Brad Patterson is incredible at throwing in challenges. When I saw a link to his fresh blog challenge “How and why you learned a foreign language” in my FB feed, I was in two minds really. First, the urge to share my experiences. Followed by a bump on the head – sharing stories with no good end to brag about?..Seriously, share these nothing-to-be-proud-of stories ALL OVER my PLN?!
Yes, I will share. Because I’ve learnt from my baby-aged blogging practice that writing a post about something that is difficult to think/talk about is the best way to reflect on it, put up with it and happily let go of it=)
The crucial point underlying my failures in learning any other foreign languages than English is my “dream and speak about it a lot, do little about it” nature (too long a statement to hyphonate it, sorry). This actually is the attitude which prevents me from doing many of the things I plan to and write in my to-do lists. I’ve recently started to be learning to take my own self as it is and not to be too hard on myself. One step at a time, a reflective lookback, acceptance of little progress/failure – that’s my way and it seems to be working I think. So this is not going to be a post of bitter regrets. It’s just an account of my language learning experiences!
The languages I’ve seriously (and semi-seriously) ever considered learning are German, Italian and French (very lately). Spanish has always been on my mind (I know only a set of common touristy phrases that I can do with) and Greek (which seems a most unusual and mysterious language to me and I hope I will one day learnt a bit of it!), but there were never given a shot, so they don’t officially count. I don’t take into account Dutch and Danish as well, though I think I can read Dutch and when I stayed in Holland at my friend’s I picked up a little of it. As for Danish, I printed out pages of phrases to use in Copenhagen (which is the BEST city I”ve ever been to), and a set of phonetic rules, I tried reading and pronouncing these, but the language is extremely hard, so it didn’t work out really=).
Which leaves me with German, Italian and French.
I had 2.5 years (5 terms) of learning German (formal) as a second foreign language at university. That was exciting experience, I loved it very VERY much. We had an awesome teacher, about 3-4 years older than us, strict, with clearly set rules, a person of principles. I can say that I picked up my passion for discussing news in the classroom from her – that was really challenging to prepare a piece of news in German for me at that time, I should say! Still, even though I studied hard (not too hard, ok) and got EXC for my exam in the end, I know it and knew it then that my German was..invalid. One class a week is definitely not even close to enough to master a language from scratch. For the next 3 years I tried to devote a couple of hours a week to continue studying it all by myself. I’ve got plenty of textbooks, graded readers, grammar reference and practice books, audio CDs, dictionaries, phrase books and my own notebooks. I haven’t got back to German for more than a year now. Though I have a book intentionally put on the table in front of me several months ago to remind me of my desire to speak German.
I know it for sure I will improve my German and return to it, but I know I”ll be doing it sporadically, because I don’t need it badly. Here it is – the true reason..English is quite enough in the modern world. It seems to be enough at least. Is it too bald? Is it too bad? Is it true?..
I will not be visiting courses I think, I’m afraid to get disappointed.. (vain! very bad(( but honest).
(*read about Ken Wilson taking his German classes! Follow his series of posts – amazing chapters, fantastic story-telling! Not connected with disappointment))
The ways to study for me are still to be decided upon.
One last thing about German – I love the way I sound when I speak/read it!=) Not typical, I know, as many people have this idea of German as being a rough language, but I love the way it sounds, especially from my own lips=))) (now, that must sound bald and bad, really!))
Italian and French have similar stories – BBC 12 week courses.
I started with Italian 3 years ago, was very diligent and made through the 8 weeks of it, then dropped it for no explicable reason I can give you now.
I started with French less then 2 months ago, am not very diligent as the BBC notification letters getting insistently lost in my mailbox can prove and I have a lot of PD plans which seem to have put French into the shade (until summer, that’s the new plan). The funny thing is – I’d never really liked French as thought it too sweet and glossy)) BUT my trip to Paris in November for TESOL conference turned my world upside down))) Hearing French everywhere around me, trying to read it and getting the chills when getting it right – looked so lovely and inspiring all of a sudden! So I bought a book, set the goal and..am going to linger to reach it)) I know myself, and so be it. Nothing to boast of, sure. Throw your stones at me.
Now that I”m finished, what about English?..I”m well aware of the fact that I”m still a learner of it. I have to say that maybe being a teacher of English is the best thing I could do in my life to be a successful learner of it!=)
This seems to be it, my story of no-wins.
Regrets? I’ve got a few (and envies of those who can say they’re polyglotes and passionate language nerds, which apparently as life shows I am not).
Hopes? I”ve got loads.=)