I can’t believe it’s been one month! The time really zoomed by. For a three-month challenge like this, I find it appropriate to give monthly updates, so here I am. Spoiler warning: the progress isn’t exactly ideal.
I’m a music student, and this month was a month full of my friends’ graduation concerts, which, for me, entailed rehearsals and concerts every day and evening. I also had to finish a musical composition within the past month. It was really hard, but I’m not going to let this become an excuse to slack off. So as I so happened to have written before, despite my plans for intensive study, I reduced my learning activities, but made sure they were consistent. It’s more important to do something every single day than do a lot on one day.
So here’s a quick run-through of my project progress!
Aaaaand so, I’m back. From the craziness of university. But more craziness is coming on.
I never liked these ‘three months’ challenges, especially how overused this particular length is. But it just happens so that I’m going to Italy, for the second time in my life, in (a bit less than) three months.
The Italian language was always on my radar: after all, it’s the one language that’s most closely associated with music. I read Italian words on a daily basis in my musical scores – which is why I often joke that I have a wide (if highly specialised) vocabulary base for someone who doesn’t speak the language at all.
And around a month ago, I was notified that I was accepted at an international festival for composers near Milan, and immediately decided this was an unmissable opportunity for the polyglot side of me as well. After all, I’ll be there for two weeks, unlike my last trip, which was shorter and more touristic. So off I go!
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?
The minute this post hits the interwebs, I should be landing on good ol’ Asian ground, ready to drag my limp body along in the devastating heat through the streets of Hong Kong, my homeland. My exchange year is officially over; I am back. The word ‘back’ starts to sound funny – I’ve spent exactly 359 days away from Hong Kong, almost a full cycle on the calendar, and mildly surprisingly, I have – my subconscious, probably, has – begun to call another place ‘home’. When I say ‘I’m back’, I feel like I’m once again arriving at the busy Lund Central and Clemenstorget from a short flight, with either piercing or refreshing wind hitting my face, not the pressing humid air. For better or worse, no, I never felt truly home sick once. Been there done that; I’m way over it. There’s just too much to see, too much to do.
But there’s the problem. However long a year, or just a term may sound to you, it feels ridiculously short in retrospect. Depending on how much you fell for your new home, a lifetime might not even suffice. A lot of us try to do too much at once, cramming all the plans of our dreams into the calendar; which is completely understandable, but that way, we tend to miss certain things that we never realise we should have done until it’s too late. Throughout my year, I’ve been very open to shaking up my routine and lifestyle, so overall I’m pretty satisfied with what I’ve done; yet still, there are so many things I wish I could have done earlier. So, contrary to my usual style and theme, here are 10 things I suggest you consider doing if you’re going on an exchange:
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.