In spare moments over the last week or two I’ve been working my way through Duolingo‘s Swedish course.
For anyone new around here, the reason I’m studying Swedish (yes, I know – it’s the online ITALIAN club…) is because I already know Italian fairly well but I thought I should be practising what I preach and studying something at least.
Back at the end of 2016, I invited club members to vote on which language I should learn, rather hoping that you would choose a language that was related to Italian, and so would be ‘easy’.
But the winner was Swedish, my mother-in-law’s tongue.
I think you voted for that just to provoke me, but anyway, I’ve been studying Swedish on and off since then.
I had got through about half of my beginners’ course book/exercise book combo by the start of the summer.
But then I hit a bump and, due to family holidays and so on, did nothing for a couple of months.
So now I’m doing the DL thing to get started again (it’s easier than studying from a book.)
And to revise what I learned between December 2016 and June 2017.
For those not familiar with Duolingo’s system, it has its pros and cons, but one thing that it does particularly well is the motivational aspect.
When I finish a section, there’s a triumphant chime!
Completed exercises are ‘greyed out’, meaning that I can see at a glance how far I’ve got, which is satisfying.
And a message regularly pops up to tell me what percentage ‘fluency’ I have achieved.
That’s nonsense, of course, as I can barely speak a word.
But I do feel that I’m making progress, and it is nice to have a number to prove it.
However, I’ve noticed that, if I’m “43% fluent” today, if I leave it a while before logging on again, that number declines.
Better get studying again…
The system is designed to promote regular study habits, which works very well for me.
That said, there’s no need to rely on some computer to pat you on the back for studying and to keep track of your progress.
It’s easy to set up your own study system, designed in such a way as to give you a sense of progress and motivation.
This could be as simple as reading a page (or chapter) of an easy reader each day, or doing a single exercise from a book, or one online exercise, or whatever.
Or you could plan out something more sophisticated – a syllabus, with a combination of input and practice, that would get you from here to there (whatever your target is) by a certain date.
The important thing, I’ve learnt, is to commit to regular study.
Only opening your books occasionally, when you’re in the mood, is much harder and less effective.
Having decided on your approach, and made a start, you should find that you’ll develop a certain momentum.
Keep sessions short, and don’t be too ambitious.
Learning happens most effortlessly as a result of the accummulation of knowledge acquired during many short sessions spread over an extended period.
Languages are complex, and acquiring a new one is a marathon rather than a sprint.
And just as a would-be marathon runner might not feel like getting out of bed at five a.m. three times a week to train, its likely that there’ll be days (months) when studying won’t be a priority for you.