- F: While I was on holiday, I was thinking ... I'd like to take a fresh look at my training sessions.
- E: Oh, right - you were working when you were on holiday?
- F: Yeah ... it depends what you mean by learning. What about you? Didn't you learn anything?
- E: No way! I went sailing, I relaxed ... I didn't give work a thought! I had some sailing lessons, with friends from the sailing school.
- F: School? You're telling me you went to school in the holidays?
- E: No, it's not the same - it's fun.
- F: Fun, OK, but I've got the feeling that you learned a lot of things, if you were sailing?
- E: Yes, sure ... but fun isn't the same as work.
- F: OK, you can't go sailing in the office ... Anyway - what about your sailing coach, do you think it was fun for him?
- E: Yeah, right ... fair enough, it was a student who was doing it to make a bit of money, but ... all the same, for him, right …
- F: ... for him it was work! Don't you think so? Fun ... work ... it's not all that easy to see the difference ... especially if you think about training.
- E: yes, maybe ... but you're making it all a bit complicated.
- F: OK, we'll come back to that a bit later on, if you like. But right now, I'd like you to tell me a bit about sailing. Did you know how to do it before the holidays?
- E: No, I didn't know anything about it - you see, I would never have thought you could start at any age ...
- F: Oh, right? It's interesting that you think you can start at any age?
- E: I don't know about any age, but you see, there we were with these young people, and we could follow it just as well as they did ... I tell you what, compared to some, it wasn't me, the least fit!
- F: So learning to sail doesn't depend on age so much as on fitness? That's not so easy to measure ... Anyway, so what you're saying is that age is not just a matter of years ... at least not when you're talking about training? But tell me, how does it work? You went there, you got into a boat & off you went, just like that, without anyone telling you anything beforehand?
- E: Well, not just like that ...
- F: Ah, right, that's a relief, you got a few lessons first, so they could teach you the basics of navigation, just a little bit of theory: about the tides, how to read marine charts. wind strength ...
- E: No, it wasn't like that at all! The instructor was with us on the water, he just showed us two or three things when we were on board, so that we could feel where the wind was coming from - that's really important, feeling the wind - then after that ... we managed to steer wth the wind, and then that was it ...
- F: So you worked on board, so that you could calculate the wind force on the sails?
- E: We didn't calculate anything at all! We learned to feel the direction of the wind on our bodies, and then we had to steer the boat with the wind, but that's what you do when you're sailing
- F: So there's nothing to learn, you just do it?
- E: Yea .. and then when you've got into the way of it, when you feel how the boat reacts, you suddenly realise that with the wind blowing in the sails you also have to allow for the currents and the tides, which also affect your speed ... but that's not all you have to know, the difficult part is feeling these things and then adjusting what you're doing to allow for loads of other things ... like the weight on the boat, the risk of rocks ...
- F: But tell me, for someone who hasn't learned anything, what you've been doing seems pretty difficult?
- E: No, you've got to like doing it
- F: Hah! Not just that!
- E: Yes ... it's true that when you're actually doing it, you suddenly understand much better what it is you have to do to steer on the water
- F: So it's by doing it that you learn?
- E: Yes,to start with, and then after that you still need to grasp the ideas, like the strength of the wind
- F: OK, so how did you do that? Did you just invent it? You didn't think you were Archimedes, did you?
- E: No, but the instructor explained it after we'd been sailing, just before we put the boats away. That way it was still fresh in our minds, what had happened on the water. And then on the days when there wasn't any wind, he could take a bit longer to teach us a bit more. I've got to say that I always thought I was useless at maths and all that stuff, but when the instructor told us why we'd capsized, or how we could pick up speed when we were sailing in a regatta, that was really interesting.
- F: So if I've got this right, you spent your holidays doing physics!
- E: No, I was sailing! But it's true that I understood a lot of things that they must have told me a hundred times at school, but I never took them in because I couldn't see the point.
- F: So if we turn your sailing lessons into a working situation, since you maintain that in the learning for fun and for work is different (which we'll come back to later) we can see quite a few things. You tell me if you agree:
1/ - if you're going to learn something new, you have to be interested in it: you learned to sail because it interested you, and even though you're not twenty any more, you can still learn
- E: Yes, I agree.
2/ - You can learn theory and practice at the same time. You didn't study the theory first, and then learn the practical side: you did them both at the same time, and it was what you were feeling that the instructor made you think about.
- E: Yes, but there, the theory really helped us in the practical stuff, the two were mixed in together...
Then couldn't we say, like Bertrand Schwartz, that training in leisure situations, just as in a working situation, always needs you to:
"Transform what you do into experience; experience into expertise; expertise into knowledge: that is the complete chain, which becomes autonomous".
Anne-Lise ULMANN is a lecturer at CNAM and EPALE expert.