Home > Journal, Motivation & Attitude > My 3-Year Performance Review & Progress Report, 2009-2012

My 3-Year Performance Review & Progress Report, 2009-2012

In this last post, I went over what was my position in languages 3 years ago, in 2009, before I started learning Japanese and got into this current stage of language learning. After reading that post, I hope I sounded like a pretty typical person. I haven’t done anything impressive, so I hope many people who may think it is can see that I don’t have any special history, skill, or natural talent that has allowed me to get to where I am now. I simply do it without consideration of excuses and misconceptions.

This is a review of what I’ve accomplished in the past 3 years, up to summer of 2012, with a brief overview on how I did it, so that you can do it too. For that reason, links will be provided to any mentioned resources, but check out my Language Resources Page for a full list.

So now it’s time to go over what’s actually happened, and where I am now.

In case you’re looking for something specific, I’ll let you know this article mentions:

  • Japanese
  • Mandarin
  • Hindi
  • Korean
  • Morse Code
  • International Phonetic Alphabet
  • Russian & Greek
  • Vietnamese
  • Cantonese
  • Hmong
  • Yoruba
  • French
  • Spanish

The Decision

Which Language?

Starting Japanese is the big landmark marking where everything started. I wanted to start a new language, with not much of a goal in mind other than to see how it goes, how far I get, and how quickly I learn. I wasn’t going to put much effort since I foresaw myself getting busier in the upcoming years, and wasn’t going to care much for motivation. The only motivation needed is to do it: keep it in mind, do it when possible, but make sure I find that time and make time as possible. I considered Italian since I’ve had the interest and it would be easy, but it’s pretty close to Spanish, so I saw little need. German seemed like a good choice, but you know what? I decided I wanted something considered totally different, so let’s check out East Asia, I thought. Chinese characters, yes! So Mandarin or Japanese? I felt Mandarin would be more useful, and I have a little more interest in China culturally, BUT I had already started watching some anime, listening to some Japanese music as introduced to me from anime, and I was beginning to pick up a tiny selection of words. Thus, Japanese had the better and most promising opportunities for “practice.” Japanese it was!

Common First Step to all Languages

Something else I do to gauge interest and get a feel for a language, is to check out its grammar, so whenever I’m curious about a language, I go look over its article on Wikipedia, looking for the grammar section or grammar article.

The scary G-word is definitely something too many people over-concern themselves with (eg., in school courses), but I do believe it’s nice to start with it. What distinguishes a language and gives it its personality, its attractive qualities? I would say grammar! If languages didn’t have differences in word order, structure, parts of speech, conjugation, etc., learning language would be nothing more than learning vocabulary to swap out, and translations could be made virtually word-for-word. So I read up on grammar.

In the case of Japanese, then, I learned that it doesn’t necessarily use a Subject-Object-Verb (SOV) structure, but it is instead primarily a topic-comment structured language. Topics can be dropped if obvious, and it’s much more common (informally) to make extremely short or single-word statements than in English. Questions are structured the same way as statements, only with question words and/or just a “ka” at the end. Different tenses/moods/aspects exist, but all persons (I, you, they, etc.) use the same conjugation. Seeing example sentences helped me see what this all means and how it really comes together.

After reading up on the basics of a language’s grammar, no matter how I continue learning, I’ll better understand why words are coming together the way they are, and the boost to my interest in the language helps make sure I keep going

The New Languages


Reason for Starting: As stated before, I wanted something far removed from European languages, so I chose East Asian languages. Japanese became my top choice due to it’s smaller requirement in Chinese characters and my watching of anime that could serve as listening practice.

Level Reached: Rating myself using CEFR: a low A2. I can speak enough for some basic conversation upon meeting someone, up to discussing who we are, what we do, and what we like to do, and just a little beyond – assuming it all fits in my limited vocabulary. Usually able to get a vague and general sense of what a conversation or some song is about, and I can read all the words I know.

Primary Learning Method: Podcasts, Blog Lessons, Watching Anime, Listening to Music.

Money Invested: $1
I paid $1 for a 1-month free trial of a website.

How did I do it?

Anime & Music: I had begun watching anime in my school’s anime club, and it became my main source of listening practice – along with any music and artists I discovered through the anime. So, my first words and phrases were typical for these mediums; words for “are you ok,” earth, life, love, voice; question words and a few interjections; and stupid / relatively useless words such as wings, gate, tears, hug, and sparkling – forcibly, unintentionally learned because they come up so much in songs. Early-known music artists were Kitade Nana, Hitomi, Yuki, and Suneohair, due to Fullmetal Alchemist, Code Geass, and Honey & Clover.

Google: A continued searching online for answers to random questions I thought of, and looked up tables so that I could learn the two syllable-based scripts, Hiragana and Katakana, and I would draw the tables over and over until I learned them all – in the margins of my notebooks while I was in classes that didn’t require focused attention. I later did the same with Kanji.

Articles & Podcasts: However, I also actively searched for lessons and resources. I settled on two main ones: JapanesePod101 and Tim Sensei’s Corner. See my Japanese Resources Page for reviews.

With JapanesePod101, I listened to the lessons and practiced writing the Kanji, reviewing its parts as needed until I knew and remembered everything from the lesson – only until then would I move on to the next lesson.

At Tim Sensei’s Corner, along with other sites to see their perspectives and approaches, I learned some basic verb conjugations and constructions that seemed most important and useful.

Other best friends of mine were: this very useful Kanji dictionary (hosted by an online arts and gift shop called Saiga), another Kanji dictionary I’d mainly use to get a sense of the handwritten style, and the Japanese for Morons YouTube videos.

Practice & Repetition: Sometimes I’d try coming up with and typing or handwriting sentences, I’d constantly re-listen to the JapanesePod101 dialogues until they were practically memorized to ensure I knew all the words used and that I could speak those sentences myself, and I’d pay attention as best I could when I was watching anime or listening to music. My listening developed to the point that I’d understand almost anything I knew.

What’s next?

Switch all efforts to Japanese, review all lessons, keep dialogues practices, study vocabulary flashcards, and practice more writing.

Mandarin Chinese

Reason for Starting: Although they usually only have a couple, Japanese characters can have many possible “readings” – different pronunciations depending on the character’s usage, meaning, and the word it’s used in, for example. The worst offenders 上 & 下, with the generic meanings of “up” and “down” respectively, have 6 – 8 readings, depending on how you count them. In Mandarin, however, characters usually only have 1 or 2 readings; any additional readings are for rarer uses. I therefore decided it would not take much effort to learn Mandarin pronunciations along with the Japanese ones. However, the main motivation to actually learn the language rather than standalone characters, was having met more Chinese students at school, particularly one who was becoming a good friend but had poorer English compared to most of the others.

Level Reached: Rating myself using CEFR: Definite B1, but still slow. Felt like an A2 before going to China. In other words, I felt independent while in China. As long as no major problems arise, I could travel China on my own – as long as I had a dictionary at hand. I could talk to people and understand them enough if they spoke a little slowly and were patient, and made some good friends – friends who barely speak English.

Primary Learning Method: None; haphazard, random Google searches resulting in: Blog Lessons, Forum Discussions, YouTube Videos, Podcasts, etc. Finally took a university Chinese level 2 class.

Money Invested: Tough to say; I would say roughly $100 from school books. Adding a class to my full time school schedule is no extra cost, but obviously still paid for by tuition. In addition, although it allowed much language practice, I would have done the ~$4500 school program in China just for the travel, regardless of whether or not I was learning Mandarin. So, you decide how much I spent.

How did I do it?

Be Warned! This is now my best new language, so this one will be LONG. :)

Putting Kanji into Chinese dictionaries: I used a Chinese dictionary with audio, such as YellowBridge, and started learning the pinyin, applying them to hanzi / kanji I already knew from Japanese. Over time, I also pretty much figured out the Yale system, simply from making certain comparisons such as hsiao & xiao, Peking & Beijing, etc.

Google questions: I would Google some simple phrases such as “How’ve you been,” “When is your birthday,” or certain vocabulary such as “busy” or “homework” to plug into what few grammar structures I knew. I read a couple of articles on the general grammatical structure of Chinese, and would read blog articles that explained basic grammatical concepts – usually they’d be at East Asia Student and the related Chinese Grammar Guide, about.com (sometimes great, sometimes terribly lacking), or discussions at Chinese Forums, as well as free podcast lessons from ChinesePod and ChineseClass101, and more (check out my Mandarin Chinese Resources for more sites and articles). If I had trouble thinking up the correct of words for a sentence, and was unsure about the grammar, I’d use Google Translate to see if I could get any help (don’t use Google Translate for help unless you’re experience with it and know well how it can help you; generally I do NOT advise it). However, of course, half of the time I considered my knowledge of Chinese and Google’s help too sketchy to depend on.

TV shows: We still had satellite TV at this time, and I discovered that we were getting two CCTV channels: the main English channel as well as the Spanish one. So I searched for language teachings shows. Apparently they rotate, and the only one I remember seeing on the English one was Sports Chinese with Dashan, which really didn’t sound like the best thing for me. On the Spanish channel, however, they were airing Viajando y Aprendiendo Chino (Traveling and Learning Chinese), which sounded better than something focused on sports. The lessons seemed relatively advanced (I could barely understand a response to “how are you” at that time), but I didn’t care. Advanced or not, I needed some sort of input, and why should I care if it’s advanced? I’ll ignore what’s too advanced and pick up what I do want to learn. They might not be teaching something simple, but if the example sentence has a word or structure I need to learn, I could see how it’s used, copy it down, and research it later if I have to. I actually ended up learning a good amount. If each episode taught 4 grammar structures and 8 vocabulary words, I ended up learning maybe 2 of those grammar structures and 2 words.

With people: If the right situation came up, I’d use a word I had learned, or if I wasn’t sure, I’d ask “Could I say  ___ here?” I’d prepared phrases to deal with the most likely or basic situations, so that when I met someone new, I could at least say “hello,” “welcome,” “how are you,” and “just a little” for when they asked me if I spoke or was learning Chinese, and I would ask them for their Chinese name and try to pronounce it well. I’d keep building up words and phrases I found myself needing to say, and would use them. Some of those friends taught me new words and would help with pronunciation. My better friend in particularly knew how to point out exactly what my problems were and would tell me how to pronounce them – with a tip I’d seen no one else say online! Sadly, I didn’t get to see me friends all that much, so I usually did not want to “waste” our time by using it for my practice when I could instead be chatting with them, learning about them, etc.

Practicing online: I believe it was an article by Benny Lewis that brought me to Lang-8.com, a site were you can write something in the language you’re learning (optimally no more than 2 short paragraphs), and you will get it corrected by native speakers on the site, who are able to mark things in red, blue, or gray, or cross words out. You can give back by correcting others writing in your language. If you add someone as a friend, you will see each other’s new posts once posted. This was my best place to practice constructing sentences – though I admit to not using it as much as I should have.

A university course: While searching for what fun classes to take in my last semester of school, I found the 2nd closest Penn State campus offered Chinese level 1 and 2. Assuming my level of Chinese could not be good enough for Level 2, I emailed the professor asking what I could do since the Level 1 class conflicted with another class. Since I wrote half of my email in Chinese (mainly the self-introduction and expression of my desire to take the class), she judged I should be good enough to take the Level 2, so I did. It was a little overwhelming at first, especially because she spoke a decent amount of Chinese in class – which also made it exciting. The class served me well as I learned a lot with a fair balance of listening, speaking, reading, and writing practice. I had fun, made a few friends (including the professor), and the chapter with a dialogue about buying shoes came in handy when I ended up having to buy shoes in China after the shoes I brought got torn. It was a huge boost to my level and comfort in Mandarin, and helped prepare me for my trip.

What’s Next?

Seeking to go to Japan and thus trying to practice Japanese more, I have to put Mandarin on the side and limit its practice and study to when I am chatting with my friends. Having friends to chat with should ensure that I do not lose it. Once I’m ready to return more time and effort to it, I’ll focus on vocabulary, since it currently feels like what’s holding me back the most, rather than grammar.


Reason for Starting: To use some of it with my Indian friends at school. Seemed like an opportunity for practice.

Level Reached: Greetings, and a few random expressions and phrases. Can (slowly) read & write the script, except for certain ligatures and digraphs (combined letters).

Primary Learning Method: Face-to-face with friends, few random Google Searches, Wikipedia and YouTube for the writing.

$0 Invested

How did I do it?

As usual, I started with the writing, so I began by learning the table of the abugida, called Devanagari, which is used with various Indian languages (but there are other scripts for some languages). Although it could have been easier with mnemonics, I learned it brute-force just like the Japanese kana – simply by repeatedly writing the table over and over, pronouncing it while I did, and trying to write it out by memory.

Meanwhile, I’d ask my friends some basic words and phrases or google them, and I’d write them out. Like my experience with Mandarin, I didn’t really find much time to practice with them since I preferred to use my time getting to know them, so after learning the most basic phrases such as greetings and saying that I can only speak a little Hindi, my learning of Hindi was limited to random words and phrases I’d ask about when the situations came up (“What did you just say for ___? What did ___ mean?).

Finally, I’d research some simple grammatical topics such as tenses and conjugation, or try to round out the personal pronouns I knew, etc. That way I could apply the conjugations to other words I knew, and could try putting together some sentences for writing and correction on Lang-8.

What’s next?

I need to keep it up. I’m start to forget some of the letters, which shows why I really should have at least come up with some mnemonics. So far I’m retaining pretty well the words and phrases I know since I recall them from time to time, but I need to practice saying them or typing a little more so that I remember exactly how to pronounce them, which in turn helps me remember their proper spelling. In addition, I learned present, present progressive, and past tenses. They’re getting mixed up in my mind, so I need to practice a bit more.


Reason for Starting: So that I can read the script even if I don’t know what I’m saying, and to create some gravity of interest that would pull me into wanting to learn more.

Level Reached: Random words and phrases. Speaking is barely past basic greetings and formalities. Can (slowly) read & write the script.

Primary Learning Method: Dictionary look-ups, Video Lessons, Podcasts, Listening to Songs.

$0 Invested

How did I do it?

I originally intended to simply learn how to read it, which I’ve of course done. But as you learn to read, you of course pick up words, and your curiosity may build. Since Japanese and Korean have many words that come from Chinese, my knowledge in Japanese and Mandarin has been very helpful.

Again, the alphabet first – after all, that was my only goal at first. My first main reference was this amateur but good video on YouTube by a young woman calling herself “Professor Oh.” I found others as well, compiled in my playlist of videos for learning Korean. This video was very good by itself, and the steady pace made it easy to review. However the main reason I’m glad I found this video is that her next few videos saw huge leaps in quality, soon resulting in her Korean Word of the Week (KWOW) series, which is really great for learning various words and phrases – especially because it’s rarely actually only one word at a time. I watched roughly the first 10 of them.

As I learned the alphabet, I made a study sheet for myself. I also learned the Korean keyboard layout so that I could type it on my phone and on any computer, whether at home and work (where I have the layout installed), or using online tools, including Google Translate.

I pretty quickly then jumped into the great, free curriculum of grammar lessons at Talk To Me in Korean, having heard of them from Frank Fradella‘s world music podcast called LINGO. I only did a handful of the lessons, and listened to a few random advanced ones when I saw they covered a word or construction I had been wondering about.

I picked up many random words from Korean music, and would google certain questions to make some sense out of some basic grammar I’d encounter. At this time, I could only understand and say random words, and a mere handful of short sentences if the situation was right.

Story Time! The interesting story I have is that I happened to know enough super-basic Korean to help out a Korean man I ran into on Xi’an’s Ming city wall. My group was just standing around waiting for something or someone, and after buying a really good blueberry and chocolate and ice cream pope, I heard a man nearby speaking Korean to the cashier – who seemed to have no idea what he was saying, and was apologetic about it. He reduced his words to merely saying “커피, 커피” (keopi, keopi), and she still couldn’t understand. I had already turned my back and rejoined my group (I believe the whole time I was actually in conversation with someone so I wasn’t actively paying attention). After a while, everything came together in my mind and I better realized what happened – especially, the fact that the situation did not resolve and the man had to walk away. I considered my small level of Korean and figured, I know how to call for his attention, without having to chase him down the whole distance he had walked, and I know 커피 means coffee. So, I figured that was enough to try. I excused myself from my group and went after the man, shouting 저기요! (a polite, “hey, you, over there!”). We’re in China, so it wasn’t hard to get his attention when he’s hearing someone call in Korean. He turned to me and I said….something. In fact, I have no idea how I conveyed to him that I could help, but I know I at least repeated 커피 and said 오세요 (come please), while doing the appropriate hand gesture (similar enough to how Americans would call someone over, only the palm should be facing down; the American/western way is rude in East Asia). He understood and followed me. He said something to me, and I understood something related to my speaking Korean. I barely understood, but luckily I knew an appropriate reply: that I can only speak a little Korean: 한국어 조금 밖에 못해요. I would say that was exaggerating, but it was the best I could do. He said something else, which  did not get at all, and was relatively long, so I apologized and repeated, just a little, I can do no more than a bit! 미안해요, 조금 밖에, 조금 밖에 못해요. 미안해요. I think I remember him responding, 어어, 알았어 “Ohh, I understand.”

So I was his translator. Back at the stall, I said 我可以帮你们,他要咖啡。 (I can help you (guys), he wants coffee). He again said 커피 and I just repeated it. She asked which one, and he understood from her gesture and said 아이스 커피. Boy, good thing that wasn’t a native Korean word. Apparently she didn’t understand that either and looked at me, but that was the English word “ice,” so I translated iced coffee: 冰咖啡. Now that she knew what he wanted, she pointed them out and had him pick. The man very quickly asked something. I can’t remember what, but I must have picked out 얼마나 (how much) because it’s the only word I knew and could have understood in this situation. I had already seen the price, and told him. He understood and started getting the money out. Of course, the woman did not understand us, so she soon told him the price anyway with her fingers. Then, it was done, I thanked her and he thanked me and said one or two things I didn’t get, and I mainly conveyed “you’re welcome” and “goodbye” through a smile, nods, small bows, and saying 안녕 – and more familiar, and not polite goodbye (more like “bye!”), but I didn’t know the formal one so that had to do.

Don’t underestimate what a tiny bit of a new language can do!

What’s Next?

Finish improving this study sheet, and then upload to this site. With my ability to read Korean raising my interest, I now intend to also continue following the lessons at Talk to Me in Korean, simultaneously working on some write-ups to accompany the lessons to show relationships with Japanese and Chinese. I will also continue the KWOW lessons. I’m still NOT focusing on it as a language for study, but I’m taking any chances I get. I’m enjoying having Korean on the side.

Main Non-Language Efforts

Morse Code

Reason for Starting: It’s Morse Code! Maybe I can pick some out when I hear it in movies! And hey, good to know for an emergency situation. I’d hope the authorities are still trained in it. Better, get a friend to study it with and use it for secret messages!

Level Reached: If I need to tap out a message, I can, albeit slowly. If I see Morse Code, I can read it. If I hear it, it would have to be relatively slow for me to get it.

Primary Learning Method: Wikipedia and learnmorsecode.com‘s pictures and audio.

0$ Invested

How Did I Do It?

Learned in 30 minutes! Used this neat picture and memorized it with only a couple of slight, personal modifications. I figured that would be best because it adds an additional visual element to learning the letters. I can then more easily practice the listening and move away from the visual element, which may end up slowing me down.

All I did was look over the chart, not even trying to remember it – I was researching other things about Morse code and collecting resources – and finally, I copied it down into my notebook, changing a couple to something that made a bit more sense to me. I went to the kitchen to get some ice cream and thought, maybe I should try seeing how much I remember just from looking and copying it? Answer? All of them!

Over the next few days I kept practicing writing out the chart and going over the rhythms in my head, and listened to some simple practice audio. Last thing I did was in an engineering class: I had two classes in one day, with a 2 hour break in between, with the same professor, students, classroom, and of related topics, so I did not sit down for the second class at all, choosing to stand by the wall. Luckily it worked because I rarely needed anything more than my notebook. I would frequently write dashes and dots on the board, trying to write down sentences my professor said. As you can probably tell, he didn’t mind it at all. :)

What’s Next?

I’m not putting much effort in and I keep forgetting about it, so as much as I’d like to work on my listening skill, I’m currently more concerned with making sure I don’t forget the pattern for each letter.

The International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA)

Reason for Starting: To better pronounce words in new languages even if I don’t have the audio.

Level Reached: I know most letters related to sounds in English, Spanish, French, Japanese, Mandarin, Korean, and Hindi.

Primary Learning Method: Wikipedia, YouTube

How Did I Do It?

Basically, I’d look up, say, French phonology on Wikipedia, and see the IPA for the various consonants and vowels, and I would then search those IPA symbols on Wikipedia since they each have their own article. What I really like about those articles is that it contains a list of languages in which that sound appears. I can thus easily see if it appears in a language I already know. If so, then not only do I learn that I can use a sound from a language I already know, but I can thus also connection that with the IPA letter and end thus remember that too.

I definitely do not know all of the IPA letters, and probably will not for a long time. In fact, I probably still wouldn’t do the best job if you had me read an IPA sentence of any of the languages I can communicate in. However, I know enough to help my learning, and the most important thing is that I understand most of the linguistic concepts behind them – well enough, at least. I may forget (but I haven’t; this is just an example) what sound ɕ represents, but when I look it up on Wikipedia and see it’s called a voiceless alveolo-palatal sibilant, I’ll remember because that tells me almost exactly what it is. If I forget any of those terms, I can quickly look them up for a refresher.

What’s Next?
Nothing really, other than making sure I don’t forget the related linguistic terms.

Other, Lesser Language Efforts

Russian & Greek

Learned to read them mostly from sitting in a class a couple of times. Finished learning it (and could have done all of it) from Wikipedia. They’re just alphabets.

I have a couple of apps to review the alphabets and their pronunciations once in a while. If I ever see Russian or Greek in movies, TV shows, pictures – anywhere, I’ll stop to read it.


Another language I targeted to “just read.” It simply uses an alphabet, so that was relatively easy, but like English (and in some ways, Mandarin Pinyin as well), the sound attributed to a vowel letter may depend on what other vowels are beside it, so it took a little more effort to find a good way to learn that – and I’m still not that confident about it. This is because most people I know speak the southern accent, so I’m trying to learn that accent rather than the standard northern accent.

Flag of Southern Vietnam. Click for info.Vietnamese has tones as well, which actually involve other changes in the voice, so I still haven’t learned them. I began fiddling with the Vietnamese keyboard layout. Since there are only a few new letters, it’s not bad, but I still don’t have a way to remember which number keys are used for which diacritics.

What’s Next?

I’m going to finish figuring out the pronunciation of the different accents and stabilize my own pronunciation as I learn a few more words and phrases. Obviously need to learn the tones as well, and finish learning to type on the Vietnamese keyboard.


Did a lot of research on what phonetic system to learn before settling on Jyutping, which seemed like the best idea for a foreigner like me since it seemed that most resources would be using Jyutping. I may have a good bit of the Yale system down as well, since there are only some small differences. However, a few issues with my Jyutping have come to my attention; I may need to review some sounds by checking some audio samples.

Cantonese uses traditional characters, but some of them have not been a problem since I knew them from Japanese, or they vary only slightly. I’m also relating pronunciations to Mandarin, Japanese, and Korean to help me guess pronunciations of characters or words. I also already learned a few (usually) unique characters that Cantonese uses for certain words that are different from the ones Mandarin uses; they can be considered native, Cantonese characters.


Almost lost due to concentration on Mandarin soon after. My first look into it was some random, brief research a couple of years back. Recently, I looked at it again and brushed up a bit on the tones and alphabet. I had previously studied the phonology, alphabet, and tones, and with a bit more practice, could have remembered better how to read it, but by now, I’ve forgotten the tones and their notation, and can only remember a few letters that have a more unique pronunciation. I don’t think it would be hard to bring back though. I know only a couple of words / greetings.


Almost lost due to concentration on Mandarin soon after. I studied the tones (there are only 3) and phonology, so that I could almost read it all. However, I didn’t really continue and don’t remember if any sounds of the alphabet aren’t obvious / easy for English speakers. I don’t remember any words – other than remembering that the word for father should be easily recognizable to anyone.


I’ve also picked up just a tiny handful of dialectal words or variants from various sources – such as good morning and good evening in Indonesian / Malay from the anime Nichijou.

The Previous Languages


Not much improvement. In fact, I’m probably still slowly losing it. However, it never completely leaves my life, so it’s still sticking to me in some way. If I’m looking something up online, I may check the French Wikipedia after I give up searching in English, or I may simply search the web in French. If I come across any French in writing or in a movie, I’ll pay attention. I have the iPhone app for the TV5 channel, which occasionally (thankfully, occasionally, roughly once a week or less) gives me a headline in a notification if there are some big news. If I’m out driving at a time when I can’t find any good Japanese or Chinese radio to listen to, I’ll tune into a French station. I am still forgetting vocabulary and many simple conjunctions, though surprisingly, my conjugations aren’t getting too messed up. However, note that none of this involves speaking, and the writing is also minimal, so my French is not functional, and I will sound like a beginner if I try speaking.

Level Reached: Rating myself using CEFR: Same as before; I’d say it’s a rough B level in everything except speaking.

What’s Next?

No real set plan. I’m worried about totally forgetting it, but I’ll try to keep up the current level of exposure at least. I’ll focus more on it after I have more steady momentum in Mandarin and Japanese.


I am in fact, slowly correcting any mistakes I notice, and filling in my gaps in vocabulary. My mother has been keeping an eye out too, pointing out any issues she notices.

Swahili & Zulu

Yeah, I lost most of that. I only remember the more popular words like Simba meaning lion in Swahili, while it is ngoyama in Zulu (although it also means king). However, I recently copied the CD to my hard drive and listened to it a little bit. I still recognize some words and phrases so a short review should bring much of them back. Not that there was ever a whole lot – much less would there have been useful stuff.


Impressed? This was in 3 years, but don’t be. Sure, meanwhile, I’m in college, writing music, practicing my musical instruments, playing video games, spending time with my family, drawing and sketching and writing things for my scifi universe, hanging out with friends, planning for graduation and researching musical schools and programs to go abroad, etc etc etc. In other words, I was not focusing only on languages, and it was in fact only one small part of my time. In fact, that should be obvious – if I was truly focusing and spending so much time on languages, I could have done much more in three whole years. All of these languages were practically being worked on during only part of my spare time. As I previously said, I see in myself no special skill in learning languages; I do not find them particularly easy….and yet I’ve done this much.

If you did the same, think where you could be in a language (or more than one!) in 3 years.

What if you put in more time than I did?

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