Monday, July 01, 2013

Beginner vs. Expert Learner

When I first started learning French, each new conversation would introduce dozens of new words. Now, I have to push myself to find more nuanced ways of expressing myself instead of relying on the basics I mastered a long time ago.

–Scott Young in his latest blog post, Should You Learn Physics Like Newton? Contrasting Expert and Beginner Learning Strategies

This rings true for me as well. It appears to be an instinct, as well, to move ahead and strive to be better in looking for different ways to express myself better. In my case, I’m self-learning Italian.

I will also check out a book Scott recommended in the same blog post. The book titled The First 20 Hours by Josh Kaufman documents getting past the initial frustration barrier with a new skill. What’s exciting is that instead of spending ten thousand hours supposedly required for expertise, Josh claims you can get comfortable after just twenty.

It’s great being a BEGINNER because there are two advantages—quoting directly from Scott, which again I find are spot on because I’m constantly in this phase for the love of learning new things:
  1. The first advantage: The glut of learning opportunities. When you know nothing, it’s really easy to find something you haven’t learned yet.
  2. The second advantage: The biggest opportunities for performance improvement haven’t been used up yet.
Other things he talked about include learning effectively as a beginner and advanced learner, navigating from beginner to expert, and the very good question of should you become an expert? I recommend you read his post because it is such a thorough and well-written post on contrasting between these two types of learners.

So… how do you know if you’re ready to enter the advanced learner stage? If you find application of the skill to be comfortable, chances are you’ve graduated out of the beginner phase and should start considering the strategies for advanced learning.