Being Autodidactic: Teaching Yourself Anything

Chalkboard

When people choose to learn something, the first thing that they ask is, ‘Which course should I do?’ Companies such as Rosetta Stone (an expensive, ineffective language learning program) have profited from this attitude because people are often of the mindset that ‘you get what you pay for.’ When buying something physical, you often do get what you pay for. For example, if you pay more money for a bicycle, you will generally (there are many exceptions) get a nicer, better functioning bicycle than if you bought the bike on offer at Halfords. With education, this is not the case.

A few weeks ago, I received a very lovely email from a girl who talked about being an autodidact and told me that she had read my manifesto. Despite never hearing the word, I was almost sure of what an autodidact was and upon further investigation, I found that an autodidact is as I thought, a self-taught person. I considered myself autodidactic, I just didn’t have a name for it. Now I do (thank-you). I like to teach myself things. I like to learn from others who do not charge me lots of money to take part in their courses.

Teaching Korean kids who want to learn
Korean kids who want to learn

Education is dependent not upon how much you pay, but how much effort you put in. Paying huge amounts of money cannot guarantee you success. When learning languages, many people spend lots of time choosing which course they should do, whereas that time could be better spent learning the language itself. If you are interested in learning a language, I highly recommend taking a look at Benny’s site, fluent in three months. It is a great resource for language learning and teaches you some great ways to learn language quickly with one requirement; you have to put the time in. You cannot magically install knew knowledge into your head, such as they do in The Matrix, where programmes are simply uploaded. I am just finishing a short contract in which I teach English to Turkish kids. These are the worst kids I have ever taught, but that’s a story for another day. Some of them spend fifteen hours a week learning English, yet they know nothing because they do not want to learn. I have taught for only one day but I already see that some of these children understand me only by my facial expressions and the tone of my voice. I studied French for several years at school but my French is shocking because at the time, I did not want to learn.

There are many things I do not know about the world, that I would like to know about. I do not have the time or the money to do lots of expensive courses. Instead, I have decided to try and teach myself. Everything I know about making websites, videos, and photos is a combination of self-tuition and trial and error. Across the web, I acquired huge amounts of useful information. When you filter through the rubbish, the world is now an incredible place in which we can learn. I have also started reading some new books that will help to better educate me about certain issues. Right now on my e-reader, I am partway through The Bible as well as books about storytelling, film production, emergency first aid, wilderness survival, and bicycle maintenance. I also have a physical version of the Koran that I am reading.

These books are all relevant  The Bible and Koran give me a greater awareness of the world. Despite being against organised religion, I feel that it is better to understand it than to not. Yesterday, two girls in my class refused to be taught English by me because I am not a Muslim. Eventually they relented. Many others were outraged by my admission and told me that I would go to hell. I want to understand why they think like this. Does the book teach them this or have they learnt to shun others because of the teaching of individuals who have misinterpreted the words? Thus far, I have found the Koran peaceful and pleasant; I can’t see where it is that I got these hostile reactions from. The other books I am reading are relevant to what I want to do next. I need survival skills, I need bike knowledge, and I’d like to be able to tell the story using video as well as words.

By studying so many different things at once, I can pick them up and put them down when I feel like it. I read a couple of hours every day and each day I am learning many new things.

If you have a desire to learn something, don’t put it off. Don’t pay lots of money for a course that will magically help you. Go today and teach yourself. If you want to learn, you will. The information is waiting for you.

7 Comments

  • when ever i went to school i was being forced to learn. i couldnt keep up with the pace of my studies i was always failing and i thought to myself i only had a limited future . years later graduating highschool and trying my hand on college i had to drop out and i failed the course of course scraping in a few credits. so i waited and months went by.. i made a commitment to myself that anything is capable of being learned. i started reading everyday slowly i built my confidence in the subject i struggled in math. i started from the beginning like 1 +1 beginning and it slowly built up. i gained my confidence back through self education. right now i am a physics and mechanical engineering major in my last year. freedom of learning has saved my future….:)

    • That’s wonderful to hear such a success story of self learning. Like you, much of my most valuable knowledge came after school. Sadly, schools don’t always encourage us to learn by ourselves and they only work for certain people. “I made a commitment to myself that anything is capable of being learned.” So very true – this attitude will take you far in life.

  • Great post. From the perspective of a software instructor (who is an autodidact), I often try to think about what motivates my students to listen to me teach them a topic, instead of figuring things out on their own. I think one of the reasons, perhaps more applicable to adult learners, is that a good training session can help students “filter out” excessive or loosely-related information about a topic that they would need to sift through on their own if they were researching it online, because a major part of the learning process is establishing both what a concept “is” and “isn’t”, as a way to differentiate it from other concepts and understand its inner workings. An instructor can act as an accelerator in this process.

    • I very much agree with this Phillip. I also think that another part of it is that ‘we are taught how to learn.’ What I mean by this is that we have conventional learning methods and they all require a teacher. As the world changes, more people learn independently and often these people can end up as the greatest achievers. I studied Mathematics at university to a Masters level, but everything I have been learning recently has been completely unrelated and learnt in the autodidactic way. I think a desire to learn can also result in a better outcome because you want to learn and know that the learning is completely dependent upon your commitment to it. There are certain times however, when a little nudge by an instructor would make things so much easier.

  • Good for you for being so motivated to dive into learning so many things! I strive to be more autodidactic, it’s just the whole time thing… It’s amazing what you can learn for free on the internet!

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