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It’s been about 3 weeks since I last made a post in this blog, and I have still been studying Thai language even after my huge rant about how impossible it is to learn.

There’s lots of advice about language learning on the internet, but the most common thing I seem to read is to find a way that works for you.

Before I did this hobby of learning languages, I used to play a lot of fighting games like Streetfighter and Tekken. The video embedded below is a classic example of why fighting games are so popular. In the world finals of Streetfighter 3 Third Strike, the players perform special moves and combos that require really intricate timing of pushing buttons and hours upon hours of practice. If you watch near the end of the video, you’ll see why players are happy to commit so much time to this stuff.

However, when I moved to a new area I didn’t know many people who played these games anymore, so I stopped practising fighting games and decided to spend time learning a language instead. I remember meeting a friend and him asking me what game I’d been playing recently, and I coyly answered “actually I’ve been learning Thai”.

Obviously it depends on your learning style, but for me there are quite a few parallels to these two activities. They have this strange paradox of being solitary and being social.

Perhaps you will spend an hour or so reviewing special moves or combos, or for a language – vocabulary, grammar points or even the writing system.

But then, you use the knowledge in a real world social context. So for a fighting game perhaps you will play your friends or enter a tournament. And for languages perhaps you will speak to a native speaker of your target language.

And then after that event, you can think about how you did and learn from your mistakes or consider areas to focus on for next time. There’s even some great advice about preparing your mind that I found to be useful. Some of it is generic advice like “being present in the moment”, “not beating yourself up over your mistakes”, and “having realistic expectations”.

The best fighting game players are people who have patience and perseverance to practice something which isn’t immediately and instantly “fun”, but when the time comes it’ll definitely pay off as a huge reward. And for me personally, there was a simple satisfaction from knowing that I had that self control and was improving myself with every button press. I personally think that this way of thinking can be applied to language learning, too. Or learning a musical instrument, and many other activities.

For the record, I have been practising Thai a lot more, and I’ve also been going out of my way to speak to lots of new people 🙂 I’ve also been spending time thinking about the long term pay off as well, and that helps keep me motivated too.