Hello and welcome to Clear The List, the monthly language learning round-up about language learning goals and progress. This blog round-up is hosted by my friends Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy, and April marks a full year of my language goal-setting using this process.
What Happened in April 2019?
The month of April started off very intense and ended a lot more relaxed. That’s how I like it!
In the first week, I was finally lifting the curtain on my new German course, German Uncovered. It’s an incredible feeling when that first student enrols and all the work translates into their language progress. I held a welcome call with co-creator Olly Richards for our first gang.
This month, I was also busy preparing for the next German retreat. These retreats are an amazing opportunity for intermediate and advanced students to visit another country, discover more about culture, and practice their language through immersion. The June edition is now fully booked for German, and you can get on that waiting list for the next event if you like.
The Fluent Show
What a month! I was so proud to release my interview with one of my favourite language authors, Dr Roger Kreuz who wrote Becoming Fluent. Roger is a psychology professor and associate dean at the University of Memphis, and our conversation about language learning was wonderful and inspiring.
If you follow the Fluent Show, you’ll know that I have a soft spot for the psychology of the language learner, so this interview was definitely a highlight of the year.
Language Goals and Progress
I’m currently working on two target languages as a learner: intermediate Welsh and very early beginner’s Chinese.
In the Welsh language, my level is now pretty functional as long as I maintain a lot of contact and produce a lot of my target language on a regular basis. And I do mean every day when possible.
In the month of April, I found it most difficult to get speaking opportunities. I didn’t arrange any meet-ups with my local conversation partner, my tutor was busy, and when I spoke to my friend Nicky it was in English because he was a guest on the Fluent Show.
In the first half of the month, I was also struggling to find time and mental energy to learn Welsh. But once Easter came around and my workload eased up with Fluent, I feel like everything got better! I started by switching on Radio Cymru for a few mornings, then added a bit of S4C.
But the best part was creating my new Instagram account, @kersydysgu. Inspired by some wonderful Fluent Show listeners who have done this, I decided to try out the idea of a fully separate, and ONLY IN WELSH insta account. And my daily contact is through the roof because I’m already spending way too much time on the app. What a fantastic way to get more contact and write in Welsh on a regular basis.
My other language is Mandarin Chinese. I had set myself structured goals for this language for the first time last month.
My goal was to watch a bit of Easy Mandarin on Youtube, but I did nothing. Listening fell flat in April. I don’t enjoy many language instruction podcasts and I’m too low level for any natural input that I know.
My very tentative goal of an italki lesson was realised last week. Hooray! My first tutor listened to me counting to 10 and saying “living room” and “desk” at random, then declared my pronunciation very good and my learning “a mess”.
And fair point! I had not even noticed how little I had spoken apart from sounding out the words in my apps, and how little I could say in the way of dialogue. I was incredibly motivated after that and greeted her the next time with a full introduction, including where I live, my age, and my family. Take that, language mess!
I’m very pleased that I got my head around tones and basic pronunciation before the lesson, and I’m now hoping to take some regular classes. Good reminder: It isn’t really ever too early to work with a good tutor. They know what they’re doing!
Most of my learning is still reading-based, so I kinda met my goal by default.
I think I did quite well! My notebook is in regular use at the moment, and following up the lessons has made a big difference here.
At the moment my approach is to write in pinyin and also Chinese characters, but I’m not trying to memorize any of the characters. I’m thinking stuff like 我 and 你 will start sinking in automatically.
I’m using Google Translate and the Pleco app a lot for writing at the moment.
Daily Contact Goal
Every month, I log my “daily contact” with the Welsh language. In April, it was difficult to keep anything going during the launch of German Uncovered. But once Easter rolled around and I took some time to rest, Welsh returned to my life. In the last week, my Welsh instagram account made it easier than ever and I’m on a streak.
Total: 17 day out of 30.
I also track how many times I’ve spent 10+ minutes on Chinese, mostly for fun. In April, I checked this box 7 times. Often, this signals way over 10 minutes but it’s not about the minutes. It’s about the habit.
Goals for May 2019
This month is an unusual one. I’m travelling for the first 2 weeks, to Machynlleth in Wales and Amsterdam in the Netherlands. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve got a full-time responsibility away from Fluent, so I’ll have to see how work fits around it.
Welsh Language Goals
Again, I don’t feel I need to actively split my goals into listening, speaking, reading and writing at this intermediate stage. I just want to feel like I’m as good or better, and that will be about contact and speaking.
Spending the first few days of May in Machynlleth is a good start, and in the second half of the month I hope to get started on Say Something in Welsh Level 3 and get back into meeting my speaking partner.
Chinese Language Goals
In this language I’m a total beginner (很高兴认识你) and will benefit from the goal structure. So let’s go!
Ready to try again with YouTube for Chinese beginners. I’m looking for dialogue-based or story-based input here, rather than someone explaining greetings to me in detail.
If you want to recommend a channel or listening resource, leave me a comment below.
This is the easy one for any beginner, all my apps and my textbook are reading practice. No specific goals.
I’ve already booked one Skype lesson and hope to complete 3 by the end of the month.
(By the way, this month on the blog I have a brand new italki review - check it out if you have not tried out italki before.)
- to follow up each language lesson with a page or revision notes,
- to write 4 notebook pages about myself or my family (these pages are full really quickly when I write in English + pinyin + characters),
- and to figure out how to type pinyin.
That’s it! Plenty to be getting on with.
Many people have been asking me to list the resources I use for learning my languages this month. Here they are:
- S4C on player
- Radio Cymru on BBC radio playerapp
- Say Something in Welsh app
- Ap Geiriaduron, the magnificent dictionary app
- a printed dictionary and Modern Welsh Grammar (link goes to a stupidly expensive version but I got mine from someone else who found it in a charity shop, so don’t forget your local 2nd hand resources!!)
- A local language partner and lovely people who speak Welsh with me. You can find these by asking around!
What are Your Language Goals for May 2019?
Have you ever studied Welsh? Are you a Chinese beginner? Juggling 2 languages like me?
Leave a comment below to tell me all about how you’re getting on, and what you are planning to study next.
Be sure to check out the Clear the List linkup full of inspiring language goals and reports, hosted by Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy.