How is it the end of 2017 already? Here’s a now annual tradition to reflect on my language learning over the past year, update 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.
My Vietnamese is not being maintained in the way I did in 2013. I read things on facebook and occasionally interact with friends there or on Instagram. I don’t get to speak Vietnamese these days but I do speak to myself (or think to myself) in Vietnamese sometimes. For some reason this often happens in the supermarket!
When writing I struggle to remember tones, but I don’t struggle much with vocabulary. I am slower to remember words but I don’t feel like I’ve forgotten them. If I were to have a conversation I think I would be quite a lot less fluent than I was. Several months ago I did have a conversation in Vietnamese, without problems overall. I do worry that this will change in the future. I think I need to do a bit more to maintain my Vietnamese.
2016 was mostly about Bulgarian and 2017 started off this way too. However, I was taking a teaching course online so mostly I just maintained my current level of Bulgarian which you can read about below.
Spanish: New language
In the summer I started learning Spanish from scratch as I was going to be spending the autumn in Spain. My background with French and Esperanto helps a lot with the Spanish. I find this strange after so much time with Vietnamese where there is very little similar vocabulary with languages I already know!
I didn’t do anything on Korean in 2017. I do get some Korean in my instagram feed but I have definitely forgotten a lot.
So, onto my year of language learning… (split into learning and maintaining)
Learning Bulgarian (classes)
I continued and concluded my second Bulgarian course. As well as classes twice a week, I did my homework and used Anki to help me learn the new vocabulary from class.
February to May
Almost no progress. I was so busy with work and without language classes I often struggle to make the time to learn. I do usually manage to fit in some maintenance.
- Did some Anki but I’m not sure how regularly.
- Went to a couple of language exchange events and had some conversations with a friend who doesn’t speak much English.
- A bit of reading on facebook and instagram.
- Some partial attempts at Language Diary Challenge on Instagram.
- I started some Duolingo Spanish in February or March but didn’t keep it up for long.
June and July
Starting Spanish (self-study)
The summer means less work for someone people, but it’s usually more work for me. I realised that I needed to start working on my Spanish but I wasn’t very motivated because September still seemed far away.
- Re-started Duolingo Spanish (with a complimentary Memrise course).
- Had a disappointing look in the library for materials.
- Started writing answers to common questions like “Where are you from?” and “What do you do in your free time?”, looking up vocabulary that is personal to me, like hiking.
I don’t feel like I made much progress during this time.
Learning Spanish (self-study)
I had a couple of weeks off in August so I put in more effort with Spanish.
I used some of my old favourite resources like Lang-8 and instagram, some apps I’ve tried before like HelloTalk and some new apps like HiNative.
- I never manage to post daily, but I did start writing meaningful captions in the instagram language diary challenge.
- Continued with daily Duolingo/Memrise (and managed my first 30 day streak on Duolingo!)
- Continued writing answers to common questions and posted them on Lang-8 for corrections. I had a couple of them recorded on RhinoSpike.
- Decided to take an italki lesson to practice speaking, but it did not go well. I didn’t click with the tutor and I felt less confident after the lesson rather than more confident. This put me off trying again.
- Tried HelloTalk again for language exchange but only had a few random chats.
- Used HiNative for the first time. This app provides a quick way to ask questions like “How do you say ___ in Vietnamese?” or to check whether something is correct or natural.
Maintaining Bulgarian by speaking to myself in Bulgarian and reading the occasional thing on facebook.
September to November
Maintaining Spanish and filling some gaps (self-study)
When I arrived in Spain I realised just how unprepared I was. I found my first week very frustrating – despite the self-study above I couldn’t order my lunch and could barely introduce myself. That said, I had learned quite a bit of vocabulary already which made it a bit easier to pick up the language I needed over the next week or two.
Unfortunately my course was very, very intensive and there was no time for Spanish study. I did however keep up with Duolingo and finished the whole Spanish tree in October! I did some Memrise to keep the vocabulary fresh too and I borrowed a beginners textbook and did a tiny little bit of study here and there.
November and December
Learning Spanish (classes)
My course hours reduced, I finished Unit 8 of the beginners textbook and I started doing face-to-face language exchanges. It was hard to start speaking, but I was glad of all the time I’d spent on vocabulary and I found I could understand quite a lot.
Then my course actually finished and I just had to revise for my exam. So I signed up for a month of Spanish lessons. 1.5 hours a day, every day. I managed to get myself into a A2 level group. Already within a week I felt like I made a lot of progress. My language exchanges seemed easier too! I do still find I mix words up with Bulgarian though!
2017 has been a varied year in language learning for me.
It’s interesting starting a new language again and while I got off to a slow start, I’m happy with how my Spanish progressed in December in particular. I’m now able to hold conversations in Spanish but my fluency isn’t very high yet. This is unusual for me! I usually get to a level of fluency that makes people think my overall level is higher than it is. I need to work on Spanish fluency in 2018 so I reach a comfortable level. Once I’ve figured it out, stay tuned for some speaking fluency tips here on More Vietnamese.
Coming soon: 10 thoughts on Duolingo based on my language learning this year.
Over to you: How was your language learning in 2017?