Do you ever find yourself learning the same things in the same places? Not intentionally, but somehow drifting into the same languages, the same subjects, according to where you are?
I’ve been on a well overdue parental visit on the north-east coast again this week after a hectic few months. And I’ve noticed that something of a pattern has emerged. Despite having a gloriously diverse language library to pick and choose from, and well-made general dabbling intentions, I always go for a Gaelic book while I’m staying here.
Maybe it’s seeing the mountains of East Sutherland far across the water, near which Nancy Dorian researched the sadly moribund local dialects of Gaelic, that prompts me. Or perhaps it’s just that quintessentially Scottish coastal mix of sea, sky and moorland that gets me in the mood. Whatever it is, I’m more likely to settle down with Gaelic here than in any of my other favourite reading places.
There’s a potential downside to that, according to some educational psychologists. Research into context-dependent memory suggests that material learnt exclusively in one environment may be harder to recall in others.
But the flip-side of that is the use of wider memories as triggers for learnt material. In my case, think of home, remember your Gaelic.
The choice of book says a lot, too. As if to match the homely nostalgia, on each trip home I’ve been working my way further into Roderick Mackinnon’s original Teach Yourself Gaelic, 1971 (1992 reissue). A treasure of an old language book, if ever there was one.
What languages, books and places go together for you? Do you have a preferred nook or corner of the world to settle down to some study in? Let us know!