My own language learning goals

So, several years ago, back in October, I started a line of sharing about my own language learning journeys, which some of you have said is of interest to you.

Spanish Language Classroom

I promised to talk about my own language learning history, how it lead to SaySomethingin, and what my own hopes for the future are.

I think I finished the second part of that with the post about making learners suffer in large numbers – but I’ve just realised that I haven’t said anything about my own plans and dreams, so if those might be of interest to you, keep on reading.  Otherwise, go and learn some Welsh.  [Yes, even if you’re not doing our Welsh course!…;-)].

Actually, my language learning plans for the future are pretty intimately connected with the development of SaySomethingin.

In fact, it wouldn’t be entirely unfair to suggest that SaySomethingin as a concept wider than the Welsh course grew pretty much out of my own deep-seated laziness – no, it’s no coincidence at all that the other language we’ve got furthest with is Spanish, as you’re about to find out.

As I’ve told you already, I’ve had what feels like a certain kind of success with Spanish.

After going through the excellent 8 hour introduction Spanish course by Michel Thomas, and the significantly less useful 5 hour ‘Advanced’ course (which is still much better than his absolutely dreadful ‘Advanced’ French course), and spending a year going to the pub once a week with Dave, I could enjoy spending an evening talking Spanish.  In the several years since then, Dave and I have stuck fairly consistently to the weekly trip to the pub, barring occasional gaps, and I’m quite confident communicating one-on-one in Spanish now.

But, like pretty much every language learner in existence, I’m very good at feeling bad about stuff I can’t do.

Fiesta (1947 film)

In my case, as far as Spanish goes, that means understanding radio and TV (sure, I can ‘get the gist’, but I want to be able to enjoy it without having to make an effort to understand), and having much more natural ‘family’ Spanish (I’m really short on stuff like ‘Come down the stairs this minute or you’re in serious trouble!), and just, well, being able to express myself better.  Yes, that kind of catch-all movable ‘hit-yourself-with-this-stick-any-time-you-feel-like-it’ measurement.

In particular, Dave often rolls his eyes in weariness as I butcher another subjunctive – he’s even tried, in sheer desperation, to suggest that I should actually read some pages about the subjunctive in a grammar book.  It’s possible that he thinks that I don’t out of some kind of moral commitment to our ‘no grammar’ approach – but really, it’s just because I’m too lazy.  As soon as someone utters the words ‘grammar’ and ‘book within a few words of each other (oh, okay, as soon as someone utters the word ‘grammar’, really) I start feeling an over-whelming urge to go to bed early or watch a good film.

In fact, that’s why SaySomethingin has a ‘no grammar’ rule!

Over the years, we’ve found more and more reasons, some of them even quite scientific(ish), for the general rule – but it started because as a lazy person, I figured other lazy people would like to be able to skip all the grammar stuff.

So when Dave suggests that I actually learn some rules about the subjunctive in Spanish, and then think about them when I’m speaking (which involves remembering them and then extrapolating from them to the particular word at hand, which as far as I’m concerned is officially hard work), I usually mutter something about the weather or ask if he’d like something else to drink.

Which means that from a very early stage, I realised that I wanted some SaySomethinginWelsh style lessons for me to get used to the subjunctives I abused most frequently in Spanish.

Oh, and something else happened, too, which is entirely Dave’s fault.

Eiffel Tower GigaPixelized!!  (Paris) (Zoom In...

He started claiming that I could more or less speak French already, and putting it to the test at the end of our sessions sometimes – which was like having my brain suddenly switched off.  It really felt very, very similar to genuine physical pain.

‘Je, ym, blydi hel, je, je veut dec… oh damn it, je veut dire, ym, beth ydy algo yn Ffrangeg?  O, ia, quelque chose – je veut dire quelque chose…’

And that’s a five minute excerpt.

And it made me realise that I had a lot of passive French vocabulary (the stuff that goes in even when you’re looking out of the window or trying to communicate in offensive gestures with another teenager in a language lab), but that I had big missing chunks of some pretty important tenses.

That was when I tried the Michel Thomas French course – and while the 8 hour introductory stuff did a small amount of useful waking up, the 5 hour ‘Advanced’ course (which had a lot of the material I really needed) was, as I’ve said before and will no doubt say again, atrocious.

By that stage, I was thinking that SSiSpanish and SSiFrench would get me where I wanted to be with Spanish and maybe even get my French enjoyably functional in a very small amount of time.

A very small amount of time in terms of the work listening to the courses.  My ideal.

All Giza Pyramids in one shot. Русский: Все пи...

A very LARGE amount of time, a genuinely shockingly large amount of time, in terms of building the damned things in the first place.  Oh, the bittersweet irony of needing to do so much work to carry on being lazy about grammar.

So, welcome to now.

We should have the final-for-now new Spanish Course 01 fully published in the next couple of months, and I already know that there’s stuff in there which will be really helpful for me – and that Course 02 is going to push me on a huge amount, which I’m looking forward to enormously.

As well as being our software developer, Ifan is also ready and eager to start producing our French course – I’m going to leave that for as long as I possibly can, and then see how fast I can get through it all as part of the whole accelerated learning thing – although of course it’s not a clean test.

Otherwise, Ifan is going to build a new online lesson building tool that will make creating new courses much easier in terms of the actual build (which is a large part of what swallows the time) – and we’re also going to start playing with a possible way to increase how quickly new people can produce new courses, by trying to combine algorithms with human input.

And in the middle of all that, we’re inevitably going to prioritise courses for Breton, Basque, Gaeilge, Arabic and Mandarin.

Because those are the other languages I’d like to speak…:)

When I was struggling away with Arabic in Cairo, or at any other time on my unsuccessful route to speaking Welsh, I would never have believed I could speak more than one other language.

Simple Sam. The wasting fool... Everyday he br...

Hell, I had real, serious problems believing I could ever speak more than just English – a problem many of our learners share.

Once you know, from experience rather than faith, that you can speak one other language, though, your attitude changes.

And although I’ve not learnt another language to conversational ‘fluency’ via the SaySomethingin method, my experiences with the SaySomethinginDutch course that Louis has been building have given me an absurd level of confidence that once the courses are available, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t brush up my French to the level of my Spanish, and pick up Breton, Basque, Gaeilge, Arabic and Mandarin as well…:)

I always aim for over-confidence.

It’s made life so much more entertaining than not believing in myself as a language learner.

So there you have it.  My vested interests in the success of SaySomethingin couldn’t be any more vested, because speaking new languages has become my single favourite form of entertainment.

So come ON, hurry UP, get those new courses ready!

Oh, that’s what I’m meant to be doing?  Sorry.  You should have said.  Better stop wasting time here, then…;-)


P.S.  I’m sorry the blog looks so horrible at the moment.  I promise I’ll try and get it looking prettier in the, er, near future.


7 responses to “My own language learning goals

  1. Aran, it is great to read about your enthusiasm for learning languages. I am looking forward to using the online lesson building tool to create the German course.

  2. Diolch, Andrew! I’m SO sorry – we’ve really got to have a proper sit down and get the German moving again – entirely my fault, total overload at the moment, but I promise it will, will happen! :-))

  3. This sounds so exciting! I’ve only just started to use SSiW (lesson 4), and am loving it…Once I’ve got that down, I’d really love to learn French as well. And my boyfriend is currently starting to learn Gaelige…I think he would really love a SSi course in Gaelige! 😀 So I’m really looking forward to the future courses!

    • Sounds as though you’re off to a great start! We’ve spoken to a few people about the Gaeilge – we need to finish getting our systems in place here, but that should be mostly done by the spring/summer, and it might well be possible to start moving fairly quickly then – at which stage, Gaeilge will be very high on the shopping list…:)

      • Fantastic! I’ll pass the word onto him. We live in the US, but we’re dreaming of a big UK vacation someday (mainly to Ireland and Wales, his ancestral homeland and mine, respectively) and we both have a fantasy of being able to converse with local pub-goers in the native tongue. 🙂 I think SSi will help us both greatly in getting there! Thanks a million for putting such a fantastic resource and positive community together.

      • On the contrary, thank you for your enthusiasm! That’s the magic sauce that has made the community so enormously supportive, and I hope very much we’ll be able to create something similar for the Gaeilge…:)

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