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“Summer language learning goals”… or not

…because it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere. Also, my university days, with those amazing 2-month long summer holidays are, sadly, long gone. But I have discovered some new pologlots online lately and have been quite inspired to:

  1. Really try and give this language blogging thing a proper go, and hopefully do some blogging in other languages too – practising that output!
  2. Get more structured with my learning!

You can find the very inspiring Polyglot Progress and DevenirPolygotte on Youtube. They’re also on Twitter and elswehere and DevenirPolyglotte has a WordPress blog, which I have browsed through and plan to keep reading more of. They have both recently done the ‘Summer language goals’ thing. As for me, this is just my ‘general language goals for the interim’.

So, onto my language learning goals for the next while. I do know that goals are supposed to be a bit more specific and mine aren’t really, but anyway…


This is the main language I am focusing on at the moment. I think I started it this year. I have some Vietnames friends, so I might be able to get a little practice in, once I have got to a reasonable level for trying to talk. So far I am finding the grammar fairly simple, but I need to work on tones! I also struggle to remember which diacritics to apply to each word, but that is probably because I am not properly distinguishing tones and pronunciation.


I do have a bit of Japanese vocabulary already, but it needs some grammar study, filling in gaps and, very importantly, learning to read some Kanji! At the moment Memrise is my main tool for attempting to learn Kanji. I’ve chosen a set that teaches kanji and vocabulary built from kanji, alternating kani-english and then kanji-pronunciation, so that each portion is taught twice. I’m feeling positive about it. So I’ll see how that goes!


I have a novel in Italian that I found at a second hand book store some years ago. It’s called “Il Romanzo di Ramses: La Battaglia di Qadesh” by Christian Jacq (it’s a translation from French actually). Where I live, you are more likely to find second hand Dutch, German and French books, so this Italian book was a rare find. I have also recently aquired a book of Spanish poetry – equally rare! I think I tried to start reading this novel back then but didn’t get past the first chapter. Now I am five chapters in and managing okay – progress! The chapters are each quite short luckily – nice for one or two sittings per chapter. It is going slowly though, and needless to say, it is going to take a long time to get through the whole 400-odd-page book. But my goal here is to persevere through it.

Well those are my main goals for now. I don’t have much more than an hour or so each workday evening, though the weekends give me a bit more time. So if I want to get serious about the above goals, I will have to try to avoid the tempatation of other languages for now. But I will no doubt dabble from time to time.

Perhaps in another post I will talk about my ‘hit list’, as I have heard it called, and more about myself. But to be honest, it has been so long since I last wrote on this blog, that I actually am not sure what all I have said before. Shocking! And I really would like to do some blogging in my other languages – at least German to start with.

Good-bye for now.



The Janus Post: Language learning past and future

As the year comes to an end, I am sure we are all taking stock of the year past and starting to think about the year ahead. The past year has been a busy one for me. Work has been quite hectic at times, but fulfilling. And I am now half way to completing my BA Honours in applied languages.

This has left not a lot of time for language learning. Most of my language activity has been keeping my hand in with my German, French and Italian by reading news articles online. A bit of Spanish too – my Spanish is not really at newspaper-reading level but it is not as difficult because of the similarities to Italian.

I have particularly been enjoying recently. It is a European culture online magazine. They have articles in English, the four languages I’m maintaining (above) as well as Polish (which I don’t know at all).

Next year I will be tackling a small research project as part of the completion of my Honours. I will probably take a language class for part of the year, as I have come to believe that the classroom situation is a good place for introvert to get speaking practice – it is a controlled environment, everyone is there for the same reason as you, and at least you know it will only last about two hours.

Apart from that, I hesitate to make new language-learning goals for this year, as I think I may disappoint myself. I think maintenance is going to be the way to go for now.  No pressure, I do it because I want to, I don’t want to make a chore of it.

If you are into reading the news for your language practice, I find it quite quick and easy to go to Google News and then change the country. Since I mostly use my Blackberry for foreign-language news-reading, and I’m usually doing it when I have a free moment in between things, Google news is great because it’s quick (no long loading times), and then I can just pick a story I want to read.

Do you have a New Years resolution?

Library Troubles and Another Month Gone

I realised on Friday evening that my library books were due on Friday, so I rushed myself off to the library during my lunch break on Monday (it’s a ten minute walk from where I work) to renew them. Now here is the sad story about the libraries in the city where I live. For the past few months there has been a strike (as far as I know they are asking for overtime pay for Saturdays, though I don’t understand how they can demand that when they would have known from the start that working Saturdays is part of the contract) so the libraries have been understaffed. They have been closing for an hour at lunch time (just when I like to go) and closing for the day an hour earlier (at the same time as I finish work), opening only every second Saturday.  All very sad for those of us who still read books.

Now there is a whole new issue. When I got to the library on Monday, there were two ladies sitting at the door doing renewals – nobody allowed in. They have been offline for two weeks and the backlog is too much, so they are not issuing any more books. According to the newspaper, the service provider of the new software has halted service due to an issue with their service level agreement with the municipality (and it was suggested they haven’t been paid yet for the past few month).  Very frustrating.

One of the books I have out at the moment is Teach Yourself Russian. I have renewed it probably three times now ( which means I have had it for over three months) and I am only about halfway through the book. I feel very acutely that I have not progressed much. Oh the shame! The terrible thing is that every time the due date comes around again, it just reminds me that another month has passed and I cannot yet read Russian.

Yes, read Russian.  That is my main end goal in learning languages. I’m an introvert, so I’m not likely to talk to many foreigners, but I do love the written word.  My end goal generally is to be able to read the news in that language.  (It’s also my main form of practice for French, Italian & Spanish). Understanding the spoken word and getting the pronunciation correct is also important to me. But reading is probably more what I would end up doing with the language.  Also, if reading books in your native language can improve your vocabulary, then surely the same is true of foreign languages!

So yes, my learning process is a bit slower than some, but I’m happy with just understanding something new today that I would not have understood last week, or a month ago. I love the feeling of seeing or hearing some foreign word out of the blue somewhere and actually understanding it.

A Multicultural Evening

I went to a braai (South African for ‘barbeque’) tonight with my husband. He teaches English (TOEFL) to foreign students, and the braai was a get-together of students and teachers (and partners, in my case).

It was a very enjoyable evening, and I particularly loved hearing all the different languages. German, Italian, Russian and Korean. The first two of which I have some knowledge of, and can understand bits here and there when I hear them.

And that’s all I will be saying for today. It was wonderful to have my ears filled with foreign sounds.

Spanish in a Week: Day 3

I am back on track with the Spanish lessons. Today’s lesson was about buying things. Food, clothing, etc. What a delicious lesson, quiero el queso (cheese), las galletas (biscuits), el panicello (breadroll). Yum.

This means lists of things to commit to memory. I think I will need more revision! Perhaps I should visit for some help. This website has word lists in multiple languages for you to learn using flashcards and different ‘games’ for testing.  It does not teach you a language, but it is an aid to memory for if you are learning a language. Check it out.

It has been such a hot summer already, and it’s still only December. I hate to find out what February will bring. Already I end up with headaches half the time and no energy the rest of the time. Reading after lunch often results in a sinking of the eyes and of the resolve and a lot of the putting the learning off until later, you know, right after this little doze…

But I am proud to say I have made it through my chapter today, but only once so far. And those lists are definitely going to require more practice and memorizing.

Spanish in a Week: Screeching Halt

Well, the newspaper surprised me this morning by having a full page of job-listings, one of which I applied for. My morning went as follows:

9:00-11:00  –  Job searching, emailed application for one job to recruitment agency. They called. I had to rework my cv a bit. Sent it back.

11:00  –  They called again to make appointment for this afternoon.

11:00-13:15   –  Fretting about interview, and then getting ready for interview.

13:15 – 13:45  –  Driving to interview, stopping off to make copies of certificates, etc, trying not to get annoyed by the fact that I got red lights the whole way there.

14:00 – 15:00  – Interview.

So, as you can see, I have had no time for Spanish today. And since I’ve been home I’ve been too drained to concentrate on anything that taxing.  But I am not giving up. We’ll see if I can manage a glance through Day 3 before bed tonight. Then tomorrow, go through it properly and hopefully some time for revision too. And then, on with the schedule. Spanish must be learned!

Spanish in a Week: Day Two

Well, this is not going to be easy. I just (almost) finished going through day 2 of the book.  I don’t think each chapter is meant to be tackled all-at-once. You are probably supposed to spread it out over the course of the day. But this is how I am doing it:

Go through the chapter once, reading everything out loud, going over the dialogues a second time after going through the vocabulary. Later on in the day I will go through it a second time (more quickly) and a third time (if possible). I would also like to take a bit of time to revise previous chapters each day, so as to remember as much as I can. This will probably become more difficult as I get further in.

Unfortunately I made a late start today;  would still like to go over the chapter again later, and hopefully revise yesterday’s chapter. There was a lot of vocabulary today and I fear it may be too much to take in. The chapter was about transport and telling the time. Son las cuatro menos veinte. Yes, indeedy, that is the time right now as I write this. Dame un break!