Learning a Language as an Act of Creating

Updated: Feb 26, 2020

Photo by Tim Mossholder from Pexels

The desire to create is a very deep part of each and every one of us. And, the reason I sometimes feel uninspired and passive is because I have ceased creating and have fallen into a passive mode of existence. In other words, I want others to create for me – entertain me — so I don’t have to. But why wouldn’t I WANT to create if it is such an inherent part of being human?

Before I answer that I want to delve into the idea of creating and what I mean by it. It doesn’t have to be anything overtly artistic; in fact, it’s usually not…creating can be in the form of a planning and cooking a simple meal. In this case, your energy and your commitment to a result is a very tangible product.

But creating can also be in the form of something intangible such as a meeting with friends whereby you create meaningful connection – a connection that would not have come to pass had it not been for your idea and your commitment to create a space for it to happen.

So, back to my original question. Why WOULDN’T I want to create? Because I have been trained to view my creation as a product to be judged. If I cease creating, I cease being judged, in theory.

But there is an immediate consequence when I stop creating. I feel like a “taker” and not a “giver”, which leaves me feeling unfulfilled, and – at the risk of sounding overly dramatic – a little dead inside. I feel this way because creating and sharing are part and parcel. If I am not creating, I am probably not sharing my gifts. In fact, I am probably isolating.

That’s where learning a new language comes into play.

Learning a new language is a very robust example of creating. Sure, the language already exists, but the student gets to play with its parts and learn to build “products” like sentences, questions, and so on. If we are feeling really daring, we can share our product with someone. If we have created a question, we can ask it. If we have built a sentence, we can text it to a friend who speaks our new language. This takes the act of creation one step further, and it removes us from the pain of isolation…

… while simultaneously opening us up to judgment.

Every rose has its thorn, as they say. But does judgment have to be the thorn that stops us from playing with language and from sharing our language creations with others?

Elizabeth Gilbert answers this best in her book Big Magic by saying:

“…never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work. And always remember that people’s judgments about you are none of your business.”

Maybe the person with whom we communicate won’t understand us. Maybe they will find our language creation lacking. Maybe they will even be offended that we tried to express ourselves in our own way. But like any great artist, that is the risk that comes with building something new.

This is, I think, why learning a new language is so important to so many people: It allows us a medium for creating and the products we create have the power to bring us closer to one another.

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