Surprisingly, 2015 has been a pretty productive year, considering several developments in my personal life that have kept me busy. This is the first year that I’ve really thrown myself into language learning with the goal of learning many languages. I’ve been into language learning since 2009, but it’s only been in the past year and a half that I’ve been out of school and able to devote the time I want to these projects.
I think I’ll be happy that I’ve kept a record of what I’ve accomplished this year, so here goes!
January through July-ish
I did a lot with Spanish during the first part of the year. I watched a lot of TV shows (at least more than usual), and I read quite a lot of books. Overall, I’m really happy with the progress I’ve made, although I haven’t been doing anything terribly fancy or innovative. Just more listening and reading.
I boosted my Italian at the beginning of the year by doing some concentrated work with SRS sentences, reading, and Duolingo. I think I got it up to a conversational level, and I felt pretty good about that one. However, it might have gotten rusty in the months since I’ve actively used it.
Icelandic was my main goal here. My husband and I planned our trip to Iceland back at the end of last December. I gave myself about 8 months to learn as much as I could, but I was definitely most productive from January through March. I amassed my resources and quickly discovered that these were quite limited, especially compared with Spanish and French. I had one podcast I liked, one radio station, one novel (that I barely read…), an outdated Teach Yourself textbook, my beloved Hippocrene Icelandic book, and some online courses that really only covered the basics. That was a common theme with formal learning resources– the Hippocrene book, while a well-made and interesting textbook, did not cover much vocabulary or grammar. It didn’t even touch the past tense!
It isn’t unexpected that I grew a little weary of these resources, and from April onwards, I just maintained the little Icelandic I had with passive listening and some reading every now and then. I’d say I had about an A2 understanding and ability to express myself, but that may be exaggerating. My goal was to reach somewhere in the B range, but I certainly didn’t get there.
So, at the end of July, the long-awaited trip came! As I am quite the introvert and shy about talking to random people, I was disappointed with myself that I wasn’t so forthcoming with talking to shopkeepers and waiters in Icelandic. I didn’t have enough skill to be confident, and I was also very intimidated by the fact that everyone spoke wonderful English. I pretty much only said “takk fyrir” (thank you) in Icelandic the whole time, except for a very short exchange with a bookseller, during which I said “ég tala smá íslensku.” (I speak a little Icelandic) I was discouraged by that, and it put me in a bit of a sour mood.
Nevertheless, I could read monolingual signs in Icelandic, which helped us more than we expected, and I could read menus when the English version was not a direct translation of the Icelandic. Being surrounded by conversations and text all in Icelandic was an incredible experience, and I definitely had a higher skill level by the end of the trip. We also bought a crapton of novels in Icelandic, so whenever I want to get to a higher level, I know I have some more resources.
The month of August was pretty hectic for me. My husband and I were living in Pennsylvania for two weeks, and then driving across the country to California. During that time, I dabbled in Swedish, as a “lighter” language after Icelandic. I was also a little intrigued by coming into contact with Scandinavian cultures through Iceland (there were a lot of Danes in Iceland while we were there– and I got a Danish newspaper!). I participated in a six week challenge through HTLAL, logging my hours in reading a little bit of the first Harry Potter book in Swedish and listening to some podcasts. However, I really didn’t gain any skills, and I gave it up after the move.
September through December
As is well-logged on this blog, I have been studying Dutch in earnest since about the beginning of September, hoping to make a four month project of it. I think I’ll take it longer though– I’m liking my progress in reading, and I’ve always liked Dutch.
I’ve also been studying small amounts of Latin since October, I think. Just twenty minutes of textbook work each day to sate my curiosity. I might study more in 2016, since the trifecta of Latin/Greek/Hebrew calls to me on a regular basis!
I think this year has been pretty durn productive, especially considering switching jobs and moving across the country. Besides Italian (of which I already had a lot of passive knowledge through French and Spanish), I’m a little disappointed I didn’t really learn a new language this year, but all things considered, I think I’ve done quite well with my goals, and I’m happy with what I did with Icelandic and Dutch.
New Year’s Resolutions??
So, I’d like to continue to focus on Dutch in January and February, but then study it more passively as the year goes on. Obviously, I will maintain my other languages (except perhaps Italian– I don’t have the same connection with Italian and I’m okay with letting it rust until the interets springs up again). I’m planning on continuing with Latin and maybe adding Homeric Greek to the mix. I would also like to add a new modern language, something that’s not so Western European in origin. What will it be? I’m still undecided, and certainly open to suggestions!
So what about you fellow language learners? Are you happy with the progress you’ve made in 2015? What plans do you have for the new year?