Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 1

Well, it’s been a month (approximately!) since I undertook the following:

Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 14.36.46

Now it’s time for the confessions, I mean, update. 

Actually, it hasn’t gone too badly:

I can confidently and honestly say that I have read and/or listened to something in Italian, French, German, Polish and Spanish most days in the last month!!

  • Italian: I am reading Mangia, Prega, Ama which is a translation of Eat Pray Love. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.58.42This mostly happens in my lunch break at work. I have also watched the film of it along with a few others. In other Italian news, my diary writing continues to take place very nearly every day. Watching/reading in Italian is like slipping into a comfy pair of slippers and a cosy dressing gown: nice and relaxing!





  • French: I am still plowing through Au Bonheur des Dames. Slowly. I think I will feel quite the sense of achievement when I finally finish! I am enjoying it, but being the lazy sod I am, it often gets neglected in favour of something easier (see next sentence)..! In addition to that, I occasionally dip into a series of books I have on my Kindle, which are much easier and more relaxing – seems particularly to happen when I have an early dinner in the garden!Have done two and a bit in the last month, I think. In terms of listening, am working my way through an audiobook and I have also just found a series on YouTube to watch in 45 minute episodes.
  • German: I have been listening to an audiobook in German, am now on the second time through as a way to try and pick out more than I did the first time round. I’m also still reading (very slowly) a series of e-books I’ve downloaded. Finally, I have been doing a fair bit of watching too – a couple of films and newly started a series on YouTube. My German was getting very neglected prior to this last month. I’d read a bit every once in a while and that was it. It’s nice to be getting back into it, understanding more and being able to produce!
  • Spanish: I “did” two A1 graded readers. The reading was easy, the activities weren’t. Not content-wise but the electronic design… I tried one on the Black Cat App and found it rather clunky. In any case, that was the only A1 book they had on there. I think it is in its early days… I also downloaded one via Ibooks and the main problem with that one was that the “submit” button often tended to be located in the same place that the iPad interprets as turn backwards one page. So instead of the answers being submitted, the book moved back a page. Then you go forwards again and of course all the answers have been deleted. Most frustrating! So I abandoned graded readers and moved on to a translation of Twilight 1 (Crepúscolo). Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.47.26I also found an audio recording of it on YouTube, having failed to source it as an audiobook anywhere else! (Just an amateur version.) I have also dabbled in some Spanish Winnie the Pooh and have just started a new tv series (dubbed), again both via YouTube. No “learning activities” but I am enjoying it all! And Spanish is beginning to feel more familiar and less badly tuned.
  • Polish: I am continuing my way through Harry Potter 1. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.44.41It took me a while to relocate (re-download from an online account where I had previously bought it) the e-book so initially I was just listening to the audio recording. I say listening, it was more just letting it wash over me and enjoying the sounds and rhythm. Around the 6th May  (so a couple of weeks-ish in), my brain finally accepted Polish as a language rather than a random collection of sounds and letters with periodic spaces between them. To get to that point, I needed to use my Polish for Dummies book + notes I had made on pronunciation last year for some review, in combination with listening and reading along (once I got the e-book sorted) to Harry Potter. Since that point, I have started using Quizlet and am now up to 16 words/chunks on it! Screen Shot 2016-05-20 at 14.43.22I haven’t, however, touched Memrise or my First 1000 words book. (To be honest I had forgotten that part of the contract – my brain was mostly focused on the reading/listening elements!) In YouTube world, like Spanish, I have also dabbled in some Winnie the Pooh… Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.48.46 The main thing for me with Polish has been to relax and not worry about not understanding the majority of it when I listen to and read Harry Potter. Sometimes I work out what is being said, which is gratifying, sometimes the audio skips and I have to find where it’s gone, but I can do that now (which I struggled with in the beginning!) – it’s all about the minor victories!

Overall, across all these languages, I haven’t done much in the way of actual studying though! A tiny amount of Polish via Quizlet and Polish for Dummies, as explained above, and a tiny fraction of the activities in the two A1 graded readers I did in Spanish. Frankly, life is too short to work my way through endless course books. Since I don’t have any particular hurry and am learning/maintaining the languages for pleasure, I am jolly well going to do it in a pleasurable way.

Things I have noticed:

  • Multilingual DVDs are a great invention. For example, there was one film where I started in Spanish and then flicked the audio to German mid-way through. Not only that, but it means one DVD can serve your learning purposes for several languages if you, like me, have the propensity to re-watch stuff you like more than once! We take it for granted but it hasn’t really been THAT long since video tapes went out of fashion! Score for technology.
  • YouTube is amazing! Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.56.27 I haven’t used it an awful lot for languaging before, mostly because since I became interested in it, I’ve mostly been in places where Internet is limited i.e. you get a certain per month quota so streaming endless content on YouTube wasn’t an option. Now, however, with a fast and unlimited broadband connection, YouTube is one of my main go-to’s.  That said, I’ve yet to find a ‘language learning video’ that I like. You know, the ones that are a video of someone teaching a piece of grammar or some vocabulary in your target language. If anyone knows any good Polish ones, though, please comment with a link!
  • My brain can quite happily cope with 5 languages in rotation! I can switch from watching something else in Italian, to watching something in Spanish then German, then French, then listening/reading in Polish. I think it has “channels” – I just have to flick the switch between them. Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.52.49Some of the channels function rather better than others! So, my Italian channel, as far as reading/listening is concerned, is similar to my English channel in terms of comfort/understanding levels. My French channel isn’t far behind. My German channel was a lot more sub-functional initially but is getting easier all the time, the more I use it. That said, there is a definite difference in my understanding of Italian and French, and that of German. My Polish channel barely exists, but a channel has been made – “under construction”! Ditto the Spanish channel, except it borrows understanding from the Italian and French channels…
  • Like one of my students in my upper intermediate course last term commented, I may not have met all my goals but I’ve certainly done a lot more than I would have if I hadn’t set them. So, I may not have met my contract but I’m pleased with what I have done!
  • Every little DOES help: Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 18.54.42YouTube clips of 8-10 minutes. Reading a few pages chapter while I’m eating my lunch etc. It’s all input! So I stand by what I’ve kept telling students over the years: doesn’t matter if it’s “only” ten minutes, way better ten minutes than nothing!


  • With Polish I have needed the support of listening and reading at the same time. I think that now I could just about manage to read without listening – my brain has an idea of how it sounds now! The next step will be reading and comparing with a version in English or Italian, to help build up my vocabulary (well, it worked with Italian!).
  • My German is coming back slowly but surely. Woohoo! After a month of consistent listening and reading, I can say stuff again. Not heaps, but much more than I could a month ago!
  • The amount of languaging I do depends on the weather. When it is a bit rubbish and I am stuck indoors, I do a lot. When it is sunny and I can be in the garden pottering about, I do very little! See my “life is too short” excuse above. For me, being outside wins every time. I do try to multitask though, for example when I am out running I talk to myself (in my head) in different languages, to exercise them at the same time as my body!
  • Resource management can get confusing. Partly because I do some YouTube watching on my computer and some on my iPad, so it’s difficult to remember where I’m up to. But also because Harry Potter chapters are quite long by audio, ditto Crepúscolo, and I rarely listen to a whole one in one go, but my iPad appears incapable of remembering my place in the audio recording. Yet, if I have an *audiobook* on my iPad (not sure why my audiobook of Harry Potter has decided to be in the music app rather than Ibooks where all my other audiobooks live) and my computer, and I listen partially in both places, it keeps track and puts me in the right place regardless of device. So, it seems to be a problem only with the ‘music’ app. (If you have any suggestions for fixing this, please let me know!)
  • I really enjoy languaging. (But I suppose I already knew that!)

What next?

Well, as I mentioned earlier in the post, when I feel sufficiently confident, start doing a little bit of side-by-side comparison of Harry Potter Polish and Italian/English/French versions (not all, just one of those will do!). I also want to email some German friends of mine in German (been a while since I did that!) Other than that, keep doing what I have been doing and see what else I feel like! I’d also quite like to use my notebook more… It’s one I bought but didn’t use for my M.A. and has been gathering dust since. It’s perfect because it has 4 sections, so that’s one for each language except Italian, which already has its own notebook from the few lessons I’ve had. So far, I’ve used it for Polish only! image1Need to work out what I want to use it for with the other languages. I suppose mostly I have just been enjoying input and haven’t needed a notebook for that… I also want use the lovely pack of coloured pens I treated myself to more – so far, again, just for Polish! (You can’t see it in the pic above but believe me, there has been purple, orange, pink, green… 🙂

Let me know if you have any suggestions for anything I could be doing with my languages by commenting on this post! Will be happy to hear from you.

11 thoughts on “Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 1

  1. Thanks for sharing how you’re managing all of this Lizzie. I think your languaging is analogous to my online CPDing/social mediaing. I’m doing a few minutes of Polish/Italian vocab a day on memrise, and having the odd Polish conversation, but not doing much else at the moment, although you prompted me to start listening to Harry Potter. Not walking to work at the moment due to the sprained ankle has put me behind on listening to everything and built up a massive backlog of podcasts at the moment (which are all in English!)
    Knowing that it’ll take you longer to add them, it would be great if you could include the links to the YouTube things you’ve been using, just in case I’m feeling motivated enough to follow in your footsteps and click through.
    And it’s good to see that you’re approaching this as enjoyment and exposure, not just studying and working your way through notes.
    Well done and looking forward to the next update. One day, I’ll make my own plan and make my language practice more systematic. That’s eighth level to-do list stuff though 😉

    • I really need to look at Memrise again at some point. Found it good with Italian. Abandoned Polish on it, can’t remember why, but it didn’t work. Possibly because my brain was not convinced anything had any meaning :-p …Re YouTube, you really don’t want my YouTube links, they mostly involve shows with horses in them 😉 I reckon enjoyment and exposure is the way forward! Eighth level…so…when you retire? :-p Lizzie

      • OK, you’re right, maybe I don’t want your YouTube links 🙂 But I know you want my memrise ones: (better, though there’s a random really long idiom for each level, which you might want to set to ignore) (almost as good – I’ve nearly finished this one)
        are the two best courses I’ve found. Marek’s looks useful too (thanks Marek), but there are no capital letters, so will probably save it for later 😉 A different set which wasn’t capitalised correctly confused my mum because she thought that some nouns needed to have capitals. It confuses me sometimes too.
        Good luck!

      • Why did I randomly have to approve this comment? Yours usually automatically approve. Anyway, thanks for the links, will add them to my list! Have already done a few words on the link Marek gave. Quite nice to be Memrising again! 😀 (I really enjoyed it for my Italian course, the only one I’ve actually completed on it!) I’m not even going to think about capital letters at this point!! 😉 Lizzie

      • See, this one went back to normal auto-approved…wonder if it was the links? Except, Marek shared a link and it didn’t require approval… vagaries it is then! :p

  2. This was great Lizzie, thank you for the post! I think what’s always resonated with me when learning languages is the importance of doing something you do enjoy.

    In Russia I often used to buy Cosmopolitan magazine or something (a bit of a guilty pleasure) – even though my Russian was only elementary level when I started, I could work my way through an article with a dictionary and because it was something I was interested in, found it far more enjoyable and useful than many more ‘formal’ ways I could have studied the language.

    I really hope that my students also gain the same enthusiasm for pursuing things they enjoy in English without being put off by the fear of it being ‘too difficult’! Elly

    • Lovely to see you here, Elly, as well as on Twitter! 🙂 My ‘guilty pleasure’ is children’s literature/shows! 🙂 It’s definitely important not to be put off by the fear of things being too difficult, or by the fear of not understanding. I had to decide it wasn’t going matter that I understood virtually nothing with the Polish. From there, baby steps… 🙂 Lizzie

  3. That’s great stuff, Lizzie. Why did you start Polish? Not the most useful language in the world, though I love it to the bits 🙂 You might find this course on Memrise useful: I created it for the only Polish course I ever taught about two years ago.
    I’ve recently started Dutch, because I’m living in the Flemish part of Belgium. Doing 15 minutes every day on Memrise. Need to start watching and reading things soon. I like your idea of reading things you’ve already read in another language. Might give it a shot.

    • Thanks Marek! …Partly because my sister’s husband is Polish and his family have very little English between them (his is fluent though), partly because Sandy works in Poland and I want to visit her, partly because I wanted a challenge and Polish is different enough to provide that without being too much of a jump for someone who hasn’t yet learnt any languages that don’t have (nearly) the same alphabet as English (such as Chinese or Arabic) 🙂 Thanks for the Memrise link, I’ll have a look and hopefully get back into Memrise again – found it useful with Italian when I started that! Will see how many flowers I manage to grow by the next update 😉 Reading things already read in another language has been key for me in French and Italian, so am applying it to Polish and Spanish. I find it really useful! Lizzie.

  4. Pingback: Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 2 – Lizzie Pinard

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