We’re in 2019 already, and Tet has long since passed but I’m going to sneak in with an annual review of my language learning in 2018. In this post I’ll be reflecting, updating you on what study habits I’ve kept up with and what I’ve changed about my language learning routine. I’ve started with a general overview, then moved into a month-by-month breakdown of how I was studying.
Kind of maintaining
Each year my time living in Vietnam grows a little more distant. Nowadays I only read things on Instagram and very occasionally message a friend in Vietnamese. I don’t speak to anyone in Vietnamese, though I still think or speak Vietnamese to myself sometimes!
When learning other languages, I sometimes write ‘translations’ of vocabulary in Vietnamese, where a word matches up better than one in English. So I’m confident that my Vietnamese is still there, though it’s growing rustier.
Russian: New language
As usual, my choice of language was influenced by work. I started a new job in February so Russian became my focus for pretty much the whole of 2018.
Spanish: Kind of maintaining
I learned some Spanish at the end of 2017, getting to the level A2 where I can hold conversations (albeit with some problems). In early 2018 I was still using Spanish on instagram and following some Spanish accounts.
I listen to Spanish music weekly if not daily, but this does not do much to maintain my language. I attended some language exchange events in 2018 and sometimes used Spanish. I still understand okay, but my speaking is struggling due to my focus on Russian. When I try to speak Spanish, I end up speaking a strange mixture of Spanish and Russian.
- Bulgarian (from 2016 and 2017) – Russian messes with this so much I don’t think I’d be able to speak purely Bulgarian now. I’d still say my Bulgarian is better than my Russian, and I borrow from it when learning and speaking Russian.
- Korean – nothing at all.
- Esperanto – I very very occasionally message a friend or two in Esperanto. Again, I can understand their messages, but I have to keep looking up words in the dictionary in order to reply.
So, onto my year of language learning…
I kept up with Anki, and listened to a couple of podcasts but I missed having a 25 minute walk to class that was perfect for podcasts. I assessed how my listening was doing by transcribing some audio and went to one language exchange while visiting a friend.
February to June
Starting Russian – beginner level
It was quite strange starting Russian after being about A2 level in Bulgarian, as some words are very similar. I found I could understand a surprising amount, particularly once I got used to Russian ways of pronunciation.
By learning a few basic Russian words and mixing them with Bulgarian, I managed to complete some transactions in my first few weeks like buying (and negotiating the price of) a winter coat and having a guy in the phone shop get an app working on my phone.
After a few weeks at work, I started beginner level Russian lessons once a week. Most of the time I was the only student attending the lessons, which helped me to make faster progress. A few months later I joined the elementary level group.
- I started Duolingo but did not do it for long.
- I managed a few pictures/captions a month for Instagram Language Diary Challenge, #iglc.
- I went to some language exchange events with a friend, but spent more time listening than talking.
- I used Anki a lot, as usual.
June to December
Studying Russian – elementary level
I levelled up in my classes at work, and for a couple of months it was me and a guy who’d studied some Russian at university. More people joined the group later (and he levelled up).
In the autumn I started 1-2-1 language exchanges, after having success with these in Spain the previous year. This only lasted a few weeks, but I still have a couple of people I’m in touch with and plan to do more of this in 2019.
- I continued #IGLC. Sometimes I wrote longer pieces of text which led to starting a blog in Russian about my travels and adventures that occur when living abroad: More Russian.
- I tried to find an online speaking tutor but ended up finding teachers, which is not quite the same thing.
2018 was focused on one language – Russian. I’ve made great progress in many ways. Anyone who finds out I’ve only been learning it for a year is impressed by my progress. I’m able to hold conversations and my fluency is okay, but there’s still a lot I can’t say or talk around. I also have a long way to go before being fully comfortable in my daily life and interactions.
The grammar is frustrating. After 9-10 months of learning a language with cases, I’m starting to get a feeling when writing (and occasionally when speaking) that I need a case… But usually I don’t know which one and end up guessing. Sometimes I’m right, but often I’m wrong. I’m sure this ability will continue to develop in 2019! I wish there was a Lexical Approach textbook for Russian, as I have much more success noticing patterns than learning rules.
Over to you: How was your language learning in 2018? How’s it going in 2019?