What is curious to me, is that the way I felt about the word the as a nine year old – this is the way I feel about Japanese today. I read about Japanese. I try to research various aspects about the language, I try to grasp the concept of it. I read and I research about how people learn, about intrinsic and extrinsic motivation, about vocabulary acquisition, shadowing, about ways to memorize kanji efficiently…  but despite reading about Japanese – I am not sure I can fully grasp the concepts and internalize them. Maybe I should spend more time practicing the actual language, and less time trying to grasp the concepts and trying to find the best way to learn.

Do you think you can learn if you don’t grasp the concept of what you are doing first?

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