Friday, 28 March 2014

Week One - Resources

Week One of my new 'official' project is coming to a close, if you don't count the weekend (hopefully this weekend I can focus a little on my main blog!).

What have I done so far? Not a lot, really. As I've said in the previous post, this week has been a little unstructured. I've been trying to figure out what methods to use, what will work best.. When will I work on each language, and how, and for how long? All these little questions were in my head this week. Sadly, I've not figured out a schedule yet. I'm not a big fan of schedules..

Here's what I have done:

In Spanish, I finished Mi Vida Loca, a really fun interactive program. It's not really a game, but it feels a bit like one. You become the main character of a mini series. If you are learning Spanish, I truly recommend it. Even if your Spanish is already quite good, it's worth it just for the entertaining aspect. I turned off the English subtitles and turned on the Spanish when I watched the episodes to have a little extra practice. I finished the last episode today, and took the test. You can get a certificate, too! Unfortunately, I clicked the wrong button at the end, so I'll have to redo the test at some point to get my certificate..
I have also been using Busuu, but it doesn't seem to help me speak more. I always get good 'marks' on the reviews, but the vocabulary is staying passive. My premium trial ran out, and there are more limits to how I can use the site now, so that's also annoying.

In Finnish, I listened to all the 'Finnish in three minutes' podcasts on YouTube. I'm not sure if there will be new ones added, but they were useful, and great for short attention spans. ;) I'll have to review them to make sure I commit the phrases to long-term memory, but already I can say 'my name is/ I am/ do you speak English?' amongst other things, so I'm not too unhappy about my progress! I also use Finnishpod101 for other phrases, and flashcards, but from what I've seen so far, it can be limited if you don't have a premium account. I started a Memrise course, but only did a few minutes, so I don't know how effective it will be. I use Memrise for Arabic, and it's given me lots of vocabulary, but sentences are fewer. (Of course, there are many courses I haven't tried. In the course I do, there are some sentences, just not very useful ones for a beginner).

In Arabic, I've been very bad and haven't done much.. :( I went back to Memrise and have over 200 items to 'water', and I couldn't face it. Unfortunately, it really is important to do a little, often, or things get forgotten. I still remember some words, so some Arabic is in my long-term memory. I was using Busuu for Arabic before, but the way the system works was very unhelpful, with everything in Arabic. For a newbie, that was tough, because it would take me quite a while to read a sentence, let alone paragraphs! I have trouble reading Arabic if the text is not large enough. I also don't want to focus on reading, as I feel it's much more important to work on the speaking and listening skills first. Having to decipher sentences becomes a distraction.

Another thing I've done is start a notebook for all three languages. So far, I've written down transcriptions of podcasts, and a few words from the 'core 100' list I found on the languagepod101 site for each language. I also am using a moleskine sketchbook to write down things in each language that I hear, remember, or see.
I hope to figure out a proper method and have some kind of structure by the end of next week, but we shall see how things go..


Are you learning languages? What methods do you use, and do you have a favourite program you use? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below! Thank you for reading.

The Beginning

Welcome to my new blog! Some of you may already have read my posts on my main blog, The Tiger's Sterne, where I blog about literature, art and poetry. This will be my secondary blog specifically about my language learning.

I have mentioned my language learning in passing before, but recently decided to talk about it in detail. It has been suggested by many people on other language blogs that writing about the learning process can actually help you to learn, so, here I go!

I may have been learning on and off for a while now (in a mix of languages), but for the purpose of this new 'project', I've decided to call this the beginning. This is where my language learning gets serious. What I learnt in the past will be useful, of course, but it had no real structure, and though it felt like a long time overall, the actual learning time was probably minimal. This can be Week One.

Week One has been more like an 'intro' week - trying to figure out what methods I will use, how and when I will be practicing, etc. I have taken on three languages: Spanish, Arabic, and Finnish. My main language is Spanish, partly because I know I can learn it faster, and partly because it is the language I've always wanted to learn, and the one I identify with the most. It is also the one in which I have the most passive vocabulary, that is to say, vocabulary I can read and hear, and understand, but somehow hasn't become part of the vocabulary I can use at will. I want to change that, and make it into active vocabulary.
I suppose it is an advantage, but it also feels like a problem - because I understand a lot, I can get a little bored when doing lessons (podcasts, for example), but also frustrated when I know exactly what is being asked, but I'm not quite sure how to formulate my response. During the next few weeks I will be working on my speaking and writing to try and level it with my reading and listening skills.

My second language is Arabic. I started learning it last May, first doing a little every day using Memrise, then letting days pass without any practice, and then I was stopping and starting for a while. It is one of my weaknesses, and I know it - I get bored or frustrated and then get distracted. I'm having a similar vocabulary problem in Arabic - learning lots of passive vocabulary. I also have a list of words I know and can use, but sadly no sentences to fit them in. I also hope to change that.

Finally, Finnish. This will be more like a challenge, since I don't think there is much chance of me needing Finnish in the near future. However, I feel it is useful to know at least a few phrases in a language, and it will come in handy if I do finally go to Finland for a holiday (it's not a priority, I'll admit. Canada calls louder!)

To recap:

I will be attempting to learn Spanish, Arabic, and Finnish in the next few weeks/months. I have no set time yet - I'll be thinking about that this week. I also don't expect to be fluent at the end of my project, but I do expect to have a large number of handy phrases and at least some writing skills. In Spanish, I do expect to have a higher level than Arabic and Finnish.
After the project, I will be deciding whether to continue, and how, depending on my circumstances.

In the next post, I will talk about what I have done this week, and what I hope to achieve next week.


Are you learning a language (or two)? Leave a comment below and let me know about your progress! I love to read comments and always reply.