LEARNING A NEW LANGUAGE IS A SISYPHEAN UNDERTAKING
Learning a new language is a Sisyphean undertaking. It is repetitive. It is repetitive. It is repetitive; monotonous, even. And it is endless; there is always more to learn. There is always more to learn.
Learning a new language is Sisyphean in other ways. Like Sisyphus, when we roll our linguistic boulders up the steep hill of learning, we are accomplishing something. The job of learning is endless, but real work gets done. The boulder was down; now it is up. We didn’t know a thing before; now we know it. The number of linguistic boulders is uncountable and interminable. But there is a sense of achievement in getting boulders up the hill at all.
Learning teaches us, in part, what we do not know. Learning results not only in the acquisition of knowledge but also in the awareness of ignorance. Since there is always more to learn, and since learning implies an awareness of one’s finitude, learning is a logically and psychologically futile activity, as Camus knew in connection with Sisyphus and as Solomon knew before him. Learning, like life itself, is vaporous.
And yet, our hapless attempts at learning a new language are no less futile in an ultimate sense than all the other Sisyphean stuff we do every day. So.