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  • Stop Planning to Learn a Language and Just Do It | Why To Do Lists are Counterproductive

    I’m always the first two write things down, make lists, plan projects out and wait to start until I feel I’m organized enough to get going. I often write down my goals because there’s something about the process that makes them more tangible and I use a variety of apps and systems to track what I’m doing when I’m doing it and how.

    Writing down your goals or listing out your things-to-do is supposed to help you complete them. Inspire you to cross them off and feel accomplished. And even I have to admit, seeing a large list of to-dos checked off is incredibly rewarding. But sometimes, when I’m neck-deep in the planning process or behind on tasks, I’m can’t help but wonder whether or not my to-do lists actually help me “do.” 

    Or if they’re just another form of procrastinating. 

    Planning out a project – like learning a language – feels like you’re being productive.

    It creates a sense of forward momentum, of creating direction, and of getting it done.

    Planning Isn’t Doing

    In the past, I spent a lot of time planning to learn languages. I’d scour review to determine which resources were the best, how much time I needed to spend doing listening versus reading, whether or not I really needed to work with a tutor, how to find the best tutors, or which articles seemed to explain complex grammar topics in the clearest way. 

    Then, with everything I needed to do planned out, I’d think, “Okay, I have these five things I should do today! I’ll write them down so I don’t forget I need to do them.” The next thing I knew, I had a fifty-plus item list and an overwhelming feeling of “I’m not getting anything accomplished! Look at all these things on my list! I must not be learning my language.”

    And I was right.

    I was using planning to avoid actually doing any learning. I knew that I needed to work out how to use cases or particles or build my vocabulary, but rather than actually doing any of those things, I’d tried to plan how I would do them, creating to-do lists and resource lists because if it was on my list, it meant something.

    It’s all about intention. Right? If I intend to do it, that’s just as good as actually doing it. 

    But planning isn’t doing.

    Putting a Limit On The Planning Stage

    Sometimes, I find, you don’t even know exactly what you should be doing until you’re already in the middle of doing it. There’s really only so much you can plan for.

    The solution?

    Just start. 

    When I think of something I need to do, I do it. Right then and there. That way, I get it done and out of the way. But taking action immediately, rather than putting it off until later, I don’t have the time to come up with extra steps or projects I need to do before I can do that thing. The task is done, over, and out of the way so I can keep going on with my day. By doing this, my to-do lists are reserved just for big projects that really do need to be broken down.

    Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

    There are times where I can’t stop what I’m doing to complete that other task that came up, and sometimes doing this interrupts my flow and I waste time switching tasks too often.

    When this is the case, I do jot the other thing I think I need to do down. But not on my to-do list. Instead, I keep a running list of things that come up like this during the day (or during my studies). They’re my “what to get started on” the next time I sit down to study list. That way, whenever I feel stuck or unsure of what I need to do next, this list gives me direction. 

    I can take a quick look at it and go, “ah yes, that’s right, I needed to go back and spend more time with that particular case because I still can’t use it comfortably.”

    Stop Planning, Start Doing

    Here are a few tips to help you stop planning your language learning, and start learning.

    1. When you write down a task, try to keep it small. 

    Your goal may be to one day “speak Korean fluently”, but writing this down on your to-do list won’t give you any direction. Instead, take a moment to figure out what you need to do to get there, break it down into tasks that can be achieved in a day, and go from there. 

    I talk about this in detail in my goal setting post and in my post on how I learned a ton of words in Chinese within two weeks, but it’s worth breaking down again here.

    So let’s say your goal really is to speak Korean fluently. What exactly does this mean?

    For many people, it probably means that they want to be able to converse in the language comfortably. Already, that gives us a little more detail. 

    Now think about conversation. What do you do when you converse? You listen and you speak. So again, we’re getting a little more specific. In order to be able to listen and speak, you need to develop those skills. So giving yourself tasks each day that require listening to Korean (watching dramas, listening to lessons) and that require speaking Korean (doing a one minute video on Instagram, meeting with an exchange partner, etc.) are better “doing” goals.

    2.  If you feel the need to plan, limit how much time you spend on it.

    Some planning is unavoidable. So the next best thing you can do is limit yourself to how much time you can spend on it. For example, I might allocate about 45 minutes every Monday to plan out what I need to do for each of my languages during that particular week to keep moving forward. Once that 45 minutes is up, I start doing action tasks and don’t allow myself to plan anymore.

    3. Build habits.

    If you make certain parts of your language learning routine (a series of habits), then you don’t need to plan. Instead, what you need to do just because a normal part of your schedule that you just sit down and do because it’s a habit. Here are a few examples of my language learning habits:

    • When I get in my car, I listen to language learning podcasts and audio lessons. I’ve tied those two activities together, so I never need to think about what I’ll listen to in the car or when I’ll get my listening practice in.
    • I have language lessons the same time each week during my lunch breaks at work. I schedule them in advance so that all I have to do is show up.
    • At the end of every week, I take all of my notes from my lessons and put them into my flashcards. I do this all in one batch on the same day each week so that it’s just something that I do on Saturday afternoons while my little one naps.
    • I read with LingQ each day before bed. I already had the habit of reading each night, now I just do part of it in my languages instead.

    To Sum Up

    Is planning useless? 

    Absolutely not. 

    But it’s important not to get carried away. It may feel productive to read advice on learning languages, to spend time looking for the best resources, or to plan how you’ll learn the language, but be careful not to spend so much time doing those things that you don’t spend any time with the language itself.

    What about you?

    What are your thoughts on planning? Have you ever realized that you were using planning as a way to avoid doing the work?

    I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

    June 11, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 518

  • The Top 5 Tools I Use to Keep My Language Projects and Resources Organized

    When I first started studying languages on my own, I was constantly distracted by the next, new, shiny thing. I’d purchase a coursebook, start to work through it and then stumble across a web-based language learning tool. Immediately, my attention would shift and I’d dive into the new resource, abandoning the first. 

    Eventually, I’d reach the stage where the material grew challenging. I, of course, would let it intimidate me. So again, I’d set the resource aside and look for something new and fun – something that didn’t take the same effort as the resource I had been using. 

    The result?

    I’d try out a bunch of interesting and diverse resources, but I’d never make it very far with the languages that I was learning. While it was enjoyable – I do like the process of language learning – it didn’t align with my goals. I wanted to get to a decent level with the languages I was learning, so something needed to change. And fast.

    I decided to change the way that I approached language learning and I’m extremely happy with the result. I went from an unfocused language dabbler to someone with conversational abilities in several languages. Creating an organized language learning system helped me become a more productive language learner.

    How I Organize My Language Studies

    Recently, I’ve shared a bit about my efforts to minimize and better organize my language learning routine and resources. And I’ve discovered that setting up a system in advance (rather than figuring it out as I went) helped me to make better use of both my materials and routines. Being organized made me much more efficient as a language learner. 

    How do I organize my language learning materials?

    I use a combination of physical and digital resources to keep track of everything. And while what I do may vary slightly from language to language, these are the tools that I use consistently and without fail to help keep my language learning organized.

    Notebook 

    Assessing Your Language Skills to Build a Better Learning Plan Using Those Assessments | Eurolinguiste

    This is the most important tool that I use. I keep a notebook for each language that I study. In it, I:

    • Jot down any phrases or vocabulary words that I think might be useful
    • Try out different exercises from the materials I’m working with
    • Store my scripts for conversations or videos
    • Note any questions that I have as I work through new resources

    By doing this, I not only have a single place where all of my questions and notes are stored, but I also have proof of my progress in the language. 

    If I ever feel stuck, or that I’m not making any progress, reviewing my notes is an easy way to see just how far I’ve come in the language. When you look back at your past notes, it’s easy to see how much of what you didn’t know in the past is something that you now know well.

    When I get to the end of a notebook, the first thing I do is I distill the material in it. In the past, I would copy over any words or phrases that I felt were still relevant into a new notebook. This meant that I would skip over words I was comfortable with and those that I no longer considered important. Today, I copy those words directly into Memrise where I can then focus on studying them and remembering them.

    Memrise 

    Memrise is a web and application-based study tool. It’s where I study vocabulary and I find that it’s spaced-repetition software extremely helpful to my learning. I use both pre-generated material (Memrise has several great language courses that they created) and my own flashcard decks. The software tells me when and what I need to review, so all I need to do is use the app each day.

    Evernote 

    Evernote is my digital notebook. If I’m out and about and don’t have a notebook with me, Evernote is where I store my language notes. It’s also where I store my ideas for blog posts here on Eurolinguiste! Using Evernote, I can create voice memos, video memos or written memos and I can even email documents to my tutors or exchange partners through the application.

    Teuxdeux 

    Teuxdeux is a very simple and intuitive to-do application that allows you to create and modify a daily list. It gives you a five-day view and allows to you can move items around and jump ahead to assign future tasks. In my opinion, however, the best part is that it automatically transfers unfinished tasks to the next day.

    In it, I write down what language activities I have going on – my lessons, my exchanges, what specific study task I’d like to do that day, and recurring to-do’s for study habits I’m still refining.

    Teuxdeux also gives you a panel at the bottom called “someday” for those tasks you need to complete, but you just don’t know when you’ll get around to them. Teuxdeux was free when I started using it, but they now charge either a subscription fee.

    Asana

    Asana is a project management tool and it’s where I store three things:

    1. What I am currently working on // I list the resources that I am currently working with and the links (if needed) to one card on my Asana Kanban board so that I always know where I’ve left off.
    2. What I want to work on // So that I don’t spread myself across too many different resources, I save other tools I’d like to study with in a checklist on Asana.
    3. My shared Google Docs with my tutors // Many of my tutors use Google Docs for our lessons. So that I can quickly find the documents for our lessons, I store the links in Asana.

    Asana is incredibly user-friendly and I’m able to see what I’m working on at a glance. It also allows me to see which resources I’ve used (very useful for online resources which are easy to lose track of). I can also sort my languages by priority easily (just drag and drop), so whatever is most important is within easy reach.

    To Sum Up

    Having a way to stay on top of what’s next for me in language learning is important to making forward progress. It took me some time to settle on a system that works for me, and I will likely continue to refine it to work even better. Keeping all of my notes and resources organized allows me to work through them systematically. That way, I don’t keep repeating the same material over and over again with different tools. Instead, I can be more selective and better diversify my learning experience. 

    What are some different tools you use to keep organized?

    I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

    If you’ve enjoyed this post, you can check out my language learning resources page to learn more about the different tools that I use to learn languages.

    For more language learning tips like this, check out my collection of articles on Pinterest!

    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    June 4, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 4359

  • Learning to Read Kanji as a Chinese Speaker

    When I decided to learn Japanese, I kept hearing and reading one complaint from other Japanese learners:

    “Ugh, Kanji are so hard to learn.”

    “Just wait until you get to Kanji.”

    After learning Chinese, I wondered why Kanji was such an obstacle for so many Japanese learners. Was it because it was yet another writing system on top of Hiragana and Katakana? Was it because Kanji are harder to learn than Chinese characters as a Mandarin language learner? 

    What was it?

    Why Learning Kanji is Hard

    For me, memorizing characters wasn’t the obstacle. I had already built this habit studying Chinese. To learn to read in Chinese, you need to learn the word/pronunciation and then you need to learn to tie that word and its meaning to a character. They’re really separate. At times, it often felt like I could read in Chinese without knowing the language as long as I knew the meaning of the characters. 

    With Japanese, this process was similar. I already knew thousands of Chinese characters – at least in their simplified form – so it wasn’t much of a stretch for me to understand what the Kanji I came across meant when reading. When I tried to tie what I read to speech, however, my difficulties began.

    For the most part, Chinese characters have one or two common readings. Which means when you see a character, you usually only associate it with one or two sounds. With Japanese, however, you have to deal with both –on and -kun readings. This means that any almost every character has a minimum of two ways you can pronounce it. And it can sometimes have as many as four, five, six, eight or more. Yikes.

    It can get confusing to remember whether or not 人 is read nin, jin, hito, or to. When reading, it’s easy to think, “okay, this means ‘man'” but when speaking and referencing something that’s written, well, that’s a different story. For this reason, I often find that I ask my tutors to write everything in Hiragana during our lessons so that my speaking isn’t hindered by the fact I need to stumble through new Kanji readings.

    Particularly because, as a Chinese speaker, I already have certain pronunciations or readings associated with the characters I’m now learning through the lens of Japanese.

    Learning to Read Japanese Kanji | Eurolinguiste

    How I’m Learning Kanji

    When I decided to commit to Japanese, however, I committed to learning it to a decent level. Continuing to ignore Kanji and rely on Hiragana and Katakana won’t cut it for me in the long term, so I’ve developed a few strategies for learning Kanji in a way that makes sense for me personally.

    Here’s a break down of how I approach learning Kanji:

    I learn them as I need them.

    Thus far, I’ve found that learning Kanji on an “as needs” basis is extremely effective. I try to do a little bit of reading in Japanese each day, and doing this naturally exposes me to new Kanji. Because I use LingQ to do my reading, I can quickly mark those words and add them to my flashcards to study at the end of my reading session. This way, I only learn the Kanji I’m actually stumbling across. I find this much more manageable then learning a “what if I come across this” list of Kanji in advance.

    I don’t spend time learning all the readings.

    Again, I learn readings on an “as needs” basis. Because there are so many different readings for Kanji, I prefer to learn just those that I come across. Context makes it much easier for me to memorize the readings that I need, so I feel like it would be a waste of time to memorize several readings outside of any real-life context.

    I don’t worry too much about the stroke order.

    Whenever I write Kanji out by hand, it’s usually because it’s going into my personal notebook. No one else is going to see it, and if they do, they probably won’t notice whether or not I used the right stroke order. Most of the time, I’m typing in Japanese (at least when other people see what I’m writing), so stroke order doesn’t matter at all.

    I accept that it’s an ongoing project.

    I will never be done learning new Kanji. It’s an ongoing process that I’ll go through as I’m learning the Japanese language. There won’t ever be a point that I’ve “arrived”, where I’m done learning Kanji. Even when I know several thousand, I’ll still come across Kanji I’ve never seen before. And I accept that. 

    Learning to Read Japanese Kanji | Eurolinguiste

    Tips for Learning Kanji

    There are several different ways to go about learning Kanji, here are just a few tips to get you started.

    First, and most importantly, be patient with yourself.

    I feel as though many learners feel the need to rush learning their first 2,000 Kanji – those on the Jōyō Kanji list (常用漢字), or regular use Kanji. Unless you need to learn these Kanji for an exam like the JLPT, there’s no reason to rush this or cram learning Kanji. Instead, take your time with it and enjoy the process.

    Practice makes perfect.

    Repetition is the key to learning Kanji. But not in the traditional rote memorization sense of repetition. Instead, spaced-repetition (and exposure to the Kanji in multiple contexts) is a great way to go about it. For me, as I mentioned before, I read using LingQ. This allows me to mark the Kanji that are unfamiliar and I can then export this list to Memrise to study using spaced-repetition.

    Write by hand.

    While I write far less than I once did, I still find writing by hand to be an effective part of the learning process. I feel like I better retain what I learn by writing things out. 

    Find reading material that includes Furigana

    Furigana is this wonderful, magical reading aid available in a wide range of Japanese materials geared towards Japanese learners AND Japanese native speakers. In short, whenever a Kanji character is used, the pronunciation of that character in that particular context is written above the character in small Hiragana characters. There are comics that also include furigana.

    Find materials that support your Kanji learning.

    I’ve tried out a variety of Kanji tools and resources and here are a few of my favorites:

    Japanese Kanji and Kana from Tuttle Publishing // This is my favorite book to reference for Kanji. It includes the most common readings for each character, several vocabulary words that use each Kanji, as well as example sentences and more. I have this book within easy reach so that I can reference it whenever I have a question concerning Kanji. 

    Japanese Kanji for Beginners from Tuttle Publishing // I found this to be a great, simple introduction to Kanji and I poured through it when I started to tackle reading in the language. 

    Remembering the Kanji // This is the book that many Japanese learners swear by. 

    Memrise // Memrise is my favorite flashcard study tool and because they have a fantastic app, it’s always with me. I can study Kanji or other vocabulary anywhere, anytime.

    LingQ // For me, reading in a language is a great way for me to not only improve my vocabulary and understanding but have fun in my language. I love reading, so being able to read in my languages is very important to me. LingQ makes this easy.

    Jisho // Jisho is an online dictionary that you can use by searching the words in Japanese, romaji or even English. When you search a Kanji character, it shows you the meaning, the readings, and even offers a bit of context for each character.

    Why Should You Learn Kanji?

    You don’t need to learn Kanji to speak Japanese fluently. In fact, you can get by just fine without ever learning to read them. But… 

    Being able to read in a language, in my opinion, is an important part of knowing a language. Knowing how to read is an important step, especially after the beginning stages. Many Japanese learning resources assume that you’re learning to read as you learn to speak, so they’re produced under that assumption. If you don’t learn to read, you limit yourself to mostly audio resources which makes the language more difficult to learn.

    Plus, so much more is open to you when you are able to read. Whether it’s Japanese material such as books, films, or comics, or a menu at a local restaurant, or even getting around when visiting the country – knowing how to read is a great way to better enjoy your experiences.

    What about you?

    Are you learning Japanese? How do you tackle Kanji? 

    I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

    May 28, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 2295

  • 100+ USEFUL CONVERSATIONAL WORDS & PHRASES IN RUSSIAN

    Do you want to learn Russian? Perhaps you find yourself struggling to find resources that help you start speaking.

    When I started out, I certainly did.

    Many of the tools that I found when I started learning Russian were grammar-heavy textbook style resources and they didn’t offer me a lot in terms of day-to-day conversation. Rather than learning how to say “what did you do last weekend?” I had memorized a bunch of rules involving particles or sentence structure and I was nowhere near conversing with my fellow Russian speakers.

    So I decided to put something together on my own so that I could feel more confident engaging in language exchanges.

    And today, I’d like to share it with you.

    In this post you’ll find a short selection of the 100+ conversational phrases and words in Russian I have available as part of a downloadable PDF that you can get by entering your email in the box below.

    Happy Russian language learning!

    Get your free PDF with 100+ Conversational Russian Words and Phrases

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    Greetings in Russian

    RussianEnglish
     ЗдравствуйтеHello
     ПриветHi 
     как дела?How are you?
     Как вас зовут?What’s your name?
     очень хорошоvery good/well 

    Basic & Polite Phrases in Russian

    RussianEnglish
     нзвините excuse me
     пожалуйста please, you’re welcome
     спасибо thanks
     да yes
     нет no

    Get the Russian Conversation Rolling

    RussianEnglish
     Каковы ваши планы в эти выходные? What are your weekend plans?
     Как это? How is it?
     Как погода? How’s the weather?
     Как ваша семья? How is your family?
     Что Вы думаете об этом? What do you think about this?

    Getting a Bit of Clarification in Russian

    RussianEnglish
     Я не понимаю! I don’t understand!
     Что это на русском? What is this in Russian?
     Пожалуйста дайте мне… Please give me…
     например for example
     Скажите, пожалуйста…? Tell me please…

    Words About Time in Russian

    RussianEnglish
     Cегодня Today
     Завтра Tomorrow
     Вчера Yesterday
     Каждый день Every day
     Позже Later

    Exclamations & Transition Words to Take Your Russian Speaking to the Next Level

    RussianEnglish
     Отлично. Great
     Нет проблем. No problem
     Это хороший вопросThat’s a good question 
    Удачи  Good luck
     Конечно. Of course

    Conversation Closers

    RussianEnglish
     До скорого! See you later
     Доброй ночи Good evening
     Увидимся See you
     пока, пока Bye

    *Please note that most of the above examples use formal language, assuming that you’re getting to know the person that you’re speaking with. 

    Get your free PDF with 100+ Conversational Russian Words and Phrases

    Get the PDF
    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    Are you learning Russian? What are some phrases that you’ve found useful in your target language? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

    May 27, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 3907

  • So We Meet Again… My Second Attempt to Learn Korean & What I’m Doing Different

    I recently announced that I am revising a language that I studied in the past – Korean

    My first time around with Korean was a struggle. At the time, I was between Japanese and Korean as my next language project, but when my good friend Lindsay of Lindsay Does Language expressed interest in learning Korean alongside me, I chose Korean over Japanese.

    During those six months, I struggled with almost every aspect of the language – the pronunciation, the writing system, the grammar, and nothing seemed to stick. When Lindsay told me she was ready to move on to other language projects, I decided to set Korean aside. I planned to use the time to think about what I wanted to do about Korean – tackle it again or give it up.

    Getting Re-Started with the Korean Language

    Initially, I was certain that I would end up giving up Korean. It seemed as though the language and might not have been a good fit, so I spent a year working on several other languages, including a few new ones. It gave me the chance to experience a couple of big language learning wins and remind myself that just because I wasn’t able to learn Korean, I wasn’t a bad language learner.

    I started trying to convince myself to let Korean go. I had already done it with German and Arabic, so doing it again shouldn’t have been hard. But there was just something about the language that led me to feel as though I should hang on to it. I couldn’t make a decision.

    Recently, I started learning Japanese – a language that is often compared to Korean in terms of difficulty. My experience with Japanese wasn’t anything like my experience with Korean. I poured over my notes from my time with Korean, trying to figure out why — and then it hit me.

    When I started seriously studying Japanese, I began taking lessons almost right away. When I studied Korean – I did all of the same things except lessons. I never really used the language with someone else. Instead, I convinced myself that my weekly meetings with my study buddy (which were in English) were enough. And while they kept me accountable and helped me find the motivation to study every day, everything that I learned was relatively meaningless because I wasn’t putting it into practice.

    So I decided to give the language a second chance and to do it “right” this time. I’d do exchanges, take lessons, and start speaking the language sooner rather than later.

    My Early Efforts at Learning Korean Weren’t For Nothing

    To be completely honest, I was worried that the first six months I spent studying Korean were a total waste. Outside of a few basic expressions – hello, thank you, and goodbye – I remembered nothing. All the vocabulary, grammar, and practice I had done disappeared the moment I stopped studying the language.

    I was convinced that everything that I had learned was gone – that I really didn’t remember any of it. 

    But when I started back up with the language, it quickly came back. Things made sense much more quickly and I often found myself thinking, “oh yeah, I remember that.” The information was still there in my head – it was just buried.

    And not only was it still there, but it also helped me to pick up new concepts and vocabulary much faster than I had in the past.

    Tackling the Korean Writing System

    When I first started studying Korean, I remember spending countless hours on Memrise trying to learn the alphabet. But no matter how often I reviewed the characters, it seemed like I couldn’t piece it all together. When I decided to start over, the first thing I returned to was that particular Memrise set. I reset my learning statistics and began studying from zero.

    Memorizing the Korean writing system was suddenly as easy as other learners always claimed it to be. Yes, I still struggle with the more complex vowel sounds (particularly those with w), but after only a few hours, I could sound out entire words and phrases in Korean even if I couldn’t understand them. 

    The Conversational Approach to Language Learning

    As I said before, using Korean is very important to me this time around. When I studied the language before, I did try to use the language whenever I went to the doctor. I thought it made sense, but looking back, I realize that it really didn’t. My doctor appointments were important and it didn’t make sense to try to use Korean in them when I needed to have important discussions with my nurse and doctor. It also didn’t make sense because what I needed to know in that particular setting wasn’t useful to me at all in any other setting.

    This time, I’m diving right in with tutors and exchange partners and I’m going to try to record more videos on Instagram – much like I did with Japanese.

    The Resources I Plan to Use to Learn Korean

    To start, I am using Memrise to pick up new vocabulary and keep the writing system in front of me. It’s my go-to resource for every language because I can customize my own decks (I add new words to my private deck after lessons) and study pre-made flashcards. I always have it with me since it’s loaded on my phone, so I can study anytime, anyplace. I’ve also found the Memrise Korean course (the course that Memrise itself makes for the language) to be extremely useful 

    From there, I plan Korean Made Simple as my first course book and Pimsleur as my first audio program.

    Eventually, I’ll add Assimil into the mix for both its book and its audio. On the side, I’m watching the Easy Languages Korean episodes as well as some of the KoreanClass101 video lessons. I’ve also had my first few lessons on iTalki.

    To Sum Up

    Much like with Japanese, I have a few different resources I’m interested in trying out, but as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like to work with more than 3-5 language learning resources at any given time. It gets overwhelming and I find I’m not able to make as much progress when I study. As a part of the Fi3M Challenge (and just for my own records), I plan to make regular videos on Instagram and Youtube– so be sure to follow me there.

    In the meantime, if you have any tips for me as a newish Korean language learner or if you have any resource recommendations that you couldn’t have lived without, please let me know in the comments below. 

    I look forward to hearing from you!

    May 14, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 2288

  • Learning Korean All Over Again: Why a Break from Your Language Learning Can Be a Good Thing

    I often feel guilty for taking breaks. I feel as though I’m not doing the right thing if I’m not being productive.

    I also hate to give things up once I’ve already invested a lot of time into them.

    With Korean I did the first – I took a long break (read: more than a year) and I was afraid I was going to end up doing the second. Give it up.

    When a Language isn’t a Good Match

    When I took on Korean, I wasn’t new to learning languages. I had gone through the process successfully a few times at that point. And I had done it with languages from completely different families – so it wasn’t because it was the first time I took on a language that was totally new. I was no stranger to new writing systems and few loan words.

    But there was something about Korean that just didn’t stick. I struggled with the writing system even though it is arguably one of the easier systems to learn. Pronunciation and grammar eluded me and new vocabulary went in one ear and out the other.

    After six months, I had enough. It was frustrating to put in a ton of work and not see the results I had come used to seeing with my language studies. I set aside my Korean studies to work on something else. I desperately needed to experience a “win”, so I worked on Spanish for three months.

    It was a good reminder that I *can* learn a language. I had the skill.

    So what was it about Korean?

    Perhaps Korean and I just weren’t well-matched?

    When a New Language Just Doesn’t Stick

    When learning a new language, it’s normal to go through periods where you feel like that material just doesn’t stay with you. No matter what you do, how much study or what kind of study, you feel lost.

    With Korean, I never had a “eureka” moment where things started to come together. I felt lost and frustrated pretty much all the time.

    Taking time away from the language ended up being exactly what I needed.

    Why a Language Break is a Good Thing

    When I hit roadblocks in my language learning, I usually work to break through them using one of two tactics:

    1. I keep pushing through
    2. I take a break

    In the past, I typically kept pushing through. I believe that breakthroughs don’t suddenly strike, but instead, they’re the result of slowly chipping away at barriers each day until all that remains is to navigate through the remains.

    At first, I tried to do this with Korean, but it didn’t seem to help. The barriers seemed insurmountable. So instead, I decided to take a break, experience a relatively quick win with Spanish, and reinvigorate both my energy and my confidence.

    A few weeks ago, I made a new commitment to Korean. I debated whether or not I’d give the language up, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I don’t particularly have any single compelling reason to learn the language, but there’s just something that draws me to it. And even though I’ve studied Spanish, Russian, Croatian, Japanese and even did an Italian refresh since Korean and I last spent time together, I still saved resources for when I’d “one day get back to it” on the side.

    Picking up Korean a second time has been far more rewarding than the first.

    When at First You Don’t Succeed

    The first time I tried to learn Korean, I felt like I wasn’t absorbing anything. Now that I’ve resumed studying the language, I’ve found that this impression wasn’t accurate.

    I don’t remember a lot in the language, but looking at the material a second time means that I have this vague familiarity with the material that gives it a little more stickiness than the first time around. That means, more stayed with me than I originally thought.

    For example, I still confuse some of the Korean vowels when reading – especially those that start with a ‘w’ – but I was able to quickly learn the other letters and start reading at a basic level almost immediately (something I didn’t feel that I succeeded at the first time around).

    I also do better at remembering vocabulary and grammar. Particularly because I now have several months of experience with Japanese. Learning Korean grammar through the lens of a Japanese “speaker” has really helped me. (As a side note, if you’re interested in learning both Japanese and Korean, I highly recommend learning Japanese first.)

    Learning Korean suddenly seems like a real possibility. That break gave me time to digest and process what I learned even though I didn’t realize it was happening.

    How Taking a Break from Korean Helped Me Learn It Better

    While the amount of time I took away from Korean was a little extreme, I honestly feel as though that time away played a big part in the results I’m experiencing today. If I hadn’t taken a break, I would have definitely burnt out and have dropped the language forever rather than for a little over a year.

    That time away allowed me to accomplish a few things:

    I was able to digest what I had learned.

    Even though I didn’t remember a lot of it, it gave me a sense of familiarity with the language so the vocabulary and grammar didn’t seem so far removed the second time around. I often found myself thinking things like, “ah yes, I do remember how to make a sentence negative” or “that’s right, I remember how to say that”.

    I was able to learn a similar language.

    In that time apart from Korean, I didn’t stop learning languages entirely. Instead, I used it to learn another language that was on my list and that was similar enough that it helped me wrap my head around parts of Korean that I struggled with the first time around. After learning Japanese, particles suddenly made more sense as did honorifics and sentence order. I’m sure my initial work with Korean also helped me with Japanese though I wasn’t really aware of it at the time. Now it’s come full circle – my Japanese is helping me take on Korean.

    I became a better language learner.

    In the last year, I feel as though I’ve truly refined how I learn languages and have built a system that works for me. I’m sure this system will continue to evolve as I grow and change as a language learner, but this has certainly helped me approach Korean in a more effective way than my past efforts.

    I’m less afraid to speak the language.

    When I first learned Korean, the only opportunity I gave myself to use it was when I’d go to the doctor (which was fairly often because I was pregnant). I’d write out a few flashcards with phrases I wanted to use, and then it was hit or miss if I could use them during my appointments. I was often too nervous or embarrassed to speak in Korean for any length of time. Today, I am much more confident speaking my languages – even if they’re ones I don’t yet know all that well. I’ve come to accept it as a part of the process. Before, I fought it.

    I feel more motivated to learn Korean.

    Towards the end of my first six months (before the break), I was feeling pretty overwhelmed and not all that motivated to continue. After having stepped away, that motivation has reappeared.

    I realized that I really do want to learn Korean.

    During my break from Korean, I spent some time really thinking about whether I not I wanted to or should learn Korean. It wouldn’t be the first time I had given up a language (I’m looking at you high school Arabic and university German), but there was just something that didn’t sit right with me whenever I tried to convince myself to let it go. Having the time to think about it (without being knee-deep in study when it’s harder to remove yourself and think about it objectively) allowed me to determine that being able to speak Korean was something that I really wanted.

    How to Make Sure That a Break is a Positive Thing for Your Language Studies

    After taking a break from Korean, I realized that there are a few things that you can do to make sure that the breaks you take remain a positive thing for your language studies. Here’s what I found:

    1. If you take a break, make a plan for how you’ll get back into your studies. If you take a break without a plan, you risk never picking your studies back up again. For me, Korean was always on my list of things that I was going to do “next”. When a new opportunity came up, it was always “Korean or this” or “Korean or that”. Eventually, I ran out of “or’s” so I forced myself to make a decision about whether or not I’d continue studying Korean. Korean was always on my calendar (even if it did get pushed back a few times), so I knew I’d have to deal with it eventually.

    2. Taking a break after an introduction to a language is a good way to dip your toes in the water before jumping all the way in. You get a feel for the temperature before completely submerging yourself.

    3. If you take a break, don’t remove yourself from the language completely. It’s okay to stop studying for a time, but try to maintain some other exposure to the language. For me, this was music.

    To Sum Up

    Taking a break from your language is not a magic answer. In fact, it can be dangerous. A break can quickly become more than just a break. And restarting a habit is so much more difficult than starting it in the first place. That said, as long as you set yourself up so that the break is really and truly a “break” and not something more than that, it can be extremely beneficial.

    To quote an article in the Atlantic, “Just as small breaks improve concentration, long breaks replenish [..] performance.” 

    You won’t learn a language without work but it does make processing what you’re learning easier. You can look at what you’re doing objectively and make a more informed decision. Plus, taking a break after a brief introduction to the language gives you time to digest completely new concepts so that when you go all in, you have a little bit of a foundation.

    What about you?

    Have you ever taken a break from a language? Did it reinvigorate your interest in the language or make you realize that it wasn’t something you really wanted?

    I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.

    May 7, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 835

  • JAPANESE VERB FORMS | HOW TO CONJUGATE VERBS IN JAPANESE

    When we think of verb conjugation, we often think of it from a European language perspective. We run through the verb conjugation tables we learned in school – I run, you run, he runs, she runs, we run, they run…

    But Japanese doesn’t handle verbs in quite the same way.

    Rather than needing to figure out how to conjugate verbs based on who is doing the action, you conjugate them based on who you’re addressing (formal/informal) and the action that’s taking place.

    This was something that I struggled with, and I juggled tons of different versions of verbs in my head, never sure when or where to use them. So I started to collect the different forms. This guide is the result.

    In it, I share how to conjugate the three different verb forms, plus you can download my PDF resource with several of the most used verbs and a wide range of their different conjugations both for formal and informal address. I hope that you find it useful.

    Get your free PDF with 10+ Japanese Verb Conjugations

    Get the PDF

    Conjugating Japanese Verbs

    Japanese conjugation is the same regardless of the subject. You don’t need to worry about learning “I read, you read, she reads” because the form of the verb will be the same regardless of who is doing the action.

    You do, however, conjugate verbs based on who you’re addressing and the context of the action taking place. For example, take a look at how the following verbs differ when addressing someone in a formal situation (~masu form) versus an informal situation (plain form).

    Here are a few factors that may modify the verb form:

    • Formality // There are three levels of formality, or keigo, in Japanese (sonkei-go, kenjo-go, teinei-go). Each changes the way you use verbs.
    • Yes or no // Positive and negative sentences have different conjugations.
    • Tense // If you’re talking about something in the present or future, you’ll use a different verb form than if you’re talking about something that happened in the past.
    • Action // If you are in the process of doing something, it will take a different form than if you’re talking about it more generally. This may sound difficult, but we have this in English. For example, it’s the difference between “I study” and “I’m studying”.
    Formal Japanese Informal Japanese English
    しますするto do 
    いきますいくto go
    たべますたべるto eat

    Japanese verbs are grouped into three different types: ~u verbs, ~iru and ~eru verbs, and irregular verbs. They have several different forms including:

    • ~masu form
    • plain form
    • dictionary form
    • ~te form
    • ~i form
    • conditional
    • potential
    • imperative
    • volitional
    • etc.

    Japanese verbs have two parts, the suffix and the stem. Splitting these components apart and modifying them is how you conjugate a verb. Take みる (to look) for example. み or 見 (kanji) is the stem while is る the base.

    Conjugating みる

    Form Japanese Transliteration
    ~masu (polite)みますmimasu
    plainみるmiru
    ~masu negativeみませんmimasen
    plain form negativeみないminai

    How the Three Verb Forms Differ

    Japanese verbs are placed into three groups because they are each modified a little differently.

    ~Ru Verbs

    To conjugate a ~ru verb, you replace ~ru with the appropriate ending as done in the the above example “to look”. This group is often also called the ~eru and ~iru verb group because almost all ~eru and ~iru verbs are ~ru verbs and not ~u verbs.

    ~U Verbs

    This is the more complex of the Japanese verb groups because despite the ending being ~u, the word can actually end in ~ku, ~su, ~tsu, ~nu, and even… ~ru. Some notable exceptions where a ~ru ending is actually a ~u verb include kaeru (to return), hairu (to enter), shiru (to know) and iru (to need).

    Irregular Verbs

    Japanese only has two irregular verbs (hooray!) kuru (to come) and suru (to do). They are both common verbs, but suru is one that you’ll use often. Particularly because it combines with other words to form additional verbs – take benkyou suru (to study) for instance.

    Using Conjugations to Express Different Actions

    With Japanese conjugation, you can attach a variety of endings to express a lot of different ideas. It’s a very useful technique to use because you memorize the endings and tack them on to the ends of different verbs to immediately construct more complex sentences. Here are just a few using みる as an example.

    Ending Japanese English (formal forms)
    ~mashitaみましたI saw
    ~tsumoridesuみるつもりですI plan to see 
    ~nakerebanaranaidesuみなければならないですI must see
    ~taidesuみたいですI want to see
    ~nikuidesuみにくいですIt’s hard to see

    A Cheat Sheet for Japanese Verb Conjugation

    My Japanese tutor and I worked together to assemble 32 different verb conjugations or form for more than ten of the most common Japanese verbs. I regularly reference it in my studies, so I thought it would be a useful resource for many other Japanese learners.

    Verb conjugation can be tricky, especially when you need to memorize tons of different rules and forms. Having a reference point is a great way to get started and wrap your head around more complex grammar and information.

    Get the PDF
    Tips for Language Learning | Eurolinguiste

    Are you learning Japanese? What are some phrases that you’ve found useful in your target language? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

    April 30, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 3006

  • Why Some People Understand Accents Better Than Others + How to Improve Yours

    Aesthetics typically refer to the nature and appreciation of beauty. When applied to the linguistic field, it refers to the appreciation of language’s beauty and nature. On a more informal level, aesthetics of language could be viewed as our individual perception of the sound and beauty of a language. This is form where the idea that “French is romantic” or that “German is harsh sounding” emerges.

    But it isn’t about languages as a whole that we form these judgements.

    By the age of three or four, you begin to develop opinions about the languages, dialects and accents you hear. These associations are developed by the voices you hear on television, the accents and speech of your parents and other close family, or from even hearing your parents say, “oh, you have such a beautiful accent” to someone that you meet.

    Our accents play a big role in the formation of our identities. It tells people where we might be from, what our native language might be, or what social groups we identity with. It’s also why we often make small (or sometimes large) adjustments to our accents when we move to a new place.

    An accent can mark us as an insider or as an outsider.

    If we adjust our accents and the ways we speak, we can better fit in with different groups. And if we want to identify with those groups, changing our accent is something we aim to do (even if it’s subconscious).

    But sometimes, especially when taking on a new language, our accents are something that we’re stuck with, often earning us the question, “where are you from?” A frustration for many learners who wish they could be indistinguishable from the locals – “when will I lose my accent?”

    Whether it’s in your native language or a language that you’re learning, have you ever noticed, that sometimes, no matter how hard you work at reducing your accent, some people just don’t seem to understand you?

    It’s something that I’ve experienced with certain languages. It got me curious about the subject, so I did some investigating.

    It’s Not Just Accent That Affects Our Comprehension

    How well we understand someone else, whether it’s in our native or target language, depends on what is called ‘speech clarity’.

    Speech clarity is determined by how fast someone speaks, the gender of the speaker, the pitch of their voice, whether or not there is background noise, distance from the speaker, and accent.

    Some people are equipped to better handle a wider range of clarity than others and it all comes down to one thing: how wide of a scale you’ve been exposed to.

    If your circumstances mean that you haven’t heard a wide variety of accents or poor clarity with any consistency, you’ll have a harder time understand different accents than someone who has had that exposure. If you have, you’ll do alright.

    The Reason Some Accents Are Hard to Understand

    When we hear someone speak, we already have an idea of how the language is supposed to sound. When it doesn’t quite fit, we have to work a little harder sort it out. And that requires mental energy. This process slows us down, which means our comprehension is diminished. You’re still trying to figure out what someone has said when the conversation has already moved on.

    This is called “effortful listening” because “because the accented speech itself deviates from listener expectations in (often) systematic ways”. (source

    When we listen to someone speak in a way we’re not used to hearing, we have to try harder to understand them. And if you’re not used to making that effort, it can be difficult to maintain.

    In an article on accents, a native Italian speaker wrote the following:

    “I was born and raised in Rome, so Italian is my native language. Now I live in the US, and I’m basically bilingual. Yet, when I hear other people speak English with an accent, sometimes I have a hard time understanding what they’re saying. In movies […] I sometimes struggle; if I don’t turn on the subtitles, I’ll miss half of what they’re saying. But when I hear a fellow Italian speak English, even with a thick accent, I have no problems at all. I understand everything.“ (source

    This is interesting because it’s not that he can’t understand strong accents, he can. But only those he is familiar with. Unfamiliar accents prevent him from enjoying or engaging with certain things and in certain situations.

    What to Do If You Struggle to Understand an Accent

    If you have a hard time understanding other accents, you’ll want to do what you can to reduce any other interference so that you can focus on the other speaker. So, if for example, the conversation is taking place in a loud room, ask your conversation partner to move to a quieter place with you. If the phone connection is bad, ask if you can call back at another time.

    Other things that you can do are to:

    1. Ask the speaker to slow down. // Sometimes this helps clarify things, but be warned – sometimes asking the speaker to slow down causes them to exaggerate their accent rather than reduce it.

    2. Expose yourself to different accents. // If there is an accent you commonly hear, try to get more exposure to it. Youtube is a great source for finding speakers of different accents. If there isn’t a specific accent, you can still benefit by listening to a wide range of accents.

    3. Ask them to write it down. // If this is for a language tutoring session, you can ask your tutor to write what they said in the chat. Being able to read it sometimes makes it all click. If the conversation is for something important or work related, you can ask them to write you an email summarizing their requests. That way, you can avoid being rude by constantly interrupting them and asking them to clarify and you can be sure you don’t miss anything.

    What to Do If You Struggle to Make Yourself Understood

    It’s sometimes hard to think, “I have an accent.” Until you travel somewhere where everyone speaks with a different accent than your own and you’re the minority, it can feel like everyone else has an accent but you.

    When you’re learning another language, however, a strong accent is often something you can’t escape (at least for a while).

    When you look up advice on accent, a lot of the tips are for how to “improve your accent”. This bothers me somewhat because it implies that certain accents are better than others. I don’t believe that this is true. There are many different modes of speaking, and each has its place.

    Instead, I prefer to offer tips to “reduce” an accent.

    Here are a few tips to help you reduce your accent:

    1. Shadowing // This is a technique where you mimic a native speaker. The idea is you repeat what you hear as quickly and as closely as you can to the original. You can find videos demonstrating this technique here. 

    2. Work with audio resources often // The more you hear a language, the more you tune your ear to its rhythm and pronunciation. The more familiar you are with how it sounds, the better you will be at producing it.

    3. Speak often // When you speak a new language, you’re training the muscles in your mouth. You need to learn to produce new sounds and new combinations of sounds, and the only way to get better at this is with practice. So if you’re goal is to reduce your accent, speak often!

    4. Record yourself // One of the best ways to judge how you’re doing as far as accent and pronunciation is to record yourself and listen back to it. Once you’re slightly removed from the situation, as a recording provides, you can evaluate how you’re doing more objectively.

    5. Find the right audience // When your aim is to get language practice with someone who will understand you even with an accent, you want to find someone who will be used to hearing different accents. Someone on the street is going to have a harder time understanding you with a strong accent than a language exchange partner or tutor who have likely had more exposure to different accents. So the best place to find someone to chat with is through a language exchange site.

    Conclusion

    When it comes to accent, what matters most is finding the time to do more listening comprehension. The more exposure you have the better you’ll do in understanding and being understood.

    Personally, I find accents to be a positive thing. They are a part of who you are and can be a great conversation starter. As someone who’s shy, having an accent is a great way to get the ball rolling. The people that I talk to are curious about my accent and where I’m from. It’s an easy thing to talk about and a great way to get to know people.

    What about you?

    What are your thoughts on accent and accent reduction?

    I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

    April 23, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 5597

  • Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese

    The majority of my intensive Chinese language study was in preparation for the HSK exam. For a year, I focused on test preparation, having to put speaking and learning conversational language on hold until after I sat the exam.

    The minute the test was over, I immediately for more colloquial lessons and learning material. After learning textbook Chinese for so long, I was eager to speak the language more naturally.

    I began following different Twitter channels and somewhere along the way, I discovered Angel Huang.

    Mandarin HQ

    Angel Huang is one of the co-founders of Mandarin HQ, a course designed to “help you bridge the gap between textbook Chinese and real spoken Chinese.”

    The videos range from beginner to elementary to intermediate, and they feature useful phrases and even dialogues with people out on the street in Mandarin. Each level contains more than fifty video lessons on a wide range of topics.

    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste
    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste

    My Experience Using Mandarin HQ

    I’d seen Angel free’s video courses on YouTube and her website, but I didn’t realize how thorough her lessons were until I joined The Vault. And even a year into starting the program, there is still a ton of material for me to get through.

    The videos teach you useful expressions in four steps.

    • Audio
    • Audio and Chinese subtitles
    • Audio and English subtitles
    • Test

    You get to spend time with each of the lessons, really getting to know the material in detail so that when you’re out in the real world, your confidence using the expressions taught in Mandarin HQ.

    In each level, all of the videos are available to you. You don’t have to progress through a set path, so you can work through the material in the order that is most suitable for you. That way, you really maximize the time you spend with this resource.

    Plus, you can loop any part of the videos with the control panel. So if there’s one section you have a hard time understanding, you can focus on it. And, if you struggle with word order or grammar, there is also a section where you can see literal translations. That way you can take steps towards mastering Chinese word order and grammar.

    Personally, I didn’t work through the lessons in order. Instead, I bounced around selecting those that covered topics that were of personal interest to me. In each lesson, I made sure to do the listening without subtitles and with Chinese subtitles. It was only if I truly felt I needed the help that I completed the third module, the version of the video with English subtitles.

    I thought it was well done by Mandarin HQ to have the Mandarin and English subtitles separated. That way, you can focus on comprehension with each. You’re less likely to “cheat” when the third step is when you get the English translations. The course certainly does its job in training your listening comprehension.

    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste
    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste
    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste

    Things that I Like About Mandarin HQ

    The presentation // I really enjoy Angel’s teaching style. She does a great job presenting the material and breaking everything down.

    The content // There is a wide range of content on Mandarin HQ. Everything from colors to work vocabulary, celebrations to describing appearances, plans to routines. Regardless of why you’re learning Mandarin, you’ll find lessons to suit your interests within the course. And with more than 150 lessons, you’ll get a lot out of Mandarin HQ.

    Intermediate material // As an intermediate/advanced Mandarin learner, finding suitable material is tough. Especially great quality audio material. Thankfully, there’s plenty of it in Mandarin HQ.

    You get to hear many different accents and speakers // Each lesson features several native Chinese speakers, so you get to hear several different genders, accents, and speaking styles. This is really excellent for boosting your listening comprehension.

    The quizzes // I love the way that the quizzes are structured. You’re asked to listen and select all of the versions of the phrase that you hear. I found that, compared to other listening quiz styles, this is challenging. So in completing the quizzes, I know I’m taking my listening comprehension to the next level.

    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste
    Mandarin HQ Review | Learn Real, Conversational Chinese | Eurolinguiste

    Things that Could Be Better

    More topics // Even though there is a wide variety of topics on Mandarin HQ, I would love to see more video lessons on topics that aren’t usually covered by other courses.

    An advanced level // Of course, with such great content presented so well, it goes without saying that having an advanced level would be incredible.

    Navigation // You need to click and navigate manually more than many of the other course interfaces. I’d love to see some of the next screen navigation happen automatically so that the user doesn’t need to scroll and click around as much to figure out where to go next.

    The loading is sometimes slow // After each quiz question and to get your quiz results, the loading is sometimes pretty slow.

    To Sum Up

    Mandarin HQ is a high quality course with useful conversational material presented in an extremely effective format and by a charismatic teacher. Angel Huang has done a wonderful job with this course and I truly benefitted from the time I spent working through it. I definitely look forward to seeing what is in store in the future. In the meantime, I plan to continue to enjoy the lessons within Mandarin HQ and Angel’s blog. Recommended.

    What about you?

    Have you tried Mandarin HQ? What did you think?

    What Mandarin audio resources have you loved? 

    I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

    April 16, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 508

  • How to Learn More Than One Language at a Time

    A short while ago, my good friend Kerstin Cable posted a question in her Facebook group. She asked, “if you could only study one language for the next five years, what would it be?”

    I began to type, thinking it would be an easy answer. Chinese – duh! It’s not my native language and it’s the language I speak with Little Linguist, so I need to always stay ahead of him. In five years, he’ll be quite the conversationalist, so that would definitely need to be my one language.

    But then my fingers grew still on the keyboard as I began to imagine an entire five years with just one language.

    I hit delete.

    It wasn’t a question I could answer because even if it’s just an imaginary scenario, it’s something that’s not easy for me to imagine.

    Shortly after, I received a question from someone about what my thoughts were on learning more than one language at once.

    Recently, I’ve discovered the value of focusing on one language.

    But here’s where I’m going to be completely honest with you. Even when I have a focus language, I don’t completely set my other languages aside. Yup, I’m unfaithful to my focus languages.

    There. I said it. It’s out there.

    I’m just not a one language at a time kind of person.

    Outside of the last three months or so of preparing for the HSK exam, I don’t think I’ve ever just studied one language.

    And here’s why I don’t think I ever will.

    1. I can take a break from language learning without really taking a break.

    If I get frustrated, overwhelmed or bored with my main language, I can hit pause and look at a different language. That way I get a break from my focus language, but don’t have to take a break from language completely.

    This allows me to come back to my main language refreshed without losing the habit of language study that I’ve established.

    2. Sometimes working on a different language helps me understand a problem I’m having in my focus language.

    When you learn a different language, sometimes certain aspects of that language are explained in a way that help you understand parts of another language.

    For example, I didn’t understand how Russian cases even remotely until I began to study them intensely for Croatian. In doing this, I gained the ability to better use Croatian cases and an understanding of what I needed to do to learn them for Russian.

    The same was true of particles. When I studied Korean, particles were completely new to me. I wasn’t really sure how to use them or which to use. When I began to study them for Japanese, I had already been introduced to their function and was able to more quickly learn them. When I go back to Korean, I’ll have a stronger foundation to look at them once again.

    3. I don’t want to lose too much of my languages by taking an extended break.

    The longer you step away from the language, the more you forget. That means the next time you pick it up, the more review you’ll have to do.

    I prefer to learn new material and spend less time reviewing, so I try not to let too much time lapse when I take a break from a language.

    4. I love languages too much to not dabble in more than one.

    And even though I’ve settled on my forever languages, there are still a few others that I had to – very reluctantly – cut from the final list.

    To maintain and improve the languages that I’ve committed to, I need to work on more than one at once.

    5. At the moment, I don’t have a job or anything else that requires me to attain and maintain an extremely high level in one or two languages so I’m okay with being decent or even okay at several.

    If this changes, how I study will change too. But, I’m happy with the way that my learning is going and I’m happy when I’m learning more than one language.

    Learning Just One Language at a Time is a Good Thing for Some Language Learners

    On the other end of the spectrum, here is why I think it’s good to study one language at a time:

    1. You get a lot farther, a lot faster with a language when you focus on it.

    When you study just one language at a time, all of your time and attention go to that one language. And that means you get better at it faster. If you want to learn a language quickly, learning just one at a time is the way to go.

    2. You’re less likely to confuse your languages.

    When you learn more than one language at the same time, the chances that you’ll confuse them is higher. Even when they’re unrelated.

    If you decide to learn more than one language (even if it’s not at the same time), this mixing is something that happens. There’s really no avoiding it. Learning only one language at a time, however, does decrease the amount it happens.

    So now that I’ve shared why I study more than one language at a time and the benefits of studying just one language at a time, I want to talk about my process for learning more than one language at once.

    3. You aren’t yet an experienced language learner.

    If you’re trying to learn how to learn languages at the same time you’re learning more than one language, it might be too much. In my experience, it’s best to have at least one language under your belt before you add in more languages. It’s good to have gone through the process of learning a language (even if it’s to an intermediate level) before you add something new to the mix.

    How I Learn More Than One Language at a Time

    My process for learning more than one language at once has gone through some significant changes over the past few years.

    In the past, I was pretty unorganized. Today, I’m much more selective.

    Here is what I do:

    1. At any given time, I have a focus language.

    This means that it gets the bulk of my study time. If my day is full, I make sure I get to this language and skip looking at the others until my schedule permits it.

    2. I do short-term language projects.

    Much like Benny Lewis of Fluent in 3 Months, I’ve grown fond of doing three-month long intensive projects. Doing this has given me the chance to revive my Croatian and take on Japanese. But I’ve also done much shorter projects like my three day Italian refresh.

    This gives me focused time for my main language, but isn’t long enough that I can get distracted by other new and exciting languages or resources. I know that I can add them to my “want to try” list and that in a very short time, will get to do just that.

    3. I only have two or three side languages at a time even though I work on eight total languages.

    And sometimes just one. These are my break or “need to maintain” languages, so I sometimes hang on to them for more than three months. Other times, I only need to work on them briefly for a specific project. Once that project is over, I can swap them out with another side language.

    4. I use language laddering.

    Language laddering is when you use one of your stronger languages to learn a new language or improve a weaker language. I often use French to learn Croatian, Croatian to learn Russian, and sometimes use Chinese to learn Japanese.

    Doing this also allows me to deliberately practice switching between similar languages so that I’m less likely to confuse them.

    5. I don’t start learning more than one new language at a time.

    With the exception of when I was at university and had to study both Italian and German at the same time, I don’t start learning more than one new language at a time. Instead, I start one, give it some attention, get somewhat comfortable with it, *and then* pick up a new one.

    When you start a new language, *everything* is new and so it can be pretty overwhelming. When you try to do this with more than one language, you’re doubling or tripling that sense of overwhelm.

    6. I find and commit to a tutor for my focus language asap.

    Doing so makes me even more committed to the language because I don’t want to waste my tutor’s time. I make sure that I’m doing the work between sessions so that we have something new to work on each session.

    And once I commit to a tutor, I usually keep up my lessons even when I have a new focus language. (i’ll write about my system for this in another post soon)

    7. I accept that sometimes I’m going to feel guilty about not spending time with certain languages.

    My time is limited and I don’t spend it all learning languages. This means that I won’t get to study every single language every single day. And sometimes I don’t spend time with them for months. And I also know there are languages that I want to learn that I won’t learn. Before I let this guilt take over and I spread myself to thin in an attempt to study all the languages all the time.

    Now I accept that it’s part of the process and it’s a comprise I needed to make to achieve my long-term goals.

    I won’t ever be able to erase the guilt I feel when I realize it’s been a year since I’ve studied Korean or that I’ve let my Italian slide yet again. And I don’t want to. It’s what brings me back to those languages when I finally do have time for them.

    I don’t, however, let that guilt take over any more. I know that if I stick to the system I’ve worked so hard at, that I’ll get the results I’m aiming for.

    In Conclusion

    For me personally, learning more than one language at a time just works. I stay fascinated by languages, get to try out a lot of different and interesting methods and resources, and have the opportunity to learn about tons of different places and cultures.

    Every learner is different, so there is no right or wrong. Learning more than one language at a time may be the right choice for you. But maybe learning one language at a time is more your style.

    You won’t know until you try.

    What about you?

    Do you commit to one language when you study or do you like to work on more than one at once?

    I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.

    April 9, 2018 • Language Resources • Views: 915