I’m taking a lil blog hiatus for exams but I’ll be back soon, promise! 😊
If you’re a language geek or an aspiring polyglot, then you’ve probably been there. You want to become fluent in more languages, but you barely make it past the first chapter of your textbook before your eye starts to wander and you find yourself dabbling in the Korean alphabet or Russian introductory phrases, while your original target language falls to the wayside, and you eventually give up on it. Before you know it, you have basic competency in dozens of languages, but actual fluency in few. Frustrating!
There’s nothing wrong with language dabbling if you enjoy it- but putting lots of time and effort into one target language can produce fantastic results. Here are the four main things that help me stay focused!
Put your textbooks down every so often and take a minute to picture where you would like your language skills to be in six months. Then do the same for a year’s time. Then five years. Make the pictures as specific as you want- they could depict your next holiday to Spain where you can actually converse with the locals this time, or singing along to the newest K-Pop tracks and understanding all the lyrics.
For example, I recently set myself a challenge to learn as much Russian as possible before my trip to Moscow, and visualising myself being able to chat with Muscovites while I’m there really keeps me motivated! Remember these images whenever you get itchy feet- envisioning future progress will remind you why you started learning that language, making you less likely to give up and start a new one. If you stick with your target language, your goals will soon become reality. (Promise!).
This is definitely the one I am most guilty of! I could spend all day reading about the best methods for language learning and watching videos of polyglots showing off their skills, but then 9pm rolls around, and I realise I haven’t spent any time studying my target language. Oops! I feel lots of linguists will resonate with this, and if you’re passionate about something it can be hard to stop reading about doing it and actually start doing it.
Setting measurable goals each month can help you leave procrastination station (as I did here for May), as you can regularly evaluate how far you are from reaching your targets. Another tip is to allocate a specific amount time each day for actual language studying, and after that you can read about linguistic stuff as much you want guilt-free. My blog doesn’t count of course, you can spend all day reading that if you want. Cause my blog is great.
Have you ever started reading a book you’ve wanted to read for ages, but you just can’t get into it, even after a few chapters? You feel an obligation to finish it, but before you know it you’ve lost your love for reading, as you don’t want to admit defeat and start a new book. Sound familiar? The same applies to language learning- if you no longer have that burning desire to become fluent in your target language, you won’t spend much time studying it. Don’t force yourself to study a language you don’t love anymore- just cut your losses and pick your next language project more wisely!
Self-studying a language can be more difficult than taking classes- as you have no teachers, tests or homework, there’s nothing to hold you accountable if you start slacking. It is nice to not have any pressure, but you can always create some self-accountability if you need a lil kick up the bum to keep yourself on track.
Planning a trip to the country where your target language is spoken is ideal for this, as it motivates you to become as fluent as you can before that specific date. Vacations aren’t always practical though of course, and an easier incentive you can create is to make friends who are native speakers of your target language- you’ll no doubt want to impress them with your skills, so will spend more time honing them!
Do you suffer any symptoms of a language dabbler? Or have you already contracted a serious case of linguistic non-commitment? Let me know in the comments, and leave any tips you think fellow linguists could benefit from!
Also I just made a Twitter account! I need more people to follow with similar interests, so give me a lil tweet!
I just found out about this #ClearTheList project and I’m so excited to join! I think the language learning blogging community is relatively small compared to other niches, so I think this is a great way to connect with similar people and keep each other motivated.
If you aren’t sure what #ClearTheList is, it’s a goal-setting community founded by Lindsay Does Languages which links language learners up with each other through monthly update posts and allows linguists to find one another in this massive world of blogging. Check out her post here to get involved!
So, the next couple of months will be fairly slow-going for me in terms of language learning, as exam season is right around the corner, but once summer rolls around I can fully throw myself into textbooks and podcasts and foreign language films to speed up my progress.
And yes, I am hugging my German dictionary in the header photo. Because I love dictionaries.
I’m currently doing A-Level German at school, so most of my German studying is exam based right now, but I did find time for more fun activities to maintain my skills, which currently sit around intermediate level.
I finally dusted off some German novels, which had admittedly been sitting on my bookshelf since I went to Hamburg last year- I have some really nice foreign language books, but they always seem to become part of the scenery in my bedroom unless I force myself to pick them up!
Last month I started two of the easier German novels I own to ease myself back into reading again- Charlie und die Schokoladenfabrik by Roald Dahl and Frühstück bei Tiffany by Truman Capote.
I am currently on pages 44 and 13 respectively and these books are genuinely pleasurable to read, so it doesn’t feel like studying. In terms of difficulty, Charlie is considerably below my language level, which seems counter-productive, but actually means I reach for it more as it is guaranteed smooth reading. Frühstück is slightly more advanced but I can still manage it without a dictionary, which is a plus.
Looking at my bookshelf from where I’m sitting, I’m realising that most of my German novels are actually translations of French or English books! I want to rectify that, so from now on I will make a concerted effort to read more novels that are actually German. Any recommendations?
I’ve also been training my listening skills, mostly using the ‘Cari Antwortet’ videos on the ‘Easy Languages’ YouTube channel. These videos have no subtitles so are useful for more advanced German learners, and discuss interesting topics that are relevant in Germany at the moment. This is the most recent one, in case you’re interested:
I’m actually doing weekly posts on my blog updating my progress in Russian, as I have created a specific challenge for myself to keep motivated! I explain it all here, and this is my Week 1 Update if you want more detail!
As I only started learning Russian a couple of weeks ago I don’t have month’s worth of progress to update, but I’ve made a good start. I have completed the first four chapters of the New Penguin: Russian Course textbook, and I have nailed the Cyrillic alphabet through lots of practice of reading and writing words.
I have also been using Duolingo (add me if you have it!) and creating vocabulary lists of super basic phrases. I am so in love with the Russian language, I can’t wait til the summer so I can immerse myself completely!
My goals this month will have to be modest, as May and June are officially Stressful Exam Months. Booooo.
- Read more of Charlie und die Schokoladenfabrik and Frühstück bei Tiffany, even if it’s only a chapter
- Stay up-to-date with the Easy German YouTube videos
- Keep adding new vocab to Quizlet flashcard decks and revise them regularly
- Complete the next two chapters of the New Penguin: Russian Course textbook
- Review all the vocab I have written down so they are stored in my long-term memory
- Keep up a Duolingo streak (I can already predict failure for this one)
- I think making an iTalki account to find Russian speakers to practice with will have to wait til next month, but I’ll slap it on at the bottom here just in case I do find time. (Has anyone had good experiences with iTalki?)
So, that’s my first #ClearTheList update! I’ll try and do one every month as I think it’ll help me take a step back and prioritise my goals. What did you think? Link me your #ClearTheList posts below (I’m super nosey about other people’s goals), or just leave a comment if you have a language learning blog, cause I think this community is so great!
Also I just made a Twitter account! I need more people to follow with similar interests, so give me a lil tweet!
So, it’s been one week since I started learning Russian as a part of my self-imposed language challenge, and so far it’s been going pretty well; at the moment I’m still fuelled by that first bout of motivation you get when you start something new and don’t want to spend your time doing anything else. I think I’ll still be okay once the going gets tough with cases and conditionals and consonant clusters though- I’ve wanted to learn Russian for so long that hopefully I’ll be able to get through it with enough hard work. (I’ll probably regret that statement in a few weeks!).
I’ve completed the first three chapters of The New Penguin Russian Course book, which covered the Cyrillic alphabet, tips for pronunciation and handwriting, and a fair bit of vocabulary. The alphabet wasn’t that tricky really- it just took time and practice- but it’s the pronunciation of Russian I’m pretty sure I’ll have the most trouble with, as I’m not great at getting my mouth around the harder words. And don’t get me started on this lil devil- ‘Ь’.
I know that the only way to improve your speaking skills is to speak, so I might set up an iTalki account soon and convince some (hopefully patient) Russian native speakers to listen to me butcher their beautiful native tongue. Has anyone tried iTalki? Is it any good?
I’ve combined that with the first few modules of Russian on Duolingo, which is a nice little way to refresh your skills when you’re short on time. Duolingo gets a lot of hate in the language learning community, but it is useful if you know how to use it effectively, and its gamified aspect appeals to my inner child and encourages me to keep my streaks up. I have been slacking with Duolingo in the last couple days though, I must admit.
(Also, add me on duolingo if you have it! I like thinking that I have friends)
So, that’s the end of my first week learning Russian. I know it’ll take me a looong time to get the basics down before I can start fun stuff like reading books, but there’s definitely a level of excitement that comes with starting something so fresh and new.
What do you think? Any advice to help me stay on track for August is greatly appreciated!
I just made a Twitter account! I need more people to follow with similar interests, so give me a lil tweet!
I finally started properly studying Russian a few days ago- I’m now following a textbook and dedicating a considerable amount of time to it, after months of insisting I’d ‘get round to it soon’. My ultimate aim is to, of course, be fluent in Russian, but I find it useful to break that ambition down into smaller, more tangible goals, so I know I’m making progress and I stay motivated to keep going.
I’m going on a short holiday to Moscow in mid-July, and I am aiming to have a good enough ability in Russian by then to get my five-person, monolingual family around the capital using as little English as possible.
So, what does success look like?
In an effort to solidify this aim into something more measurable, here’s what I’d actually like to achieve:
- To be able to read what’s on a menu, and order my food in Russian
- To be able to understand most signs and notices so we can get around the city
- To have basic spoken Russian sufficient for asking for help or buying tickets
- To be able to buy simple children’s books or magazines at the airport and understand them
How will I get there?
At the moment I’m mostly using Nicholas J Brown’s book ‘Russian Course: A Complete Course For Beginners’ and I have already completed the first few chapters. Although this book may not be the most colourful, I like that it’s not afraid to tackle the nitty-gritty grammar points, and it gives explanations in excellent comprehensive detail to the point where I almost feel I have a personal Russian tutor.
I’ll combine that with a bit of Duolingo every day, and I am currently looking for basic enough Russian audio material to use, so I don’t only progress in reading and writing. Any Russian learners with recommendations out there? In a week or so I will be in a more regular studying routine, so let me know if you are interested in a post detailing exactly the resources I use and how I divide my time between them each day!
So, what do you think? Am I being too ambitious? Have you ever tried anything like this yourself? I’ll make a post each week updating my progress with this challenge, so check back to see how I do!
Flashcards and memorisation can get a bit dull sometimes, so I always like it when I find something more entertaining. Das Erste is basically the German version of BBC iPlayer, and has tons of different TV shows and films, that you don’t need to be in Germany to watch!
There’s a huge range of content, so it’s not hard to find something you’re genuinely interested in. I’ve found it accelerates my learning massively, as I’ve picked up not only vocabulary, but more and more colloquial phrases to make my German sound a bit more natural than the recordings from my textbook. A useful tip is that if it’s short, watch it twice. First with subtitles to understand everything that’s going on, and then a second time without subtitles to listen, rather than read, and to feel the pronunciation and flow. Be sure to note down useful or interesting sentences, and try to work them into your writing or speaking soon after to commit them to your active vocabulary.
Don’t get demoralised if the language is a challenge to follow sometimes- remember, you’re consuming material designed for native speakers! If you find one programme particularly tricky, coming back to it in a few months time is a good way to gauge your progress.
Here are a few of my recommendations!
Lindenstraße: An entertaining German soap, pretty much like Eastenders if you’re in the UK. Yes it’s pretty cheesy, and not everyone is a soap fan, but it’s fun!
Papi, Papa, Kind- Gleiches Recht fur Homo-Ehen?: A moving and thought provoking documentary about the fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian couples in Germany.
Freiheit für die Frackträger: A look into the challenges of reintroducing recovered penguins back into the wild