2010: a Language Odyssey

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January started another intensive language-learning year for me (well, as intensive as I can make it, given my workload). I've been quiet about it on the blog because I was logging everything on the How-to-learn-any-language-forum, however I now want to drastically cut down my time on that forum, which has sucked a lot of time and energy out of me. That is not to say that it isn't a good place to get inspiration for new ways of learning languages, or also to find fellow language learners who are going through the same process (go Team H!), but... anyway, I decided to log things here instead.

[Read on about how am I learning languages, what my goals are this year and what I achieved so far] January started another intensive language-learning year for me (well, as intensive as I can make it, given my workload). I've been quiet about it on the blog because I was logging everything on the How-to-learn-any-language-forum, however I now want to drastically cut down my time on that forum, which has sucked a lot of time and energy out of me. That is not to say that it isn't a good place to get inspiration for new ways of learning languages, or also to find fellow language learners who are going through the same process (go Team H!), but... anyway, I decided to log things here instead.

To give you an overview, in the first quarter of 2010 I did:
87 hours of Chinese
38 hours of French
19 hours of Swahili
16 hours of Modern Greek
2 hours of Italian

Actually I found that studying too many languages at the same time leaves little time for each language, which in turn means not just a longer time until fluency but also a greater rate of forgetting. So I am now declaring two "focus" languages for each quarter of the year and knowing that I have e. g. Arabic scheduled for later this year helps me ward off the urge to do something about Arabic right now (a technique I learned from this book). My focus languages are:
January to March: Chinese and French
April to June: French and Modern Greek
July to September: Italian and Arabic
October to December: Arabic and Swahili

This does not mean that I will do ONLY those two languages in the respective months - I'm also allowing some "maintenance" time, especially for Chinese, Greek and Swahili, because progress in Chinese is hard to come by and because I'm going through Assimil courses for Greek and Swahili, which require short study sessions over a long period of time. And of course I'm not going to forget English, Latin or Esperanto because I keep using or teaching it.

Actually I'm quite unhappy with scheduling French like this, because my passion for the language has died out and I have to force myself to work on it. However, I need to get better at it before my final university exam in French studies. I shall have to read a lot of French classics (subject of my oral exam), I have to improve my spoken French fluency (for the exam) and I probably have to improve my written French (for the thesis). It's not fun though, and in the first quarter of 2010 this has lead to a rather excessive focus on Chinese. Well, things could be worse.

So, to log my progress for weeks 16 and 17:

Chinese: 5 hours; now at 2557 known HSK words in Anki and I did some random reading, one or two classes... I'm also constantly reviewing the deck of 3000 characters that I learned last year and I'm trying to acquire 5000 Chinese sentences as illustrations of the HSK words and to improve my feel for the language, much like the AJATT method suggests. My goal for Chinese is to become able to read "A Dictionary
of MaQiao" in the original Chinese and to hold a 45-minute spoken conversation in Chinese
without switching to another language by the end of the year.

French: 1 1/2 hours; still reading "Le rouge et le noir". In the first quarter I managed to read one French classic a month, but this one is dragging on a lot. The story is not uninteresting, but my reading speed in French is very unsatisfying.

Greek: 10 hours and 7 new lessons, which means I'm now on Assimil lesson 64. My goal for Greek is to reach B2 level and gain the ability to read the book "Τα ταξίδια του Σώκρατη" by the end of the year. Apart from Assimil, I've also signed up for Myngle's "Full Immersion" package, meaning I'll have a half hour Greek lesson almost every day for one month. I'm really enjoying the lessons with Rania, she's an awesome teacher.

Swahili: 2 new lessons, now I'm on Assimil lesson 42, and I'm starting to understand random Swahili sentences e. g. in the Youtube comments. If you're familiar with Assimil, you'll know that everything so far is passive, while the active phase will start with lesson 50. I'm looking forward to this! My goal for Swahili is just to complete the Assimil course by the end of the year and I'm trying not to use any other materials until I have done so; it's an experiment in how far Assimil will really get you, especially for an exotic non-European language.

Esperanto: 5 1/2 hours Well, for Esperanto I'm not counting conversations, reading, watching movies or the like, but just the kind of activity that requires mental focus and that teaches me new words in Esperanto. Right now, this would be the translation of the subtitles for the old German movie "Die Feuerzangenbowle" (= the fire tong bowl). Every German has seen this movie (it sparked a tradition of getting drunk on fire tong bowl once a year while watching this) and since there's no official English translation, just a bad fansub, I believe it's safe to say that the movie is unknown outside of the German-speaking countries. I'm hoping to share this part of German culture with those who are interested in a cultural exchange by translating the subtitles to Esperanto and then making them available in the Verda Filmejo. I don't really have a goal for Esperanto this year except to keep enjoying it.

As part of that, I have created the Lingvoforumo, where we can discuss languages and language-learning in Esperanto. It is actually meant to be like HTLAL minus the Esperanto-bashing and of course giving people the chance to practice a language other than English (boring!) while talking about this interesting subject.

Well, that was a long update, the next ones will probably be shorter. Do you think my goals are realistic? Do you have a plan to study languages yourself? If so, what languages are you studying and what is your goal with them?

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