Again, it’s been a while since I last posted! As you might guess, it’s truly been a crazy term for me at university. For starters, I wrote and rehearsed two musical compositions. And as the term progressed, it’s only gotten worse: at the time of writing (this sentence) it is the end of term, where piles of work come to a climax. Ironically, slowly through the months, I’ve cooked up this post about running out of time – for everything in general, but particularly for language learning.
In my last post, I suggested ways for me and you to juxtapose time for learning two languages at the same time. Unfortunately, when the free time you have isn’t much to begin with, splitting it up just leaves you with hardly anything left. In other words, I’ve put Kazakh aside. Despite this, my German has been improving by leaps and bounds, as well as my Polish, without needing hours and hours of intensive study. How did I squeeze the time to manage that?
It’s all about choosing the less intensive but consistent activities to keep, making use of ‘dead time’ (that goes to waste anyway) and putting the time-consuming ones on hold.
It’s been a while since I wrote something about my own language learning hobby, rather than my more educationally minded column. And fairly recently (around a week ago), I made a decision that might sound like a big deal or a dumb idea to many, but a small change in direction to me.
I started ‘dabbling’ in Kazakh.
That doesn’t mean much to my daily life, to be honest. Since I’ve pretty much been feeling on holiday for a year, I’ve long had a ‘main’ language I’m working on, then some others I ‘toy’ with. Before this, I was maintaining a 50-day streak in Hebrew on Duolingo. I also listened to 5 days of Glossika GSR in Lithuanian, just because I’d bought the package during a sale. In short? My other toys are going bye-bye for now.
Before I talk about ‘dabbling’, let me reveal my reasons for trying out this language, and you’ll easily see the fun of dabbling in any language. Beware: all my reasons for learning any language are incredibly specific to myself.
I can’t believe it’s been eight whole months since I took my TISUS test, switched Swedish from “learn” to “improve” mode and picked up the language I’d been intended to try out for a year – Polish. (In fact, my Polish Glossika package had been lying around in my hard drive for quite a long time.) Fast forward to two months ago, I was attempting to test out my Polish skills for the first time with the surprisingly numerous Polish participants at the Polyglot Gathering. And around a month ago, I stepped foot on Polish soil again, spending entire evenings with friends I made in Berlin. Did it work? Yes and no. I think it’s about time I reflected on what I’ve done so far, how far I’ve gone, what I’ve done right or wrong and how I’ll go forward.
A difficult language
I have a confession to make. Why did I start learning Polish? When people ask me this, I usually bullshit things like Chopin. But the real motivation I had was to take on the “most difficult language of the world”. But what makes a language difficult?
Well I was preparing to begin writing in my new section on Chinese, but an important incident changed my mind: I’ve just completed the entire Glossika GMS course in Polish, all 3000 of the sentences! So, in addition to sharing my sense of achievement and joy on my blog, I’ve decided to also write a brief review on what I thought about and what I got out of this course, seeing as it isn’t one of the most well-known method out there, and there aren’t that many reviews from people having completed it either. So let’s delve in – and allow me to start by introducing the method, in case you haven’t heard of it.
What is Glossika?
Even though you can get a comprehensive introduction to the product on their site, I’ll briefly summarise it from what I know. Glossika, founded by the amazing polyglot and linguist (read more if you don’t know the difference) Michael Campbell, is based on input – a lot of it. The basic idea is to drill a set of 3000 sentences into your mind, in 3 ‘fluency levels’ from simple to complex, each containing 1000 sentences, and the brain will gradually figure out the language.
I said it’s the ‘basic’ idea because the method does not demand you to follow any strict pathway. On the contrary, it’s probably among the most flexible learning materials out there! When you buy it, you get a ton of files. First is a PDF for each level, complete with translation, romanisation (etc, depending on the language), phonetic transcription (more on that later), a complete index and some additional professional advice. These sentences form the basis of the entire course. I got the English to Polish package, so each sentence comes with the English version, the Polish translation, simplified spelling (to ease certain learners into the scary-looking Polish spelling, I suppose) and IPA, as in the sample below.
Sample sentence from Glossika English-Polish, Fluency 3.
Having stepped into independent language studies for a while now, I’m starting to rethink this question. Nowadays with the rise of the online polyglot community, click into any language learning blog and they’ll tell you to turn your back on ‘traditional’ learning methods and learn by speaking, a lot. This sets up some sort of dichohtomy and tells you that if you failed using ‘traditional’ methods, then you gotta go the other way and speak. Probably because language studies in school worked perfectly for me (I gotta say, I still cannot comprehend how bad it could be in foreign school systems, even after reading so much about it), I never felt strongly about this dichotomy nor a necessity to choose. As a relatively introverted person, I even feel naturally a bit inclined against the latter: socalising and interacting people drains my energy. That led me to contemplate on the issue: how does speaking to people help me, particularly in an early stage? They say speaking is one of the basic skills in a language, but I always like to break things down even further.
Hot off the heels of my successful finishing of my Swedish exam (i.e. sitting it…again we’ll get the results later), I’ve decided to do a brief summary of the Swedish learning resources I (honestly) liked the most in the 3 months I’ve learnt it. Each person has their own method of learning and hence preferred resources and materials, but if you happen to be a learner like me, or you just need a good list to get started learning Swedish, varsågoda! By the way, you’ll soon realise that I’m a big fan of electronic means of learning!
Colloquial Swedish: although I’d done some vocab (and other stuff that I don’t remember) beforehand, my Swedish studies didn’t really take off until August, when I found more time to go through this book quickly. (Thanks to writing this post, I now have a sure response when people ask how long I’ve learnt Swedish – fluent in 3 months! I kept saying “several” or “4 or 5” months before.) I don’t like to dwell on this kind of textbook too long, especially the exercises, because I’d rather move on to ‘authentic’ materials as soon as possible, just like Steve Kaufmann. But this gave me a solid foundation to build up on, and particularly helped me find out similarities and differences to German.Continue reading
Hej everyone!!! I’m so sorry I’ve been off the blog for almost an entire month. In my sprint challenge announcement post, I pledged to write at least one article in Swedish every week. And guess what? I failed miserably: not only did I not write more than one Swedish article, but I also didn’t write anything else either. It was the stress of the looming test date/deadline telling me to focus on maximising my vocabulary and boosting my fluency, and ultimately I just let my inner sloth take over and convince my rational self that I didn’t have the time to write that much. In fact I didn’t manage to write one single essay before my test, which might have been bad – who knows?
Jag lovade mig själv att skriva något på svenska åtminstone en gång i veckan, så jag tänker börja med ett av de teman jag är mest bekant med!
Enligt mina upplevelser består ens kunskap om ett språk av flera viktiga men osjälvständiga delar, som var för sig måste jobbas på. Jag tror att den del som avgörens övergripande förmåga är ordförråd. Men ingen tycker om ordlistor, så de gör jag inte längre (fastän jag hade framgång med dem på engelska). Istället väljer jag att lära mig ord genom att se dem flera gånger. Efter att jag läst och slagit upp ett nytt ord så skjuterjag undan det och lägger märke till det endast när jag ser eller hör det igen. Om jag glömt betydelsen så upprepar jag samma steg.Continue reading
At the time of writing, I’ve been in Sweden for around a month and a half. I’ve sure been having a good time, hanging out with friends from all over the world. But what’s been happening language-wise? On surface, not much. I mean I’ve made some Swedish friends, in addition to local students on the same corridor, but they aren’t really someone I say ‘hej’ regularly to. And of course, all the rumours about swedes being ‘too’ proficient in English or difficult to befriend kick in (I mean they aren’t really rumours – just facts), leaving me in this terrible fear of talking to people and trying to make friends.
So so far what I’ve been doing is studying quite intensively: listening and reading on LingQ, going through a quite academic book while copying vocabulary – like the good old days in school – and talking to myself, in hopes of reaching that ‘critical point’ where I can understand what’s said to me and speak something that at least makes sense. I have a feeling that deep under, I’m improving by leaps and bounds, but it just doesn’t come out. I feel defeated whenever I have to ask ‘vad sa du?”, my tongue ties or I receive a reply in English. (From an immigrant!) I decided I have to change this: I have to make a shift from input to output. And I’m giving myself a challenge to do this.
After documenting around a week of my journey – granted, at a terrible pace – I’d like to take a short break from travel blogging. Instead, I’ll write my first blog post on language learning here! Fact is, I’ve been taking some time to settle in Lund, Sweden, after 1.5 months of non-stop travelling. Now that I’m not gonna be back in Germany again any time soon, it’s time to reflect what I’ve gained linguistically – and I still can’t believe how much my German has improved compared to two month ago, especially in the spoken aspect. Therefore I decided it’s time I jotted down a few thoughts on what I did right over this period to kick my skills up a notch, and hopefully help you gain some insights too.