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I Tried to Spend 40 Hours in a Week Learning ASL

Here’s what you can learn from my failure.

I recently tried to spend 40 hours in a week learning American Sign Language (ASL) for the 40h7dLC (40 hours, 7 days Language Challenge). Guess what. I wasn’t even close to it. Or, at least, not on my own terms.

In my defense, I shot myself in the foot before the challenge even started. Passive learning counted toward the 40 hours but, since I chose to learn American Sign Language, that wasn’t really a convenient option. It’s not like I can listen to sign language while doing laundry.

Still, while I didn’t study for 40 hours, I studied more than I otherwise would have. And that’s a beginning.

On paper, I failed this challenge. In reality, I consider this challenge a win because of all I learned. And that’s not just ASL-related knowledge.

I love languages and I like challenges. Combining the two was a great opportunity to push my limits as a language learner.

Yet, when it came to it, I still had a life to live. I currently live with my parents which meant having long meals and regular evening drinks with them. I also need to keep writing if I want to make a living. On top of all that, I also need to relax, sleep, and learn other languages I love.

I spent about 5 hours per day learning ASL the first three days without reducing my time writing and my time with family. The result? I didn’t rest much and started feeling overwhelmed. When Thursday came around, I woke up with brain fog and a wrist that hurt from all the typing and signing.

That’s when I really decided to follow what other people were doing: accepting my study of other languages as part of the language challenge. I went back to listening to German radio in the background while writing my articles. I watched Korean dramas. And I played around with a few other languages I was curious about, most notably Ainu.

If learning a certain language isn’t your priority, don’t try to make it so. Learn it. Take a break. Have fun with it. Take another break. Skip a day if need be even.

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