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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Forgotten Accomplishments

I wish that I had a nickel for everything that I have diligently studied over the course of my life only to let it atrophy later through lack of use and abandonment. I wouldn’t care to calculate how much money and time I spent learning those things. After all of the years I spent practically getting killed learning jiu-jitsu I only hope that I have retained enough skill to at least be able to defend myself if I am ever in need. I don’t think that any would-be attacker will be impressed by the fact that I used to be some sort of a badass. At least I didn’t have to spend money learning jiu-jitsu but that is the subject for another essay. All the years I spent trying to learn piano are mostly just a faded memory at this point. I don’t think that you can chalk up as one of your accomplishments in life something that you learn and then promptly forget. It’s like getting old and fat but telling people that you used to be in fine physical shape.

I have been working to restore what I once knew of the Arabic language. After years and years of total neglect I have been dedicating at least two hours a day recently to cut back the overgrowth that has covered my knowledge of this Semitic language, a language that I worked so hard to learn over 25 years ago. It is coming back quickly after only about ten days of study and I plan to be back in a matter of a couple months to the place where I left my studies in Arabic all those years ago. What I bring now to the table is a better grasp of just how to go about learning another language. One of my new tools is technology: my MP3 player is a powerful learning aid. I listen to Arabic language lessons while on my daily bike rides.

The problem is that my new gains in Arabic seem to be coming at the expense of my Spanish. Lately I have felt clumsy speaking Spanish and I certainly miss listening to audio books in Spanish during my bike rides. The good thing is that I need Spanish to survive so it won’t get too far out of the corral. I also think that my French has improved simply because my Spanish is so much better; my French gets better by default for its vast similarity to Spanish. I was never very fluent in Greek but I could get by pretty well. I haven’t uttered more than a few words of that language since leaving Greece over 20 years ago. Oh well, if I ever go there again I’m sure that I will bone up on it.

I have been struggling with how exactly to explain what I am about to write so excuse me if the is a bit cloudy. What I spent time learning and then forgetting is like losing inventory in your warehouse. That is a regretful occurrence but what is even more alarming is losing the list of what you have in storage. It’s not only that I have forgotten so much of what I once knew, I have lost track of the inventory sheet—if that makes any sense. I am coming upon Arabic grammar patterns that I never remember having ever learned, although I’m sure that I must have known them at one time. Most of the vocabulary at least seems familiar in a very distant way. Had I let another few years go by I may have completely lost track that I ever knew any Arabic to begin with.

I suppose that is why they built the pyramids. Constructing a huge monolith out of heavy blocks of limestone is certainly an easier way to mark your achievements in life than trying to keep up with your piano lessons.