A Blurred Line - Is Language Learning Still A Hobby

A Blurred Line – Is Language Learning Still A Hobby?


Language learning as a hobby should be a breeze but it got my mind conflicted for quite some time which caused the line to be blurred. This is supposed to fill my free time with something productive while having fun. But because a part of me loved to make it complicated that’s exactly what happened.

I wanted to do it as a hobby in the first place plainly because I have no specific reason to learn it, not academically or for work. However, I do go about it to want to be fluent one day (vague, I know). 

So, in a way, I have to put in the time to achieve it. That’s why when it was a hobby I thought I should do it as if it wasn’t.

In the beginning, I spent 30 minutes. Then increased it to an hour then an hour and a half, and finally back to less than an hour. When I reached the hurdles I blamed myself for changing the direction. It should be gratifying and hassles weren’t part of it.

Meaning I was and still am learning it for entertainment purposes. I mentioned before that without language learning my life is empty, figuratively. As a homebody, I enjoy watching series, movies, and listening to music, but if I take out the ‘learning’ aspects from all these what’s left is simply watching and listening. 

I wouldn’t even bother searching for anything in foreign languages I’m interested in had I not found them fascinating. In short, it’s my way of making my life more colorful.

Start learning from a place of curiosity. This makes a language an adventure, not an obligation. - wyzant.com

This was the case with me. The very first Telenovela I watched when I was in the primary was Rosalinda if I’m not mistaken. I didn’t know the language but I liked the sound. In high school, another Telenovela that boosted my curiosity (which slowly turned to interest) was La Madrastra

Fast forward to 2015, I decided to start learning it ‘as a hobby’ which was the same year I created this blog to share my journey. I wasn’t aware when that changed to passion. Somewhere along the line that was when everything became a blur.

If you're learning a language as a hobby, don't put so much pressure on yourself. Enjoy the journey - Lindie Botes

I’ve crossed the ‘hobby’ line a few times with Spanish. The first time was when I decided it was time to start learning grammar. I just started with the language less than 7 months ago. Back then, my mindset was set on learning grammar early on because I thought it was important

My English was so broken that I shied away from speaking and didn’t want the same to happen with the TL.

Woman Coffee Books

So, I learned for an hour every day and sometimes more. The result? Not what I expected. Bad habits happened because it was done incorrectly. I was trying so hard for no reason. I wanted to finish the grammar (at least the basics) before the deadline. Why on earth did I even set such a thing? 

¡No tenía ni pxxx idea! It was like my heart said a hobby but my mind rejected it😫

The second time was when I decided to start practicing speaking. I initiated intending to want to improve that skill and went on for a year. It was an everyday struggle. A perfect word to describe it? Taxing. 

When I feel like I’m not making any progress, I pressure myself to learn more. When I encounter words or grammar that are considered basic and I don’t know them, I doubt myself if I’m learning everything correctly. I know it’s impossible to learn all at once just as it’s insane to know all the vocabulary out there. 

There will always be something that’s missing yet it bothers me.

I kept adding this unnecessary stress. I just want to do it when I feel like it but somehow my brain wouldn’t let me because deep down it knows the when you feel like it’ moment won’t come as often. It was a hobby for God’s sake, brain!

I asked the exact question in a group and someone mentioned that it was fun at first but later became a painful hobby. I can totally relate and probably so do you. Learning something new is always exciting in the beginning until the difficult phase comes. You either quit, take a break, or push through resulting in the ‘painful’ part.

Even though it causes headaches the enjoyment is still there. If it’s just a mere hobby I would have abandoned it a long time ago but I kept coming back. Why? Passion. Is it possible for language learning to be both a hobby and a passion? Yes.

The first thing I do every day before something else is language learning. It has become a habit and a constant daily routine. This is one of the instances where I truly feel it’s both. For some people, it stops being a hobby when;

  • They start teaching the language they are learning
  • They want to find a job that involves the language they are learning
  • They start getting paid to review language courses
  • They start incorporating it into their everyday life
  • etc

When I told my exchange partners I learned a language(s) as a hobby, they said they couldn’t do the same. Most have a very specific reason for learning. When I told my parents I was learning Spanish they were like ‘Why?’ My dad suggested I should learn Mandarin instead because there are quite a few Chinese here.

To them, it’s like if a language serves no purpose in your life why bother learning? To me, language learning is valuable knowledge. They are useless only if you don’t use them.

With language learning, I realized I’ve done things I normally wouldn’t have done. I don’t typically listen to radio and podcasts but that changed when I started learning Spanish. I found them enjoyable, especially the latter.

Open Subtitles

Have you heard of the site called Open Subtitles? It’s a gem! Every time I come across a series I want to watch that doesn’t have English subtitles I check there and voila! It doesn’t happen all the time though because it either depends on the popularity or a subber(s) willing to do the work. Back then I used to wait until they got subbed which took forever.

So, if you ask what’s the difference between before and now after all these? I’d say before it was forced and rushed. I paid no attention to reviewing/repeating what I’ve learned because I thought it would slow things down.

Just because you’re busy doesn’t mean you’re productive. If you don’t focus on what you can use, you’ll waste 80% of your time to learn about 20% of what you can use. - optilingo.com

Who learns grammar for an hour and gets stressed by all those rules when it’s just a hobby? Me. I studied unnecessary grammar topics I rarely use. This was the result of doing things with no plans.

Now, I do it leisurely. My progress is evidently slow. I’m being low-key about it most of the time and keep reminding myself not to overdo things. As I’m currently learning Thai, I’m applying the Pareto Principle which I’ve never used with Spanish to begin with.

It literally just dawned on me that I’ve been doing it all along with English and the result is visible. I don’t use lots of complex or advanced English words to deliver my thoughts when writing blog posts.

If I can summarize all, it would be I’m interested in it, started learning as a hobby, got confused in the process because of trying so hard, and then it became a passion. To answer the question, yes, it is. It’s half a hobby and half a passion. Settled! 

What about you? Share with us below.

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