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Evolutionary Multilingual Log

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 Language Learning Forum : Language Learning Log Post Reply
Senior Member
Joined 2742 days ago

165 posts - 347 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Catalan, Spanish, Japanese, Ukrainian, German

 Message 1 of 5
29 January 2013 at 7:16am | IP Logged 
What does that even mean? Well, even though I'm not completely sure myself, it probably
means something along the lines of: "I will be studying French and Spanish for the
first half of this year, whereafter the log will 'evolve' into a Mandarin log as I
brave Taiwan during my upcoming one-year exchange." (Sorry to all the linguists, or
linguistically inclined persons, who thought that this was going to be an interesting

Goals for the year:
-C2 in French before I leave for Taiwan

-Highest level of Spanish possible before the same cut-off date (I've
threatened/motivated myself by telling pretty much everybody I know that I will be
taking the C2 for Spanish this year, but I very much doubt that will actually happen,
barring some sort of Spanish language epiphany. This goal is purely for motivational

-Functional conversational Mandarin, along with at least 1500 characters, by the New

Basically, this is a round about way of saying that I will try my best to speak 4
languages at least conversationally by the end of the year.

I don't plan on studying any Mandarin until maybe a month before I leave because I
don't think I will have any time to do so without sacrificing precious study hours from
my French and Spanish. I've already had to drop Japanese, which I've been studying for
about four years, to make time for those two languages, so I'm not going to try to
force three languages at once a second time.

Current materials:
-French: Lots of books and podcasts + a French class at school + a practice group

-Spanish: Assimil + many, many bilingual texts + two practice groups + a tutor

I also have native friends for both languages with whom I practice on a semi-regular
basis. I also happen to be very lucky in that I have a native French-speaking father
extraordinaire with whom I practice every day.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2742 days ago

165 posts - 347 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Catalan, Spanish, Japanese, Ukrainian, German

 Message 2 of 5
01 February 2013 at 1:35am | IP Logged 
So January is coming to an end, and at the same time, that means that Tadoku will soon
be over as well. While my performance in Tadoku was nothing impressive, I was very
happy with my 700+ pages (mostly in French). I'm not using a specific number since
after a while, I stopped counting news articles and the like because it started to feel
too much like a chore. Anyway, as someone who is not normally a very big reader, it
felt good to almost finish 2 whole books in a month's time, and I plan on keeping and
perhaps even adhering more closely to and improving my reading schedule over the next
few weeks/months.

It's a shame that I won't have Tadoku to motivate me over the next few months, but I'm
hoping that the 6WC will in some way fill the void, at least until mid-March.

Anyway, since I started this log, I've been experimenting a bit with how I study
Spanish. It's been such a long time since I started a new language that I've almost
completely forgotten how to do it. Currently, my main source of input is Assimil, and
while I enjoy it very much, I can be rather inconsistent with my lessons. Some days I
do up to three, and others I don't do any. I figure that I need to find something to do
on the days when I'm not motivated to do Assimil.

One of the first things I tried was memorizing song lyrics. Despite being absolutely
terrible at remembering and reciting any form of text, I found this to be quite
entertaining. One problem I'm likely to meet, however, is not being able to find music
I like, but I think chances are that I'll continue doing this whenever I can anyway.

Another exercise that I tried was watching a cartoon, which I'd previously watched in
English and French, dubbed in Spanish. Maybe it's just because I had seen it twice
before, or maybe it's simply because I can resort to my French when in doubt, but I was
extremely please and a little surprised to find out that I could actually very easily
follow the dialogue. I have a feeling that this will be another method that I'll add to
my arsenal.

Finally, I also tried some translating work. I found an iPad application with
English/Spanish bilingual texts, and I translated the stories both to English and back
to Spanish. I learned a lot of vocabulary this way, but there's something about
translating stories that bores me. Maybe the excerpts I was translating were a bit too
long though... Either way, I don't plan on doing this regularly until I have to start
translating Assimil lessons.

As for my French, I think I made good progress this month. My family and I went out of
town for a concert that my mother was playing, and I talked a lot with my father in
French while she was in her rehearsal. Anyway, some of the things that came out of my
mouth caught me off guard. Where did I learn all that? I think all the reading I've
been doing finally payed off! I couldn't help but grin while we were talking (even
through the serious stuff); he must have thought I was crazy.

All in all, it's been a good month, but I think I can do even better in February!
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2742 days ago

165 posts - 347 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Catalan, Spanish, Japanese, Ukrainian, German

 Message 3 of 5
06 February 2013 at 10:24pm | IP Logged 
It's been a few days since I decided to reuse Anki, and I feel like it's definitively
helpful for my Spanish, but maybe not so much for my French. I think I'm going to try
doing 30 new words in Spanish every day and 5 in French, and I'll see how I feel after
a month or so. I get the feeling that my French kind of sustains it self, and that I
have a better time learning vocab naturally as it comes up.


Anyway, I've also started saving my Assimil lessons for the very end of the day, and
for some reason I enjoy the lessons a lot more when I do this. I guess it's a nice way
to cool down at the end of the day.

Also, I went for a haircut yesterday, and I remembered that my hairdresser is
Colombian, so I decided to practice my Spanish. She was very surprised that I went from
not speaking at all, to actually holding a conversation in about a month of intensive
study. Definitely a big confidence boost!


Almost done reading the Hunger Games in French, which has been a terrible idea. I liked
the first book, and then I got to the second book and disliked it until the very end,
and now the same pattern is repeating with the third. I feel obligated to finish though
because it just wouldn't feel right to not finish such a short series. The next series
of books I'm looking into should be better. ("Le puits des mémoires" for anyone

I've also been watching a couple of shows every day on just to hear some more of
the Quebecois accent. It's been good, and I think I'm starting to pick up on more of
the slang/pronunciation changes in familiar contexts. I don't think I'll be able to add
them to my speech for a while yet, but maybe one day.

And a surprise! Mandarin! I told myself I wouldn't study any Chinese until a month
before I left, but I decided that starting RTH now would be beneficial. I'd much rather
get to Taiwan and only have to learn to speak and read, instead of learning to speak,
read and write at the same time. My goal is to do between 16-17 characters a day from
now until August. I think that should be enough to get all 3000+ RTH characters done.
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2742 days ago

165 posts - 347 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Catalan, Spanish, Japanese, Ukrainian, German

 Message 4 of 5
23 May 2013 at 8:37pm | IP Logged 
So this is going to be a long one and will have little to do with my previous posts.

I've been doing a lot of thinking recently and believe I have come to many conclusions
about my personal language learning: the number of languages I should learn, what I
should do to use my time more effectively, etc. But before I get to those conclusions,
I should probably tell you about the circumstances that led me to them.

So up until earlier this month, thanks to a surplus of free time, I was studying 6
languages (Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, French, Spanish and Swedish) and spending about
1 hour studying each language every day. On top of that, I would usually spend an
additional hour with my Japanese and anywhere from 2 to 3 hours with French outside of
my regular study sessions. It was the best of times, believe you me.

But sadly, I felt that nothing much was happening. My French was stagnating, if not
becoming more and more difficult to use. As for my Japanese and Spanish, while I was
learning much vocabulary, none of it was activating despite my efforts to use both
languages as often as possible. Then, of course, my Mandarin was definitely improving,
but the amount of material that I was forgetting was honestly worrying me. The same can
be said for my Swedish and Korean. Basically, everything was moving in slow motion or
in reverse despite my best efforts.

And you know, I don't think that this should concern me, and it normally wouldn't,
because I know that as long as I put in the time, I will improve. However, I'm only 19
and while that does mean that I have lots of time left in my life for studying and all
sorts of other things, it also means that the next few years of my life are going to be
rather chaotic. I'm going to Taiwan for a year starting in August, then when I come
back I'll most likely be going off to University, and well... there goes all of my free
time, right? Sure, I can spend 10 hours studying languages now, but I definitely won't
be able to when I’m in Taiwan or when I have a full course load. And honestly, I don't
think I should even be spending that much time studying languages other than Mandarin
when I'm in Taiwan. I mean, yeah, I could adopt a sort of schedule where I study 3
languages for 30 minutes any given day, but even then, that's an hour and a half of
time away from enjoying a beautiful and fascinating country that I've never been to! I
feel that even an hour a day would be both unfair to myself and the very kind people
who are sponsoring my exchange. And lets be real, at this point I'm left with about 30
minutes of study a day and I have my doubts about how much can be accomplished with
three and a half hours of study per week divided between 5 languages (Mandarin isn't
included because I’ll be studying that every day anyway).

Besides, if I'm already unhappy with my progress when I'm studying 42 hours per week,
those 3.5 hours don't seem very likely to please me too much either. And yes, I'm aware
that I am actually making progress right now. Honestly, I love learning languages and I
love improving and being able to use my languages! But when progress is so slow, I feel
like I can't even use half of my languages. My French is pretty good, my Spanish is
functional and my Japanese is acceptable, but my other languages will take years to
become even passable at this rate. I'd say if I had 3 years during which I could
continue using my current schedule, then yes, I wouldn't be concerned with my rate of
progress because I know that by the end of those three years, the hours of study I'd
have put in would all amount to noticeable improvements. But I don't have that kind of
time, so I won’t make that kind of progress, so I won’t get to use my languages as
much, so I won’t have as much fun. So I should probably drop some languages if I want
to enjoy myself more.

Oh, but that's not all! There's something else that's been bothering me for a while.
Studying all the time has been holding me back. There are other important things that
I'd like to accomplish that I would not only enjoy, but that I believe would also have
a significant impact on my language skills. Mainly, I'd like to be a better reader all
around. To be more specific, I'd like to work on my concentration. I'm one of those
people who will adore a movie, yet a week later I can't remember some of the most
important characters' names or the scenes most important to the plot. I attribute this
to a lack of attention and also to my tendency to not think about what I'm watching.
The reason that I don't pay attention or think about these things is obviously not
because I'm uninterested, but rather because I'm not in the habit of doing so.

The solution to this is simple: conscious effort and practice. I need to read more in
languages that I understand and make a conscious effort to truly understand and
assimilate what I'm reading. The good news is that this is actually more enjoyable than
simply letting the words enter then exit my brain without the smallest consideration.
The bad news is that since I'm not used to doing this I really do have to make an
effort to pay attention, which tires me out easily.The even worse news is that Assimil
doesn't exactly provide the kind of material I should be focusing on, so if I want to
spend as much time as possible improving my reading/concentration skills, I should
probably drop some languages. Hey, that's twice I've said that!

Finally, I also feel that my studies have just plain old been interfering too much with
my life. There was a very helpful post by another member of the forum who shared a book
on how to maximize one's time. Unfortunately, I can't locate the post, but the book had
such advice as reading the newspaper and thinking in your free time about important
matters (the implications of event X or the meaning of chapter Y in book Z). But there
was one line from that book that has really kept with me: don't let yourself become a
prig. (Those are more or less the words used in the book, sorry!) While I was already
aware of the risk of becoming an intolerably boring person that comes with intensively
studying one subject for extended periods of time, I foolishly thought that I would
never become that kind of person. Oh wait, I don't do fun things anymore, nor do I talk
much with my friends these days. Guess I kinda let myself go there, huh? Maybe I'd
spend more time with my friends and do more enjoyable things if I dropped some
languages. Hey, there it is a third time!

The conclusion I’ve come to can be summed up very concisely: if I want to enjoy myself
more and hinder my intellectual development less, then I should study fewer languages
at a time. It seems weird to say it like that, but to me, it feels right. I dropped
Spanish, Swedish and Korean about two weeks ago, and I’ve also been putting less time
into Japanese, and I have to say that I’ve been enjoying myself more. I’ve had a lot
more free time, so I’ve been reading more (and not just fiction!), listening more to
podcasts about subjects I find interesting, spending more time with my friends, pickin
g up some of my old hobbies, and I’ve also been more physically active, which isn’t a
bad thing. I’ve even started studying world history and politics, subjects I detested
in middle/high school!

I don’t hate studying languages. I never will, but I guess I’ve come to realize that I
was being perhaps a bit too optimistic about what I’m capable of. From now on I think
I’ll be taking on a more “Luca” approach to language learning. I’ll focus on French and
study a bit of Mandarin on the side until I leave for Taiwan, and then I’ll focus on
Mandarin for a couple of years until I feel comfortable with it. After that, I’ll go
back to one of the other languages I used to study and repeat until I’ve studied all
the languages I want to learn. So I probably won’t ever stop studying, haha.

Sorry to anyone who actually read through this mess of incoherent teenage ramblings.
I’d already talked to some of my friends and my parents about this, but I still felt
like I needed to get it off my chest by telling a bunch of strangers on the internet
how I felt. Thanks internet!
1 person has voted this message useful

Senior Member
Joined 2632 days ago

155 posts - 226 votes 
Speaks: German*, English
Studies: French, Dutch

 Message 5 of 5
27 May 2013 at 10:35am | IP Logged 
Dear Sizen,

Thank you very much for sharing this with us. When I was about your age, I had the same decision to take. Looking back, it was one of the most dissapointing moments in my teenage life - to realise that I could not live up to my expectations, and - yes - could not be fluent in all those great languages. Though I know today that it was the right decision to drop some languages, to define what should be given importance in my live, I am still sad about this. It felt like saying good bye to a dear friend.

Today, I am in the brilliant situation to revive some of my teenage dreams, and I am sure you will be able to do so as well in future.

1 person has voted this message useful

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