Just make progress!

Even with dips--make progress!
Even with dips–make progress!

I’ve been uninspired–but I’m not ready to give up.  Work has been demanding, and my friends and family have kept me busy.  I’m trying to approach my languages differently, hoping the change of pace will inspire me.  I had the flu this last week, which halted some progress, too.  I want to hold fast in my mind that progress of any kind is important progress, even if the results don’t always look how I want.

Last week I Skyped with some new italki pals.  Because Iran is 10 hours later than me, I have to think creatively about how to connect.  Before I leave for work has presented itself as the most convenient time, as it can be free time on my side and it comes right after work in Iran.  Unfortunately, it means I have to get up earlier and plan ahead.  I still have to get used to that.  The advantage is real live Farsi talking!  All the vocabulary I’ve been working on for months is cementing itself finally.

I wrote a little in Farsi this week.  One small feature I like about italki over Livemocha is the “Notebook” feature, where you can write whatever you want.  Native speakers are encouraged to comment and/or correct it.  I wrote about being sick!  I had to learn “headache” and “fever,” which are helpful to know anyway.  The fact I was living through the precise situation, wrote about it, and received feedback on it very quickly helped me learn.

I watched the movie, “Day Break” (“دم صبح”), while I was sick.  I couldn’t do much but lay in bed, but I thought I might as well watch something in Farsi.  I’m glad I did.  The movie was well-acted and produced, and portrayed how one’s regrets and fear of death can trap someone in life.  I learned some Farsi and a lot about life.  I learned about the website viki.com, a treasure-trove of high-quality foreign TV shows and movies.  They also have an iPad app.

This combination of active and passive memory work helped me a lot.  I discovered I’ve been doing too little passive memory work.  All my word-memorization during the past several months focused on active memory.  Then, when I talked to the neighbors, I couldn’t understand a response.  Hearing and understanding require work and are necessary.

On a side note, Somali went less well this week.  One of my Somali work friends said on Friday, “You didn’t speak very much Somali this week!”  He noticed before I did.  Thank goodness I have people who can call me on my language use and habits.  I’m just breaking even there.

For encouragement, I watched the great Polyglot Discussion: a roundtable discussion over Google+ of seven well-known polyglots.  They traded views and advice about learning languages.  The advice was not particularly new, but I find a discussion among enthusiastic participants invigorating.  Frankly, it’s one of the reasons I crashed in bed with an Iranian movie rather than a TV show in English.

I have a couple of projects I would like to work on.  I would like to produce some kind of language-learning materials for informal settings.  More specifically, when I speak over Skype or when I meet at the language table with people.  I would like to find a way to take advantage of native speakers, without putting pressure on them to teach when they are not comfortable doing so formally.  So I would like to put together some dialogues with simple vocabulary–like in many textbooks–that apply to the work setting or lunch.  I want to be able to talk about finding means to study languages, eating lunch in the cafeteria, and dealing with the stress of work.  I need to go back to look at some resources that I have for inspiration.  These sorts of resources would help all of us participants learn more and feel more productive.

In the end I learned that I should be easy on myself and work on my language as I can.  When I can, I should do active memory work.  When I’m tired, I can do passive memory work.  I’ll try to get up early when I can so that I can chat on Skype.  In my spare time, I’d like to work on some curriculum.  In the end, making any progress is progress all the same.  It doesn’t always have to be pretty.

Have you been making progress recently?  Any kind of progress?  Be honest!

Anyone want to help make some curricula like I described?

13 thoughts on “Just make progress!

  1. You should get sick more often! 😉
    I went to the dentist last night and learned new vocab, including ‘filling’. Next time, unfortunately, I’m due to learn the word for “drill”… eeeeek! I’d much rather lie in bed and learn that stuff by watching movies!
    Excited to hear about your upcoming project, re. learning materials for Skype. I’m due to start learning a new language next year, Portuguese, and as I’m not living in a Portuguese speaking country, I’ll have to work out a strategy. Skype and some of the other sites you’ve mentioned will most definitely feature. Can’t wait to read more updates!


    1. Wow! That’s language work that’s painfully practical!

      I’d like to hear about how you use Skype to improve your language. I wonder if conversations start to become lop-sided towards whoever is better at the other’s language. If you can’t already hold a good conversation, how well does it work, especially if the other person doesn’t teach so effectively? Let me know!


      1. Well, I’m in a slightly different situation to you, seeing as I’m living in the country where my target language is spoken. For intercambios, I purposely pick people who have an intermediate-advanced level, and so we switch from English to Spanish without having to change topic.
        At the moment, I only have one Skype intercambio with a guy who used to live close-by, but who moved to another town for work reasons. Seeing as we’d made friends over the months and that the intercambio was working well from a learning point of view, we decided to continue over Skype, even though I much prefer to see people in person.
        Once I start with Portuguese next year, I imagine that I’ll be relying on Skype more. I shall definitely share my experiences on being a ‘beginner’ once again, and having to employ a different strategy. Watch this space…!
        On the ‘effective teaching’ side – some people are just crap intercambios, lol. They don’t know how to explain stuff, or how to approach you at the level you’re at. I had one of those in the beginning when I first arrived in Spain. He was a nice guy (so it wasn’t a personality clash thing), but he used lots of colloquial expressions, spoke waaaay too fast, and I found it hugely frustrating. I had to lose him… there was no other way. Sometimes you’ve got to be ruthless (but not cruel!). I think I ‘teach’ English very well in intercambios, and I want people who can reciprocate. So there.


      2. I’ll have to see how ruthless I can be. I like the folks I’m doing intercambios with, but I’ll have to see how I progress. I’m guessing Iranians are less used to intercambios than Western Europeans.


  2. Joel Hanson

    Hi Rich, I am still making a little progress.  I have been consistent with my 2 1/2 hours of weekly study and Spanish radio while driving.  Hope you are feeling better now.  All is well with us in Seattle.  Talk to you soon. 

      Joel Hanson   Intermediary 6533 53rd Ave. NE Seattle, WA 98115 http://www.hansoncomcap.com/ phone 206.300.3379



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