Friday, July 15, 2016

Rekindling the fire

I just listened to a guy trying very hard to sell something. He spoke and spoke and spoke and painted one amazing picture after another, enticed and appealed, seduced and beguiled... it was so obvious it was ridiculous :-D
But... had I been thinking the way his target audience thought, I would have felt compelled to go and buy his merchandise.

So - what did he do? How could I use that to keep my inspiration and motivation burning?

1) Remind yourself of why you wanted to learn the language in the first place.

Imagine yourself walking in to a room full of people.

(Full of people! Yikes! Help! The introvert thinks. 
Oh, no, not this time. This room isn't that big. There is just enough people to challenge your discomfort in social situations, but not enough that you would panic. 
Picture the room being filled with the kind of people you most want to meet and interact with. Like... you died and are entering the heaven. Everyone you have ever wanted, desired, to discuss with is in the room. It doesn't matter if they are real people or fictional, living or dead, right now they are there, in flesh and very alive and well. 
And they are obviously enjoying themselves. Everyone is wearing comfortable clothes, all the sensory input is pleasant and pleasing, the mood is inviting and welcoming.)

As you enter the room, people notice you, and light up. YOU have arrived! Oh, the joy! You can see that you are the favorite person of everyone in the room. They have heard of you, they have followed your journey, they are dying to meet you, they want nothing more than talk with you and answer all your questions you might have.

(Ok, this is a dream. This is the best dream ever. I don't know how your best dream ever would be like, but work with me, OK? Change the details to match your idea of a perfect situation.)

They come to you, one after another, or in small groups, and speak with you. They all speak different languages. AND YOU KNOW THOSE LANGUAGES. You are discussing freely, comfortably, fluently. You are supremely confident about your ability to express your thoughts in all of those languages, and you understand easily everything said to you. You are standing there, relaxed, enjoying yourself, and discussing with these amazing people who look at you thinking you are amazing as well.

What language are people speaking? What do you want to discuss with them?
Write a couple of sentences you'd like to exchange and translate them to your target language.

It is highly unlikely for that kind of situation ever to arrive, but parts of it might. You might meet someone who is as close to the "real thing" as possible, and you need to be able to take advantage of the situation.
Why not practice speaking with people, practice some social exchange so that you won't just stand there star-struck and stare and be unable to get a word out of your mouth?
Why not practice the specific vocabulary needed for the transaction?

If speaking with people feels difficult, practice writing.
Read books about the subject written or translated into the target language. That is not scary.
Try to find a documentary about the subject in target language and watch it. Repeat the sentences after the narrator.

The thing is that I don't know
Think about that.
Think about all the things you want to do with the language and write your own dream-heaven-bliss scenario where you are using the language exactly as you have always wanted to.

Picture yourself diving into a new and fascinating literature written in the language... like Fantasy literature, you know. Every country has its own, and IT'S ALL DIFFERENT. Think about the national epics like Kalevala or Nibelungenlied. We are so used to the Anglo-Saxon fantasy, that we forget there are myths and legends and fairytales all over the world. EVERY HUMAN BEING LOVES STORIES and have been telling stories since the very beginning. Not all literature is written down, you know. :-D I am Finnish and I live in Sweden, and there are Fantasy novels written in Finnish and Swedish THAT HAS NOT BEEN TRANSLATED INTO ANY OTHER LANGUAGE and most likely will never be! And they are not bad! So - if you love Fantasy, remember that. There's tons of interesting books waiting for you!

That was, BTW, my biggest reason to learn Maltese. I wanted to read the Il-Fiddien trilogy.

❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞
‒Nelson Mandela

2) Find some easy, quick and fun things to do.
Do this while you are still full of inspiration to be used to refuel your enthusiasm when it's going down.

Ok, so you don't feel like doing anything with the language today. It's OK. But... just do something little and easy. Go to Memrise and pick a course - or create one if there is none - and study 5-15 minutes. You don't need to concentrate much, you don't need to remember what you just did 5 minutes later. Just mindlessly click through the practice and that will do, Pig. That will do.
Go to YouTube and watch a video. If there are no funny videos (with talk, like Mythical Morning but in your target language), watch a music video. Extra points if you find the lyrics and read along the song. You could start a collection of music videos and lyrics and translations on your blog, to have an access to them all the time, so you don't need to go searching for them when you don't feel like it. Prepare yourself! (:-D)
Change your language settings in Facebook and go play some game there.

❝The limits of my language are the limits of my world.❞
‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

3) Divide your road to your goal into steps.
Like in the Super Challenge, you are to watch 100 movies and read 100 books (in 20 months)
That is 5 books and movies in a month.
That's about 1 book and 1 movie in a week. (there's about 88 weeks in 20 months, so it's a little bit more)
1 movie in a week is no problem. 1 book in a week... well, I'm a reader, so to me "1 book" is a mastodon, a bauta rock, of some 100.000 words and 400 pages. In the challenge "a book" is 50 pages. :-D
this is what 50 page book looks like :-D

So 20 months (from May to January) is 610 days. 
100 movies/tv series is 9000 minutes
100 books is 5000 pages
So to finish the challenge to a tee is to read 9 pages a day and watch 15 minutes of television a day.
Make that your daily step YOU COMMIT TO TAKE NO MATTER WHAT.
It takes me 18 minutes to read 9 pages in a language I'm familiar with, and 30 minutes in a language I'm learning - both with Latin letters, so that's easier. :-D Time yourself, if you want to, to know how much time in reality it will take. (Also, this is a great way of recording your progress - the more you read, the less time you will use reading the same amount of text.)
So - I can't imagine it to take more than half an hour to read 9 pages and 15 minutes to watch the show, so one only needs to invest less than one hour a day to succeed in the SUPER challenge!

“A different language is a different vision of life.”
Federico Fellini

4) make it fun, enjoyable, likeable, something you would do anyway

 Which means that if you just change the language of the things you do every day just because you want to do them, and do them in the language you want to learn, it's more likely you keep learning, because you will be doing those things anyway. If you love to read, read books in L2. If you love to exercise, listen to podcasts, radio and foreign music while exercising. If you like going out with friends, get friends who speak the language, and use only that language while you are with them.

Also, the antonyms of "fun" are boring, tiring, unpleasant, unsatisfactory, monotone, stupid and uninteresting. 
So make sure you do nothing for more than 15 minutes, then have a pause when you do something totally different. 
Get a list of different ways of learning a language and vary your input. 
Don't do things you think are stupid or futile.  
Don't even touch grammar books if you think grammar is boring and incomprehensible. You will learn all the grammar you'll need by reading books. 
Don't use flashcards, if you think they are cumbersome, tedious and stupid. 
Don't speak with foreigners if you think that's uncomfortable and scary. 
(I mean, there are introverts and aspies among the  language learners, I'd say the majority of us are exactly that, and to us the social interaction is not rewarding, it's a punishment. We can wait with drilling in that when we feel comfortable with our level of fluency. I mean, most of us* probably wanted to learn a language because of the written information, because we wanted to read a book in original language, or it wasn't translated, or we wanted to read a website, or participate in a forum or something. Doesn't really matter, because the thing is; no matter what ANYONE says, your way of learning languages is OK, your reasons to learn a language are just as valid and good as anyone else's, and you don't ever need to speak a language, if you don't want to.)
Don't think you have to learn languages the way your grandfather, neighbor or that YouTube Polyglot do. It MIGHT work for you, it might not. Find your own way.

Learn what you find meaningful. It would be rather stupid for me to learn restaurant speak, because I hate restaurants and won't go even in my hometown if I can avoid it. For me, on the other hand, it was immensely interesting, fascinating and meaningful to learn what the different parts of "s'il vous plaît" mean and how the sentence was constructed. I also love parsing. :-D Grammar hag I am. :-D

5) Create positive associations around the language learning 

Humans are animals. We are quite simple in that way. So use this for your advantage.

Create a place of study. Make it a habit that you study always in the same spot. (or the main study always happens in that spot. Of course you need to remain flexible so that you could study anywhere, but creating habits, routines and structure helps you keep up with the studying.)

Make yourself a timetable. Every morning at 6 (or whichever time suits you best) you will be sitting by your desk and studying, come rain, come shine. You will do something for 15 minutes, then you will exercise a little, eat your breakfast and come back. 

Every time you sit by your desk, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax. Remind yourself of why you are studying. Picture yourself doing the things you want to do. FEEL it. Feel how comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy you are, studying languages, using languages, mastering languages. Work actively to feel as comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy as you can.
Surround yourself with things that make you feel comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy.

Appeal to all your senses.  
(Or the five most commonly mentioned... after all, people have all kinds of senses :-D It might be hard to please your sense of balance, for example, though you need to feel balanced and stable when you study, so it might be worth it to think about the lesser mentioned senses as well... I mean, if you believe in leylines and ghosts, you might want to... I don't know, draw a pentagram on the floor or something? Light candles? Burn incense? What ever rocks your boat. It's YOUR boat, not mine, so my opinion on things is totally irrelevant to you :-D I'm not judging. :-))
You can put on comfortable "language learning" clothes. 
You can put on background music, if that helps you. Or cut out most of the surround noise. 
Get yourself something delicious to drink or snack while you study. 
You can use aromatherapy and give yourself nicely smelling surroundings to study in. 
Have a specific spot for your studies and arrange it in a way you find pleasing. Make it the most comfortable place in your home. Decorate it with things that inspire you and make you feel good every time you see them. Make it beautiful (now, I am a woman, so I may use that word, but you might be a man and find it silly - so make it a man cave. Make it a librarian's study. Decorate it with dictionaries and maps and flags. Make it... aesthetically pleasing to you. That is what "beautiful" means, :-D). 
Keep it tidy and clean. Just 15 minutes in the end of a day is enough for you to be able to come to a clean and tidy study, and that makes a difference, even if you don't believe me. Try it a month, and see which way you prefer.

Collect positive experiences around the language learning.
There is this thing called "negativity bias", which means that we need about 5 positive experiences to outweigh one negative experience - so if you have a negative experience, you need to erase it immediately by five positive ones.You do this by
a) doing something you know is nice, positive experience
b) doing something you have been avoiding because of fear, because it's highly likely you have been afraid for nothing, and doing something you have been fearing is an amazing confidence boost, even if it doesn't go all well.
c) find some resources and opportunities you haven't been aware of. Find a new, interesting book or blog. Go talk to someone at a language learning community. Doing something new is a positive experience, even for introverts.
Now, what could be positive experiences? It depends on you. So, start collecting positive experiences.

Associate language learning with your favorite places and activities and other favorites 
❝Language is the blood of the soul 
into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.❞
‒Oliver Wendell Holmes

6) make language learning part of your daily routine.

You remember the guy who taped Chinese letters in his mirror every evening and practiced them when he shaved. You remember the guys who put post-its on everything in their home and learned the words just because they were repeated so often. It's not a wonder the first things in Finnish the Swedes learn are "Perkele!" (swearing in Finnish, literally the devil, meaningwise more like Fuck!), and "Ei saa peittää!" (May not be covered, is written on every radiator on the ferry between Finland and Sweden frequented by Swedes). 
Make a habit of going to Memrise or ANKI and drill some words for 15 minutes when you wake up.
Put on the radio when you wake up and let it play all day in the background. (Yes, it is surprisingly effective - it makes you used to the sounds and melody of the language, and that makes it easier for you to reproduce it. Also, you might hear some words you recognize and the more you learn, the more you recognize, and le jour arrivera, when you don't even realize you are listening a foreign language radio station - because it's not foreign anymore...

❝Language is the road map of a culture. 
It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.❞
‒Rita Mae Brown

7) Put it on paper
Write a language journal. 
Get a new notebook.
Write down why you want to learn the language.
Write down how you imagine using the language in the future.
Write down other's inspiring journeys, success and victories. If you read a language blog and see something that makes you think "I want that" or "I wish I was like e". write that down in your journal.

Record what you did. Which tools you used, for how long, how you felt, before and afterward.
This will help you know which methods work for you and which don't, and if you found some difficulties and solved some problems, adapted the system to you. Write it down.

Find a way to measure your steps so that you can track your progress. There are some language and vocabulary tests online.
Memrise gives you also the percentage of the words you "knew" and keeps track of your time.

Write down those Moments, you know, the first dream you had in the language, the first time you saw something written or heard someone say something and you understood it.

You could also keep a record of such things as *how you slept *what is the mood of the day *energy levels *motivation level *other things done during the day
to find out if there is any correlation between these things and your learning, so that if there is, you can improve the other things to improve your language learning experience. 

You might also find a monthly fluctuation of motivation, and prepare some "candy" for the bland days you KNOW will come.

If you Skype or iTalki or have a teacher of any kind, you also need to note the questions you want to ask e.

Reflections on what you’ve learned today:
* impressions
* insights
* further questions
* interesting things
* notes on techniques, systems, methodology, new ways of doing things you tried out

❝Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.❞
‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

8) Do it together

You are not alone. You are not the only person on this planet studying a language or the language you are studying. Try to find that other person. Is there people among your friends who would be interested in studying the same language with you? You could drill each other, correct each other, help each other and reward yourself by traveling to a place where you can use the language together.

9) Reward yourself

Praise yourself for having studied yet another day.
Enjoy the feeling of understanding. Enjoy the benefits of what you have learned.
Reward yourself by giving yourself a new book, graphic novel, comic book, magazine, dvd or something like that.
Keep the rewards language orientated and remember that the primary reward is the language itself. 

10) Be nice to yourself. 

There are days when nothing can make you touch the language. It's OK. Take a day off. 
(But just a day. Every day off makes it exponentially harder to get back on saddle.)

❝To have another language is to possess a second soul.❞

11) Remind yourself of that you are going to be OK, just you continue the journey

Remind yourself that it's OK to make mistakes. You are LEARNING, it's obvious you don't know the language fluently yet! And native speakers make mistakes as well... Remember that!
Remind yourself of that you are just a baby when it comes to speaking the language.You wouldn't expect a three months old baby to speak fluently anything, why would you expect that of yourself after having studied the language for three months. ("Yes, but Benny!" I'm sure you are much more advanced than a three months' baby yourself if you think about it. Aren't you?)
Remind yourself that you probably will always have an accent, simply because you are not a native speaker of the language, AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE, EITHER. It's OK to have an accent. Be Arnold and make it "your thing" :-D
Remind yourself of that it's OK to forget a word. Native speakers do that also.
Remind yourself that it's OK to be "dummy". You are not as "smart" as so-and-so or whatsit, So what? Neither is ANY OTHER OF THE BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET. It's OK!

 ❝Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can;
there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.❞
‒Sarah Caldwell

Remind yourself of that the worst thing that could happen if you mess the whole thing up is that some people laugh at you. Some might correct your errors, and that might feel embarrassing also. Some might laugh at you, BUT also try to help you become better.
Try to get over the feeling of being embarrassed. It doesn't kill you. It doesn't really even harm you. It's just a bit uncomfortable. BUT IT IS SOMETHING EVERY HUMAN BEING ON THIS PLANET HAS EXPERIENCED. It makes you just another human among others. It's not dangerous, it's not catastrophic, it's not the end of the world. Get over it. Really.
If you find it "un-over-gettable", train yourself to brush of the feeling as if it didn't exist. It is just a feeling, it really hasn't any purpose. All it does is stop you, hinder you, try to get you to give up. It really is all happening in your head. Laugh it off and continue as if nothing important happened, because nothing important happened! Take it as a good story to create companionship with new acquaintances, something to make you more human, more approachable, more identifiable. Learn from Jennifer Lawrence. She tells pretty humiliating and embarrassing stories about herself and it doesn't make her the least ridiculous or laughable.
And accept the help, even when it comes wrapped in humiliation.

* "most of us probably wanted to learn a language because of the written information" - the most vocal polyglots probably wanted to learn a language to be able to interact with others, and this is, of course, the best reason and most effective way to learn languages; interacting with others from the first second of language learning.But I assume 90% of polyglots are that in their own little world, not interacting with many people at all, knowing all their languages for themselves, never revealing their knowledge and riches to others.

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