November 20, 2016

One language? Multiple languages? Change of perspective on learning multiple languages at the same time.

I remember when I started...

I decided to learn Norwegian. It was my first language that I seriously wanted to learn, and with it came the beginning of my full-time passion for learning languages. I liked languages even before that, but I have never converted it into my main passion.

After Norwegian, came Hungarian. I failed. I went to Budapest, and I didn't really know too much. When I came back from Hungary, I decided to dump Hungarian, start learning a language that would be easier and more familiar to me and try not fail this time. I found German, and it worked.

I spent 7 months with German. Exclusively. I didn't learn any other languages besides German. I was totally indulged in the intricacies of the German grammar and the beauty of its sound. German was THE language, and not learning it was almost impossible to me.

After German, when I have gotten to the point of being able to communicate with people in it - and with that succeeded with my challenge - I decided to take a stab at yet another language. That was Spanish - a language that I disliked but knew that I would be able to learn fairly quickly. I started and spent the next 6 months studying it. The rest is getting blurry but at some point after learning two language to a fairly good level, I lost it.

The madness has started and I began dabbling in an incredible amount of languages. Dutch, Afrikaans, French, Italian, Portuguese, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Somali, Arabic, Serbian, Cantonese, Slovak, Russian, Danish, Faroese, Greek and multiple others. I have never managed to learn any of them as I have managed with Spanish and German, and I was getting very frustrated with myself. I wanted to pick up languages as quickly as others seemed to do it. I wanted to make friends and read great literature. Listen to the radio and watch movies without subtitles. Still, no progress was seen ahead and I frantically started looking for a middle ground. By the end of 2015, I migh have found it.

At the beginning of November, I decided to try to learn three languages at once, but no more. After trying to learn fifteen languages at once, three was a great middle ground of not learning only one language  but not learning too many at once either. Portuguese, Faroese and Italian. Let's do it!

What has happened was that I spent three months learning only Portuguese and the feeling was amazing. I did only Portuguese and didn't let my mind get clouded with other languages. I managed to have a pretty decent conversation in Portuguese by the end of those three months. Unfourtunately, since then my Portuguese has detoriated a lot.

After the success I did Welsh for two months but a bit later I, once again, started changing languages like socks, until recently, when something very interesting happened. Tired of everything I decided not to learn new languages anymore but  improve my current ones and spend at least a month with each reading books, improving my pronunciation and grammar. It was then that I felt something.

At the end of the month, I didn't want to stop with that the language. I didn't feel ready yet. I didn't feel like I have learned enough. I wanted to do another month and that was what I did. It was Spanish that I worked on.

Today, I am learning Turkish and I need to say that after three months I am still at it. My  motivation is still very strong and every day is just another opportunity to tune in to the language and learn more. I have said that I will learn Hungarian, Esperanto and Romanian, but in reality I can't. I just can't stop learning Turkish  and that is a success. The feeling that I had studying German is coming back. From a person that used to study many languages at once I have become a person that can't learn more than one language at once. Even if I sometimes wander off to do a Romanian lesson on Duolingo it still doesn't change the fact that Turkish is totally occupying my heart and sharing my time with another language is just not possible for me now. I would have to quit Turkish to be able to learn another language - a success indeed, but there are some cons of it that I have noticed a couple of days ago.

Every time that I try to watch a movie or do anything in another language, I feel self-conscious. I feel like the time spent on watching that movie in English should be spent learning Turkish. That time that I have spent doing Spanish grammar exercises because I don't want to forget it, should be spent doing Turkish grammar exercises. I am a stupid person.

Unfortunately the journey of a aspiring polyglot is not as easy as it seems. If I don't actively use the languages that I have already learned, I will forget them. But what am I supposed to do when every time that I pick up a book that has nothing to do with Turkish, I feel like shit because I feel like I should be doing Turkish instead? I have a couple ideas (like learning Turkish through my other languages etc.) but I am just writing about this because I feel that this is one of those things that I don't see happening to other people. I am sure that there are others going through the same thing so maybe you can share your experiences of learning multiple vs learning only one language at once.

Todays lesson is that every method has its negatives

February 17, 2016

Helo, dych chi'n siarad Cymraeg? My quest to learn Welsh.

Okay, I know...

I should write more. I keep telling myself to write at least once a week. I have a head full of ideas, but I feel limited by my weak writing skills and laziness. What to do? What to do?

Well, I might try to update you once a week about my new language project. It is not really a project, but I have started learning Welsh at the beginning of February, so I will start writing a journal where I tell you about my struggles with the language and even give you tips if I come up with something revolutionary.

I started learning Welsh recently after the Duolingo course came out. I was already interested in Celtic languages for some time so when the course got released I decided to take a look at it. After doing the first lesson and playing around with the language I still wasn't sure if I want to study it seriously, but then I watched a great documentary called "Make Me Welsh" on YouTube that follows a group of school kids on their journey to learn Welsh, and decided to learn this language.

So far, I have learned quite a lot. I am familiar with the general structure of the language, I am able to create sentences in three tenses, I am not bothered by mutations at all because they come quite naturally and learning vocabulary isn't problematic to me even though Welsh doesn't share a lot of cognates with other languages that I speak.

My main goal for now is to acquire a basic vocabulary of 500 words or more and get used to the verb "to be" which is complicated in all tenses. I would like to learn more grammar too, especially how to make longer sentences using subordinate clauses, and also start writing a little bit of Welsh in the form of a diary or even a blog.

I am mostly using Duolingo and Memrise. I have also found other resources to learn Welsh which I will share right here:

Websites: (The most amazing invention ever, if you don't know it yet then don't wait and check it out!) (Interactive course, very nice, possibility of choosing a desired dialect) (Really recommended!) (I like the grammar explanations) (Seems cool!) (A lot of useful stuff for different levels)

Memrise courses:

Make Me Welsh

Are you learning Welsh? Do you speak it? Tell me in the comments!

November 22, 2015

Choosing languages and learning more than one language at the same time.

Sadly, I have to say that I am a person that puts quantity above quality. I am a jack of all trades, and I always search for something new to learn even thought I am not quite finished with the thing that I am currently working on. When it comes to languages, I managed to learn two languages to a pretty decent level and when I was working with them I didn't really try to learn any other languages. At that time everything was easier. I was new to language learning, and I could stay pretty absorbed in a new language for a longer period of time, but as I started to get more knowledge about our world's linguistic diversity I went nuts and started to change languages like socks. Today, there even exists a meme of me that humorizes this problem :)

Just to exemplify this, once I studied 15 languages at the same time. Basically, I just studied the language that I wanted on that particular day. I had a list of 15 languages and then I just went crazy. One day I could go through five to six languages and then next day either I did the same languages or I changed. I had no plan whatsoever, so everything was random and crazy. Of course, I didn't learn a lot because of the constant switching and then I decided to change it and try something new. Right now, I am learning 3 languages at the same time (This is not a lot to me). Or rather two since one already fell out. During last two months I have been pretty concentrated only on those languages and surprisingly I feel that for once I am improving. Also during this time I have realized a couple of things about learning more languages at the same time and I want to share what I have learned.

One very interesting thing that I have noticed is that you won't be able to spend the same amount of time on each language and you won't be willing to either. And this is maybe not revolutionary but it could help those who have a problem choosing a language. Do this:

  • Start learning both languages at the same time of those that you choose between.
  • Study until you start feeling that you are paying more attention to one of those languages and then gradually push the second language out.

It might seem cruel as to say, but I find this method particularly fun, because you get to learn something about both languages and then you can choose a direction in which you want tol continue.

Two months ago I said that I will study only three languages for a certain period of time that will be chosen according to what I find suitable. Since this was the end of the year I decided that the rest of the year I can spend on Portuguese, Italian and Faroese. I knew that since Portuguese and Italian are Romance languages and I already speak Spanish and some French, I could probably reach a conversational level until January. Faorese was a new languages to me, more difficult than any of the other Germanic languages that I have studied so I decided to just go with the flow and see what happens. And what is happening? Exactly what I have written before: I am unconsciously choosing a direction which suits me best.

I have realised that I have been spending most of my time (80 percent) on Portuguese, 20 percent on Italian and none on Faroese (At least in the later stages, at the beginning I did study some). Right now I know that the language I am mostly going to continue with is Portuguese, and it fits me great. The language is amazing, Portugal is really interesting and exotic since it is not as popular as Brazil and I know that I have an advantage because of my knowledge of Spanish. I am not sad that I haven't learned Faroese, the time will come. Italian? I guess I am going to do some here and there and I will possibly acquire some low conversation level, and I might to improve it later.

So, if you have to choose between languages I will tell you to take both (or even three) and see what happens. You see, language learning is a matter of experimentation. People tend not to experiment and instead they only do what they are used to. I tell you, never studied more than one language at the same time? Do that! Never studied only one language at the same time? Do that! Experiment and see what works best for you, it will be an exciting journey and you will learn a lot! That way you will be the best language learner that you can be yourself!

Good luck!

August 10, 2015

Reasons to learn a language


After a very long break from writing I decided to update this blog with some fresh posts about language learning. This time I won't be blabbering about my challenges but I will try to write my thoughts about different areas of learning a language. Today, inspired by my own experience (And I  still keep talking about myself), I decided to write a post about all the reasons for which we tend to learn languages and how my own priorities changed recently.

Some people tend to learn languages because they would benefit them in one or another area of their lives, meanwhile others do it because they have to and some do it just for fun. There are plenty reasons to learn a language - some more shallow and some more thoughful - but I still believe that no matter what reason, learning another language is a great thing to do.

I hear people say that learning a language for future career benefits, to be able to pick up girls (or boys) or to be able to impress others are not good reasons and that we should find some other ones. Personally, I don't believe it. I think that reasons can be good or bad depending on a person, and if it will actually make you fluent in the language then it really doesn't matter. I personally studied languages for all the "bad" and "good" reasons and I don't think that I ever cared why I am studying them as long as I had a book or a resource handy, and was figuring out grammatical features of it all night long.

I kept hearing people say that if you do not have a valid reason for learning a particular language, you won't succed. Very often they state exactly what reasons are good or bad and this is what makes me a little mad. I believe that reasons for learning a language are bad when they do not work particularly for you. People stating "Reason X or reason Y is the best" are wrong and you should follow your heart. For example, besides English and Swedish (languages that I had to learn) I speak Spanish and German on a good enough levels to be able to carry a conversation and guess what? - I had no particular reason for learning them. I just picked up the nearest resource and started studying.

I have been learning languages with no reason for a very long time, I basically picked up languages randomly. I didn't succed in all of them because I guess that there is some truth in the fact that there are reasons that will make you more likely to succed, but I don't think that you should give up learning a language just because you have no "special reason" for it, besides liking how it sounds. I believe that there are reasons that are "bad" - these are the ones that do not work particularly for you.

For example one thing though that made me change my approach to choosing my languages was one: The ability to retain and use them.

I have noticed that even though I speak German on a good enough level to have a conversation I don't use it at all. There are no speakers around me and the language feels almost useless to me at this moment. The biggest problem here is that I want to become really fluent but I can't because of not being able to practice on daily basis. When I am in the city or working on a flea market with my mom, the languages I use most of the time are not the languages that I am currently studying nor the ones I already know. I basically had to write down sentences in all the other languages to be able to use them with people and I realized that my knowledge of Spanish or German is basically useless!

That is when I decided to change my way of selecting languages and from now on, I decided to start learning only those languages that are commonly spoken in Sweden. One reason for that is that I will have the possibility to practice those languages on a daily basis and incorporate them into my life. The other is that all of those languages are completely different from what I have studied before and it is a good opportunity to learn something completely new.

So yeah, I am studying Turkish, Kurdish and Arabic (I have another very special reason for learning that one though) and other languages that I will be able to use. I feel that my previous reasons for learning languages was bad, only because it didn't work particularly for me, especially at the more advanced stages.

Now, I can everyday go to a shop and practice my Turkish with a guy who works there, m,any of my friends are Arabic speakers and finding a Kurd here is easier than finding a Swede (In my neighbourhood I mean :). Now, I can use my languages and I can make them a permanent part of my life, now I feel like I have a reason that works for me, and no matter what somebody other says about it, I will keep going untill *I* feel that it does not work.

To sum it up because I feel like my post is a little messy (Long time, no writing) I want to say that the reason that works for YOU is the best. Nobody should tell you that your reason is bad. It is good, as long as it keeps you going forward. So, find your reason, pick your resources and start studying!

Peace out!

January 21, 2015

Do you want me to write about something specific?

I just came up with an idea...

Since I don't write too often and I really would like to, I decided that I could ask YOU guys about some ideas for posts.

If you want me to write about something specific (that has to do with learning languages), just write your idea in the comment section or hit me up through my mail:

I'll try to do the best I can and write post according to your proposition (I can't promise that I will be knowledgeable about certain topics).

I think that this way this blog would be more enjoyed by people, since I would write about topics that are relevant to you all. I hope that you'll give me something to write about :)


January 19, 2015

Dutch: My impression after 19 days of studying + USEFUL LINKS

As I promised, here is a post about my impression about Dutch after some time that I spend studying it.  At the end of the post I will also share links to some sites that I found useful :)

Generally, Dutch is average when it comes to difficulty. The grammar is relatively easy (For someone who speaks English, Swedish, Norwegian* and German) but I have already encountered some harder concepts while skimming through a grammar book. Namely: demonstrative pronouns (Two for "this" and two for "that" depending on the gender of the word and if I am not mistaken two for plural), word order (My knowledge of German does not make it easier, but I like it, since I treat it like a puzzle) and there probably are other weird things to be learned.

The worst part of Dutch is pronunciation. I am able to pronounce all the sounds of Dutch quite correctly, but because Dutch has many dialects, I still don't know what are the phonological "properties" of a standard dialect (If such exists) and because of that I don't know how to pronounce my R's (No idea, I keep switching between "rolled-only" and "French guttural plus American before a consonant*").

Spelling isn't so difficult nor is the basic comprehension (French seemed harder) and my overall progress in the language is quick. I can already form sentences and I would be able to record a short video, if I only knew the correct pronunciation and the flow of the language (Some words are like painful throat-twisters...they are fun to pronounce though).

Dutch is fun! Finally, I feel like I'm progressing and getting more fluent with every hour, so that's amazing. I will keep it up until 7th of February (Officially) and then we'll see. Maybe I'll just drop grammar books and continue learning only by practicing the language).

Now, here are the resources I'm using:

- Basic Dutch I
- Dutch -  The 1,001 Most Common Words
- 100 Essential Dutch Words
- Hacking Dutch

Thanks for reading and good luck with your language studies. I'll try to update it once more before the whole challenge ends.


*I can read Norwegian well, and I speak it a little but I have a heavy Swedish accent and I sometimes use Swedish words when I speak it

*I prefer that one more, because I like American R's in Dutch...sounds cool!

January 11, 2015

My first 30 Day Challenge - Dutch in 30 Days?

One of my new year's resolutions was to watch at least 1 TED talk/day. I personally find these talks inspiring and they make me want to kick some butt (not literally). One talk that I watched and that made me most inspired was a talk by Matt Cuttis "Try something new for 30 days". Matt had me since the first few seconds of the talk and after watching it, very energized and motivated, I decided to come back to challenges (which I stopped doing few months ago) and get to work. Since that day (7th of January), I decided that I will do some challenge every month (not necessarily language related) to learn more things and maybe introduce some new habits in my life.

First one challenge had to be language related though...and I started to learn Dutch straight after watching the ?? (Any synonyms for "talk"?)

My goal is to get conversational in Dutch in 30 days! I already know German, so I am confident that I will succed (I'm 3 days in and I already made some nice progress :P). I will be using Duolingo (already 14 skills in), Memrise (mostly first few thousand words) and some other internet courses (I'll write a post with useful resources soon). My plan is to study at least 30 minutes daily (of course I can do more, and I probably will most of the time) and we'll see where I'll get by the end of the month.

To make it more interesting, I will be posting some updates to make this whole thing more official :)

Wish me luck and wait for a next post where I will write about my initial thoughts about the language and some more specific resources that I will use :)