On Making the Best of Quarantine

So—you’re doing your part to help flatten the curve (or maybe your employer made the decision for you) and you’re in COVID-19 quarantine. For some folks, this may mean considerably less time (like those in church world tasked with putting out livestreamed worship). But for those of you with healthy and active social lives (of which I’ve only heard tales), you may find a huge amount of free time on your hands. Sure, you can watch Frozen II over and over and over and I’m sure you will. But why not also take some of that time and pick up some skills that you always wanted to learn, but never quite had the time for?

I. Learn a New Language 

Learning a new language is easier than ever thanks to internetings and smartphonings. Here are some of my favorite resources for various languages.

First off, if you never studied a foreign language before, take two weeks to learn some Esperanto. You can do it on Duolinguo and there’s evidence that spending some time learning a constructed language like Esperanto (which is exceptionally standard since it was, well, built to be standard) helps you learn other languages better.

If you want to learn French, Spanish, German, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, or Italian, start with the Fluent Forever app (and also make sure to check out their blog for resources on all sorts of languages and language learning).

If you’re specifically interested in French, you can follow this fun video series that is very... 80s. You’ll love it. They also have a series for Spanish, but I'm not as familiar with it (I’m sure it’s great though).

There are great apps for learning Lakota. And most of them are free. Check out Ow√≥ksape especially, which is basically the whole conversation course in app form.

You can also take a deep dive into biblical languages in a much more interesting and helpful way than you may have done before (or thought was possible). Living Biblical Languages teaches Biblical Hebrew, Koine Greek, and Aramaic as living languages, meaning less rote memorization and more fun. Plus, you learn to begin thinking in the languages rather than just decoding and translating them.

II. Make Your Memory Better

Make yourself a better self-learner in general by beefing up your memory. The Great Courses have some excellent resources for learning how to remember, especially Scientific Secrets for a Powerful Memory and The Learning Brain. Go ahead and get the content a lot cheaper on Audible though. 

Alternatively, you can always check out this book by memory champion Harry Lorayne. 

Especially helpful for working with your memory are spaced repetition apps. Anki is far and away my favorite and one of the most customizable (and yes it is very worth the $25 for the app). These let you optimize how much time you spend studying by putting things in front of you just when you’re about to forget them. 

And of course once you have a some memory techniques down you can start doing things like memorizing the Constitution and Canons, or the Psalms, or verses from the Bible. Or, you know, memorize all the airport codes or whatever. 

III. Take Up Bodyweight Weight Training 

Can’t get to the gym? No problem! Your body can be your own gym! Plus, it’s probably better for you than lifting free weights anyway. My two favorite sources for bodyweight training are GMB (if you want something more pre-programmed) and Overcoming Gravity (if you want something a bit more extensive but also that requires more self-customization). Note: Overcoming Gravity can seem intimidating, but they do indeed have pre-set plans you can follow.

IV. Learn Traditional Woodworking 

There’s not much to say about this beyond... look at this site. The one thing I’d say is when looking at the tools you’d need, this site really emphasizes Lie Nielsen—which are indeed top notch—but you can often get equally good products from Veritas

V. Pick Your Own Skills

Do you want to learn more about Robert’s Rules of Order? Accounting? Communicating? Grammar? There are tons and tons of self-teaching resources out there. The Great Courses are of course one. So are the Idiot’s Guides and For Dummies series. You can do a lot of early research and find more in-depth resources on Wikipedia. 

So here you have it. Don’t let the quarantine get you down, or at least don’t let it make you bored. And don’t give up on yourself as you start learning new skills. They will be difficult at times. It will be a process of learning how you learn. It’s not going to be a steady upward progression. I’ve found that more often than not right when you think you’re really not doing well or plateauing or getting most frustrated you’re right on the verge of a breakthrough. Stick with it, have fun, and come out of isolation playing the oboe or speaking Thai.