I’m off tomorrow to spend Christmas in Hamburg and Berlin, which will mean a week of not being plugged in to the various digital accoutrements which I’ve so busily been tethering myself to over the last few weeks. I thought it worth the while to fire up a post about my approach to continuing to learn without the internet, even whilst living in a country which uses my target language (German).
I’ve got an mp3 player which I’m going to bring along with me – I’ve stacked it full of podcasts that I’ve found whilst doing a general trawl of the internet today. To be honest, I think this is going to be overkill – I’ll be immersed for a whole week so it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll be wanting to retreat to even more German when I have a break. Who knows – perhaps I’ll use it.
I’ve managed to find myself with seven German nephews and nieces since marrying Tina. Hanging out with them for a while makes it easier to take a break from trying to convince the grown ups that I can speak their language. I’m also pretty lucky that the kids are more than willing to point out my shortcomings when I make a mess of their language
A while back, I started trying to record myself telling stories to Tina with the intention of going back over them at some future point and seeing (hopefully!) how far I’d progressed. I think this could also come in useful in Germany – recording conversations that I’m having whilst I’m over there. I’m hoping that at the very least this will allow me to go back over what is useful spoken language – much of my focus at the moment is on understanding written German, I think, to the detriment of my spoken German. Another good use of the dictaphone could be to use it to take notes of phrases I don’t understand on the fly, rather then having to use pen and paper.
So, we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to it.
It’s been a difficult three weeks in terms of focussing on German. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly. This obviously threw everything into turmoil, not just my German learning. Not an easy time to focus on anything, to be honest.
Still… I’m back at work now, which has brought a bit more rhythm back into my daily life. More than this, I’m starting to develop a morning habit of doing my SRS reviews: LWT, sentences and computer terms (I’ve switched my computer interface to German at home and work).
- Distractions. See above.
- Lack of a goal. Still an issue I haven’t dealt with. I’m pretty sure I could pass the Goethe B2 exam so the C1 exam would be more of a challenge. Plus, if I book it, the fact that I would be wasting money if I didn’t study properly would be a good incentive to focus.
- “Easy” books. I’ve started reading “Hallo, Mr Gott, hier spricht Anna.” (Reading the Wikipedia entry I just realised that the book is set in the East End of London, where I currently live!) What I’ve found whilst reading this book is that I understand enough of the text to allow for a flow whilst reading. This really gives me a lot of self-confidence and makes it much easier to tolerate any feelings of being stuck when I talk with people or try and read the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
- Revisiting LWT audio items. This is something I realised this morning on the way into work. There are a few Deutsche Welle news mp3 files on my phone. These are all over a month old now but the text within them is what I’ve been using with my LWT lessons. I found it interesting to realise that even though I may have remembered the meaning within my SRS tests, when I hear the same words spoken in context that I don’t necessarily remember the meaning of the words. This makes me feel that a combination of doing my daily tests and listening to the same texts could help to reinforce the meanings
- Speaking “Zeitungsdeutsch” to my wife. This made me laugh. I use the phrase “meines Erachtens” whilst talking to my wife this morning. She mentioned that I sounded like a newspaper. Brilliant.
Plan for the coming week
- Continue to translate items within LWT and get the vocabulary/phrases across into Anki
- Continue with German book ”Hallo, Mr Gott, hier spricht Anna.“
- Download requirements for Goethe C1 exam. Begin assessing what I need to learn.
Having a little bit of time on my hands (I’m on holiday) I was able to have a bit of a look around the web for some language resources which could help me along the way. I had some nice feedback from Clarence at TheFineApps, pointing me towards some observations that he’s been able to make on the language learning path. Trying out new, fun ways of learning is something I can’t disagree with – the more it feels like hard work the less likely I am to stick to it. So I had a bit of a look around. Once I’d found Lang-8 I stopped looking – this looks to me like it could be a great place to improve my written language, as well as helping other people out. From what I can tell, this is a place where it’s possible to post snippets in your target language and hope that people will be able to post comments and corrections. Since most of the post here are in English I thought I’d help do some correcting. What I found interesting about this is that, having had no formal languages teaching experience, I’m at a loss why we would say in English “I am crossing the road” rather than “I am crossing *a* road”. It’s given me plenty of food for thought. Written German isn’t my strong point so I’ll be looking to use this site more and more to help me gain more confidence. I’ve posted a cursory couple of paragraphs about a trip I made to The British Museum yesterday. All done off the top of my head so no checking for adjective declination and cases etc. (this probably says a lot about my approach to the finer points of language learning!)
I’m also aware that the only way I’m going to progress is to start doing a little bit every day and ensure that I keep things moving slowly but surely. I think Clarence’s daily posting log is a really good idea – from my experience it’s much easier to keep moving forward when I can see where I’ve come from. I’ll probably do something similar, although not post these to Twitter or Facebook for these “check in” tasks.
When it comes to learning new things, I’m all for keeping it short and sweet. I’m the kind of person who would much rather write a postcard to someone – filling in one small side of card is infinitely easier than having to fill two sides of paper.
I guess this is why the Deutsche Welle news site works so well for me – the site consists of news bulletins, roughly five minutes long. Content is available as audio with an attached transcript. I’ve just started using the LWT concept so this works brilliantly for me – I listen to the audio, referring to the text when I hear something which doesn’t make sense. Content is updated pretty much daily.
The rest of the site is well worth a visit, too. Plenty of resources for German learners.