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Posts Tagged ‘goals’

Doing Things Right: When Practice Comes without Effort

2014/05/21 Leave a comment

The WorldSet up your environment so that the language comes to you automatically. Then, your continued practice is assured regardless of what may personally hold you up.

I recently had another interesting, fun, cool milestone without trying or noticing. I thus wanted to share it and describe briefly how and why it happened, and how you could allow it to happen to you too.

The Picture that Showed it All….

So I had a long, busy day, the kind that would normally make me think I wouldn’t be able to get any decent language practice in, but as the day went by, I was noticing I was still managing some here and there. It was so busy, though, that I had not entered anything into my log by the end of the day, and I really didn’t feel like having to think over my whole day to go over this little chore. However, for my readers, for future readers, for language learners around the world, for the furthering of human progress…. I made myself spend the 10 minutes or so necessary to recall my day and write everything in. Yes, it took a while, but as I neared the end of my logging, it hit me (time is in h:m:s):

Study record 10-17-13

That’s long. Probably 4 times the length of a normal day’s entry!

Did you count how many languages were represented?

  1. Japanese
  2. Mandarin
  3. Shanghainese
  4. Korean
  5. Cantonese
  6. Minnanhua (Southern Min) / Taiwanese
  7. Vietnamese
  8. Hindi
  9. French
  10. Arabic

Now, since I’m not expecting you to decipher my shorthand notation, I’ll clarify a few things. “Time” refers to minutes elapsed doing the action from beginning to end (shown here in h:m:s format, though I only use minutes and hours). “Action” is self-explanatory. “Effort” describes an estimation of how much of that time was actually dedicated to or spent on the action, and the options are Full, Most, Multi(tasking), Spor(adic), & Back(ground) (initially conceived to represent listening to music in the background, but that I now use to refer to 10% effort or less). So “Most” means 80% of that time was doing the labeled action, and “Spor” would mean maybe 20%. Therefore, if there are 10 minutes with a “Spor” label, that means that if I cut out whatever else I was doing in those 10 minutes, I really only spent what would amount to 2 full minutes of the specified action. Finally, the “notes” is an extra label for as useful detail such as whether I was watching TV, listening to music, talking to a friend, texting, etc.

I am not saying I practiced 10 languages significantly in one day. I never make such judgments because any and all practice is significant. I know only a small handful of words and phrases in Arabic; any amount of thinking about it will help prevent losing what I know. Look the time spent every time. Some are 20 or 15 minutes, but most are just a few. We usually have spare minutes that we waste either just idling, or thinking or doing unnecessary things. Instead, use them wisely; they could amount to an hour or hours after a week or so.

Also note this is just a single day. While it’s a great milestone to notice, it only happened once, and I hope to see it happen more often – if I am indeed doings things “right.”

How did it happen?

Here comes the breakdown. How much sounds naturally occurring to you? In other words, a natural event just like anything I may do normally in English that did not require me to choose the foreign language. I hope you see that most of it was so, since a lot of it involved meeting friends, friends texting me, or friends leaving me voice messages. Still, I figure we can divide it into 3 categories. The first, are everyday events that normally happen in English but occurred in a different language without my control. Second would be interactions where it was my choice to act in the foreign language because someone else initiated or because the opportunity came up. Third, things that were completely my own decision and effort.

  • Natural Event: Natural, everyday event
  • Two-Way / Choice: Taking or responding to an opportunity
  • Self-Initiated: Solely initiating a stand-alone event

Read more…

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No-English week and day: Being on a Roll and Keeping the Ball Rolling

2013/12/01 5 comments

I’m extremely busy as I’ve had some hardware failures on my computers that put some of my data at risk, but I wanted to see if I could take a bit of time to knock out an unfancy post. There may be typos; I will correct in time.

I’d like to share two good, recent, level-up / improvement experiences involving Mandarin. One was self-created, while the other was more coincidental, and I put the effort in to keep it going,

Since I always consider my language learning as quite the side project that I mostly fit into literally spare minutes and seconds, I always say I have very “lazy” and relaxed approach – something I would NOT necessarily recommend to someone, but something I’ve realized is still an option. For the most part, I have no goals other than “keep learning and see how it goes.” I have no motivational urge other than “Do it when you can – just make sure you notice those times when you can.”

However, I’ve developed drives, hopes, and somethings like goals as I’ve gone deeper into languages, particulalry Mandarin and Japanese. So, for those I have a focus on, I do give myself a push once in a while. My “lazy” approach is not a chosen method I subscribe to; it’s merely a relaxed, stress-free approach out of necessity, but if I realize I can afford the time and effort, I will definitely add that effort.

The Chinese-only week (really, a non-English week)

I have a few Chinese friends and some more Chinese acquaintances. I can’t get myself to practice speaking with them. I don’t have a lot of time, it’s hard to find good friends, I don’t see them often, etc., so when I do see them, I’d rather use that time wisely to get to know each other better and just be friends, rather than “waste time” practicing Mandarin. That being said, I’m at a level that, while speaking and following conversation is still pretty problematic, I can actually manage a lot – as long as the other person slows down a teeny bit and is willing to work with me. I’ve met people and spoken to them for 30 minutes to an hour. I go to an Asian market and get around in Chinese. But I needed to do this with my friends.

So I simply announced I would be doing this for a week. If I ran to any other friends or acquaintances who didn’t see / couldn’t have seen my announcement on social networking sites and they tried speaking English to me, I’d tell them this was my “Chinese-only week” and would kindly request their help and support.

And it worked, of course. I had a little bad luck in that I had less chances to see my friends than usual, but those I saw worked with me and stayed away from English. Only when something really problematic or important came up, did I switch to English. Merely by listening to people talking to me and being able to ask a few questions as necessary, I even picked up a few new words, confirmed the usage or pronunciation of some words and phrases I had learned but never heard before, and got a few corrections.

Two weeks later I had a different situation.  Read more…

You Can Probably Speak More than You Think – Record a Video to Prove it!

2013/05/08 Leave a comment

Catching those little moments of success. We’ve had these moments many times.
They feel good. right? Then you don’t want to miss them!

I finally recorded some videos of myself speaking various languages. This post is not necessarily about the videos themselves, but rather about the concept and what I discovered.

As you will see in a later post (once the videos are uploaded), I decided to begin recording videos so as to have a more concrete record of my progress. So far, I have recorded 8 videos:

  • 2 videos 10 months apart for both Mandarin and French
  • 1 video for Japanese, Korean, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Hindi each.
  • 1 video saying the numbers from 1-10 in 10 languages.

Sure, through the Mandarin and French videos, I noticed progress. However, this post is about a surprise – something else I ended up discovering.

I can speak more than I thought.

Maybe you will discover this yourself if you make your own videos!

Video Results

I knew my Chinese was capable enough, so my 24-minute video was not unexpected.

However, I’ve barely practiced my French after about 5 years, and my Japanese speaking is terrible after leaving it for Mandarin for 6 months. Although I’ve studied a lot of basics in Korean, I run a study group, and I’m even teaching some total beginners, I don’t consider my Korean to be at a conversation level. The results?

  • French: 36-minute video.
  • Japanese: 37-minute video.
  • Korean: 27-minute video.

If that’s not “being able to speak a language” in some way or other, than what is?  Read more…

Watching out for Milestones

2012/12/01 Leave a comment

Catching those little moments of success. We’ve had these moments many times.
They feel good. right? Then you don’t want to miss them!

Sometimes we are frustrated in our lack of improvement. Sometimes we are at a plateau and feel we can’t get out. Sometimes we feel we’ve improved, but it’s not significant, or it’s never significant enough. While sometimes they are real issues (getting out of a plateau is a whole topic in itself), sometimes it’s all in our heads, or we’re simply too busy worrying without realizing the signs of success.

While I’m not going to address this topic too directly, I wanted to write (and thus share) some little things I noticed recently, that helped raise my spirits, but easily could have been missed. (I actually have stories from earlier stages of study, but I will add them later. Since they’re past, there’s little motivation and priority for my writing them.) Apart from the last one, these all relate to Mandarin Chinese.

Three Messages, Two topics, One Day

The first happened a few months ago. After my Chinese class and trip to China gave me enough immersion to become fast enough to manage instant messaging and texting in Chinese, I’ve gotten used to such chatting without the need of English – as long as I have a dictionary on hand. I’m used to the grammar enough and seem to know enough basic (and useable!) vocabulary to write without much hassle – occasionally having to look up a word in the dictionary is really not a bother and thus not something I pay much attention to.

However, once in a while the thought came to me that unless it was a brief exchange, I was still checking the dictionary roughly the same amount – in other words, I felt like my behavior had been staying the same, and I hadn’t been improving much. Then the time came for me to write three messages. One was a reply to my Chinese professor that mainly updated her on my life after the study abroad program in China, as well as the current state of my Chinese studies. The other two were private messages to possible language exchange partners, and I was introducing myself and proposing how we can help each other. The email was the last one I wrote, and as I neared the end, I got stuck and went to look up a word in the dictionary. That’s when it hit me.

This was the first time that day that I went to check a dictionary.  Read more…