At the beginning of June I’ve been busy meeting people: first, my boyfriend visiting from Sweden, then I went back to Italy to see Radiohead with a French friend I hadn’t met in a long time. Until half June I didn’t have any time for structured studies, but being with native speakers of my target languages I managed to fit studies in my fun time.
It felt good to finally be able to express myself in Swedish beyond Hej,
I was also able to speak in French for a whole evening, dropping in an English word every now and then but all in all expressing myself quite clearly. I’ve been missing this language.
Lastly, I took contact with a Japanese friend after postponing for too long and it was so nice hearing from her. I am also still able to write without much struggle in Japanese which is reassuring.
In brief, language studies in June were mostly focused on socialising.
Before & After – My language learning progress
After reading this inspiring post by Tiia I decided I wanted to give some thought to the achievements in my language learning life. It’s so easy to see the mistakes, to get frustrated when I don’t accomplish as much as I want, but I shouldn’t forget the big picture. That is when reflection gets necessary. I went a long way since I started tackling English in school until now. So here I am, celebrating the good stuff!
Before – About 10 years ago and before moving abroad I understood spoken and written English, but whenever I had to write a simple message I spent a lot of time looking for words. Still, the result was not always excellent. Also, I made many more mistakes while speaking. So much so that a friend once told me I should go and see my English teacher again…
After – Now, almost 5 years into living abroad (2 of which in London) I use English daily for work and in my private life. In the meantime, no one told me I better take some more English lessons, which is worth some serious self-high-five.
Before – When I moved to Japan to study the language, in 2012, I spent a few months in terror of speaking. In class, I was very good at grammar, kanji and exercises, but my conversations skills were lacking. Outside of the class, I would switch to English whenever I had the occasion, too scared of mistakes to even try.
After – Despite being rusty and not having practised for a long time I can still have a smooth conversation with a native speaker. I hope to have the chance to speak soon and get back to my best Japanese-speaking self, but until then it’s good to keep in mind that I made huge progress since I started.
Before – Last year I was working for a wine trading company and my colleagues were French. When they talked to each other about work-related issues I would reply to them, as I understood all they said, but every time I used English. I didn’t dare to speak in French, I couldn’t find the words to produce a sentence.
After – I mentioned I spent a few days in Italy with a friend from Rennes. I had decided to use the occasion for practice, as I would feel more at ease with someone I know well. I was able to speak in French with him for a whole evening and more, even understanding his jokes and making my own.
Before – I started being serious about Swedish studies at the beginning of this year. For a few months I just memorised vocabulary, studied grammar and set phrases, but I had the hardest time whenever I tried to formulate a sentence.
After – It seems like my silent period with Swedish has finally come to an end. I went from zero to small talk quite suddenly, as my knowledge solidified and I became confident enough to start opening my mouth. Once again feeling at ease with the person I’m talking to plays a huge role, but you have to start somewhere.
Looking back to the first half of 2017
Now that we are halfway through 2017 it’s time to review my yearly goals. They have changed quite a bit since I first set them. I have been focusing mainly on Swedish, while I’ve only been maintaining my French and well… trying not to forget too much Japanese. I reshaped my overall life plans during the past months: I started working as a teacher, launched my own online teaching business and promoting it takes much of my time at the moment. Also if everything goes according to plan – confession time! – I should be moving to Sweden next year, so I want to improve as much as possible by then.
Finally, I feel like I have enough basic knowledge to start using some monolingual material. In the past week, I made some additions to my tools: the Rivstart books and SFIpodd. These are absolutely perfect for where I am now and where I want to be next in my studies, I feel a renewed excitement towards learning.
Unlike many learners who are allergic to studying structures from a book, I am a bit of a grammar geek: I love learning rules, doing exercises, spotting it in authentic texts and then applying it. That’s why textbooks make me feel all safe and warm inside.
SFIpodd has real-life, real speed dialogues divided by level. The hosts will introduce a few new words and some grammar, and you have a script including a monolingual definition of new words. I love it, I’m so happy I found it.
French and Japanese will remain in maintenance mode until further notice. I will use them anytime I have the chance in my free time through music, movies, Instagram Language Challenge and blog articles, but I won’t add any active study for now.
Swedish will get my full attention, and the plan for July is:
- Memrise: learn 100 new words.
- Babbel (*): review weekly and do one new lesson per week.
- Learningswedish.se: one new lesson per week.
- hejsvenska: one session per week.
I like how words and expressions overlap among different resources and they seem to stick better. I find it very useful to go over the same topic with different tools.
- Rivstart textbooks: I’m going through the first chapters quite fast as it’s vocabulary and grammar I already know, but I expect to have to slow down soon. I’m planning on having 2 sessions of study each week.
- SFIPodd: this is finally the tool I’ve been looking for to improve my listening. I’ll do one or two lessons per week, using the dialogues also for dictations and shadowing.
Last but not least, I recently rediscovered the pleasure of notebooks, which are not only cute but also a great way to learn according to research. At the end of each week, I will review my notes and practice building some sentence with what I learned.
When you are feeling insecure about your studies and your progress, try this exercise yourself. Think about the things that you struggled with before, and what you became able to do after. It’s a little reflection exercise that makes a big difference in your self-confidence.
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