The gap exists in all of us. If you have ever tried to learn another language whether it is Spanish or any other you will have felt the gap at some stage.
It affects every type of student from the beginner to the most advanced.
I became aware of the gap as I noticed it in my girlfriend, when she decided to learn Spanish.
I see it in her, I see it in me and I see it in all of my friends who are on their own language learning journeys.
I have spent a few months pondering this idea and I needed to share it.
We are all touched by the gap and in this post I’m going to share my thoughts with you on what the gap is? Why you need to know about it? And what you should to do about it?
So What Is The Gap?
The gap is the horizon, it is the end of the rainbow, it is the point that keeps moving away from you as you step towards it.
Lao-tzu said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. The gap is everything from the second step to the destination.
It is the difference between where you are and where you would like to be. It exists for almost any pursuit but it can be most disheartening for any pursuit that involves discomfort along the way.
It is about continuing to put one step in front the other but still knowing there are thousands of steps to go.
For language students it requires a particular kind of courage because it may not ever go away. You may never close the gap.
For someone who is quitting smoking or losing weight the destination can be reached, it is possible. The horizon doesn’t move. Once you achieve a goal weight you are there and can reassess and change direction if you want to.
With language learning the gap will always be there. Gnawing at you.
Whenever I speak to different people about the gap the answer is always the same: “I only wish I was a little bit better.”
The gap is ultimately about where you would like to be. It’s about a destination. It’s where you are – and as you practice everyday you try to close the gap – but it will never close.
As I look at my girlfriend take her first few steps in to her language learning journey I see it begin. “Oh if I only I was a little bit better” that’s where it starts. “I just want to be able to say …” is next.
The problem is that this gap exists for all students. I have a good friend from Spain who is learning English. Her English is very good and for all intents and purposes she can work, live and play in an English speaking country.
She has an accent, but she understands jokes and colloquial expressions. Yet she is still frustrated by her gap. I see it clawing at her and it saddens me.
I also have personally been frustrated by this affliction. It has affected me in a deep way.
It’s that there is a level of Spanish that I would love to achieve and if only I could get there.
Well here’s the thing. We all have it and we all have to deal with it.
Why Is It Important That You Know About The Gap?
If you define your success or failure in your language-learning journey by the gap then you are setting yourself up for failure from day one.
If you require closure on the gap then you will never be satisfied. It’s like the billionaire that needs to close one more business deal to be “happy”. All he needs is the next sale. The next big win. The next dollar. It never ends.
My purpose for sharing the idea of the gap with you is to allow you to redefine how you measure yourself against it.
If you know about the gap then you have a chance to beat it. Not close it but overcome it and succeed despite it.
Once you know about the gap you can ask the question: “what must happen in order for me to feel successful in Spanish?”
Before you became aware of the concept of the gap then the answer to that question may have been to close it. And if that was the case you may have been fighting a losing battle.
But now that you know of the gap you stand a better chance of answering the question and finding success and satisfaction in your Spanish studies.
The Real Question Is How Is The Gap Affecting You?
I almost feel that the best language students are the ones that are always okay with it. They know that as time passes their language skills will improve and that’s the end of the story. There will always be more to learn but that’s okay.
The student that gives up is the one that sees the gap, feels too much pain and as such moves on to other things.
I can tell you now that no matter where you are with your Spanish as you read this, if you spend the next year buried in it, practicing everyday, grinding and improving your ability that at the end of that year there will still be a gap.
There will always a gap because you can always improve. I wish I was that little bit better. I wish I could watch that movie without subtitles or I wish could understand fully what they are talking about on that radio show.
The way I see it, the gap could be doing two things to you:
1. It could be motivating you. It could be a fountain of encouragement that is driving you and pushing you to improve. As you look to the horizon, as Ferdinand Magellan did, you see a new world that you want to explore.
Magellan was the first explorer to circumnavigate the world proving that you could essentially move towards the horizon forever if you wanted to.
So if the gap and the thought of the horizon is drawing you forward then use it. Think about it. Cultivate it. Think about where you would like to be and exaggerate it.
2. It could be demotivating you. It could be causing you stress, anxiety and worry. It could be frustrating you. There could be a little voice that nags at you: “I’m not getting better”, “I’m not improving” or “I will never get there.”
If these thoughts are consuming you then the gap is not a force you want to pull into your language-learning journey.
If the gap is demotivating you then start to focus more on the process. As far as you can and to the best of your ability push the gap out of your mind and let it be in the background.
Answer the question, how can I feel successful without fully closing the gap? What is it going to take for me to feel successful in my Spanish journey?
One great tactic for those who are struggling with the gap is to look backwards not forwards.
For the journey of a thousand miles look back at the steps you have already taken.
Think about how far you have come. Enjoy that first step and be satisfied by it. Celebrate it and celebrate the path that you are on.
Anthony Robbins has a great quote that goes “rather than achieve to be happy – happily achieve.”
Your happiness, satisfaction and enjoyment is not dependent on closing the gap but on striving forward despite it.
In Greek mythology Sisyphus was punished to push a rock up hill for eternity. Although it was his punishment, it became his reality that in the end was neither good nor bad.
Like Sisyphus existentially pushing the rock up the hill for the rest of his days, how do you think about your rock, the gap?
Enjoy the distance between where you are now and where you would like to be with your Spanish and enjoy pushing that rock up the hill. Be okay with the fact that the rock will always be there.
Look back from where you have come. There was a day that you knew far less than what you know now. And there will be a day in the future, provided that you don’t give up, that you will know far more than what you do today. This will always continue.
So this is the gap. The question is how will you respond?