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Taking it on faith – in learning

I have had a few learning experiences this summer that might be worth noting in this blog.

I am currently studying the ruby programming language and the rails framework at bitmaker labs. Programming, like learning any other language, involves learning a bunch of new vocabulary. While logic and reasoning are important, it's also important to just memorize a bunch of things - conventions, words, in the case of programming, syntax, the locations of files.

The same, I have found, applies to learning physical skills. When you're learning a sport, for example, you won't necessarily understand what you are doing or the mechanics, until you have drilled it many times. Hundreds, even thousands, of repetitions are necessary before something becomes second nature, and an intellectual understanding of what is going on might have to wait until after you are familiar enough with the physical motions.

Likewise for actual languages. Last year, in India, I tried to learn Hindi, and my approach was to just keep learning new words, and going through new lessons, even though I wasn't retaining anywhere near 100% of the words and lessons I'd gone through. But by the end of four months, I was much more comfortable than I had been when I arrived.

When I studied Kalaripayatu, I was aware of two different approaches that teachers took. Some of the Indian teachers use a method where they go over and over the material, and students get a progressively less superficial understanding of the moves. Some of the Western teachers who have reinterpreted the material, will teach smaller pieces, and wait until the students have fully mastered one piece before they move on to the next.

Many teachers (myself included) will default to teaching the way they learn best. As a teacher, you should remember that you will have students who prefer one style or the other. As a student, you should remember that you can study in a way that suits your style, regardless of the teacher's style.