I said last time that I’m generally a fast learner, so I always viewed my painfully slow and limited progress with languages as a sign that I simply don’t have the language-learning gene. However, it may be that, where languages are concerned, I’m simply a normal-speed learner …
I’ve kept up the Duolingo for 37 days now, and just completed Unit 1 of 10. Occasionally I’ve been lazy and just done a single (2-3 minute) lesson to maintain my unbroken daily record, but most days I’ve done significantly more. The app gives you about 10-20 points per lesson, plus various bonuses, and I’ve averaged 197 points per day.
If I were to assess my own progress based on my ability to say in Spanish things I’m likely to want to say, I’d rate it ‘fairly hopeless.’ However, Duolingo tells me I’ve completed and mastered 4% of the course, and that my scores are above average. I’m able to either recognise or figure out a surprising amount of written Spanish, and can do the same with spoken Spanish when it is s-l-o-w!
Steph tells me that things which frustrate me (like being able to recognise words but not remember them when I want to say something) are a perfectly normal part of the language learning process.
I’m still using Duolingo as my primary form of learning, but am dipping into a few other resources, and there have been occasional lightbulb moments. Such as the knowledge that if an English word ends in ‘–ant,’ then a good guess at the Spanish word would be the same word, but ending in ‘ante’ and pronounced accordingly – so ‘important’ becomes ‘im-port-ant-ay.’
Which is another thing. I’m a perfectionist. Generally, if I can’t do something well, I’d prefer not to do it at all. So the idea of just taking a guess at what a word might be and trying it is anathema to me! But it’s also an effective strategy, because some of the time it will be correct, other times it will be incorrect but people will figure out what you mean, and the rest of the time you’ll at least know a word you need to look up.
Gendered words likewise. Sometimes you can work it out, but a fair number of Spanish words seem randomly gendered to me. A Spaniard’s advice is simply not to sweat it: native speakers know there’s often no logic, and people will still understand you when you get it wrong.
So I’m trying to let go of my perfectionism and simply try things. Much like my tango.
The biggest surprise to me has been how addictive it’s become! I usually do at least one lesson as soon as I wake, and many time I’ll do ‘just one more’ and then ‘just another one’ …
The real test of all of this, of course, will be my month in Buenos Aires. How much will I be able to understand? How much will I be able to say? How much will my Spanish improve while I’m there?
Watch this space …