When is a hobby not a hobby?
As a teacher, one of the first questions I ask new students is: “What is your hobby?”. This is a very common question in language lessons all over the world, and there is a reason for it being so widely used. Even though it’s a very short statement, it will usually lead to conversation in the class. This gives the student the chance to talk about something that is very important and personal to themselves.
I’ve been teaching English in Japan for over a decade, and I’ve heard some remarkable answers to that simple question. Underwater photography, hunting, women’s sumo, ice sculpture and ballroom dancing come to mind as hobbies that always led to an interesting discussion.
I’ve also witnessed long term friendships develop from answering this simple question. Two former students of mine from long ago found that they shared a similar hobby – and that shared hobby led to them getting married 4 years ago.
(I’ll add here that the answer I like to hear the most is: “Besides studying English, my hobby is…..)
At the same time though, there are answers that are a little confusing. Eating, watching TV and sleeping are some that surprise me. The word “hobby” means two things: first, a hobby is something you do in your free time. Secondly, and more importantly, a hobby is something that you try to learn more about, or get better at as time goes on.
If your hobby is eating, perhaps a better way to say it is: “My hobby is trying new recipes.”, unless of course you’re training for a hot-dog eating competition. If it’s watching TV, maybe you could say “My hobby is watching American crime dramas.” If your hobby is sleeping… I’m not sure what you could say.
But there’s another problem with the hobby question that’s been bothering me recently. I’ve been finding that I have less and less time to do some of the things that I consider to be hobbies.
I often tell my students that one of my hobbies is camping – the problem is that I haven’t had a chance to go camping in over a year. I consider building and modifying guitar effects to be a hobby, but it’s something I haven’t done in nearly three years. If I’m honest, there is a very long list of things that I include in my list of hobbies that I have not actually done in years. Recording music. Mountain climbing. Skiing. Film photography.
So here is my question for my students:
When should we stop calling something a hobby? What is the time limit? 6 months? Two years? How much time must pass before we delete a hobby from our list?