Lesson #154: ‘Courage to go forth into its expanse’: Finding The Purpose And Perseverance You Need To Keep Studying English

A new year, and new beginnings! 🌼

This small snowdrop in our front garden reminds me of British novelist Charlotte Bronte, who was described by her neighbours as looking ‘just like a snowdrop’ on the day she got married.

It brings to mind a passage in Jane Eyre (1847) – very suitable for the beginning of a new year – in which Charlotte Bronte describes the wedding of her beloved teacher, and then the new resolutions Jane makes concerning her own future.

📘 ‘From the day she left I was no longer the same: with her was gone every settled feeling, every association that had made Lowood in some degree a home to me. …

It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but rather as if a motive were gone: it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed me, but the reason for tranquillity was no more. My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been of its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.’

– Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (1847)

Perhaps you have been studying English for months or years. Perhaps you tire of the repetitive exercises or memorising grammatical rules. Perhaps your ‘motivation tank’ sometimes runs empty. 

Don’t be discouraged! 

Take the new month, the new year, as an opportunity to refresh your language learning journey

Try to approach your English language studies with a new perspective. 

Is there anything that excites you personally? For example, any work of English literature that you would like to read, but always felt it would be too advanced for you?

This could be the time for you to take courage and try to read it with the help of an audiobook or a nice physical copy. Like Jane Eyre in the quoted passage, if you are imaginative and eager for more, you will surely observe striking new vistas – fascinating aspects of the language to enjoy! 

👉 I once heard someone describe ‘success’ as ’embodied in a person’s attitude, not in an event’. This also applies to learning English – you will never experience an event in which you suddenly know English very well! Ultimately success is a journey, and even more than that, a kind of character development. In the text above, we see how Jane Eyre undergoes this transformation because she is willing to ‘seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.’ 📘

Remember, the little snowdrop in the photograph has faced frost, snow, and windy weather, and yet is blooming in its quiet way. Language learning is never easy, but if you have a vision for why you are studying it, together with a child-like sense of wonder and excitement, you too will flourish in advancing your English skills.

Here’s to your success in 2021! ✨

by J. E. Gibbons

English language tutor and researcher at 'Learn English Through Literature' (2024)