15 Minutes, Ndank Ndank

Many, many moons ago, I was trying to learn Wolof. For my non-cosmopolitan readers, that is a tribal dialect spoken in Senegal (a country on the west coast of Africa, for my geographically challenged readers – no judgment here, I didn’t know it EXISTED until I met my future husband). I had already learned French by spending a year in language school in Albertville, France. This time around was harder. I was now the mother to two children under the age of 3, and my brain just wasn’t the spry young thing it used to be. So, my husband and I decided to go live in a friend’s house in a Wolof village for 3 months, and concentrate on language learning in earnest. Smaller house = fewer chores, more time to concentrate on language learning. No electricity = fewer distractions. Surrounded by Wolof-speaking only people = no French to fall back on. And anything is doable for 3 months. (This is a life motto for me.)

But two young children can and WILL take up any “free time”. I was still having trouble doing any serious language study like I did during my pre-kid France days. That is when I came up with the 15 minute solution. I figured that, SURELY, out of 24 hours, I could carve out 15 minutes a day to study Wolof (since I had already given up electricity for this sole purpose!) 15 minutes a day X 7 days a week X 4 weeks X 3 months = 1260 minutes, or 21 hours. (I am SO much better at math than language learning, unfortunately for my poor Wolof friends). Real progress could be made in 21 hours of pure language learning. So that is what I did. And that is how I learned:

Ndank, ndank mooy jaap golo ci ñaay.

Slowly, slowly, to catch a monkey in the forest.

To be honest, I never really caught that Wolof monkey in the forest by the tail, but I did learn how to greet my friends, express my basic needs, and understand (most) of what they were trying to say to me. And anytime I made a mistake with their language, or committed a faux pas, I was quick to apologize with this beautiful and very useful proverb – ndank, ndank mooy jaap golo ci ñaay. (I became VERY adept at this phrase!)

Just like our hare and tortoise tale, slow and steady wins the race. I remind myself that daily progress, no matter how slow, is better than NO progress. As exciting as it is to have a big, life changing transformation, it is the slow, steady transformations that last the longest.

One last thought: if I cannot or will not dedicate 15 minutes daily to whatever my current goal is, it is really not a goal. It is better to be honest with myself and say I’m NOT working on that area right now, than to constantly make excuses for why I’m not making progress at all. #dietfailures, #exercisefailures, #declutteringsuccess.

Have you ever accomplished a big goal 15 minutes at a time?

One Reply to “15 Minutes, Ndank Ndank”

  1. Ha-ha!! I never realized you were over there chasing monkeys! 15 min/day is a great rule for most anything; or 15 min. spurts to get the kids to clean their rooms…Spring cleaning chores… folding clothes… yard work… I figure I can do anything if it only takes 15 minutes! 🙂

Leave a Reply