In my work I travel a lot. I just got out of the car of my most recent Uber experience. However, in my 20 minute ride, I was educated and inspired. Not a common experience.
A bit of a background. I have spoken Spanish for 40 years. Love the language. Know the struggle it is to dominate a grammar and an accent. And, sadly, no one has ever thought I was a native speaker, in spite of intense work on my part. Always something left to learn.
I write this to fit in with our current series of blog posts on habit acquisition. So, back to my ride.
My driver was a young man. I don’t have permission to use his name, so I won’t. We started to chat. He has nearly 4500 rides for Uber. So I asked him if he drove fulltime. The answer was no. He has two other jobs and studies in a tech-related field at a local college. Now, mind you, he is telling me this in incredible English. What do I mean incredible? The vocabulary was extense. He wasn’t looking for precise words. While there was an accent, it wasn’t pronounced.
Asked him how long he had spoken the language. Just over three years.
How long had he lived here? Same amount of time.
How much English had he spoken before moving here? None.
So how had he gone about mastering what takes some people decades to do?
For example: he worked the night shift at a convenience store. He would clean the entire store and get it ready for the morning in about 1.5-2 hours. Then he would watch Youtube clips of people speaking English. He would pause the clip and repeat what he had just heard. Again and again and again.
He would make sure to speak as much as he could to customers and some of them would spend time with him just talking, being patient with an eager learner. His native language writes right to left. He now can do English left to right. Talk about training the brain!!
By now I was fascinated. He continued and described a recent visit to my home state. I was listening critically, and he did not miss a word. Eloquently and accurately describing places he had been in amazing English.
Many of you may have read a recent post from HBR on two key questions to ask when starting something new:
1. Do you want to do it?
2. Are you willing to be uncomfortable with the process?
What an example this person set for me today! Made me reflect. He has paid the price, all alone, with no support system, for his family is still in his native land.
A pretty high bar!! Thank you to my driver! And a challenge to all of us!