(True to my old CTL habits, I need to start with a weather report.)
Spring finally seemed to be here – March was colder than average, but the last few days, we finally got plus degrees during the day (and less than five minus degrees during the night, yay), and the patches where the snow has melted have been growing!
But today I woke up to the sound of snow ploughs driving up and down our street and new what to expect when I looked out the window. More snow! Yesterday I learned a new phrase in Russian, which already proved to be useful: снег уже надоел – I’m already tired of the snow.
In terms of language learning, March was a month of waking up again, and trying to figure out what I want to start working on now that I’m back on the game. I started with the bigger picture of my goals with Russian and Swedish, and now I feel ready to plan how I want to work towards them next month.
Speaking – I’ll try to find the time for a meeting with my tandem partner, we had a long break but we both agreed it would be great to meet up again. I’ll also finally check out HelloTalk and see what comes out of that, perhaps I’ll find someone to chat to.
Reading – I don’t know!! I want to improve my reading but can’t think of where to start and haven’t had the energy to look up resources. Ideas are welcome!
I determined my goal for this year to be finding a reason to need advanced level Swedish.
A reason to need Swedish in April turned up sooner than I expected: at work, we have a new project starting soon, and related to that, I was asked to participate in a seminar in Stockholm the 12th of April.
A seminar. In Swedish. About the environmental impacts of road pavements.
I’ll mainly need to be listening and understanding, which wouldn’t be a problem, if it weren’t about a topic that I’m not an expert on in my own language. And then there’s going to be coffee breaks when I guess I should be able to at least exchange a few words with someone.
I’m thrilled and terrified at the same time.
Preparing for the seminar will pretty much determine my goals for Swedish in April. Here’s what I’ll do for the very least:
Find some background reading about the topics of the seminar to help me familiarise with the special vocabulary, and the topic in itself.
Ask someone at work to help me practice eg. giving some basic information about our company’s work related to the topic of the seminar, if possible
I’ve been thinking of trying to find a tutor on italki again, so if I manage to find one soon enough, I might ask them help me prepare a bit, as well ask ask my tandem partner to help me if we manage to find some time to chat
At some point this year I think I’ll make an effort to revise a bit again, but for now, I’m taking a break from French.
I’m currently contemplating on the question, should I start learning a new language or not. A part of me is telling me I shouldn’t – I have my hands full with Russian and Swedish as it is – but another part of me has had this idea for such a long time, and so many little things have been telling me that now could be the right time (against all reasonable thinking).
And apparently there’s a new Add1Challenge enrolment opening next week…
What to do?
What about you? What are your April plans looking like?
A while ago I was skimming through a fitness magazine at the hairdressers while waiting for the dye to set, and an article about setting goals to keep motivated to exercise caught my eye.
One point in that article was, that you should consider your overall situation in life when setting your goals: if you’re a CEO and have to keep a family life rolling, don’t set an exercise goal that requires 7 hours of training a week.
Makes sense, right? Similarly, if you have a brand new full-time job plus a volunteering position that takes up to 10 hours a week, it can hardly be the right time to think you can dedicate one hour daily to language learning. (That was me last August–September–October.)
Somehow, I think my goals for learning Swedish last year were simultaneously too ambitious for the time and energy really available, and not ambitious enough, so that in the little study time I had, I wasn’t really challenging myself.
I did sort of make a plan in August to start working my way to eventually reach higher levels. I was inspired by the post by Katie Harris about aiming for fluency in French, and I thought I’d want to make my perhaps somewhat lighter version of aiming for fluency in Swedish from my living room.
What I did not realise was that somewhat less effort would mean way less progress.
I did listen to podcasts and audiobooks, read books and chat with a tandem partner in Swedish – quite regularly even – but I didn’t really challenge myself, I didn’t really do what was difficult. And I certainly didn’t put a lot of time into studying. And so I didn’t really make progress, and my motivation dropped (and then hibernation happened).
However, those perhaps a bit half-hearted attempts to improve my Swedish still taught me something important about my current level and what it will take to make progress. I realised the inevitable truth: I really am sitting firmly in the intermediate plateau, and the way I was practicing last year won’t be enough to get me out of there (within the next 20 years at least).
So now, thinking of what my goals for this year should be, I know I’m going to have to be more specific, more systematic, and more ambitious. And at the same time, more humble and realistic.
What should I work on?
Kerstin Cable from Fluent Languages talks in her recent Fluent Show podcast episode about intermediate plateau, and says some really wise things there. Two things especially caught my attention:
It doesn’t help to assume that your progress will be as fast as it has been.
You should think what is especially difficult, and work on that.
I won’t have too much time for learning Swedish (I can’t dedicate as much time to language learning as I’d like to, and I’ve decided to focus on Russian). But I still really want to work with improving my Swedish. So I’ll just have to accept that it will be slow. And I’ll have to identify some specific areas that I find difficult in Swedish, and set some goals related to improving those.
Now, following the advice of Kerstin, I tried to think what I’m most frustrated about in Swedish right now.
First of all, it’s clear that speaking is the area I want to improve the most. My reading and listening are pretty much somewhere in the C levels already. With listening, I’ve had problems mainly just when I’m with a group of natives and try to follow their conversation. My reading skills I even dare estimate to be on level C2. An “I can read and understand the main points of a text about sustainable public procurement in Danish because my Swedish is so good” kind of a level.
But speaking… That’s where the biggest frustration lies.
But what about it exactly? My tandem partner keeps asking me, what is it I want to improve, because he finds I speak well enough to get by anytime. But for some reason, I’m not happy.
The thing is, I’m not really able to discuss anything of particular interest to me. I can discuss general everyday matters with ease, but if I try to explain about my job, my volunteering, why I love learning languages, or anything like that, I find that I express myself very clumsily and lack the necessary vocabulary.
That is something I think I want to work on next.
Aiming for more sophisticated conversations (with whom, though?)
I can’t remember which of the “bigger names” of language learning and polyglotism it was, but I remember reading somewhere this approach of working towards fluency:
Choose a certain topic of personal relevance,
Concentrate on practicing discussing that topic, learning the vocabulary and expressions needed and using them as much as you can,
When it starts to feel easy, pick another topic and start specialising on that one.
That approach somehow resonated with me and it’s been on my mind a lot lately. It seems like exactly what I want to do with my Swedish right now.
I’ve tried to think of some topics I’m passionate about and would like to be able to discuss, here are a few:
Project management, time management and productivity
Language learning (of course!)
Nature and outdoors activities
That seems specific enough.
But there’s one problem: I don’t really know for what I would be learning all that!
The thing is, I am learning all my languages mainly out of linguistic fascination. So I have no practical reasons to learn to talk about scouting or language learning in Swedish. I only have a few Swedish friends, I don’t really get any chances to talk with them and they’re a bit too used to speaking English with me. And I really don’t know if I ever get the chance to spend time in Sweden again and to find Swedish friends who would be passionate about the same things as me and want to have sophisticated conversations about them with me. It sounds slightly far-fetched.
I guess somewhere deep inside I’m just thinking that perhaps, if I keep learning the language, someday I will get the chance to make friends I wouldn’t have otherwise, friends with whom I can discuss languages or scouting or what have you. That’s one of the reasons I’m into learning languages in general. You never know who you’ll meet!
However, another wise thing Kestin Cable said in her podcast was that if you don’t put yourself in a situation where you need C1 level of a language, you’ll never reach that level. So just hoping I’ll need it someday isn’t really going to help me get to that level.
And I really want to find a reason to need C1 level Swedish.
Which brings us to my goal for Swedish learning in 2018.
My goal: To find the reason to have a goal
The conclusion of this (once again, not very short and quick) post:
My goal for 2018 is to find a reason to need C1 Swedish.
That means I’ll actively look for as many different forums and situations as possible, related to the things I normally do, such as my job, scouting or language learning, in Swedish. So not just find a language exchange partner or a tutor, but to connect with Swedish-speakers with similar interests, people who might have some interest in speaking with me for other reasons than helping me learn the language.
Sounds simple, but I think it might be tricky to do in practice.
Have you been in a similar situation, where you have to actively create yourself the need to use a language on an advanced level? How did you manage? Let me know in the comments!
After reviving from hibernation, I already promised I’d write a Clear the list post for March. However, I didn’t manage to make one because I had no idea what my goals for March should be. I still hadn’t figured out what I even want to achieve this year. And before I could figure that out, I had to review what I actually did last year.
Now I’ve finally had time to process it, and figure out where I am and where I want to be going next.
I managed to identify three things I would like to work on this year:
Improve my Russian as much as I can
Identify a specific area in Swedish I most need to work on – and work on that
Dabble a bit in a new language – one I’ve had my eyes on for a while, and now the time feels right.
Now, actually a fourth thing is, I want to write this blog more often. I just have this bad habit of writing huge marathon posts that take three hours to finish. So, to start working towards making shorter posts more often, I’ll break this learning goals for 2018 into three parts.
Part one is about my main goal: to improve my Russian.
My Goals for Learning Russian in 2018
I feel most motivated about improving my Russian right now, so that’s what I mainly want to concentrate on.
I tried to identify my current level and would say I’m somewhere between A2 and B1. More B1 in listening and spoken interaction, but definitely more A2 in spoken production, writing and reading. It’s interesting – in other languages, reading has been the easiest part for me, but reading in Russian feels quite difficult. Probably due to the different script?
Anyhow, I think the place between A2 and B1 is the sweet spot of language learning, where you’ve started to get your head around the language but your progress still hasn’t slowed down too much. Perhaps that’s partly the reason for my motivation to keep learning Russian right now: I feel like there’s most to achieve there, with least effort. You should make hay while the sun shines!, right?
Where do I want to be with my Russian by the end of this year? I actually got inspired by looking at the different aspects used in CEFR to define being level B1, identifying things I still need to improve. So this year, I’ll systematically work towards being able to do the following by the end of the year:
Describing things I’ve done and experiences I had eg. in an ordinary week or on a holiday
Describing my plans and goals – on a more abstract level, related to job, personal projects and lifestyle
Present reasons for my opinions and choices – e.g., why I do or don’t like or want something
Describing the plot of a film or a book
Effortlessly writing diary entries about things I did and felt and thought
Writing a personal letter (perhaps not the most relevant skill, but the idea of writing letters and it would be a great way to practice… I’ll just need to find someone to write to!)
Understanding main points of speech about everyday topics (eg. in vlogs)
Understanding main points when watching news
Understanding main points of speech about some topics of particular interest to me: I picked nature and language learning as the topics I want to start with 🙂
Being able to read texts about topics of personal interest (nature, languages)
Being able to read personal letters
How do I get there?
I’ll try to set my monthly goals based on this bigger picture, focusing on one goal per core skill at a time. My main focus will be on speaking and I’ll pick one of the four speaking related goals as kind of a theme for my learning each month, and link the other three core skills to support my speaking practice.
For example: I think in April I’ll focus on practicing to describe my experiences and thins that happen in my everyday life. I’ll link that with writing diary entries and watch some vlogs to support that. Additionally, I’ll start working through my textbook to get some structure to my studies.
Now, I’ll REALLY try putting together a Clear the list post for April to break these goals down into more concrete steps and show you in more detail, what kind of learning methods I’m planning on using.
(Not exactly a short post either, this one. Oh well, I’ll learn I guess.)
At first glance, when looking back and comparing my language learning years 2016 and 2017, I kind of felt that 2017 became a real pannukakku – a Finnish expression that is used to say that something kind of failed (which is really super weird actually: pannukakku means pancake, and Finns love pancake).
In 2016, I started to learn languages again after several years’ break, developed really active routines and started setting goals and tracking my learning habits.
2017 started out nicely, but then life happened: thesis, a new job, a huge amount Scouts volunteering… And by November, my language routines and habits were almost gone.
This was my picture of how my 2017 in languages was, and at first I thought it’s not worth reviewing in more detail how I did with my goals for 2017. Not when it’s March already.
But then I decided to at least have a look at the post from January 2017 to remind me of what my thoughts had been in the beginning of the year.
And after having a look, I decided to share what I found. So here we go, a (rather long!) review of my 2017. I’ve included quotes from my different Clear the List posts throughout the year to show exactly what a pannukakku of a year it was..
January–April: Where can my get my Russian in four months? “I think I’ll keep my focus on Russian until the end of April. Perhaps even May, we’ll see. I should be able to make quite some progress in that time. I’m excited to see how much!”
March:“I wasn’t preparing enough for the meetings (like looking up vocabulary and sentences and structures that could be useful). I still struggle a lot in the conversations if I’m not prepared.”
April: “Watching the videos my tandem partner had found me to watch for the very first meetings, I was happy to notice I could understand them a lot better than I remember I could back then!”
As in the course of autumn I gradually dropped almost all Russian learning activities, I’d actually already forgotten about how much Russian I learned last year. Now that I look at my Clear the list posts from last spring, I’ve gotten an unbelievable amount of learning activities done each month.
Looking at my Instagram videos from January, the difference to later videos is huge. I spoke very slowly and very simple sentences in the beginning.
And if I look farther back, I can remember the feeling of starting out the tandem meetings (that was in late 2016), and how badly I struggled even with the simplest conversations. And then the feeling, some time in the early summer, when I had a meeting with my tandem partner, we’d go to a cafe at a beach, and sit in the sunny terrace sipping cold lemonade and chatting about my trip to Paris later that summer, about what I wanted to do there, and about what was best about travelling… in Russian, that is.
I’d say I moved at least from level A1 to A2 in half a year. Which, of course, is not very fast progress, but it’s definitely progress!
January–June: French – from understanding to speaking “Last year, I’ve taken a huge leap with my understanding of French, but I still don’t know how well I actually speak… I’ll come up with a way to practice speaking starting in February and gradually add the amount of practice towards the summer.”
February: “My university has an ‘Each One Teach One” Facebook group, where I found (or actually was found by) a French girl who studies in Helsinki and is learning Swedish! We had a coffee and spent an hour speaking French and Swedish. That was awesome.”
April:“I also keep getting amazed by what kind of topics I manage to keep up a conversation about with my French. This month I was explaning about the Finnish Defence Forces and voluntary military service – not exactly my everyday topic in any language.”
Finding a French tandem partner and having was definitely one of last year’s language learning victories. It didn’t even take that long to prove myself that I’m quite able to have a decent conversation in French! I did struggle a lot and often lacked the vocabulary but with a patient and helpful conversation partner, I dared to try and discuss even things I never would have imagined possible with my French level.
May–June: Swedish, how I’ve missed you, don’t go away again “I think I’ll dedicate a month or two for Swedish in May-June. It seems like it’s about time then; it’ll be a year since I left Sweden after my exchange. And for no reason, I just love Swedish. Lovelovelove. I’ll let the midsummer warmth melt the ice. And from then on, I’ll work harder to keep it away!”
June:“I had to finish my thesis, and even though in the end I guess I didn’t work any more hours on it than the months before, just the thought of finishing it was so huge that I had to empty my head of anything else. So decided not to even do Clear the list and language goal setting in June. “
July:“My goal was to just defrost my Swedish, which felt really rusty. That goal isn’t very well defined, but I could say I’ve reached it already. I’d say some defrosting has happened since January, just by reading some books in Swedish. Now, after just a few weeks of more active practice, I feel like I’m almost where I left when my Swedish was at it’s best.
However, now I find I’ve got mersmak – an excellent Swedish expression which means that after tasting some, you want more. I don’t want to leave it here, I want to take my Swedish to a new level…”
August:“…my goal was to aim for immersion, and read, write, speak or listen a little bit every day except weekends–. I basically had one week when I can say I did this. The other weeks I did a fair amount of listening, read a little, and that’s it.”
September:“I had a chat on Skype with my new tandem partner several times a week – just for ten to twenty minutes, but still, I already feel a lot more confident about speaking.”
Of my languages, Swedish is the one where I’ve most felt like I failed with my goals last year. May and June ended up being the most stressful time regarding finishing my thesis, so my Swedish summer didn’t really get going like I planned. In July, August and September, I tried to go for immersion at home (the kind that Katie Harris has so inspiringly written about!) but ended up having less and less time for language learning as the months passed, and losing my routines altogether.
However, if I look at my goal from January, it was to defrost my Swedish and get back to the level where I was after upper secondary school. And already in July I’ve written that I actually did do that! Then I ended up moving my goals forward. And the new goal just wasn’t really well in line with other stuff in life. And I hadn’t even really properly considered what reaching that goal would require. But setting that goal and trying it out actually showed me what it would take to “take my Swedish to a new level”. I’m now more aware of where I am and what are the areas I need to develop.
You wouldn’t call that a failure, would you?
Other Goals – These Didn’t Happen
July–September: New (old) language! “If I’m happy enough with my progress, perhaps I can give myself the permission to dig out another language I used to study ages ago. Japanese, or German? We’ll see!”
October–December: Fight the freeze “…right now I think I could try out some sort of a review cycle, changing which language I have my main focus on, brushing up my existing language skills (of course learning some new stuff too). How often should I give more practice to a language to prevent it from freezing? Or how much time is little enough continuously, to keep up a language or even make some slow progress? I’ll see if I can start finding the answers.”
As I’ve described, I ended up focusing on Swedish longer than I’d planned. The time wasn’t right for a new language. And then I ended up in my language learning hibernation and didn’t really put any effort at all into developing my revision routines.
So how was my 2017 in languages?
Well, if you’ve read this far, you probably noticed: It wasn’t that bad. And it was definitely worth reviewing.
I was reminded about how many little victories there actually were last year. I improved in all of the three languages I was learning, or at least brought them back to more active memory. And there was a lot of speaking in all three of them, perhaps more than ever before. That’s no small thing. In 2016 I struggled a lot with speaking any of them.
And another lesson I learned: Clear the List is so worth the time and the effort. Not just the goal setting part, but the monthly review as well. By looking back at the entire year, I was able to get the big picture of how much progress I’d made, which can be life-saving for motivation. I was also able to reflect on what worked and what didn’t. This will help me improve as a language learner.
To be honest, I started writing this as a “goals for 2018” post at first, but then got carried away looking back and had to change the title. But I think I needed this. I hope it will help me set better goals this year!
This year, it was still snowing at the and of April and now the dark, rainy part of autumn rushed in the moment October began, and I found myself feeling as tired as I usually would in the darkest days of November. Oh well, to even that out, the autumn colours couldn’t be more beautiful than they are this year. Always look on the bright side.
(By the way, I spent a while looking for a word there, and finally accepted that it doesn’t seem to exist in English – the changing of colours of tree leaves in autumn is called “ruska” in Finnish. Is there a word for that in some other languages?)
As I predicted, September wasn’t the best in terms of routines – quite understandably, as life was on the doorstep of a new phase. I graduated and didn’t yet know what would happen next. And there was the week-long trip to Iceland, which was obviously a break from all the routines.
My main goal for September was to learn some Swedish every day (except while in Iceland), and I pretty much managed that, until… The week after Iceland I got a job (!!!) and that started the last week of September. Well, you can guess – starting a new job means a lot of learning and new information. There wasn’t much energy left for anything else.
So all in all, there was only two weeks of efficient Swedish learning in September – but those weeks I’m quite happy with, mainly because there was more speaking involved than ever. I had a chat on Skype with my new tandem partner several times a week – just for ten to twenty minutes, but still, I already feel a lot more confident about speaking.
As for listening, which is usually the easy part – that has been suffering from the fact that I have too many alternatives and can’t seem to decide so I end up doing nothing. I’ve been listening to several podcasts, and choosing which podcast and which episode to listen to hasn’t worked out for me.
Writing I’d decided not to worry too much about – and I basically didn’t do any writing at all.
For reading, I had two books, a novel called Där vi en gång gått by Kjell Westö and the behavioural science (or “science”) book Omgiven av idioter by Thomas Eriksson. I actually put the former on a break and only read the latter. I didn’t get through the whole book, though. To be honest, the book was a disappointment, I didn’t find it interesting at all. It was full of annoying and stupid oversimplifications and generalisations. I had to return it to the library before I managed to get half-way through it and I couldn’t loan it again right away because there is such a long queue of reservations to the book… But I say good riddance. Boo.
For Russian, my goal was to have two tandem meetings, which I did, and start listening to audiobooks again, which I didn’t. And for French, I just said I’d keep reading my light airport novel – and I read just a bit, maybe once or twice.
So, not a month of amazing accomplishments, but it was ok. Now, as you could perhaps already tell, there are a few things I’ll do a bit differently this month.
Learning Goals for October 2017
Because my new job is still new and a bit overwhelming, and I have a whole new routine to create as my weeks have now become a lot more regular that they have been during my student days, I’ll take it easy this month. I still aim for a bit of Swedish every day, but really just a little will do. I aim for 5-15 minutes every day.
I’ll focus on building habits, such as:
Listening during bus trips and when I go for a walk or jogging (another habit I’ll try to re-establish), and maybe sometimes when I tidy up or cook at home. I’ll go for an audiobook when I go jogging, and podcasts on the bus and at home. Produktivitetsbloggens podcast whenever there’s a new episode, and Respodden otherwise. There, now I won’t need to make the choice later.
Writing my diary. I have a five year diary and at times I’ve been writing in it every day, but this whole year I’ve struggled with that habit. Now, one more attempt.
Having a Skype with my tandem partner after work – we’ll see how often we manage to schedule this, but I’m hoping for a couple of times per week.
Reading… Hmm. I’ll go back to reading Där vi en gång gått, but I don’t know where and when I could stick to the habit of reading a bit. Reading just before bedtime doesn’t work for me, I’m always too tired in the evening. But I guess I’ll start carrying the book around with me and trying to find a place and time for that habit.
What’s really exciting is, I might also actually need my Swedish at work! I actually already had a task that involved reading some documents in Swedish. And Danish, mind you! Haha. Seriously, though. Apparently I can read Danish quite decently (as long as you don’t ask me to read it out loud!).
With Russian, I’ll try to have two tandem meetings again. And listen to some audiobooks the weeks I don’t have a meeting.
Aaaand I’ll read my novel in French if I feel like it.
And I’ll try to write at least one blog post before November’s clear the list.
There. My plans for October – slightly less ambitious but still moving forward. We’ll see, where these little steps will take me this month! I’m also preparing to take it even easier if I need to, as it gets darker and colder and I get more tired towards November… I’ve realised the secret of surviving the dark time of the year is to accept that I can’t manage the same amount of stuff, as less daylight means less energy.
And whenever there’s a ray of sunshine, one must truly enjoy it:
Ah, September – one of my favourites! The feeling of freshness both out in the nature and in life in general. Right now there is even more anticipation than usual, as I’m turning a whole new leaf in life: I graduated! It’s time to say goodbye to student life and welcome something new. What exactly, I don’t know yet, as I’m currently searching for a job… But I feel positive and excited.
As I wrote last month, August attacked me kind of suddenly – and it didn’t give me an easy time the whole month, really. I caught a cold and was sick for a week, and even without that, I had a lot more eon my plate than I’d expected and it ended up being like a marathon of months. Everything I had to do was really motivating and exciting though! However, it meant that my language plans had been slightly too ambitious, as I’d overestimated the time I could spare for language learning.
So it was the third month in a row of doing less than I planned, but I’m not too disappointed. I’m still sort of experimenting with what kind of routine I could have for Swedish, and each of these three months I’ve still studied more than the previous month, and managed to make it a little more consistent. I’ll have to tune down my goals from last month a bit, but I’ll still try to study a bit more than last month!
For Swedish, my goal was to aim for immersion, and read, write, speak or listen a little bit every day except weekends, so I’d do all of them a few time every week. I basically had one week when I can say I did this. The other weeks I did a fair amount of listening, read a little, and that’s it.
Listening – I listened to a lot of music and quite a few podcast episodes. Reading – I read some 50 pages of Där vi en gong gått, and once I read some articles about circular economy and wrote down useful words. Writing – I only wrote maybe two entries in my diary. I don’t know why this is so hard to get going. Speaking – Meh… I had one Skype with my new Tandem partner. I spoke a few times on my own while driving somewhere. And did two short videos on Instagram.
I don’t mind too much doing less than planned for the other parts, but I really want to improve my speaking, and at this rate, much progress isn’t going to happen!
As for Russian, I met with my tandem partner twice and that’s all. This is ok, but the tandem meetings were more enjoyable when I was being more consistent with other Russian practice, too. Using my Russian now feels a bit like I’m taking it out of the fridge each time; it’s all stiff and sticky and needs to be warmed up before it starts to flow like it should. Oh well, I guess it’s good practice anyway!
For French I didn’t even have any specific goals, I only read some more of the book I bought from Paris airport.
Here’s how my monthly tracker looks like his time:
Learning Goals for September 2017
I don’t really know in detail what I’ll be up to this September. For now, it’s job search and hopefully some chill.
All I know for sure is I’m off to Iceland for a week (woop!!), a rather spontaneous trip with a friend of mine. So not too much time for language studies that week. It would have been a chance for a little side track language adventure – Icelandic sure is an interesting one – but well, I’m not really into language dabbling right now, and anyway I only decided to book the trip two weeks ago… I think just góðan daginn and takk fyrir will have to do this time!
After my trip, I guess I’ll also review my goals for the rest of the month a little bit, when I know more about my situation and plans. I’ve teamed up with Elena as language buddies for Swedish – which I’m really glad about! I’m quite sure chatting with her will help me get back on track after my trip.
I’ll still stick to the attempt of some every day Swedish. But whereas last month I was trying to fit an hour of studying to my days, now I’ll settle for just doing something every day, and try to practice each of the four skills once at least once a week.
I’ll keep reading Där vi en gång gått, but as it’s a bit of a heavy read, I also got another book alternative: Omgiven av idioter by Thomas Erikson. It describes a personality analysis system where all people can be sorted to four categories, and how this can help you understand people better, even the ones that are very different than you. I’m not sure if it’s very well based on scientific facts, but it’s a popular book, and should be an interesting read.
I don’t really lack alternatives for speaking practice, I just didn’t utilize them last month: italki tutors, my new tandem partner, some friends I could Skype with… This month I just need to book these well in advance and stick to them. At least one real speaking practice session per week is my most important goal this month.
I don’t know how I could motivate myself to write more often… but after all, it’s not the most important skill for me for now, so I won’t worry too much about it. I’ll write something if I feel like it.
Russian & French
For Russian, I’ll try to manage having two Tandem meetings, and I’ll try to start listening to audiobooks again.
For French, I’ll keep reading my airport novel.
Blog and Instagram
What actually kind of bothers me is I haven’t managed to find the time to write anything here on the blog except these Clear the list posts! I have a long list of topics I wanted to write about but they just aren’t happening. And last month I didn’t even manage to answer any of the comments I got on my previous post – so sorry about that! I’ll try to do better this month. I wonder if I should book a specific time for blog-writing each week…
Well, maybe it already helps if I hereby promise to write at least one post before the end of this month!
Besides that, I’ll try to get back to the habit of posting on Instagram. The language society there is one of the best things for motivation. (If you want to find loads of language learning friends on Instagram, a good place to start is to look up @joyoflanguages and #languagediarychallenge, and join the challenge!)
So – nothing too new and exciting for my language plans this month, but I guess is good to have something familiar in this new situation I’m in! 🙂 Maybe when other things in life start to find their course again, I can shake things up a little and think of something new. We’ll see!
August attacked me today. I’m pretty sure the shift from July is usually more smooth and friendly. In August, things that have been on summer break tend to get going slowly throughout the month, gently waking you up to everyday routines. But August this year seems somehow more aggresive. Maybe it got up on the wrong side of the bed?
I’m not sure if our vacation in Paris was too short, if I’m just tired because we returned from there late last night or if it’s because I was avoiding some of the stuff I should have done before our vacation, but today I felt like hiding under a blanket and throwing my phone and calendar out of the window because I got overwhelmed by all the stuff there was suddenly to be done.
Luckily I’d done something before our trip: drafted this post. So now I can publish it and feel like I’ve gotten something started this month already, and maybe other things will seem less stressful tomorrow!
I only got back on track and set my goals in mid-July, so there’s less to review, just two weeks, the second of which was largely defined by our trip to Paris. So my main goal was actually to just get going again, re-establish my routines and start developing a new study plan, because I switched my main focus from Russian to Swedish.
With Swedish, I am now aiming for immersion, that is, surrounding myself with as much Swedish as possible every day, in order to brush up my skills. The goals I set myself were not very exact: just to do some writing, reading, speaking or listening – at least one of them, but preferably all of them – every day. I had some ideas of resources for each of the core skills, and my plan was to try them out and see which suit me best so I can be more accurate with my goals next month.
This went quite well. Before Paris, I did something almost every day, I only missed two days. Most days I practiced two or three of the core skills. I also have a better idea of how I want to study Swedish now. I’m not sure if the immersion thing is really happening, though. I still need to look for more opportunities to add Swedish to my everyday life.
For Russian, I had the relaxed goal of having some study time once a week. What I did was have one tandem meeting.
Even though Swedish was my main focus, these two weeks were actually quite intense also for French, because the first week and a half I tried my best to review some phrases and prep myself mentally to make the most of the chance to speak for real, and last week was all about the rare occasion of actually speaking French in France!
I didn’t manage to practice every day or quite even every two days, but I did prepare a little bit, and I do think it helped a little. It was mainly about really deciding to speak as much as possible instead of actual review or learning something new. And during our trip I did speak some French every day, and managed to find several occasions for chatting some extra. I still wish I’d spoken more, I still was caught by the traveler’s speech block, where you find yourself not saying something because you’re unsure of the correct way to say it. Well, C’est a vie! I still spoke a thousand times more French than last time I was in Paris (erm, 7 years ago??).
So July was interesting and all in all quite successful! Here’s how my tracker looks:
Learning Goals for August 2017
In January, when I was thinking about what I want to achieve in my language studies this year, I though I’d just have a “Swedish Summer”, and then perhaps get back to Russian or even start a new language for a change. My goal was to just defrost my Swedish, which felt really rusty.
That goal isn’t very well defined, but I could say I’ve reached it already. I’d say some defrosting has happened since January, just by reading some books in Swedish. Now, after just a few weeks of more active practice, I feel like I’m almost where I left when my Swedish was at it’s best, after upper secondary school. Of course there’s a lot of vocabulary I know I have once learned but is still not in my active memory. Anyway, it seems the frost isn’t as thick as I’d thought.
However, now I find I’ve got mersmak – an excellent Swedish expression which means that after tasting some, you want more. I don’t want to leave it here, I want to take my Swedish to a new level – haven’t yet decided which level. But for now, my main focus will stay on Swedish.
Besides that, in August I think I’ll set French to standby, and try to keep up a little bit of Russian.
The core of my Swedish routine will stay the same as in July: aim for immersion; read, speak, listen and/or write something every day. But I’ve defined my goals a bit more specifically. I’ll try to study 1-2 hours a day, five days a week.
I’ll keep reading Där vi en gång gått. I’ll also try and find some articles related to my professional interests, in order to build even work-related vocabulary. I’ll try to read a bit at least four times a week, with one more active learning session: writing down useful expressions and making up example sentences where I use them.
I’ll try to listen something, even if just Swedish music, every day. I’ve found three podcasts that I enjoy:
Hållbarhetspodden: Interviews about sustainability perspectives with Swedish business people. This is quite challenging, but challenge is good!
Respodden: A travel podcast. Partially in English, but there’s enough Swedish and I’ve found it very enjoyable to listen while eg. jogging, it let’s me dream of traveling to faraway places like Costa Rica and Cuba…
I’m also considering finding some Swedish TV programs to watch. In July I watched a film, Stockholm Östra, from SVT play. The thing is, I don’t watch a lot of TV in general, so it’s not the best resource for me! Although it would be most useful.
I’ve now joined italki and found a few nice community tutors – and possibly a language exchange partner too. I also have a few friends to practice with, and I’ll try to have a Skype or meet up with them in August. So I think I should manage to have two actual conversations per week.
I’m planning to practice writing at least three times a week. I’ll either write an entry in my diary or just write about whatever is on my mind. I’ve practiced free writing quite a lot while writing my thesis, so I’ve gotten pretty good at just writing what comes in my mind, and now I could try that for practicing Swedish. For more active practice once a week, I’ll write a text and then look up any grammar points or words I’m unsure of.
I decided also to do some grammar exercises once a week, from a grammar book we used in school. I think it’ll be useful to review some word order rules and prepositions…
I’m also thinking of setting up a Swedish Goldlist to ensure I really capture some of the new vocabulary I’ll run into. I bought a pile of new Moleskines from Paris and I can’t wait to use them! ❤
For Russian, I’ll have the same goal as last month: Some study time once a week. Tandem meetings, reviewing my notes, audiobook, writing my diary. Perhaps some YouTube videos and music. I’m not putting too much pressure into this for now.
For standby mode, I’ll first do some reading. I bought a novel from the airport in Paris, something very light and silly, but the story is catchy enough and the book is surprisingly easy to read. I actually haven’t read a single novel in French before.
After finishing that, I figured I could find an audiobook to listen. Any tips on audiobooks for lower intermediate level?
I have a feeling that despite the rough start today, August will be great. Even though it caught me by surprise, in terms of language learning I’m actually quite well prepared, and very motivated.
Really looking forward to read about the goals of others on #clearthelist, too!