I’ve been learning languages for a long time now, and as many language learners can confirm, each time you start studying one language, you immediately want to study three more in the same time. Some people are really good at managing their time and efforts while studying multiple languages, but for me, it hasn’t been the case. I always seem to have one “favorite” language that I end up spending all my time on while neglecting everything else.
After three or four years of studying French I got to a point where I felt comfortable with the language. I’m not a perfect French speaker, and my writing is especially bad, but I eventually decided that it was time stop studying French and start consuming it. French has since been a language I’ve used in my daily life, and I’ve stopped worrying about it. This has made it possible for me to dedicate my study time to Arabic. Now Arabic takes longer than French. I’m still not at a point where I feel that I can securely stop actively studying it, so taking up new challenges will have to wait a bit. I am, however curious and excited to start planning my future linguistic endeavors, and I think that I may be ready for taking up two (three…) at a time.
The three languages that are all competing for the top spot on my wishlist are Algerian Arabic, Spanish and German.
Derdja, or Algerian Arabic
Algerian Arabic is a spoken language, which obviously has a lot in common with the literal Arabic I’ve been studying for so long. There are big differences, though, which is why I consider it a separate language. Algerian Arabic (or Derdja) is farer from literal Arabic than, say, Danish from Swedish, and it is also notably different from other Arabic dialects like Egyptan, Gulf and Levant Arabic.
I count on being able to learn Derdja passively by the aide of my knowledge of literary Arabic, but also French, from which Derdja has many loan words. Learning the Algerian tongue is quite the challenge for me. I rely a lot of reading literature when studying languages, so I’m a little unsure about how to proceed with the mostly colloquial Derdja. I’m thinking that listening to, dissecting and analyzing Algerian songs could be a worthy approach. Algeria has a rich musical tradition and many different marvelous genres. Have a look at my first post about learning through Algerian music.
I grew up watching German-dubbed Star Trek episodes, sitting next to my dad in the couch. This means that I have some passive understanding of the language, as well as a good grasp of pronunciation. I can’t speak German though, and a lot of the vocabulary is still foreign to me. My hometown is 50 kilometers from the german border, and it’s a common second (or third) language taught in schools in that region. German is only offered in schools, however, and it is not mandatory. It’s a shame that I found that out as an adolescent. I didn’t even hesitate to cancel my German language classes, which meant that I didn’t get it on a discount like was the case with English.
A couple of years ago, I bought the German Assimil, because I figured that I’d try and study it alongside Arabic (see my review for Assimil Arabic). It didn’t work out, because I found it too difficult to focus on two languages in the same time. I also found out that the Assimil dialogues actually are quite easy for my passive knowledge of German, which is why I might jump directly into reading articles and that kind of thing, and let my Assimil sit on the shelf.
Spanish will be an almost completely new language to me. I plan on experimenting a little with my learning strategy for Spanish, implementing things that I have learned from experiences with my other languages.
I’ll start with working from two fronts. One will be going through Assimil’s Spanish with Ease (or perhaps the French version, Espagnol sans peine – does anybody have any opinions as to which one is best? )
The second approach will be using flashcards, probably through Anki to learn the 200 most common verbs and the 200 most common non-verbs. The idea is to drill the absolute minimum in order to have a base for beginning to read through LingQ (check my review of LingQ). I have used flashcard quite a bit in the past, and I am still a little traumatized from overdoing it. This time, I plan on only using Anki for a short while, and probably not using sentences, but single word cards. This is contrary to what many recommend, but my personal experience with sentence cards and cloze deletion hasn’t been that fruitful.
Another idea that I have, is to make a recording of myself speaking Spanish one time each month, talking about a fixed subject for a couple of minutes. While studying my other languages, I’ve often found myself in a situations where I felt like I wasn’t improving much. Having some kind of measure that can be compared from different points in the process could be really helpful. I’ve decided upon audio recordings because they’re a kind of monthly “aim” for my Spanish studies. It’s a monthly objective, and hopefully, looking back, say, six months at a time will clearly show the difference in min language level. I just read a blog post about the use of recording yourself in language learning in the language-blog Eurolinguiste. I’ll try to incorporate some of this into my process!
I’d love to hear people’s tips and comments about the above three languages. For now, I am still working on making my Arabic more fluent and automatic, so I can’t say for sure when I’ll start with German and Spanish. Algerian Arabic, in a sense, is already work in progress.