Speak the Language

“What do you do for a hobby?”

This question has always frozen me in my tracks. I’ve never been very good at answering it. Other people can readily say they knit or watch birds or collect ceramic oysters. Me? Not so much. It seems like the things that I do as a hobby come and go. I made jewelry for a while. I did oil pastels, water color and ink drawings, painted wine bottles. I sewed. By hand, of course, because I never could work a sewing machine. Sometimes it feels like writing is a hobby with my lack of completed projects, submissions, and published works. I suppose Book ’em, Danno could be considered a hobby, but I don’t really think of it that way. It’s fun, but it’s a project and it has a schedule, so it’s still work to me. Yeah, I don’t get paid for it, but you try explaining that to my brain. Try explaining anything to my brain. Let me know how far you get.

Because that’s the thing with hobbies, isn’t it? We live in a culture in which the monetization of your hobby is encouraged, particularly if it’s something creative. Is it really a hobby if you’re not putting the fruits of your fun time waster up on Etsy? It feels like that. Sure I made a nifty thing. Now what do I DO with it? Everybody is getting painted wine bottles for Christmas and now the family is discussing an intervention.

I’ve not spent my free time doing my crafty hobbies because I don’t know what to do with the crafts once playtime is over. For awhile I thought that was my true hobby, but that doesn’t make a good answer to the hobby question.

Then I realized the other day that I DO have a hobby. An unlikely one, for sure, but it fits the definition of doing something for fun, even if I do it every day instead of waiting for leisure time.

I learn languages.

As of this blog post, my streak on Duolingo is almost four years long. FOUR YEARS. And I just recently added my seventh language course. SEVENTH.

For the record I’m learning Spanish, French, Russian, Czech, Hawaiian, Korean, and Scottish Gaelic.


Because it’s fun.

I also may have a bit of an addiction to it, but whatever. It’s cheaper than smoking.

But really. Even on the difficult lessons and on the days when I can barely work English so I know Russian is going to be a challenge, I enjoy it. I am not at all good at it. My pronunciation in most of the languages is a joke. On my best days I can barely understand French. Czech grammar can give me fits. I’m not going to be freely conversing with any native speakers anytime soon. But it’s magical when I recognize a Korean word without a hint or nail the spelling of a Hawaiian word or somehow get the right pronunciation in Gaelic. I live for that high.

And that’s what a hobby is, right? Doing something for pleasure.

Well, this certainly pleases me.

4 thoughts on “Speak the Language

  1. FOUR YEARS?! Wow! Congrats! I can never make it past 4 days. And I even know a few people who work for Duolingo — not even the guilt of facing them gets me motivated. My wife is plowing away at Japanese. Her (and your) dedication is pretty admirable. Keep it up!

  2. What a great hobby! I’m interested that you said Hawaiian (aside from the connection to your awesome podcast) I had always thought that the language and culture of the original occupants of Hawaii was Polynesian. I have no memory of why I thought that, except that I used to wok in a call center years ago (it was a kind of phone-based Google before there was google. it’s that long ago) and one of our tasks was to take reservations for different theatres in Hawaii. A lot of my co-workers would talk about how hard the Hawaiian street and city names were to pronounce, but early on, a resident of Hawaii told me over the phone that it was easy – there was only one phonetic sound for each letter, so unlike English, you could consistently sound everything out if you knew the 26 (give or take) sounds that go with the letters. Boring story, but in 20 years, you’re the first person I could tell it to who might have an opinion about it. Also, as a theatre person (both community and pro at one time or another) the question of pay versus the seriousness of an avocation is always an interesting subject.

    1. I think Hawaiian language and culture fits into the broader category of Polynesian, so that might be why you thought that. So you’re not exactly wrong. Unless I’m wrong. Then I’m sure someone will loudly correct me. heh

      When it comes to the pronunciation of Hawaiian words, the phonics are pretty easy. What ends up being challenging is that some of the words are incredibly long. Those words can be daunting! And also, I think having English as a first language makes a lot of it harder than it needs to be because I’m used to sounds being tricky. In conclusion, one of the reasons I chose to learn Hawaiian was to make pronouncing some of the names and words on Book ’em, Danno more accurate and I can assure you that this plan has failed miserably. lol

      The arts are so tricky because it’s not seen as “real” work unless you’re making bank.

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