#clearthelist May 2019: Learning 2 Languages at Once (Plus: Lots of Resources for Chinese and Welsh!)

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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.

Andiamo!

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.

Sign up here for news about the next German retreat.

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.

Listen to the podcast episode with Dr Roger Kreuz here

Language Goals and Progress

I’m currently working on two target languages as a learner: intermediate Welsh and very early beginner’s Chinese.

Welsh Progress

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.

Instagram yn y gymraeg

Instagram yn y gymraeg

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.

Chinese Progress

My other language is Mandarin Chinese. I had set myself structured goals for this language for the first time last month.

Listening

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.

Speaking

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!

Reading

Most of my learning is still reading-based, so I kinda met my goal by default.

Writing

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!

Listening

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.

Reading

This is the easy one for any beginner, all my apps and my textbook are reading practice. No specific goals.

Speaking

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.)

Writing

Three goals:

  • 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.

Resources

Many people have been asking me to list the resources I use for learning my languages this month. Here they are:

Chinese Resources

Welsh Resources

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.

9 Unexpected Places To Find Real-Life Language Partners

How cool would it be if you could find real life language lovers to meet up with, learn languages together, perhaps even go to class or see a show in another language? Heck yes!

In this article, get few practical tips to help you reach out and connect with your new language squad IRL.

Read More

9 of the Best Podcasts for Learning Italian

podcasts italiano

Buongiorno! Who doesn’t dream of beautiful Italy: world-class landscapes, breath-taking history, outstanding food, and the culture of dolce fare niente! Well, not quite niente - which means “nothing”. There’s probably one little thing you want to try: learning Italiano!

Do you ever feel like you don’t have enough time in your busy life for learning more Italian?

Do you want to speak more like an Italian native?

Podcasts are a great way to add a little Italian listening practice into your day-to-day life. They are free, and can accompany any part of your day: driving a car, washing your dishes, doing laundry, working out, reading, and more.

Discover 9 of the best resources for other languages.

The Fluent Show

In addition to the Italian podcasts you’ll find in this article, check out the Fluent Show. That’s my own show, co-hosted by Lindsay Williams, where we discuss languages, learning methods, and how to live a multilingual life. Click here to listen and subscribe.

Quick Primer: How Do Podcasts Work?

If you’re curious about podcasts, but not quite sure how they work, here’s what you need to know:

  1. You can subscribe for free to podcasts on your phone, tablet, or computer

  2. If you use an iPhone or iPad, you can use the Podcasts app. If you’re on a Mac, use the itunes directory

  3. On a PC or Android device, try the Stitcher app for a quick and easy start

  4. Subscribing means you’ll always have the latest episode ready and waiting for you as soon as it’s published

Italian is a great language for learning by podcast, so let's dive into that top 9 list

In this article you’ll find:

  1. Italian Podcasts For Beginners
  2. Italian Podcasts For Intermediate and Advanced Learners
  3. Italian Video Resources
  4. Podcasts To Help You Learn Everyday Italian

Italian Podcasts For Beginners

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Radio Arlecchino

This is a very grammar-focused podcast, mostly in English, and focuses on making grammar points easily digestible through captivating stories and lots of dialogues. Their focus is on helping you speak. The coolest feature of each episode is a PDF transcript of the MP3 audio with notes and a discussion forum for each episode on the website.

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ItalianPod101.com (InnovativeLanguage)
 
ItalianPod101 from InnovativeLanguage covers the basic through advanced levels of Italian. The episodes are exciting and immersive. One episode I particularly enjoyed is Must-Know Italian Slang Words and Phrases - Expressions to Describe Someone You Dislike. It was one of the most humorous episodes and I learned about how colourful Italian insults can be! 

The dialogues are presented by engaging hosts in a clear, concise way covering many grammatical features and cultural topics. On the website you can sign up for premium content to access spaced repetition flashcards, PDF lesson notes, and a community forum.

Italian Podcasts For Intermediate and Advanced Learners

News in Slow Italian

slow italian podcast

News in Slow Italian, an intermediate level podcast, discusses world news, grammar, and expressions in the form of slowed down audio. Every episode is a virtual immersion into the Italian-speaking world showing grammar and vocabulary in context. The hosts are engaging and they show you that the language is alive and vibrant and waiting for you to dive into it. 

The audio is very clear and easy to follow. On the website there are transcripts for each episode available with grammar, expressions, pronunciation, and quizzes. 

Arkos Academy Learn Italian

italian podcast arkos

Arkos Academy is mainly for the intermediate and advanced levels of learning Italian. The audio is mostly in Italian and the recordings are at a slower than normal pace, which allows you to really focus on strengthening your listening skills. There is also a lot of information on Italian culture and society, along with transcripts from each lesson on the website so that you can follow along and actively practice both your listening and reading at the same time.

As an added bonus, the Arkos Academy website offers a directory of private native teachers and excellent articles about Italy in Italian. 

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Podcast Italiano

This podcast is almost entirely in Italian and is mainly designed for intermediate learners although you can easily select your level and choose to listen to episodes that are right for you. The website includes transcripts as well as helps learners learn colloquialisms in the “Usi Colloquiali” (Colloquial Uses) section. Host Davide mixes stories from his own life with handy new vocabulary - a winning mix!

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Italiano Automatico Podcast

The Italiano Automatico podcast is great for upper intermediate and advanced learners of Italian. It’s total immersion combined with lots of interesting topics and explains idiomatic and colloquial expressions. It is the companion podcast to the popular Italian learning website Italiano Automatico by Alberto Arrighini.

Italian Video Resources

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Yabla Italian

Yabla is a video-based learning platform with bilingual subtitles and integrated dictionaries. The subtitles are interactive, which is a really cool concept! Check out how Yabla works in detail by reading my full review. One episode I particularly enjoyed is “Il mio mondo Su(r)-Reale” by Federica Reale, where she discusses how she conducts art workshops for children and adults to teach them how to create highly personalized books using recycled paper.

Yabla is great for all levels from basic to advanced, and you can check out their podcast and their videos for hours of entertainment.

Podcasts To Help You Learn Everyday Italian

30 Minute Italian

This show is ideal for learners at any level. The podcast host Cher Hale is super charming, and she provides fun, useful content for Italian learners about the language and the culture.

Cher says:

The Iceberg Project is an online experiment on how when you don’t know Italian you only see the surface of Italian culture (or the tip of the iceberg). When you get into learning the language, you’re able to deeply understand the mentality and mindset of Italian people (that is seeing the rest of the iceberg underwater). It’s about promoting understanding and compassion for Italian culture.

The show covers a variety of topics way beyond your usual textbooks. Check out Cher's episodes on How to Write a Love Letter in Italian, Phrases to Buy Jewelry in Italy, or her Tips for Navigating the Train System in Italy.

Coffee Break Italian

coffee pod italian

Coffee Break Italian, a podcast from Radio Lingua Network, combines Italian language lessons with a lot of useful information about Italian food, culture, Italian speaking countries, and so on.

My favourite part of the podcast is the chemistry between relaxed and charismatic host Mark from Scotland, native Italian speaker Francesca, and Italian learner Katie as they guide through Italian grammar, conversation, culture, and society. I particularly enjoyed several episodes, including one about where the hosts talk about where you come from, nationalities, one about learning to talk about where you live, and the names of many countries. They were very fun to work through!

The dialogues are presented by engaging hosts in a clear, concise way covering many grammatical features and cultural topics. On the website you can sign up for the premium content to access spaced repetition flashcards, PDF lesson notes, and a community forum for a subscription fee.

Advanced Learner Tip: Native Italian Podcasts

The Italian podcast world has come a long way in recent times, and these days you’ll be able to find a big array of native level content to listen to when you want to get Italian language immersion. You can choose from a full catalogue of shows on topics from politics to film reviews.

The easiest way to access native Italian language podcasts is to go to iTunes and switch your country setting to Italy, San Marino, Vatican City, or Switzerland. There’s no restriction on your switch, and you’ll be able to access all podcasts in the same way that listeners from Italy can.

italian podcasts

 

Do You Have an Italian Favourite?

If you like your podcasts in italiano, leave a comment below and share more recommendations.

This article was researched & co-written by Alex Gentry who also writes on Medium. Check him out!

No More Hoarding! How to Organize All Your Language Learning Resources

Ever heard of resource overload? Most language lovers I know can't get enough of new books, courses, and blogs to inspire them...but there's a dark side!

Language resources can be overwhelming. You might wonder which ones are worth your time, or what you really need to get started in a language.

Over the years, I've amassed a huge pile of language learning resources, and in today's post I want to introduce you to a few of my favourites and explain four categories of resources that you should have when you're teaching yourself a language.

For instant organisation, you can find a Resource Organiser worksheet in the Language Habit Toolkit, available in the Fluent Online School.

1) Guiding Resources: Language Textbooks and Language Courses

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The first resource I believe you should have is what I call a guiding resource. This can be a book, a CD set, a video course, or even a night class. For any resource to be considered a guiding resource in my mind, it must fulfil the following criteria:

Great Structure

Never compromise on structure. Look out for units, chapters, steps. There is none that is best for everyone, so ensure that your guiding resource follows a path that you will find interesting. You don't want something that just throws a lot of information at you, and you don’t want to be yawning by chapter 3.

The resource should have lessons that move you from one level to the next level. For example, in Benny Lewis' Teach Yourself book, there are different units and they tell you what it is you are going to learn - units such as talking about yourself, asking about other people, talking about family, and describing things.

Having a structure to follow is very important for independent language learners, so be sure to check out the curriculum before you buy.

Designed for Your Situation

When you buy a textbook, make sure you check if your choice might be designed for group classes (for example, Façon de Parler). This doesn't make such textbooks bad resources, but the way they are written, a lot of the exercises are usually not designed for you to do by yourself. The text will say something like: "Find a partner in your group and then practice these sentences with them," or "In the group, have a discussion of this image." The textbooks just assume that you're in a group class. If you're teaching yourself, this is not always helpful.

Multimedia

Third, there should be a multimedia component. This means that you want more than just a book or audio. You want the book unit to be accompanied by audio, worksheets, or video. Online courses in languages are getting better and better, but check that there’s offline access if you need it.

My preferred structure for a guiding resource is this:

Start with a story or dialogue, then an explanation of what was new, and finish with a chance for you as the learner to practice what you’ve learnt.

Good examples of guiding resources are

2) Input Resources: Enjoyable and Comprehensible Input

Input resources are very easy to find…the internet is a total treasure trove of them! I also call them supplementary resources, as they supplement all other learning.

You can have as many as you want. You never have too many input resources. With these resources, you can follow any story or video for some time, drop it, and then get back to it weeks later. Most YouTube videos in the language that you're learning are going to fall into this category. Music and TV shows also fall into this category.

Your input resources must be understandable, but not too easy and not too hard. You need to be able to sense that you're learning as you're following it; so, there should be a little bit of a challenge. But at the same time, you don't want them to be so easy that you know exactly what's coming.

If it’s fun, it works

Input resources also must be enjoyable. They must be fun, so feel very free to toss out what doesn’t interest you. If you don't enjoy them, you aren't going to engage with them. At Langfest in Montreal, I met the famous applied linguist Dr Stephen Krashen, whose belief in comprehensible input is all about these resources. This is where the magic happens. You need input, it needs to be fun, you need to understand it, and you need lots of it.

Good examples of input resources include

3) Reference Resources: Dictionaries, Grammar Guides, Phrasebooks

In a journey as epic as learning a new language, you’re going to get lost and waste lots of time without a map, and that’s what the reference resource can be for you.

Accessible Language Materials

First, the resource must be accessible. Obviously, they should be there for you to touch or open, but more importantly, they must be easy to understand. Second, the resource must be accessible in the sense that you should have it around. It should be there when you want it because the whole idea of a reference resource is you don't follow it as a course.

Dip in and out

Nobody ever learned a language by reading a dictionary. Instead of following reference resources as a course, you just have them around for when you have a question. At the start of language learning, I think reference resources are good to help you answer the question for yourself: Where am I going to look this up?

Many video courses fit right into the reference category. For example, the Fluent courses on German pronunciation and on grammar cross over between guiding and reference resources. My dream for my German courses is that somebody follows it, gains a lot from it the first time, but knows that they can dip in and watch every video individually.

Good examples of reference resources include

The three core reference resources you need are


So those are the three key categories of resources you should have somewhere in your personal language library. To re-cap:

  1. Guiding Resources give your studies shape and help you know your progress. You want these to be structured.
  2. Input Resources make language learning effective and enjoyable. You want these to be fun and right for your level.
  3. Reference Resources are on hand when you have specific questions and need a quick answer. You want these to be easy to access and understand.

If you don't have these three areas covered on your (virtual or IRL) bookshelf, it's easy to feel lost when learning a new language, to miss things, and even to lose yourself and think you're better than you are or worse than you are.

4. Self-Teacher's Resources

Are you learning a language by yourself? You need one more: the self-teacher's resources, which are all about how to organise yourself. This category contains language learning blogs, podcasts, books to help you master the learning process.

The self-teacher's resources are awesome because they

  1. keep you motivated and accountable
  2. help you adopt great study techniques.

For a practical, action-focused take on this resource that will set you up for inevitable success, check out the Language Habit Toolkit, your language coach in a box.

What are your favourite resources? Want recommendations for a resource in your target language or feel you're lacking something?

No problem! Leave me a comment below or say hi in the Fluent Language Learners Facebook group.

Progress Report after 13 Months of "Slow Welsh Language Study"

Waw, mae'r amser yn rhedeg...time flies (or runs, as my dodgy translation implies).

I have been learning this new language for about 13 months now...so let's have a look what the middle ground looks like!

Before you read the post, download your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" in the Fluent Cool Kids Club. It's got links to all the resources I use.

I Spoke Lots of Welsh in Wales!

welsh study update

Back in August, I fulfilled one of this year's language goals and spoke Welsh at the Eisteddfod, the National Festival of Wales. The festival was one week long, with a big site located in Abergavenny, South Wales.

I pitched up my tent for 4 days at one of the official campsites. What a total delight! Immediately, I was hearing people of all ages speak Welsh around me and everyone addressed me in Welsh. In fact, I was surprised, because turns out..

Welsh is real, mae'r Gymraeg yn go iawn!

It's not a postcard language, and it's not even a dying language. Not when you hear and see it all around you, witnessing thousands of people as they celebrate their art, music and identity. Even though I had been learning the language for a year, this was my first experience of feeling how truly alive Welsh is in this world.

In terms of culture and enjoyment, the Welsh festival was amazing. Wales is such a small country that you can make friends with everyone in just a week. From meeting the bands I love (Plu, Candelas) to hanging out with the creators and learners of Say Something in Welsh, every conversation evolved naturally. I often found myself invited to film screenings and discussions (lots of gwin am ddim - free wine!), quickly forgetting I was attending the festival on my own.

Language Immersion is Easy

The Eisteddfod visit showed me that it doesn't take much to create an environment where you learn this new language. Simply go where people speak it. Hearing the language spoken around me was a boost even before I opened my mouth. Yet I also worked on creating speaking opportunities from the start by volunteering as a steward so I was forced to get involved and talk to people from the minute I arrived. It was the perfect Welsh immersion environment.

Impressions from Eisteddfod week

I liked having English as a backup. It was very reassuring to know that I can stop or ask for a word when I need to... I would have never remembered the word for "self-employed" (hynan cyflogedig) if it hadn't been for so many reminders from my conversation partners.

The Fight For Welsh Language Rights

One of the groups I want to highlight is Cymdeithas yr Iaith, an advocacy group for Welsh language rights.

Cymdeithas is an activist group founded in 1962, promoting the right of Welsh citizens to live their lives in two languages. Without them, there would be no bilingual road signs. Old Welsh people may not understand official letters sent in English only. And there would be no education in Welsh. In other words, the language would be dying a lot faster.

Find out more about language rights in our podcast episode with Wikitongues.

If you want to join me at the next Eisteddfod, here's a helpful guide for English speakers.

Speaking and Understanding Welsh After 14 Months

The benefits of visiting Wales and speaking and hearing my target language took hold right away. I was myself having a 15 minute Welsh conversation with an old man in a tiny village, just one week after.

Since returning from Wales, it's been tough to maintain this immersion but I continued to practice. Back in October, I booked a tutoring session with Mererid and my range of conversation was HUGELY improved. It's really great to know that you're impressing your tutor!

I continue to work through the Say Something in Welsh lessons and switched from the old to the new course system back in September. Yes, so I started at the beginning again but that doesn't feel like a setback at all. I loved the opportunity to consolidate my language skills so far. In fact, I got through the first 8 lessons at 1.5 speed, and am now halfway through the course. Say Something in Welsh is intense at times, and it's making me feel like a very confident speaker. I'm also reading a lot of Welsh as I subscribed to the learner magazine Lingo Newydd.

Grammar and Vocab in Welsh

My system is to practice WLCR (Write, Look, Cover, Repeat) using my own notebook. I also maintain a personal Memrise course with the 30% of words that are the hardest to remember. So overall, my vocabulary in Welsh has now grown to about 500-700 solid words - maybe 1000? Who's counting! Studying vocabulary is never going to be a walk in the park when you don't have classes or conversations every day.

--> Learn more about WLCR techniques in my Vocab Cookbook

I'm very happy with my grammar progress, finding that I'm able to say and describe more patterns (he says mae o'n dweud...he said naeth o'n dweud...he was saying oedd o'n dweud ...and so on). Everything still seems to have lots of extra rules and dialects, but I've not had to study many tables at all.

Being an experienced language learner is a big advantage for me here. I find myself seeing patterns and recognising the rules a lot more quickly, and I am confident when I make new sentences out of these structures. I always loved how language can be so playful when you get a pattern.

My Welsh Language Level After 13 Months?

I'm not performing to a set standard, however I've recently downloaded the Mynediad (Beginners) exam guidelines. I'm planning to work through these materials with a tutor. I am pretty much there, meaning I've reached the end of level A1 by studying "little and often" for a little bit more than a year.

Is this impressive? No idea. I don't feel that I would be able to share this on YouTube as a major polyglot win, but at the same time this is something I know I've learnt for life.

The thing about studying for 13 months is this: My time is not wasted just because I've not learnt everything yet. It is time well spent, moving forward, step by step to conversation levels. When you think about how quickly you can learn a language, it's easy to consider any slow periods as "wasted time", but I believe that the long-term commitment is what counts when you want to progress and grow your mind.

What's Next?

In terms of listening, I wish that I had more opportunities to hear real people instead of TV or radio characters. I feel ready to graduate from TV subtitles, but the radio and TV are still too fast for me. What to do?

As a podcast junkie, I would love a slow Welsh news podcast like News in Slow French, or perhaps a learner's story show. I have heard that there's some useful stuff on YouTube, but it's not enough. Give me more Welsh!

My biggest goal is to speak and eavesdrop more. I want to be able to witness conversations in Welsh easily, so that means the following practical goals for December:

  1. Book another tutoring session
  2. Speak Welsh at Polyglot Pub on 6 December
  3. Spend an hour every week listening to the language, ideally spoken by real people around me (failing that, BBC Cymru and S4C will do)

I'm also planning a social media project based on my friend Lindsay's new Social Media Course. More about that in the next blog update!

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you learning lots, or struggling to find time? Let me know in the comments below!

Language Update: Speaking Welsh After 8 Months (+ Free Toolkit)

Welcome to my third update on how I'm getting on with the Welsh language! I can't believe how much time has passed, and I'm excited to share what I've learnt in 2016 so far.

Before you read the post, make sure you have downloaded your copy of the free "Teach Yourself Toolkit" with all my resources in a handy format.

8 Month Progress

First of all, let's accept it's always tough to assess your own progress. I have a bit of a self-critical streak, and like every other language learner I remember the failures more than the successes.

But there are successes to report. I've closed some basic vocabulary gaps like numbers, days of the week and all that. I added around 150-200 new words in the last months (that's around 7-9 each week, if you've got to count).

I'm halfway through the first Say Something in Welsh course - not bad!

Check out this video to see how I'm speaking Welsh at this stage.

What I've Been Doing

1) Following Say Something in Welsh and the BBC Big Welsh Challenge, and Creating Vocab Lists and Memrise Courses

My core routine has not changed. I add new words to a hand-written list. When I'm not near my notebook, they go straight into Memrise. You can read more about the exact process I use here.

2) Writing Practice Typed and Hand-Written

The great thing about writing is that you really have nowhere to hide. No matter if I'm on Hello Talk or writing by hand, it's obvious where my mistakes are. I share my writing and get corrections online, which helps immensely. Applying the corrections and reading the improved text creates an extremely effective learning process.

3) Finding The Community

It's been tough to attend my Welsh class on a regular basis, but I got involved in an online community. The Dw i'n dysgu Cymraeg group on Facebook is a cool place to find more learners and get help with questions.

Understanding Welsh

Back in February I started watching a Welsh TV drama called Byw Celwydd. After this finished, the next show for me was Ffasiwn Bildar, a reality TV show.

Each source of natural language is a bit different

Going from scripted drama to a reality TV show means that I get to hear more “real language”. But the spontaneous talk is harder to understand, so I still use subtitles. And when I listen to music (indie band Candelas are great), I can repeat, listen again and translate the lyrics. But of course they're more poetic and make less sense!

All in all, having Welsh language channel S4C and Spotify as language resources is a great help. My next TV show will be "Y Gwyll", which you can watch in English as Hinterland. Who doesn't love a bit of Celtic Noir!

Speaking Welsh

I'm now expecting more from myself when I speak Welsh. My pronunciation is fine, and my spelling has improved in line with it. It's still difficult to have an all-Welsh conversation. I'm lucky that all Welsh speakers are bilingual and speak English too.

Welsh is a tease. It lures you in with simple structures! At the start, I was cheerfully ignoring one of the key aspects of Welsh grammar: the mutations! A mutation is when words change their first letter because of the previous word...or their gender...or some other reason. They're not exactly transparent, and it's impossible to hide your bad mutations.

Speaking Welsh In The Real World

People I talk to have to be patient! A lot of the Welsh speakers I have met have been language lovers who know exactly how I'm feeling. The patience of Simon Ager, Richard Simcott, Mererid Williams and Gareth Popkins has been pretty legendary. At the Polyglot Gathering in Berlin for example, I ran into Richard and was encouraged to speak to him in Welsh -- but I'd just come out of my first ever Indonesian class! That sense of embarrassment when you don't rise up to the occasion was painfully real.

Another cool result: I've found out that some of my Facebook friends speak Welsh. It's amazing how people come out of the woodwork when you are learning their language. And how cool that I can talk to them in Welsh now! I'm so grateful for these connections.

Great Plans For The Summer

It's time to make the 3-hour trip to deepest, darkest Wales and start speaking, don't you think? I'm very excited about a few upcoming things.

1) Eisteddfod

The Eisteddfod is an annual festival of all things cultural in Wales. It takes place in the summer over several days - a must for any Welsh learner! I was particularly excited to find out that there's a gig with several Welsh bands and radio star Huw Stephens. Just the right motivation to go!

2) Welsh WJEC Mynediad exam

Having looked at the requirements for passing an A1 exam in Welsh, I think that I could be able to pass the beginner's WJEC exam by the end of the summer. Exams are a fab way to focus when you're learning a language. So I will take the opportunity and prep for this one.

I'm looking forward to visiting Wales again, and can't wait to document all the language I hear and see.

How Are You Getting On In Your Language?

Are you feeling the progress, or feeling stuck? Let me know in the comments below!

If you're in the UK, are you going to the Eisteddfod? I'd love to see you there!

Find Amazing Books and Courses for Mastering Language Structures

Woo hoo, welcome to part 2 of our Grammar ♥︎ Season here on Fluent. Previously, I gave you 3 ways to create a simple language learning routine without getting bored about grammar.

Today, let's turn our attention to the tools of the trade. Grammar can be learnt in so many different ways, and there are MILLIONS of tools out there. Some people love the pull out section in their dictionary (I'm so 90s). Others love automated study with tools like the rather excellent Reverso Conjugator.

What Makes A Grammar Resource Useful?

No matter what it is that you're going to use, your grammar resource should always fulfil the following key criteria.

Good Grammar Resources are:

  • Easy to Use
  • Easy to Access
  • Focused on one specific purpose (like "explaining" or "memorizing")
  • User-Friendly
  • Designed to Be Used Instantly

I think the image of a grammar table as this horrific torture device that students must learn to recite by heart is DONE. In a modern, self-taught and independent study routine, grammar becomes your door to speaking to people.

The purpose is a particularly relevant point for me. Sometimes you'll just want to look up an ending, other times you need context and answers. Not everyone enjoys the idea that having a grammar book on the shelf can come in handy, so the trick is really to treat these like an ace that you have up your sleeve. I don't ever read up on things in grammar books at the start of a lesson, but man am I ever glad that they're around when I get stuck.

For Example, Here's How Duolingo Can Be Your Grammar Question Map

Imagine you're working on your target language by building up skill trees on Duolingo. Duolingo is a funny little language learning system. Millions of language learners are using it every day, filling in gaps, learning sentence structures, and listening to that computer voice.

Maybe you know that I have voiced criticisms of Duolingo before, but one thing I do like is the way it builds sentences using a technique of patterns is useful. The app doesn't explain a lot of stuff, though the website has improved a lot in that respect.

Think of the structures Duolingo generates as a signpost pointing you at exactly what it is that you can study.

Every time you ask yourself why your app did a thing, it's time to dive in and investigate. This may be odd at first because it puts the responsibility of learning on you, but it is guaranteed to give you the best high-speed learning journey.

So the question here is not "is Duolingo perfect and useful?", but "where can I look up the answer to this question?"

Come and Join Our Webinar

As I mentioned above, I'm teaming up with Shannon from Eurolinguiste to give you a complete guide to finding the right grammar resources so you can

  • learn faster
  • start speaking earlier, and
  • avoid being tripped up by big gaps after an initial sprint.

To sign up, simply let me know your email address on my special Grammar ♥︎ Season page, and I'll reserve a spot for you right away.