Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract (v2.April 2016) – Update 2

Hello World of Blogging! I’m back! And the first thing that popped into my mind while writing the title is: “How long ago does April seem? That was before summer, now summer is over and Autumn is clamouring for the driver’s seat with Winter in the wings watching carefully for its chance to stage a takeover bid. It’s been a quiet time on my blog since the end of May, since which time the only noise of any description has been an “I will be back, honest…” type of a post. As I briefly explained in that post, summer school hit! (It was hard work but a great learning experience too. More on that later.) Then, after it ended, I had a much-needed two-week holiday in Sicily with my horse. I am pleased to report that I did a lot of NOTHING – somewhat of a rarity for me!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand: my language learning. I am proud (in the circumstances!) to say that I did keep up my languaging over the summer. I managed a little bit most days until the 20th August, when I did a 30 mile run and consequently had no time for languaging, breaking my “Memrise Streak”.

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Once it was broken, and knowing it would be broken again when I went on holiday (if I am on holiday in Italy I am going to focus on Italian as vs. spread my focus among 7 languages!), I decided to concentrate on getting through the remaining two weeks of summer school, have my holiday and then get back to it in earnest. That said, I continued to dabble, just not every day religiously as I had been doing.

This (to remind me as much as you!) was the contract:

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In my first update, I had managed to more-or-less stick to the receptive skills practice aims (thank you, YouTube!) but hadn’t used Memrise, just a bit of Quizlet. I’d also given up on graded readers as clunky (e-readers) or an expensive habit (sourcing them in paperback/cd format) and therefore annoying/untenable.

Has anything changed since then? Well, two main things (which considered in combination might seem rather ironic…):

  • Time became even tighter than usual (you try combining summer school, training for a 30 mile run, maintaining a burgeoning greenhouse and garden full of stuff etc….)
  • I took up two more languages (blame Memrise)…!

I suppose I ought to add “I started using Memrise to that list… At the height of my Memrise-ing, it looked like this:

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So, as you can see, the extra languages I took up were Bahasa Indonesia (I should have learnt it while I was there, still have friends who live there who I could talk to in it!) and then Mandarin (given that the majority of the students at the Sheffield Uni summer school are Chinese, this seemed like a good idea!). So that brought me to a 7-language mission: Italian and French (not on Memrise), German, Spanish, Polish, Bahasa Indonesia, Mandarin. I like Memrise – it appeals to my competitive-with-myself nature. (I am more interested in keeping up my “streak” than the “leader board” that is another Memrise feature!) It really pushed me to do some each day, when I was tired and actually really couldn’t be bothered! As mentioned earlier though, it can also backfire into lack of motivation to ‘just do it’ if the streak is broken and I know it will be at best intermittent in time to come.

More languages, less time. The basic result was that as far as Polish was concerned, I wound up mostly just doing my bit of Memrise each day. And I watched less German and Spanish than I had been. (Don’t tell my students I just started a sentence with “And” – spent the summer hammering it out of them… :-p ) However, it was nice to be actively learning vocabulary and trying to produce it rather than just watching/listening/reading. Obviously the ideal would be a balance of both, which is what I will be going for next! Indeed, it is time to update my contract in the light of the last few months’ developments on the linguistic front.

One thing I have found particularly challenging as far as Polish Memrise is concerned is spelling. For example:

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I can now spell this one correctly! And this one:

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What I have found is that ideally I want more repetition of recognition of the vocabulary, both reading and listening, or being given the English and having to select the correct Polish, before having to produce it, which seems to happen too soon for me. So that I can see it and hear it more before having to butcher the spelling. However, I am now used to the process of just gaily making a bunch of mistakes, having a pop, and getting closer each time and then eventually “getting” it. Rather than getting wound up about the mistakes and frustrated at the lack of further recognition opportunities. Then, an interesting (to me) problem I had was learning the go by plane, go by train type vocabulary, as it was a mixture of trying to remember the by plane/by train etc bit and then the ‘go by’ equivalent, of which there are 5 (I think) different ones/which one goes with which means of transport, then throwing trying to remember the spelling on top of that! It was hard!!! I think it would have been easier to learn the e.g. jechać ones then the złapać ones etc. rather than having one of these and one of those and a few random extras all thrown in together for my brain to attempt to sort out. Had I had more time, I’d have made my own little reference guide to help my brain along… They are coming together now though, I did a review this morning after a couple weeks break (my holiday) and some have settled nicely.

So that brings us to…

Lizzie’s Language Learning Contract v3.September 2016

I solemnly do declare that I will (attempt to) do the following each week:

  • My Memrise practice – daily in small quantities
  • Read/listen to/watch Italian/French/German/Spanish/Polish (Not going to happen with Mandarin or Bahasa for the time being… that will be version 5 or 6 maybe…)
  • Try and look at some grammar-related material for German/Spanish/Polish. (At the moment, as far as Spanish is concerned I just rely on Italian/French grammar and assume it will work the same way! There again, often Italian words will come out instead of Spanish and then I wonder why Memrise marks me wrong! Like when I put ‘Sono contenta’ instead of ‘Estoy contenta’…) This could be a good opportunity for use of coloured pens and notebook (as mentioned in previous update post!)
  • Seek out production opportunities (e.g. sending an email to my German friends, exchanging a few words with my Indonesian friends, trying out my Polish on my Polish brother-in-law etc. etc.)
  • Keep writing my journal in Italian but try to bring in a few sentences from German/French/Spanish and even a smattering of my very, very basic Polish.

Signed: Lizzie Pinard

Fairly basic really! Let’s see how I do in the next month…

How is your language learning going? Any more suggestions for me? (The useful ones on my last post are the reason I got on to Memrise! )

 

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Learning Polish – being a true beginner (my newest challenge!)

Those of you who follow read my blog regularly will have seen a number of posts relating to my journey of learning Italian, something that I have thoroughly enjoyed doing. In my two 8-month stints in Palermo, I have managed to get myself from beginner level to intermediate level, though a lot of that improvement actually took place during the summer between those two contracts where I studied intensively and independently, partially to improve my Italian and partially to experiment with independent learning techniques.

This year, I am leaving Italy and returning to the UK, a move which I hope will be permanent. While I fully intend to hold on to my Italian (by speaking to Italian friends, reading in Italian and watching films in Italian, for example), I also decided that it was about time for a new linguistic challenge.

Enter Polish.

Why Polish? 

In no particular order:

  • I am a complete beginner at Polish. I can only say goodbye (but not spell it) – because once upon a time my mum had some Polish kids in her L2 unit at primary school. (Once I started secondary school, holidays did not coincide and so when I was on half term or holiday, I would often go into school with mum and listen to kids read and suchlike. The Polish children used to say goodbye in Polish at the end of the day when they went home.) = indubitably a challenge!
  • I have never tried to learn a language whose alphabet is different from English. Polish has some different letters, as well as using some consonant clusters that English either doesn’t use or doesn’t use in the same way. So, not as difficult as, say, learning Arabic would be but more difficult than French, German or Italian, which are the languages I have learnt to varying degrees so far. From a learning perspective, this is a challenge; from a teaching perspective, this should help me better understand the problems students whose L1 is further from English might experience.
  • My sister’s husband is Polish and his family don’t speak a lot of English, so it would be nice to be able to communicate basically with them when they visit. Of course, my sister is learning Polish too, for obvious reasons. And anything she can do, I can do better, right? Well, maybe not but we can egg each other on and practice together on Skype and stuff, I imagine. 🙂 And of course, when I visit them, I get practice opportunities!
  • Sandy Millin is moving to Poland to take up a DoS job there, and I would like to visit, as I have never been to Poland before. It would be nice not to be completely helpless if this happens! Also, a bit of healthy competition never hurt anybody! 😉

What I have done so far:

  • Downloaded a Memrise course in Beginners Polish.

(This was my starting point for Italian too…).

The good thing about this is the recordings that accompany the words and the memes that you have to choose to help you remember the words. The memes for my Italian course seemed all too often to involve random rather unhelpful busty blonde women, whereas the ones in this Polish course so far are quite useful memory aids. However, I have noticed that I can often remember the sound of the word via the meme, but then can’t remember the spelling associated with it. So on my list of things to do is get to grips with the sound-script thing. Fortunately this shouldn’t be tooooo difficult (famous last words?) because, as I understand it, Polish is written phonetically, with a very small number of exceptions. I need to stop applying English sound-spelling rules (dodgy as they are!) to Polish words.

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Beginner…that’s me!

 

  • Looked for resources: 

This started as a hunt for Graded Readers, but apparently these are thin on the ground where Polish is concerned. What wouldn’t I give for an A1 Black Cat Graded Reader in Polish now… Nevertheless, I have found a Polish for Dummies book which looks promising (I have been looking at the free sample!). It comes with an audio disc (or, as I would get the e-book, an audio download) in that it explains the pronunciation and some grammar stuff, as one would expect, but also apparently has lots of conversations recorded. I feel like it would be helpful for me to just read and listen a bit to start with, to help me get to grips with what Polish looks like vs how it sounds, because in my life, I have not heard a lot of Polish or seen a lot of Polish. Hardly any, actually!

For Dummies like me! :-)

For Dummies like me! 😉

I have also seen some Usborne Everyday Words flashcards, which I find rather appealing. Which reminds me, I must have a trawl through Quizlet and see if there is anything ready-made on there that I could use. I should also start to make my own in due course. The Usborne ones I saw have also reminded me that I could also post-it everything when I get back to the UK… 😀

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Yay, pictures!

 

Finally, I will confess, Harry Potter in Polish has crossed my mind as a possibility… or perhaps Twilight … using the same approach as I did with Italian initially, i.e. the original text and the translation side by side until I can manage without the original, but I think I need to get my head around pronunciation first!

Good old Harry Potter...!

Good old Harry Potter…!

What happens next?

  • Probably very little this week, being the last week of term and therefore very busy. If I can log on to my Memrise course a couple of times and do some review, I would be happy with that!
  • Once I am on holiday, download Polish for Dummies and start listening and reading. And work on the sound-spelling thing.
  • Then, when I get back to the UK, make myself a learning contract!

Of course, it’s going to be a bit different from last summer.

A) there is no time limit on the Polish, whereas with the Italian I wanted to get it down by the end of the summer last year.

B) I want to work on my other languages too – my French, my German and, of course, keep up the Italian. I am wondering what my brain will make of juggling 4 languages plus English on a regular basis. (Another experiment…) So I suppose my room will be little Europe rather than little Italy as it was last summer!

Let’s see what happens… I’ll aim to post another update in a month’s time! For that matter, I also aim to actually publish some of the pile of drafts that have built up on my blog ‘work-desk’ since IATEFL!! It’s been a busy time. The tumbleweed will get booted out of the way soon, though – watch this space! 🙂