Confidence and trust in language learning.

How can I learn Korean and still improve in my Russian, Czech and German? This was the concern I raised in my last post. Well, I have started doing something about it.

I am reading the news in Geman. I am using LingQ to read about the horrible damage caused by hurricane Sandy as descrdibed in Die Welt. I read a lesson that Evgueny created in Russian for LingQ about the recent Ukrainian elections. I have also downloaded some articles from Czech radio.

But as for my Korean, the last thing I do at night, the first thing I do in the morning, and as often as I can during the day, I read and listen to Korean. It is not my first time to study Korean, so that the ‘strangeness” of the new language has long since worn off. However, I sense myself forgetting the new words I look up and the patterns are strange and often unclear.

But I have confidence. I have the absolute knowledge, that if I keep exposing myself to the language, it will become clearer and clearer. Things that I keep forgetting will eventually start to stick. I have done it so often before, I just trust my brain. I know that with enough exposure the language will become a part of me.

The same is true of my efforts to maintain the other three languages. I just have to have the discipline to continue. I know my efforts will be rewarded.

This the confidence that I now have, and which I did not have over 40 years ago, when I first started learning languages. In those days I tried harder to deliberately learn things, and got easily frustrated by what I forgot or did not understand. Today, I am not at all concerned by these obstacles because I trust my brain, and have confidence, the confidence that comes from experience. I just have to stay the course.

Language learner’s lament

How can we maintain our languages and learn new ones? I will find out over the next year or so.

I am just back from a 4 week trip. Montreal, Prague, Portugal, Spain, London and Berlin.  A high point was my last evening in Prague where I felt that I was really comfortably conversing in Czech, understanding almost all of the discussion and generally able to get my ideas across. Then I flew to Portugal to join my wife on a golf holiday and my Portuguese let me down it seemed. In Spain, even my Spanish was not where I wanted it.

Off to Germany, and again my Geman was not where I wanted it to be. On top of that, in trying to speak Russian at the Sprachen und Beruf language conference, I kept on coming out with Czech. Luckily I had a Russian speaking taxi driver on my way to the Airport in Berlin and as we spoke I started to feel a little better about my Russian.

So now I am back home. I want to do a 5 days to fluency challenge in Korean, leading up to a visit to Korea in the spring. Yet I don’t want to lose my Czech, and I want to recover my Russian. In addition, I was really stimulated by my visit to Berlin. I read three newspapers,  Handelsblatt, Die Welt and Suddeutsche Zeitung from cover to cover on the flight back. I have been listening to an audio book of Golo Mann’s Preussen Erobert Deutschland here while cleaning up the house. I would love to focus on bringing my German up to a decent level, and yet I bought some Portugues and Spanish books while in those countries, and I want to polish up those languages.

There are only four languages that I can speak any time and anywhere without too much slippage, English, French, Japanese and Mandarin.

But today my wife and I are going to play golf, and tomorrow I have to go to the office. There is not enough time in the day. Help!!!

Berlin meet up Oct 26

Here are the pictures of our jolly group. We all had an enthusiastic discussion about (guess what?) languages in the Tucholsky Restauration. Just to add names to the faces in the group photo, clockwise from the left.

Judith, Hendrik, Simon, Matthew, Ricardo, Natalie, Chandler, Gustavo. I have to say that I was very impressed by all members of the group, their friendliness and their seriousness. The future of our world is in good shape to judge by these young people.


Five days to fluency-a great success!

Five days in Prague, really four. Yet I greatly improved both in my ability to comprehend Czech and my ability to speak Czech. This was not just because of these few days in Prague. It was the result of one year of work. For at least the first 8 months I only listened and read. Then I started speaking with our online tutors at LingQ, a few times a week. With a couple of months to go I stepped this up to five hours a week of on on one discussions. In Prague I was surrounded by the language, and managed to engage in Czech discussions 6-7 hours a day for four straight days. The final evening I had dinner with a Czech couple in their home. We had a pleasant discussion on topics rainging from travel, to politics, to ecology and more. It was painless and seamless. Victory.

I will adopt the same technique for my next language Korean, and then more beyond that.