If there’s one thing I love (possibly too much? No, that can’t be possible!) it’s languages. Even as a kid I would convince my granddad to get me blank exercise books from the corner store and I’d colour their covers to match the flag of my “language of the week”. Then I’d spend hours pouring through dictionaries making vocabulary and phrase lists with matching pictures, the workds. [Gee, I was bullet journalling before it was cool… go nerd powers go]
These days it’s not really much different – I am secretly quite proud of my ever growing language library (we shall check that out another day, I promise!) even if I haven’t managed to start learning all of them just yet. In fact the only real difference between baby Binny and full grown Binny is two things; firstly I’ve gained the ability to understand how to target my chosen languages more efficiently, and bills. Bills suck.
Ok so let’s elaborate, I am currently experiencing what I call “The Language Learning Lull” – that dip in motivation and/or progression that as a kid I would have just quit and moved on to the next language without much focus or care. But as an adult working my butt off to attain that elusive “fluency” it has a much bigger effect on my studying skills, I can chose to ignore the issue or I can use that big old brain of mine and find a new route.
The whole “kids learn languages better” is a myth. As an adult I am infinitely better equipped to suck at something and not just cry and give up. So here are my biggest hurdles, and how I found the easiest way around them – and yes, all without any crying (Ok, not much crying!).
Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day
And neither was a C2 level of Spanish acquired overnight in a Native English speaker (that’s me). This has been the biggest lesson of them all. Nobody, not even that guy Mezzofanti who spoke 30 languages fluently without accent learned them all in one day. Even native speakers took years to master their language – unless there are fully verbal babies being born that I am unaware of. These things take time. The quicker we all remember this, the less energy we are focussing on stressing about not learning fast enough.
Using Effort Efficiently
So now that we are focusing all of our effort on studying rather than thinking about studying it’s important to study WELL. If you have an hour, 30 minutes or even just 5 minutes make sure they are well spent. I am terrible for this. I still question, after an entire hour of “following” every #polyglot Instagrammer, why I am not yet fluent in every language! Damn you unrealistic social media goals. While I still use Memrise and Duolingo daily in all of my target languages, I have stopped with the written lessons. I had convinced myself that this was sufficient when my stalling progression clearly shows it’s not. If having a 100 day unbroken Duolingo streak is stopping you from learning a new topic because you no longer have the time then it’s not really doing it’s job (Yes that goes for you too Binny!)
Learning vs Practising
Don’t get me wrong, we all need to practice things to become good or better at them especially when it’s something new such as a new language. However, after a certain point it’s really easy to get stuck in a rut such as where I am now. I know enough Spanish that practicing what I know is really too easy but it pets my ego because I’m doing ‘so well’ at it, yet the next step up involves LEARNING. All over again. And it’s off-putting because it can feel like you’re going backwards – from knowing the whole of your Spanish knowledge to suddenly realising just how much you don’t know yet. But even with all that scary fear of the unknown you will get to a point where you need to stop practicing (temporarily) and restart learning! It’s a cycle people, not a two-step and done process.
So there you have it – My three main “Reminders” for when I feel I’m flagging.
1 ~ Don’t stress about the end goal, or you’ll forget to enjoy the journey.
2 ~ Make your time count – don’t forfeit actual lessons for “fake study” or “app streaks” (though do remember these have benefits too – it’s all about balance guys)
3 ~ Don’t just keep reviewing what you know, learn something you don’t.