Geek Mädel: Getting back into my languages
After inadvertently making language-learning a chore, Meg McFarlane finds new ways to make learning languages fun and interesting.
After the absolutely amazing Polyglot Conference, I'm re-energised and motivated to get back into my language learning, which had fallen by the wayside after I completely burned myself out studying for my Zertifikat Deutsch. One of my major downfalls was making language learning seem like a chore by spending an hour every single day revising vocab on Memrise. While Memrise is a great way to learn vocab, I took on way too much and had made the whole task arduous and absolutely boring. Little wonder I didn't want to have anything to do with it after my exam was over.
This time, I'm aiming to put some fun back into my language learning. My listening comprehension is by far my weakest skill, so it is this skill I'm focusing the most on over the next two months. In the mornings, I now turn on my computer and listen to Deutschlandfunk, an online German talk radio station, whilst I make my morning porridge and check my emails. Depending on what the day has in store for me, I also leave it on whilse working.
For my commutes, (currently to and from rehearsals and performances, but also to and from work once I'm back in the office full-time) I have loaded up Grüße aus Deutschland on my iPhone. At just 10 mins per episode, it is a quick and easy way to practise listening whilst sitting on the U-Bahn. During the afternoons, I have resumed listening to DW's Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten, first without the text, then with the text. Then, as I'm getting into bed ready to sleep, I have downloaded an audio book in German from Audible.de to listen to. My first audio book is Der König von Narnia (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe) – a book I know very well in English, so hopefully it won't be too difficult to follow the German version. Also, the narration is extremely clear which is a plus. I am also aiming to watch more German language TV as I have stopped doing that in recent months, plus I'm still continuing to read children's books in German. This month's book is Tintenherz. Of course, for whichever language you're learning, there's bound to be some local books and television and radio shows to immerse yourself.
It might all sound like a lot, but each element only takes about 10–20 minutes and is easily incorporated into my day without any great effort. I'm hoping that in eight weeks I will see a clear improvement in my listening skills.
I've also started learning Esperanto, but am taking it slowly as to not overdo things. The website Lernu has courses for free to take you from complete beginner to advanced. So far, I've only done two 30 minute sessions, but I'm finding Esperanto fairly easy and quite fun. I will see how I feel about it once I'm beyond saying, "It is a table" and, "She is a woman".
My French is on a mini-hiatus until I work out the best way to tackle it. I was debating about some courses at the Volkschule, but most of them seem to clash with my German classes. With the ones that don't, I need to work out if it is a good thing for my brain to be doing language courses three nights straight a week. I'm not entirely sure it is. However, I don't feel like I will be able to learn French through self-study alone. For the time being though, I'm just playing some vocab games in French for a bit of fun until I can make a decision.
It feels good to be motivated about my language learning again. I like having a sense of purpose and direction as well as a bit of structure.
As always, I appreciate any feedback about my language learning methods. If you know of a fun way to improve listening skills, please let me know.
What language goals have you set for the year?
Meg McFarlane is an IT geek whose company gave just 30 days warning before transferring her from Sydney, Australia, to Hamburg, Germany. Three years on, saying 'yes' to that transfer was the best decision ever made, even though she was in no way prepared. Her blog Geek Mädel is a chronicle of her attempts to integrate into life in Germany and get her head around German grammar. As a social media addict, she can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr.
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