I took a look around me and thought: “What's the most direct way to action…to inspiration…to the drive to learn?”
“How can I light the fire?”
As is often the case, the solution was staring me in the face.
I realised that my company employs a large number of part-time staff, who are mostly young, university students or recent graduates. They like working for us because we pay very well for Egypt.
The opportunity was clear.
Surely at least one of them would like to make a bit of extra cash by sitting down and helping me with Arabic a couple of times a week? It would be easy and (hopefully) enjoyable work for them, and super-convenient for me.
One morning, I emailed all of them to ask if anyone was interested. By lunchtime, I had a queue out of the door.
I found the two people whose schedules matched mine the best and arranged to meet them a few times over the next week for “Coffee & Arabic”. They were both very nice, and they even tried to refuse payment (Egyptians are very generous people).
I had my first session a couple of days later.
“What do you want to learn?” she asked.
“Well, here are a few things…” I pulled out a list of things I wanted to know how to say in Arabic. (I have a habit of keeping a document in Evernote that I maintain and add to over time with “burning questions”.)
It was a long list.
Over the course of the hour I learnt it all. Everything I wanted to know, actually.
I was hooked.
I had more questions, more things I wanted to be able to say. I just wanted to keep learning.
I had a few more sessions. I kept learning. My confidence grew. I started to genuinely be able to express myself in Arabic.
Unfortunately, the Eid holiday arrived, Cairo ground to a halt, everyone went home to their families, and as I sit writing this, it's been about 5 days since I've been able to meet my tutors.
It's difficult to describe what I'm feeling.
Right now I'm frustrated because my learning has been put on hold. But behind that is something else.
It's best characterised as an insatiable desire to learn, a passion for knowledge in my new language, an urge to feed the brain.
I also have absolute confidence that I will be successful.
One of the benefits of having learnt other foreign languages, I think, is that you become aware of a kind of road-map of the learning process.
But my confidence doesn't come from that.
You know what makes me so sure that, before too long, I will be fluent in Arabic?
It's the passion and drive. The thirst for knowledge and the desire to communicate.
I've found a situation that I now realise I truly love, and it's so simple: meeting and speaking regularly with people that I like and enjoy spending time with.
It makes me feel alive.
I realise now that that is what fires me up and that is why I learn languages.
The passion is such that I'm absolutely confident that I will succeed with Arabic, and nothing will get in my way.
I feel totally unstoppable.
“But it's easy for you – you live in Egypt!”
No, it's not.
I've done almost nothing since I arrived, and learnt nothing as a result.
It was very timely, and helped me to recognise what's happening to me right now.
At this moment, having come out of a lull, managed to recover, and found my pace, I feel the full force of momentum behind me.
Now is not the time to sit back and relax.
Now is the time to harness every last drop of the momentum that I've found – be grateful for having met some wonderful and generous people, apply myself totally to learn from what they can offer me, commit myself to the language and the culture, and always be looking for ways to do it better.
I've rediscovered my “why” for language learning. And I feel unstoppable.