My adventures in language learning

Okay so I figured I might just as well write a short post to introduce what I hope will become one of the main features of this site: a section dedicated to language learning, which is one of my hobbies… and yes, I do realize that, as far as hobbies go, that one really needs to get a hobby.

Anyway, what I will be doing here is sharing my take on some language learning methods, plus some tricks and tips I have developed over the years, rant about the absurdity of some languages, and so on. In time I might also include a more direct comparison of those self-taught language learning methods I have come across, and how to combine a number of them to get the best results.

And speaking of the possibility of those reviews, a couple of warnings: first, my preferences there to skew towards some older methods; second, those reviews are going to be deeply personal, and given that different people approach learning differently, your mileage may –and probably will– vary.

So the next question is why do I like learning languages so much, and the truth is that there are a number of reasons for that one. Sometimes it’s because I want to read one of my favorite authors in the original, sometimes it is because I’m going to be traveling, and I’d like to be able to at least ask where the restroom is without embarrassing myself (and ideally I would also like to be able to understand the answer without having to resort to playing charades); sometimes is just out of sheer curiosity, because I love the differences between the different languages, and how those differences can translate into how people see the world… and sometimes it is just that I find language learning to be an excellent way to keep my brain from growing rusty on me.

Anyway, those are just my reasons, and they tend to be personal rather than professional –and that in turn means that they don’t require me to put much emphasis on fully mastering a language, something I realize may be downside for those in a more professional setting– but there is also a method to that particular bit of madness. Simply put, one of the lessons I learned the hard way is that there is a limit to how far you can go before you come to a point where, unless you have someone you can practice the language in question with on a regular basis, any attempts to go further are likely to be wasted because by the time you need that information you are likely to have forgotten it.

This is also a position that puts me clearly in the minority when it comes to things such as trying to master the kanji while studying Japanese. Still, even though I don’t put much emphasis in mastering the language –in fact unless my interest is travel related I tend to focus almost exclusively on the two aspects I can practice on my own, i.e. reading and understanding– there is nothing that would prevent my approach from being taken to the next level. In fact I would go so far as to say that there is a natural progression that will make it that much easier for you to learn a language, and that progression does start with the passive side of the equation (reading and understanding), but more on that in a future post.

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