The conversation with my wife went something like this:
“What are you doing?”
“Teaching myself Spanish.”
I don’t think that she was surprised that I wanted to learn Spanish; we’re both very committed to the idea that learning more than one language is important. It was that I was committing to learning another thing. After all, I’m already studying for the psychology licensing exam (a task I’ve put off for years) and participating in a host of professional growth activities as a school psychologist and administrator.
Her question made me wonder, “Could I be learning too much?”
For a child, it seems an odd question as we expose children and adolescents to a myriad of topics, some disconnected, all at once as they progress through school. Yet, as adults, we frequently limit our learning to a few topics or even just one.
A simple answer would be time. Working and raising children limits of availability for picking up new skills and acquiring new knowledge. On the other hand, neuroscience has shown that there doesn’t seem to be an upward limit for how much we can learn, but attention is a significant factor. In fact, the adult brain is much more plastic than we previously gave it credit and learning new information can change how our brain works.
There are, of course, limits. Sometimes it helps to learn certain skills at an earlier age, such as new phonemes for a foreign language. And, previously learned knowledge or behaviors can be difficult to unlearn or learn differently – just ask anyone who has learned a phobia of something. Stagnation of learning, though, in any form, just isn’t good brain health.
So, yes, I’m studying Spanish and a host of other things all at the same time. It’s helping my brain grown and helping me grow.