Clear the List October 2019: My italki Speaking Challenge Plans

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Hello and welcome to another blog post in the Clear The List series, the monthly language learning round-up about language learning goals and progress. Gretchen Rubin says

The days are long, but the years are short.

Well, I get the feeling that the days were >< this long in September. Nothing like a check-in post to remember what even happened!

If you’re inspired to try your own check-in, why not join our #clearthelist blog round-up hosted by Shannon Kennedy and Lindsay Williams.

What Happened in September?

In the last week of September I spoke a lot of German! My husband is a fairly inactive German learner and we switched to the language for all conversations for a bit. I have not found it realistic to just “teach him German by speaking all the time”, so that short-term effort is unlikely to stick. Read this if you want to know more about learning languages through a partner.

The Fluent Show

First of all: The Fluent Show has opened a Patreon page. This allows all listeners to become involved in making the show with a small monthly pledge (though you can send a huge one if you like).

If you want to become a part of the community, please visit our Patreon page.

If you listen to just one episode from September 2019, I recommend the exciting recap of Langfest in Montréal. You’ll be transported there instantly!

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Language Goals and Progress

Here’s the short summary of what you’re about to read: I didn’t do much in one big chunk, but I did lots of little things and they added up. Or in another Gretchen Rubin quote…”what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while.”

Mandarin Chinese

I am feeling progress with this language. There is not a huge jump ahead as I’m not putting the big hours in, but still it’s going from noisenoisenoisenoisenoise to noise-word-noisenoisenoise-something-I-know. And phone typing in Chinese is also easier now. Hooray!

Here’s how I did with my goals:

  • Look for a tutor and ask for listening support

I did look but I didn’t book. Hah! Must do better in October.

I did use Yabla this month to start a bit of TV in Chinese. I found a fun reality TV show on there and I’m excited that there are a few more learning materials available to me compared to Welsh.

  • Use LingQ 4 days a week

No LingQ but it’s been an appy month anyway (GEDDIT?), as I moved ahead and levelled up with the wonderful Lingodeer. It is the best app-based course I’ve seen in Chinese.

By the way, I contacted Lingodeer and asked them for a discount code so you can now get 15% off Lingodeer membership using the code FLUENTSHOW.

  • Vague speaking ambitions

I recorded myself reading the Chinese challenges on Lingodeer, but beyond that there wasn’t much progress. Again, stuck on getting a tutor.

Welsh

File under “what you do every day matters more than what you do once in a while”. In other words: I spoke Welsh, I read Welsh, I heard some Welsh, I typed a bit, but none of it in huge quantities.

Language Goals for October 2019

This month I need a little time to recover and focus on promoting the next Fluent German Retreat, and there’s a 10-day trip to the USA in my plans as well. Busy one, so I’ll be combining my goals for Welsh and Chinese.

Listening and Speaking

October is an italki challenge month, so I have a good reason to book lessons in both Chinese and Welsh, which should cover some of my speaking and listening needs.

The minimum hours to put in for a badge are 12, so I’ll divide mine into

  • 4 hours of Welsh conversation (exciting)
  • 4 hours of Chinese practice (terrifying)
  • 4 hours of wildcard languages (exciting)

I’m thinking I might throw in a bit of French and BSL. What about you?

Reading

Apps and LingQ for Chinese, the final pages of Ffenestri in Welsh. My focus is not on this for the month.

Writing

I’ll see if I can make writing a part of my lessons somehow for the Chinese part. In Welsh, it’s a little easier since I have a few people I can always message in the language.

And that’s it for October’s #clearthelist!

How are You Getting On in Language Learning?

Boy, I’m so looking forward to my next trip to Wales. Nothing is booked yet and autumn is already going to be fairly travel heavy, but then..what’s better than learning in the country? This is why I run retreats in Germany after all!

What about you? Share your check-in and plans in the comments below!

What Are the Easiest Languages in the World?

Imagine you're learning a language that's so easy that you're having full conversations within just a few hours. The vocabulary makes sense, the grammar feels natural...it's all just very easy. You've found the holy grail of languages...the one that you'll find so easy that you'll master it in just a few hours.

Listen to the latest podcast episode to hear Lindsay and me discuss this topic with lots of surprising insights and our own hit lists of top 5 easiest languages.

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Here are a few of the factors that determine if you will find a language easy or difficult:

Language Families: What Is Similar to What You Already Know?

Familiarity is the most obvious way to guess whether a language is going to be easy for you to learn. The closer its structures and vocabulary are to your native language, the easier it should be to understand and learn them.

The idea: Languages in your language family are the ones that give you the least new material to learn. With less to learn, that means you don't have to work as hard. It's easy!

What You See = All You Get?

The language families theory works perfectly, but it has one flaw: Without knowing about the languages you don't know...how can you tell that those familiar ones really are the easiest?

For example, speakers of a Latin-based language like Spanish will list Italian and Portuguese as their easy languages... but fewer people mention Romanian. Romanian is less popular, but it is still Latin-based and fairly accessible.

Many people start to mistake languages that are widely spoken with languages that are easy. And that makes sense in terms of access - how easy is it to find materials for your language? How unusual do you feel when you’re learning this language?

But is the most popular language really the easiest? Maybe there's more to it!

Language History: Where Have Languages Been Designed to Ease Communication?

Sometimes, a language emerges because it needs to create ease of communication quickly and often this leads to simplified grammar structures. Languages designed to aid communication are Pidgins and sign languages, for example. They’re considered easy partly because they are based on existing languages.

In the podcast, we discuss whether a pidgin or a sign language could be the easiest language in the world...or maybe not?

Learner Situation: Which Language(s) Have You Learnt Before?

In my Facebook group, one learner replied to my question “Which are the easiest languages for you?” in an unusual way. She said:

"I think the easiest three are often your last three, because you develop your language learning strategy as you work out which things help you learn"

It's very true. Languages can be easier or harder depending on you and where your skillset and mindset are at.

A bad experience in the past (like in school) can give you the impression that a language is hard, when it may have been more to do with your learning environment.

In addition to this, some languages just call to you and that motivation makes the complex grammar or weird vocabulary a joy to learn rather than a burden.

So What Makes a Language Easy or Hard?

It's personal to you as the language learner, so there is no general answer. What you know and the languages you know are also limited, so...in a way you won't ever have the answer until you try.

But remember: It’s hard not to confuse “easy” with “available".

What Were Your Top 5 Easiest Languages?

Listen to the podcast to hear our lists of easy languages and share your views in the comments below

How To Create An Amazing Language Journal

What if you had a language learning tool that costs you hardly anything, adapts to your own preferences, boosts your memory and helps concentration?

Turns out you do, and it's probably in your bag right now: Your notebook!

Today on the podcast I'm joined by language lovers Kathryn and Sam who are passionate about taking fantastic language notes. Listen to discover their experiences, language learning tips and strategies for effective note taking.

This episode of the show is sponsored by LiveLingua (click for a free lesson), the best place to connect to your new favourite Skype teacher.

Get Inspired With This Gallery

Why Keep a Notebook?

There are so many huge benefits to keeping a language learning notebook, from the brain science aspects all the way to mindfulness and wellbeing.

Personalised Learning

Language learning notebooks are a completely blank canvas where you can design the textbook of your dreams. You control the layout and the content, and get to create what makes sense to you.

Clearer Thinking

Writing in a notebook means you are expressing concepts and sentences in a way that makes sense to you personally. It automatically helps organise what you are learning. Sam mentions that he selects what he finds most helpful and important from podcasts, YouTube videos and online lessons so he can curate his own version of a personal textbook.

Memory Boosts

When you write your notes by hand, you become better at remembering them. The act of writing, perhaps even colouring or illustrating your note is an in-depth repetition of what you’re learning. Add to that the personal connection as you write what is meaningful to you, and the increased repetitions as you look back over your notebook, and what you have created is a reliable system for remembering what you learn.

Enjoyment

If you have a creative side you’d like to unleash, your language learning notebook is a welcome new playground. Kathryn and Sam already loved drawing, design and papercrafts. The language notebook became a way of adding language to what they enjoy, and it has helped create time to combine two great hobbies.

Freedom from screen

Learning online gives you access to infinite materials, but sometimes it’s hard to remember everything that you see. The notebook becomes your place to capture the coolest bits you find on the web, the new words you learn from an app, everything you find in your personal language learning world.

What Can You Write In The Notebook?

Anything and everything! The possibilities are endless: Kathryn keeps her journal in her target language Norwegian. Sam doodles around tricky pronunciation rules and curious idioms. Here are some more ideas:

  • Vocab doodles or lists

  • Jokes & Cute Pictures

  • Repeat and review things you learnt from YouTube or a podcast

  • All types of language learning goals and motivations

  • Memories from cool things you’ve done

  • Tracking: Core skills balance, daily contact with an app

  • Your resource lists

  • Weekly learning plans

Get Inspired With These Instagram Language Journalers

Episode Links

What Is Fluency, What Is Mastery...And How Do You Get There?

This week on the Fluent Show, Lindsay and I went deep into what fluency is, adding in a few other words that often feel awkward to use. It's a great conversation, and will provide you with a new sense of clarity and inspiration, so you can confidently go out there and do what you need to do: learn languages and feel great about it!

Read More

Welsh Is Not English: How The Welsh Language Fought Back

When I first moved to the UK 15 years ago, I thought Welsh was dying out.

But did you know that people went on protest marches and even got ARRESTED to keep this language alive?

In this podcast episode, I bring you interviews with Welsh learners and teachers, sharing their own passions for this ancient language.

Read More