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Languages

this is because i’m a libra, i’m sure

After a long pause I’m slowly getting back into language study. I’ve always been interested in languages, human and machine alike, but lately coding has been driving me nuts, so I gave up on the idea of progressing there. Maybe once I’m senile and can no longer remember the stress that follows I’ll pick them up again, but for now I’m done with the exception of some very occasional CSS here and there. Anyway.

As we have established by now, I lack patience, and I struggle with focus when I am bored. So my current tuned down list of languages I want to know, like, right now, consists of 8. Which even I understand is a lot to be processing at the same time. I do 3 to 4 (with a very occasional 5) at work at the same time, and the closer I get to full time 4, the madder (as in angrier and more impatient and in need of dopamine) I am by the end of the day.

Some of the languages are similar. Two of them I already speak, but I’m looking to expand my vocab even more and make my overall usage more active. Maybe finally take them to a higher C1 – or, dare I say, C2. Three of the languages have similar grammar, but vastly different scripts and vocabs. None of them have any particular urgency. Two of them are “dead”.

Ramble and Schedule

So I have been trying to put down a schedule that would allow me to focus on all of them in equal measure throughout the month without actually going on a homicidal spree in the process. My Ideal Schedule looked like this:

  • Week 1 – SG + 1 Duo lesson or 2min quick review of some vocab/ grammar in the other 6
  • Week 2 – JR + review of 6
  • Week 3 – KL + review of 6
  • Week 4 – TY + review of 6

Or any order of the weeks, really, as long as they’re in specified pairing. I apologise for the slight self-censorship, I just hate saying that I’m learning something when in reality my sk1llz are too weak to be taken into any kind of consideration. The stated A0 level so prevalent in language learning communities is not a level, it’s wishful thinking and ego stroking. There, I said it.

Week 1 – Spanish and German. I can pair these, because my Spanish is mostly maintenance and improvement, and my German, while weak, is still at a level that permits parallel study.

Week 2 – Japanese and Romanian. Again I can pair these easily, because my Romanian is also in the ‘maintain and improve’ category, and while I’ve lost most of my Japanese due to limited exposure, I’m still familiar enough with it for parallel study. I also have some text- and workbooks with Romanian-Japanese pairing, and some previous experience in learning Japanese through Romanian.

Week 3 – Latin and Korean. Korean is ridiculously weak, I’m only now beginning to differentiate some words in listening exercises, and I can get about 70% of the reading figured out when I’m listening to the text at the same time. And while my Latin is in beginner stages as well, the pairing works, because I already have two Romance languages under my belt, and there’s no real need for me to have active knowledge of Latin. I ain’t going to the Vatican or the seminary. I just want a better understanding of the mother language of them all.

Week 4 – my T and Y are somewhat A1-ish, but they’re still irrelevant to be namedroppin’ them here. I don’t mind pairing them together, because they’re two vastly different languages, and I’m in zero rush to learn either. It’s all just curiosity and past exposure.

And it looked intense, but was entertaining, so I persevered, but then one night my mind was zipping from wall to wall like a high level game of pong, and I made a randomizer wheel to focus on one language at a time as an experiment, and here’s what came up.

I’ve been doing only Latin this week so far, and the previous week, almost completely disregarding everything else (or trying my best to, at least).

My main focus until this week has been the course on Duo. I think the main problem with Latin on Duo is how boring it is. But I shall persevere. I also have an ancient textbook that belonged to my grandmother, but I can’t find it in all the mess. On Sunday I found a textbook on the internets, so I’ve been doing some exercises in it. I don’t really like the structure so far, but maybe it will improve.

Latin is essentially a dead language, but nevertheless useful, since all Romance languages and half the world history are direct descendants.

While focussing on one language for 2-3 months at a time sounds like a viable plan, my brain can’t help but gather all sorts of info on other languages too, so I just don’t think it would work.  Even though I said that I would only be doing Latin for 3 months with occasional review of everything else, I’ve already poked around in Japanese, German, and Korean for longer than a quick review session. All of this makes me all the more inclined to go with my original madness of 8 at the same time.

… Or not.

Hm.

Because sticking to one at a time will certainly give me speedier progress and bigger reward, and we know that I’m all about rewards around here.

I’m in no particular rush to learn any of the languages, though. Some sense of urgency may be given to Spanish (for work), German (for family), and Romanian (for environment). Everything else is either curiosity, ancestry, remote usefulness, or a salve for my soul.

Something that I would like to note is that for the first time in my life I feel intimidated by Japanese (and Korean). I’ve always been intimidated by Chinese, for example – which is why it’s not in the list right now – but Japanese I found easy (truly). It has very straightforward grammar and tonality, and I have (had..?) good memory which allowed me to absorb large amounts of vocab and kanji with ease. These days, though, I can’t even recall kana. My fear of Chinese lies mostly in it being a tonal language. I have a good ear, but my speech is naturally very flat, which can be a detriment in any language, truly, but in a tonal language it would be a whole other problem altogether. But on the other hand I’m good at copying, so as long as there’s a willing native or advanced carrier, I should be fine.

Anyway. Chinese is not on the list for now.

Goals

As mentioned above, I’m in no particular rush to learn or improve any of the languages on the list. My only guide is my impatience and a general desire to understand more. If I were to give myself some standards and assign letters and numbers to my levels, then it would be short: I want them all at C2, today.

I jest.

But not really. If I could choose a superpower, it would be immediate grasp of any language. Unfortunately I can’t just download a contextual dictionary into my head, so we’ve gots some works to do. For reference, here’s a CEFR self-assessment grid.

Say, a year from now, where do I want to be?

Spanish – no difficulty reading, writing, speaking, and listening. C1. I might give myself some leeway for writing, because lemme tell you something – not every native can write at C1 in their tongue, whichever that tongue may be. My writing fluctuates heavily between my two main languages, and there are days where my native language writing is so awful, I want to claw my eyes out. Then there are days where it flows easily, but I can’t stand my writing in English. So yes, I will give myself some leeway for that skill. If I will have a strong B2, I’ll consider it a success. Side quest: Complete 6 sections of Duo path.

German – simple and coherent text, written and spoken. Understand natives in daily conversations (shopping, travel, small small talk) with ease. Read lifestyle articles with little to no reference to dictionaries. Basically a strong B1 – beginner B2. The main reason I want to learn German is a) not to discourage my family when they speak to me – it’s natural for them to insert German in their conversations in other languages, because they live in Germany, and I don’t want to be the reason they constantly stop to explain themselves; and b) be independent when I visit them. Like if I want to find the toilet in the shopping centre or order a second cup of coffee, I don’t want to ask my bestie to do it for me. I doubt I will want to take my knowledge any further than that. Also, not necessarily a knowledge goal, but a result goal – I have some manhwa in German, and I want to finish reading these volumes, and the ones that I plan to buy to complete the series. That’s around 15 volumes total for both series, so a volume and a bit a month. I’m also eyeing some manga, but opening the Pandora’s box of manga in German will inhibit my Japanese reading practice at some point down the line, so let’s stick with manhwa only for now. (Oddly enough, not all manhwa that’s available in print in German is available in Korean. I guess it’s due to censorship.) Side quest: 3 sections of Duo path.

Japanese – work through all the text- and workbooks I have. By my estimation, this would give me a weak-ish B2. I also have an ancient (as in from the 80s) book of kanji. The total number of characters is 1850, I think, and about 880 or so are stated as essential and learnt at school by the Japanese. I believe the standards have changed since then, because the numbers that I see around these days are different, but whatever. My point is, I want to know those 800+ “school basics” characters that this book gives. Side quest: 3 sections of Duo path.

Romanian – same as Spanish. No difficulty reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I have no difficulty with listening comprehension of both media standard and colloquial, and even if there’s a word I’m not sure about, most of the time I can understand what’s being said out of context. I have no difficulty reading, at all, but I take no pleasure from that either. It’s not something that’s natural, and if a text is dense/ scientific/ legislative, it hurts my brain a bit. So in short, my passive knowledge is good. Now I need to work on the active. I’ve a visit to Romania planned soon – in 4 months, so I suppose my immediate goal would be to bring my speech up to an uninhibited B2. A year from now I want B2 writing/ C1 everything else. Side quest: Complete the Duo path. Will not consider myself a failure if I don’t.

Latin – complete the Duo path (it’s tiny, compared to others). Find a good textbook – as I was writing this post, I realised that the one I found for free sucks, so I will only use the texts in there for reading. Once textbook is found, work through … half of it? Depends on what the book will be, and how quickly I find it.

Korean – 3 sections of the Duo path. Read with ease and discern words in clear speech – note that I’m not saying “understand”, as in “know meaning of”, for either of these. I just want to be able to read easy lifestyle articles and other texts with dictionary reference and catch the meaning of about 30% of television series. So, a good A2 – beginner B1.

T – two sections of Duo path, and I’ll consider this a success.

Y – same here. Two sections of Duo path will be a success for now. It’s quite difficult to find good learning materials for this language, because it’s community-specific and not widely spoken at all. I used to have a textbook, but one of my many uni professors borrowed it and never gave it back. And it’s out of print. So unless I find the exact same textbook secondhand or scanned online, I am not quite sure where to look for materials.

Active vs. Passive

The more I think about it, the more likely it is that I will go back to my original plan of 8 language 4 week rotation, instead of a heavy focus on one language at a time. Even if I will pretend to focus on one language, I know that it’s not what’s going to happen in practice. So it’s back to 8/4.

I think I will want to differentiate days of active and passive learning for my pairs. For example, my Spanish/German week would look like:

  • Monday – Spanish active, German passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Tuesday – German active, Spanish passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Wednesday – Spanish active, German passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Thursday – German active, Spanish passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Friday – Spanish active, German passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Saturday – German active, Spanish passive, 6 speed review/ 1 lesson duo each
  • Sunday – both passive/ microimmersion, 6 take a break/ minimal duo xp for streak

And no, I don’t particularly believe in rest days. Perhaps if I were studying for a test or adhering to a strict curriculum, rest would make sense. Since I’m doing this for pleasure, I see no point. I won’t beat myself up if I skip a Sunday, but I’m not going to prevent myself from learning on that day.

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