In February I wrote about God nudging me to go for more language learning.
I realized I was stuck in a rut. Somewhere along the way I learned to live with partial-deafness, relying on conversational guesswork while my language growth stagnated. God showed me that in order to go deeper in relationships I needed to stop “listening to reply” and put the work in to really hear and understand my local friends.
Greg Thompson, creator of the Growing Participator Approach (GPA) to language learning, talks about people who have plateaued:
Some have 2 desires:
1) They want to ‘get off the plateau’
2) They want to avoid altering their life very much.
That makes matters simple. The person just has to decide which of these two desires is the most important, and abandon the other one.
As a chronically over-committed mom of young kids, dramatically altering my life isn’t really an option.
Fortunately Greg has encouragement and motivation passed along by a fellow scholar named Betty Lou Leaver. She claims that to grow in proficiency in way that is detectable – to be seen as a “new you” by native speakers – will take 100 hours of study if you are at a low level of proficiency, 300 hours if you are at a higher level of proficiency. These hours should be teacher-mediated exposure and practice. (Here “teacher” includes a language helper.)
I grabbed on to that 300 hour goal. Ok, so maybe I don’t have 20 hours a week to devote to learning, but I can plod. Something is better than nothing. Done is better than perfect. After 18 months without focused learning, it was time to raise my game and go for more.
Today, 6 months later, I have logged 100 hours. Man, I wish it was more, but I’m plodding. 100 down, just 200 more to go!
Here are 3 tools that are helping me chase my 300:
1) Lexicarry: Pictures for Learning Languages
By Patrick R. Moran, 2002 3rd edition
Why did it take me 4 years to find out about this book!? It’s so helpful I wrote the publishing company to ask them to turn it into an e-book. Seriously.
Lexicarry is basically a book of drawn pictures illustrating everything from daily functions (asking for change, expressing compliments) to vocab blocks on mechanics, anatomy, smells, geography, etc. Because there are no words, you can use it for any language, and it can be understood by any language helper. In fact, not having the English “answers” enables you to make more direct brain connections to the new concepts, rather than defaulting to translation through your native language to your target one.
In a typical language session I will go through 1-4 pages, depending on how dense the content is. My language helper and I discuss the concepts, while I make a list of new vocab/phrases/idioms that come up in conversation (in target language only – no English). Then we record my language helper reciting new words and using them in a sentence, or simply reviewing what we talked about in fluent, native speech. Later I listen to the recordings (oral learning) while looking at the book (visual), often pointing to the relevant portion (kinetic).
(By the way, should you click on an Amazon.com link here and make a purchase, a percentage comes back to support the site. Sweet deal.)
2) Voice Record Pro
This little free app works like a charm. I use it on my iPad Mini and love it for its impressive set of features packaged in a user-friendly interface. And, of course, the “free” part.
I regularly use the “append record” feature to string recordings together, and can edit clips with a few simple steps. Uploading to Dropbox takes another 3 clicks (are we still calling them “clicks” if we tap our fingers?), making it easy to transfer audio to my computer, or to share with friends. I also like that you can control playback speed, so if your language helper starts speeding along, you can slow down the recording to analyze it later.
This free Bible website and app is pretty amazing. Its tagline says “Read. Listen. See.” and it delivers content in those mediums in 1,550 languages! This website brings a huge library of Bible translations, dramatizations, and video together in one place.
My target language has a dramatized New Testament available. When I was working on the stories of the Parables I’d slide my iPad Mini into an apron pocket, pop in my headphones, and listen to the same chapter of the Bible over and over while doing jobs around the house. Later when I prepared to retell the stories, I had sentences and phrases stuck in my head directly from the Bible. Very handy!
I hope something you read above spurs you on in your language learning. Any language hours are better than nothing. Done is better than perfect. Go chase your next 300!
What are you current favorite language learning tools? Please share in the comments below!