The Crazy Thing About Consistency

There is more to learning a foreign language than just learning the language itself, or even the culture related to the language. When one tries to learn a language, especially outside of the classroom, they learn how to learn. Benny Lewis, known as the Irish Polyglot, has said that the hardest language that he has learned is Spanish, despite the fact that it is closer to English than some of the other languages that he has studied. Benny learned how to learn a language. He found what methods worked for him, because just being in the country wasn’t enough.

I read a lovely article yesterday about 24 polyglots’ tips for learning a language. Some of their tips were reoccurring, which I paid attention to since they have been successful in learning multiple languages. There is one tip that I saw often, and regularly see in YouTube videos and TED talks. I even wrote about this tip in one of my other blog posts: the importance of consistency.

Why is consistency so important that language learners everywhere talk about it?

I have been taking a hiatus from studying Korean to study Polish for the summer. I’ll admit that I haven’t been doing my best to keep up with Korean, only reviewing once in a while. Already, I have forgotten some words, even though I had gone over them fairly often. However, something weird has been happening.

In high school, I made a decision to teach myself Japanese and got very serious about it. Although I never made it to a conversational level, I studied very frequently and reviewed even more for an 8-month period. I didn’t know much Japanese beyond basic conjugation and vocabulary, but what I did know, I knew well. It has been years since I have studied Japanese, so I have forgotten a lot of what I learned, or so I thought. To this day, if I watch anime or hear people speaking Japanese, I will recognize some of the vocabulary that I learned. To my surprise, I can still remember how to produce some basic sentences on my own.

It turns out that my consistency with Japanese paid off so much that when I hear a word in English and try to think of it in Korean, Japanese will come to mind first. Japanese and Korean are two different languages with some similarities, but for some reason, my brain will think in Japanese before it will think in Korean, even though Korean should be more fresh in my mind. That is the power of consistency. If you form a good habit, it can last even years later when you feel like you are out of practice. Though there are days where you feel too unmotivated to study or you feel like certain words aren’t sticking, study anyway, because you may be surprised.

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Duolingo Challenge | 1 Month of Polish Update

Cześć!

This summer, I’ve decided to challenge myself to learn as much Polish as I can, only using Duolingo. Below is the result after studying for one month:

Cases have been my biggest obstacle when it comes to the language, but I really am enjoying the learning process. I decided to do this challenge because I was genuinely curious as to how much a person could learn from only using Duolingo (plus the tips & notes section, since it is part of the course). I only knew a couple of words before starting because of my grandmother. I plan on surprising her at the end of the summer, around when I finish the challenge. She grew up in the United States, but spoke Polish at home with her family, who came directly from Poland. I can’t wait to see the outcome after three months of studying, and how my grandma reacts!

Weekly updates have been posted on the Duolingo forum!

Duolingo Challenge | Learning Polish in 90 Days

If you have been a long-time reader of my posts, you may have seen a post a while back that talks about a free language-learning app called Duolingo. I have always loved using Duolingo as a supplement to my language-learning. Never have I used it to learn a language on its own. That’s why I decided to challenge myself to learn a language from scratch ONLY using Duolingo. That means no help from others, no using forvo for pronunciation, no YouTube videos on Polish lessons, absolutely nothing except the Duolingo Polish course itself.

I have completed two trees on Duolingo so far: French and Portuguese. I was taking classes in conjunction with using the app on my own, so by the time I finished both trees, the lessons were more of a review. What I learned in class was more advanced than what I had learned with the app. Even so, I thought it was great for reinforcing some of the content that I learned in class.

The reason why I decided to do this challenge is because I’m genuinely curious as to how much of a language I can learn with only using Duolingo. I don’t expect to be conversational by the end of the challenge, maybe just have basic knowledge. Since the Polish tree is large, I don’t expect to finish all the lessons in 90 days, if I’m properly pacing myself and making sure that I understand what I am learning.

WHY POLISH?

I probably should have done this challenge with a language that is closer to the languages I speak, but I wouldn’t have had enough motivation to push me to keep learning the language after a while. I’ve been wanting to study Polish for a long time for a few reasons, but one of the most compelling reasons is because of my grandma. She was born in the U.S. but I was told that she spoke Polish at home as a kid. It has been a while since she has used it, I only hear her use some words here and there, but I would like to surprise her by speaking some Polish to her. Like I said, I don’t expect to have an entire conversation with her beyond something very basic. I’m just looking to surprise her!

If you want to follow my Polish language journey, you can check out the first video of my challenge here:

I would also be thrilled if you would join me in my challenge! You don’t have to study Polish, but any language you would like to from scratch. I would love to see how far you could get in 90 days from just using Duolingo. It would be especially interesting to see the comparison at the end if others are studying other languages! If you’re interested in joining me, please leave a comment letting me know either below or on this forum!

Language Event Planning

Have you ever held yourself back from a great opportunity because of fear? Have you ever thought about how your life would be different if you had taken that leap of faith? Do your dreams tend to stay inside your head?

I have wanted to try out every career at some point in my life, ranging from singing to being a chemist to being an archaeologist. Coming into college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my future. I knew that Spanish would be one of my majors, but I was unsure of what I would combine it with. Business had crossed my mind, but after taking a look at the list of classes that were required, I shied away from it. The same thing happened my freshman year with Computer Science. I had taken a class that I really enjoyed and did well in. It made me consider majoring in the subject, but when I took a look at the list of required courses and saw that a lot of math was involved, I became intimidated and backed down. Life today could have been different if I had taken a step forward in faith.

What happens when you do take that step? 

Since my four years in college, I have studied abroad in two different countries, traveled around Europe, learned how to speak three romance languages, and most recently, I planned a language-learning event at my school.

I work at the Language Resource Center and wanted to do something to get our name out there, as well as engage the campus in language-learning and community-building outside of the classroom. That was when I came up with the idea of Mini Language Workshops, by students, for students. Each week, students at the college had the opportunity to learn the basics in a different language for an hour. The workshops were ran by 11 different students who either spoke that language natively or were advanced speakers of the language. Below, you can see the product of the language workshops:

For English subtitles, click the “CC” button.

You too can help plan events to help make your school a more multilingual place. Just take that leap of faith and start a meetup group or your own language workshops. Who knows, maybe you will start a new tradition!

Being a Good Language Partner

What do you look for in a significant other? A business partner? An employee? Are you looking for someone much like yourself? More organized? More energetic? More spontaneous and romantic? Someone very appealing to the eyes? When looking someone to fill some kind of important role in our lives, we tend to have standards. Businesses make lists of qualities they are looking for in a future employee. We make mental lists in our heads when we go out with someone, whether we realize it or not. The same thing can happen when looking for a language exchange partner. We are looking for that person that we can hold a conversation with for more than five minutes, who is willing to help us, and speak (for half of the time or more) the language we are learning.

Have you ever gone into a language exchange thinking that people might be doing the same thing when they talk to you? Although it is important to find a good language partner. It is equally as important to be a good language partner. If we all were to work on being the language partner that we would want to have, and were not concerned about what we can get out of the exchange, maybe we would start to find the language partner we were looking for in the first place.

To be a good language partner, or conversationalist in general, I would suggest keeping the conversation about them. Talk about topics that your partner is interested in. Ask about their lives and their dreams. If you both have traveled to the same country or have the same hobby, then talk about it! However, I would suggest doing this when it’s their turn to practice your native language so that they can do most of the talking.

Sometimes you will run into a partner who is too shy to speak your native language if you speak their language very well. Don’t only practice the language you want to learn, even if they’re nervous or don’t speak well. Just like you came in hoping to get something out of the exchange, so did they. You want to encourage your partner to speak, multiple times if you have to. I have been in situations where I have done this. If they still insist on only speaking their native language, even after you encourage them a few times, then you can spend the rest of the conversation speaking their language, or find a way to incorporate your language into the exchange by asking what they need help with.

Not everyone is looking to better themselves as a language partner. Sometimes you will need to find a new partner. If your partner only wants to speak your native language even though you try speaking their’s several times, it may be time to find someone else. Sometimes you just don’t click with someone and can’t hold a conversation. That’s okay; it happens. Not everyone will be a good language partner or the right fit.

What do you as a language exchange partner? Do you make a list of conversation topics? Do you come with questions about their language? Let me know your language exchange tips in the comments below so we can all better ourselves!

Loving Through Language

It started with a love of languages.

After winter break of my freshman year of college, I was at a dinner, talking about what I had done over the break. I sheepishly explained that I had spoken Spanish with my mother and spent much of my time studying French. The boy next to me said that he didn’t think that was nerdy at all and that he would have done the same if he had a relative to speak another language with. That’s when I casually gave the invitation to practice Spanish with me whenever he wanted. It was an invitation I gave out often but never got a response. I wanted a way of being able to keep up with my Spanish while I was away from home.

When I gave the invitation out this time, the results were different. A few nights later, the two of us walked home from watching a movie in a friend’s apartment and that’s when he started conversing in Spanish with me. This lead to a friendship based on speaking the Spanish language. We would share music with each other, talk about what was going on in our lives, and more! Spanish was something special that connected the two of us. There were many people who would wonder what we were saying and get frustrated that they didn’t understand. It was our little secret.

As time went on, we started studying together and became swing dance partners. We grew close and got to know each other well, becoming good friends. We really enjoyed each other’s company. Our sophomore year, we started to date.

Almost two and a half years later, we are still together. We’ve had to endure challenges such as being long distance for a length of time but have made it through. We still speak Spanish frequently, although not as frequently as before. Recently he has started learning Russian and I have started learning Korean. We share what we learn with each other and continue to love through language.

I have read many stories online about couples who have met through language exchange/penpal websites and was always amazed by the connection two people could make through a common interest in a language. I never thought that I would be one of those people, and that I would meet someone on my campus. Have you ever had an experience where you really connected with someone based on a love for languages? Tell your story in the comments below!

Accent Marks in Spanish

Throughout my first semester of tutoring for Spanish, I have noticed that many people have trouble with the same topics. Recently I started a series on my YouTube channel for those who are learning Spanish. Each episode will answer a frequently asked question that I get based on those that I tutor. The first episode addressed where to put accent marks in a word. So why am I writing this post? For those that prefer to have something written, I wanted to give my readers and subscribers the option to learn from my explanation. Here, I can also elaborate on things that I missed in the video.

Where do accent marks go? 

There are four rules. First, you listen to the word being spoken and determine which part gets stressed.

If it’s the last syllable, and the word ends in a vowel, -n, or -s, then there is an accent. Ex. francés, catalán, canté

If it’s the second to last syllable, and the word ends in a vowel, -n, or -s, then there is NO accent. Ex. cante, hablas, perro, dicen

If it’s the third to last syllable, then there is an accent. Ex. esdrújula (the official name of these kinds of words where the third to last syllable gets an accent), dígame, cuéntame

If it’s the fourth to last syllable, then there is an accent. Ex. ábremelo, infórmaselo, rápidamente

All of the rules have a specific name for those types of words. I avoided mentioning them because many people get confused by those names when still trying to get down the rules. Instead, get the accent rules down first and then learn what each word is called. I hope this post helped!

Here is the video for those of you that prefer a visual: