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I used to think that I was a self-disciplined person. Not anymore. Sure, I did manage to practice piano 1-2 hours/day in high school. I got mostly A’s in college. I used to think that all of my piano practice and good grades practically qualified me for a self-disciplined merit award. Hah!

Now I’m done with college, and I have more free time than I have enjoyed since approximately 5th grade. Since I love learning, this should be the most productive period of my life. I have the internet, which is bursting with free learning materials, and a good public library, and a house full of books. I like to learn, and I’m interested in lots of things.

So, let the learning begin!

Well, not quite so fast. First, I have to decide what to learn. I’m interested in so many things, but the time (alas!) is limited. So I’ll settle on something practical. Something useful. Something that I can focus on.

This is where I realize that I am not disciplined.

(I chose German as my learning-subject of choice. It made sense because we’ll be traveling to Europe this summer on a mission trip, and spending about a month in Germany. We’ll be staying with German-speaking hosts. Knowing German would be incredibly useful. So we bought Rosetta Stone.)

I’m supposed to be excited about my freedom to learn an incredibly useful skill. And some days, I am. I do Rosetta Stone. I actually work at learning German.

Other days, I think about how nice it would be to know German. I search the web for German learning tools. Or I search the web for bagel recipes. Or I just look at my Google reader. Germany is a month away, not imminent enough to make me panic. And I don’t have a test tomorrow, so there’s little to make me study today. Instead, I might explore the Foreign Service Institute Basic German course. Or I might do absolutely nothing German-related.

Learning German is such a great idea. It’s much more practical than reading random articles on whatever strikes my fancy. But somehow, I would rather read about anything (like the Montessori method, DIY Altoids tin projects, swine flu, or the NYC Air Force 1 flyover) than work on German. So much for self discipline.

Self education is a great idea, if you can do it.


I’m trying to learn some German before our mission trip to Europe this summer, and I just found a great tool to help me.

The Phonetics project gives pronunciation examples of every sound in English, German, and Spanish. For each sound, there is a Flash animation of the mouth, a step-by-step description of making the sound, and a video of a native speaker saying the sound plus three words that have the sound. My only gripe is that the descriptions for the German part are in German, and I don’t understand them. No, I haven’t yet learned the German word for “soft palate”! I guess it’s time to get out the dictionary!