May update

A short update:

Mandarin

We are still taking 2 italki Chinese classes per week, but I’m planning on taking a break once our packages come to an end. Since I’m learning together with my husband i’s still very hard to find balance between our levels and learning paces. Sometimes it’s really frustrating, since I like to go faster and harder and he prefers a less forced approach, which makes me frustrated and feeling like I’m not learning much. So yesterday I just made a decision to continue self-study by myself and not try to always study together. I should probably look into booking some italki sessions for us separately, since it often happens that I’m talking for the majority of the class.

Slovenian

I’ve been trying to squeeze in some Slovenian classes as well, but I’m so busy I barely find mental energy for it, so it’s been more like 1 class every two weeks. I know it’s not enough but at the same time it’s not the main priority for me right now.

Korean

I gave up on the idea of applying to TOPIK in July, since I will have a US trip and a dance comp, I don’t want to be stressing about TOPIK exam as well. I doubt that October will be any better, but I’m hoping to go to Korea in September and if time allows take some classes there, so maybe I can try to have a go at it. If not, there’s always next time πŸ™‚ Today and yesterday I’ve been quite productive and went through 6 lessons on TTMIK. I’m doing level 4 as revision now, I know that I’m actually at a higher level, but it’s good to go through the basics since it’s been like 6 years that I haven’t studied Korean grammar.

Long time no see

One of my coping mechanisms with anxiety and uncertainty is studying.

These past few weeks I’ve been really diligent, gotta pat myself on the head for that.

I finally got help with my written Slovenian because I kept making the same mistakes even after 12 years of using it daily. There are so many things that I didn’t know since I just learned naturally, it’s actually quite interesting! I like my teacher, she’s from Ukraine and cancelled our lessons twice due to bombings, I really hope that she will survive this invasion…

Found 2 nice new Mandarin teachers on italki, booked a 10-lesson package with one of them and study with both of them once a week, so twice a week. They both use structured learning, one uses textbook and another uses pdfs with expressions. In the past such methods used to bore me to death, but now my level is already so high that I feel it’s actually important to revise the basics and learn small things like measure words for dishes and how to say “one chopstick” instead of “pair of chopsticks”. Let’s see for how long this will last before I get bored again. To be honest, probably I got bored of just free talking because at some point I started feeling like our level was not improving and we were just using same sentences and vocab all the time – we also were so overwhelmed with all the new words that even with the help of Memrise it was really hard to remember all of them. We’d have a free talking sesh where our teacher would send us all the new words and then we just wouldn’t have time to learn them and make same mistakes the next time we spoke. It is still hard and vocab still remains one of our biggest challenges, but hey, slowly but surely. We also continue studying characters and grammar with Yoyochinese, it’s going much slower than planned due to hubby resisting them, but he’s slowly getting the hang of it. I’ve never felt prouder.

I also bought a Korean “course” from Instagram, which is actually just a set of exercises that gets checked with feedback. It’s not very difficult, but it made me revise some basics and it felt good to actually think of Korean conjugations and google the rules again. So when I got an email from TTMIK with 50% discount I caved in and paid for it. It’s just a third of the price I paid for Glossika which I’m not even using, so I figured even if I learn just a couple courses there it will still be a good investment.

Today I did a placement test and placed in the highest level. To be honest, the last 2 questions I was lacking vocab and was merely guessing, going by my gut, but I got all of them right!

I started a course on Long Sentences today and it felt sooo good to see Hyunwoo again, he’s like a long-time friend, who I haven’t seen since 2017, the year, when I stopped learning Korean.

I just hope to keep going, in these turbulent times the languages really help me stay focused and not collapse into an emotional mess.

Also I think I’m getting motivated by the prospect of resuming our travels soon. My friend from Slovenia moved to Japan today, as soon as they opened the borders to foreigners. She has been plannning this move together with her husband for ages, they both were learning Japanese and preparing for it, and then the pandemic happened. So as soon as it was possible – they flew in. We didn’t even get to meet to say bye. Almost at the same time Korea opened its borders, from 1st April it will be possible to go there without quarantine. Now it’s only China that remains closed, but I hope that China too will open up at some point. All these changes push me to study more, to be ready for our next adventures πŸ™‚

My fav Chinese dramas

  1. Nothing but Thirty
  2. Twenty Not Confused
  3. Fighting Youth
  4. Ode to Joy
  5. To Dear Myself
  6. The rational life

I started watching C-dramas only to get more listening practice, but it turned out that not only were they good for listening, they were actually interesting to watch. I ranked them, which means that Nothing but Thirty is my favourite one.

I love that in these dramas there are usually life lessons and “moral of the story”, that touch on life work balance, relationships with parents, siblings, feminism and of course the question – do you need to get married just because “it’s time to”?

After watching all of these there has been a void, and we’re still waiting for more ” the ‘she’ era” series.

https://www.whatsonweibo.com/chinas-new-hit-drama-nothing-but-thirty-thrives-in-the-she-era/

Quora in different languages

In spring I was looking something up and it led me to a Quora page, where I had to register in order to read the answer. I registered without the second thought. I don’t remember whether I set my languages or Quora guessed them, but since then it’s been sending me emails with question-answer complilations in English, Spanish and Italian.

Some of those questions were actually interesting, like about K-pop or how to deal with teenagers not wanting to take their hoodies off. If I saw something interesting I clicked on them and read it through. And only today I realised that it is actually a good reading practice for Italian and Spanish, since I don’t have much interaction in these languages nowadays, the Quora articles keep me entertained while at the same time maintaining the reading level.

I start to wonder – since I’ve never used Reddit, is it similar or is it more like a forum?

Lindie, Shunchan

Today I hopped on a livestream with Lindie Botes and got to hear her speak so many different languages at the same time, it was super inspiring as usual πŸ™‚ I even got a chance to tell her that I really love her channel and that I literally freaked out when I saw that she subscribed to my blog. Lindie, if you’re reading this – you made my day!

To be honest, I had a break from active language learning in June and I wasn’t updating this blog much, but now I feel ready to be back in the game. This week I had two important encounters – first one with an owner of a bingsu cafe here in Ljubljana, and second with a Chinese lady yesterday in Maribor. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I only practiced languages via devices, be it Skype. Zoom or Clubhouse. This week was the first time I got to speak Chinese with a real life person, and more than 2 years since my last Korean encounter, so it was super exciting to have a real life conversation πŸ™‚ I was so proud that I could speak to both of them without freezing or lagging much, and seeing their amazed reaction was especially satisfying.

I feel like my motivation to learn these two languages is now finally back, luckily the Indonesian course has now come to an end and so I have more mental resources to dedicate to them. I finished Indonesian course with a clear understanding of how I don’t wan’t to study – the traditional way of learning is just soo not for me.

Also, Shunchan just released a new video talking about Engish education in Japan and I found myself agreeing with everything he said. You can’t sign up to any class and except to learn the language by the end of it, you have to put in the extra work yourself. It is surprising that a lot of people don’t have such mindset and just expect to learn the language by passively showing to language classes few times a week and doing their homework. It doesn’t work that way πŸ™‚

Chinese upd

I think that from today on I’m going to stop revising my HSKK wordlist. I’ve been revising it for 70 days and I think I can recognize most of the words in context. To be honest, these 427 words are from HSK 3 and HSK 4 word lists, and I added them because I read somewhere that the HSKK Intermediate exam uses words from these lists, even though some of them are pretty obscure and rarely used in daily speech. And this is the main reason why I think just understanding them passively is enough and so there’s no need to spend more time on learning and revising them til I can actively reproduce them in conversation.

I have finally found a course for Chinese characters that I actually like – surprisingly, it was all the time right there at YoyoChinese website, I just haven’t seen it before because I was not interested in learning 汉字, but now, as I get more and more into them, I spent time looking and googling various options and just couldn’t find a comprehensive video course that taught characters using assosiations and mnemonics. And then I saw YoyoChinese and realised that it was exactly what I needed, so I purchased the course and have been studying with it for the past week πŸ™‚ I also purchased 3 of their comic books, they already arrived and I really like them! I don’t understand quite a lot, but hope to improve soon. I’m also using Duchinese to practice reading, so now I feel like I’m fully equipped and I can’t complain about lacking resources anymore. I set myself a deadline until end of summer to read these books without help of a dictionary, let’s see how it goes πŸ™‚

I passed HSKK Intermediate!

Even though it’s just 4 points above the pass score I’m still extremely happy that I managed to get to this level all within one year πŸ™‚

Now I’m thinking to retake the exam again in June and hopefully improve my score πŸ™‚

My language learning methods

A disclaimer: I’m not a linguist or a language geek, I just like to have the ability to speak different languages. I thin that self-learning is a skill that is always good to develop and which can come quite handy in all aspects of life. For example, you don’t need to go to music school in order to learn ukulele, so why can’t you do the same with other skills, such as languages, dancing, makeup? Having this mindset can really help us achieve anything that we set our minds on. There’s no real superpower or “language talent”, just a lot of hard work and dedication.

Below is a list of methods that I used with almost every language that I learned.

  1. SRS
  2. Audio courses that encourage speaking
  3. No school textbooks
  4. Grammar books
  5. No apps
  6. Language Parents
  7. Writing practice
  8. Lots of input
  9. Language Youtubers
  10. Language Learning books

1. SRS

No matter what I do, I have to complete my daily SRS streak. SRS stands for Space Repetition Program and it’s a program that works like flashcards, but you have to type or choose the correct answer. I love Memrise, but there are other programs, such as Anki. SRS is like a gym for memorising vocab and I can’t remember any new words if I don’t have them in my Memrise. I usually start with beginner courses that Memrise offers and as I make it to more advanced levels I start creating my own courses, where I throw all the new words I meet along the way – in conversations with native speakers, in online articles, in Instagram posts… I update my courses almost weekly and don’t know what I’d do without Memrise.

That said, I love using Memrise for Asian languages, but I felt bored using it for Spanish, maybe because so many words were so similar to English. In this case it is recommended to use flashcards with pictures on them instead of the translations.

2. Audio Courses

My favourites are courses by Michel Thomas, as they encourage speaking from the first minutes of you listening. So many classes and courses just teach how to read and write, but Michel Thomas gets you to speak right away. If it wasn’t for his Italian course, there was no way I would be able to start speaking Italian in 3 months. I also love that he avoids overwhelming learners with unnecessary vocab like big numbers or all the past tenses, and just sticks to what is really needed and used in daily conversation.

3. No school textbooks

I tried using them, I honestly tried, and they just drive me mad. Most of textbooks use such obscure vocabulary that is not necessary in daily conversation, obscure grammar rules, and on top of that a lot of them are pretty childish. “He is a pilot! She is a stewardess! I am a doctor!” Seriously? In 20th century? Who uses these words and constructions in daily conversation? No wonder students can never learn the language in school…. I think most school text books and the whole teaching system needs to be changed, but I’m not a teacher, just a self-learner, so I can just share my opinion online πŸ™‚

4. Grammar books

I love grammar books because they just give me a list and explanations of grammar points that I need to know for each level – A1, A2, B1 and so on, and I find them much more useful than school textbooks. I love my “Korean Grammar in use” series and my “Chinese Grammar Wiki” series. Maybe it’s because I liked Math in school, but I find it really motivating to read these books and check how many grammar points I already feel familiar with. On my height of Korean learning I used to read “Korean Grammar in use” on the beach, as well as in my bed before falling asleep.

5. No apps

I don’t like using apps for language learning because I prefer using my computer or books to learn. It’s not like they are bad, but I already spend so much of my time on my phone that I try to reduce it, not to increase it. I know that I might be missing out on some cool language learning apps, but I just prefer learning on desktop.

6. Language Parents

I wrote about this in more detail here. Basically, a language parent is a native speaker who listens to you, and then repeats back your broken sentences in a correct way. This way you are practicing speaking and at the same time learn how to say things correctly without feeling too overwhelmed (I hate when teachers pause the conversation and say “this is wrong, you should say “x and y”). It can be tough and embarrassing at first, but it gets easier with practice. Our italki tutors also write and send us the new words in chat as we speak and I add all the new words to my Memrise vocab lists afterwards. It doesn’t have to always be online. When I was learning Spanish I didn’t think of using italki so I found an Argentinian here in Ljubljana who agreed to help me out and talked to me regularly for a few weeks. That really helped my progress and I think together with SRS this is probably one of the most powerful methods that I use. Here I wrote about how to find people to talk to online.

7. Writing practice

I used to do this a lot when learning Korean and Spanish, but I don’t do it so much these days, because nowadays my focus is on Chinese, which I’m learning just speaking and not writing, however, it is still a very good method. There are websites like lang-8 and italki where you can post your writing and get corrections from native speakers. Just last week I posted a short text in Korean and was honestly surprised at the corrections that I received. I honestly thought I wrote everything pretty much correctly πŸ™‚ The websites are free and in exchange you can also test your native language and correct other people’s writing. I sometimes felt it was a good practice as well, when I was correcting Korean or Spanish speakers writing in English, especially when they provided the native version. Back in school, we had to write something, submit it to the teacher and wait for their corrections. Now you can receive them online for free and no strings attached. I love it.

9. Lots of input

I vary my input depending on the language, but it almost always included TV shows with subtitles or podcasts. TV shows and series really help me get the rhythm of the language, colloquial expressions, mannerisms. I love watching Chinese TV series, they are so addictive and I learned so much Chinese from them. When I try to read I usually start with something simple like comic books, then I move onto magazines, then to books. Of course, it is much easier to read a book in Spanish than in Korean (I still have some Korean books that I can’t read at all, so I still have a long way to go). If you’re just starting out and can’t consume native level books you can try graded readers that were created to give readers the content in their target language on different levels, from beginner to advanced. I am currently learning Chinese so I signed up for Duchinese, what I like is that their newbie stories really have only the most common words and characters and there’s also an audio version that you can listen to while you read.

9. Language Youtubers

I watch them for inspiration, and there are some, for example Lindie Botes, who share their study routines, tips and much more. When I don’t feel inspired to study I just go to Lindie’s channel, check some of her latest videos and see if there are any methods or tips that I can apply in my own learning. I also really enjoy the feeling of knowing that I’m not alone and that there’s a whole language learning community, who get together for Polyglot conferences and gatherings.

10. Language learning books

Yes, there are books not about learning just one language, but about learning languages in general. I have two – “Fluent Forever” by Gabriel Wyner and ” How to speak any language fluently” by Alex Rawlings. To be honest, neither of these books was an amazing revelation for me because I was already using most of the methods in those books, but they inspired and motivated me a lot and I think they would be a great asset to someone just starting out on this journey.

And that’s it folks! There’s really no secret sauce or superpower in language learning, just completely different methods to what we were taught in school. Anyone can do it πŸ™‚