Usually I write on Fluent based on my teacher experiences more than my learner experiences. But today, the tables are turned. I'm excited to be sharing my current Welsh study routine, which is one based on two concepts: Learning thoroughly and staying disciplined. It's not the fastest or the one that squeezes study time out of every moment in my life. Instead, here's what works for me and keeps me liking the language I'm learning.
Here are my starting materials:
I picked courses that felt like they built up a logical routine and gave me lots of vocab and basic structures without boring phrases. Definite language learning tip: Never commit to a textbook or course if you don't like the contents section. So here's what I do:
Step 1: Listen to a Say Something in Welsh (SSIW) Lesson
The Say Something In podcasts are short and feature a male and female speaker. They start right at the beginning, not assuming that I know any Welsh at all.
The start of every new lesson features in-built revision for the last, which makes the progression easy. You learn structures instead of phrases, meaning the power is in your hand as the learner and you end up ready to say an awful lot after just about four lessons. I use and believe in the same structure when teaching my languages, so this is a bonus. As a seasoned learner, I'm not scared of grammar and I'm getting my explanations from other materials, which works great for me.
One downside is the lack of smalltalk phrases at the start, but the BBC covers that very well.
Step 2: Write In My Notebook
I take hand written notes to accompany every podcast episode and review the previous pages regularly. The podcast says I'm not really meant to do look up all the spellings, but I disagree there. Writing is essential for my memory. My notes include new words, example sentences and vocab lists in different colours.
Writing everything down means the first listen is not "learning on the go". After the first listen, I run through every lesson again to make sure things are set in my memory before moving on. On second listens, it's much easier to catch up while walking or driving.
Step 3: Watch BBC Welsh Challenge Videos
The BBC Welsh Challenge is designed to teach you the most useful things to say, so it's much more like a traditional communication-based textbook with all the nice smalltalk starters.
Every chapter contains videos, tutor notes, a large vocab section and exercises, and I tend to work through at least twice before I move on. What I really like about the BBC's materials is that they're anything but intimidating and the video tutors and stories are friendly and inviting.
Step 4: Write and Revise the Notebook
Back to the notebook. I usually add the most useful words I found in the Welsh challenge and go over older vocabulary while I'm there.
Here's where my memorizing and revising techniques come in (see The Vocab Cookbook). Every vocab list is reviewed, and when words just won't stick I start highlighting them, going over them more frequently, and eventually adding them to a homemade Memrise course called "Welsh Words I Can't Remember".
Over time, I've felt that this routine is something I can stick with at my own pace. Here are two more important points that are really important for most language learners, and if I was to give you any advice for your own studies, it would be to adapt these.
Follow Your Course Structure
Sometimes the difficult things bring up a lot of resistance, trip you up and make you want to stray from whatever you are studying. These are the times when a new line of study on Memrise or that textbook on Amazon look more tempting than ever.
It's easy to find fault with your tools when you know that your craft isn't perfect yet. But after 20 years of language learning, I've learnt that this is a rabbithole you run down without learning much new. The key is to choose good materials and stick with them through the tough times.
So even though I'm excited that Teach Yourself has a Welsh book, I make myself listen to another Say Something in Welsh episode. Even though there's this new Youtube Channel, I want to steer clear of watching it for now. I try my best to finish a course, then see what else is out there.
I am not missing out on dim byd (anything).
Thoroughness Beats Hyper-Productivity
Above you read the word "regularly". You may have assumed that this means daily or twice a day. It does not mean anything of the sort. Last month it meant "twice". I haven't been able to carve out a regular Welsh learning slot yet and there is no way I'm going to feel guilty about it. There's something to be said for scheduling and committing, but sometimes I prefer to let the mood come to me.
Here I'm remembering Lindsay's reference to Richard Simcott's words from the Polyglot Conference in Berlin this year:
A polyglot is someone who's learning a language for fun.
So I guess I'm in the club (whether I want to or not) because I'm here to follow a nerdy curiosity. Which is fun.
If I don't think it's fun to aim for fluency in 4 months or C1 by Christmas, then I don't have to aim for that at all. My goals are small and tangible right now because that's how I want them. They may be things like "revise yesterday's vocab list" or "make notes for chapter 4 of the BBC series". What I'm trying to tell you here is that I do not feel guilty about picking my own language pace and neither should you. Well, unless you're in formal education and have an exam tomorrow.
When you schedule and streamline to a fault, your productivity can become a burden. Sometimes I see all this posturing of cold showers and hyper productivity. It exists in language learning too, and I can only echo this wonderful article: if you want to get it all done quickly, maybe you're chasing the wrong goal.
What Do You Think?
Of course I'm writing this to make sure that I stay committed in the routine I've just told you all about. But what are your tricks? Do you like using language and productivity "hacks" or do you follow a structure and take the slow road like I do?
Please tell me about your own routines in the comments!