Autodidactic means self-learning or self-education; an autodidact is someone who is self-educated (on a subject or in schooling). This blog is becoming more about the process of discovering and uncovering languages and cultures— hence the title “The Pursuit of Language and Culture”. I’m trying to teach myself about the languages and cultures that interest me. Right now I’m pretty all over the place with what interests me and what I want to teach myself but despite this I’ve gained some rather valuable knowledge that sparks ideas that never get boring.
Admittedly, there is something more fun about self-study than learning in a traditional classroom. There are no deadlines and no syllabi to follow, simply its what you want to study and learn and I think it is key in actually developing knowledge in a field. With Japanese art history, for example, I can select the type of art and the artists that are of interest to me and from there I can expand to other areas.
Of course, I don’t want to put down formal schooling (that’s outside of the scope of this blog), as it can prove valuable when you find a class and a teacher who can guide you. Throughout my 4+ years of college, I’ve excelled in and enjoyed classes which gave me a lot of freedom to explore a subject but at the same time forced me to pull it all together in some sort of project. If a person can bring this sort of classroom discipline to their self-study I think they can succeed.
Below I’ve listed some tips for getting the most of self-learning.
- Keep a running list of all the things you want to learn. Sometimes you want to learn everything which isn’t practical. But keeping a list allows you to see patterns of what you want to study as well as have a reference for when you need some new ideas.
- People can make excellent resources. When learning a language, it can be extremely helpful to have someone who speaks the language you want to learn. For example, I have a friend who speaks Korean. If you don’t have this ability, there are forums and sites where you can gain extra help from natives or people who know the language well. This also works when you want to know more about a subject– a professor, next-door neighbor, or friend may have some ideas or insights about a subject that interests you.
- Use a variety of resources– books, web sites, blogs, CDs, movies, people, recordings, newspapers, etc. If you have interest in learning about a culture, try reading a newspaper in that language or finding an English source (for example, there are online English language newspapers about news in Japan).
- Set attainable goals or objectives. Sometimes a subject can be very broad such as “Japanese art history”. I narrowed it down to a type of art I fell in love with when I went to the Met in New York. I had several areas I could work with– the artists, the period in which they lived, their influences, the people they influenced, media used, etc. In the end, I was able to group together a few artists and concentrate on the environment and period in which they lived.
- Do realize that sometimes in order to gain knowledge and understanding in one area, you may have to delve into another area. For example, to really gain understanding of South Korean films it is helpful to understand the culture and language. Knowing this can help you break down goals.
- Do a project to consolidate information and show your understanding about what you have learned. One thing I eventually want to do is be able to write to my friend in her native language.
Since I am done for the rest of the summer, I hope to not only narrow down some of the things I want to learn but also bring some cohesiveness to this blog.
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