The 2021 Spring Sale (20% off everything – online lessons and ebooks) starts on Monday! I’ll be promoting the heck out of it all next week.
Why? Because we have teachers who need work, ebook writers to invest in, but above all, a legion of regular online students who take lessons with us and value the chance to save ££££ on their learning every three months or so. That said, some of them need ninety-nine reminders to do so, or they sit on their hands until the offer is over, then write to me and moan.
Hence the nagging. Anyway, more details about that on Monday. And on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and on Thursday, and on Friday, and Saturday, and Sunday! Things will be back to normal, with just three articles a week, from Monday 29th March.
Rather not hear about the promotion? Just here for the FREE stuff? That’s totally fine. In which case, you have two options:
1.) Just ignore all the marketing until things go quiet again. I won’t be upset. Or…
2.) Unsubscribe from these emails, and/or from our other mailing lists (a lot of people are on more than one). Each ‘bulk’ email we send contains an ‘unsubscribe’ link at the bottom. Find it, click it, and your email address will be removed from the list of active subscribers, and later deleted and forgotten. It’ll be as if you and I never were, so to speak.
A quick non-marketing related question from Isabel, who commented on Wednesday’s article:
I’ve been wanting to ask for a while … how do you keep all those different languages you’re learning from interfering with each other?
Lately I’ve been persistently bothered by the small (but intense) amount of Russian that I learnt over 40 years ago WHY?! I haven’t spoken to anyone in Russian for 10 years and yet sometimes when I’m thinking of what the Italian for something is, the Russian hijacks my what’s left of my brain and wipes the Italian clear away. Last week it was the phrase “after dinner” and I just couldn’t think of the Italian for “after” for hours. Such a basic word and I thought I had been improving a bit. Should I have looked it up as soon as I could? …. Do you have suggestions about how best to deal with it? I don’t want to wipe the little Russian I still have entirely away because I still love it
PS. Yipee for the Spring Sale. Non vedo l’ora!
This is pretty normal, I think. That one language can ‘interfere’ with access to another in your brain.
Bilingual people (my wife, my kids) develop ways to deal with it, but that’s basically a matter of ‘fixing’ in their heads that they speak language A to person A and never language B. It gets to the point when they really, really can’t speak the ‘wrong’ language to someone. When my kids were younger, but even now that they’re adults, and they struggled to find an English word when speaking to me, I’d say “Tell me in Italian!”, but they never could. It should have been a simple thing, given that they clearly knew the word in Italian but not in English, and I could have helped by providing it. But no. The ‘one language to one person’ strategy totally blocks them from asking for help or for a translation. That option just isn’t in their mental menu.
Professional interpreters work hard NOT to become like this, I assume. What use would an interpreter be if they had fixed ideas about who spoke which language, and couldn’t switch languages promptly and apparently effortlessly when necessary? Which is why interpreting is a lot harder work than it might seem. You have to work hard to keep things on track, to concentrate, and if you get tired or distracted, things will probably go pear-shaped very quickly. Though perhaps only you, or a professional colleague, might notice.
For us non-professional language learners, with prolonged practice it gets easier to ‘switch’ from language to language, but it does still take effort, and the ‘one language one person’ effect tends to get more of a problem. It’s unlikely, then, that the sort of interference that Isabel describes will disappear completely.
That said, I’d have two suggestions. Firstly, Isabel could spend MORE time on the Russian, rather than less. Regular reading and listening in that language would likely ‘cement’ it in its proper place. When she’s listening to Russian radio, or reading an article in that language, her brain will be continuously accessing its ‘Russian part’. The idea being that opening up those mental pathways, strenghening them, will make it less likely that Russian will pop out when Italian is needed.
The brain gets used to providing what’s required when it’s asked for, but only IF it often has to do so. Otherwise, keeping doors open to the ‘archived’ knowledge would be a waste of mental energy, see?
This is just my theory, but it seems to work for me. When I’m speaking, reading or listening to Swedish, or Spanish, or whatever, it’s something I do habitually, so not too much of a drain on my limited mental faculties.
A driving metaphor might help here. Suppose you regularly visit two lovers, one on Tuesday, one on Thursday. They live at different ends of your city or state, both in places which you’d not normally go to unless motivated by lust. Their remote locations are convenient, in many respects, but also present a cost.
At the beginning of your affairs, finding your way to either love nest might be possible only with the help of a satnav or Google Maps (but really, do you want Google to know what you’re up to?) But after a while, the route-finding will likely become almost automatic, as if the car was driving itself, leaving your mind free to wander…
But then, what if one lover moved to Italy for a year, to learn Italian, say? Once s/he returned, you might, once more, need to figure out how to use the satnav. Ditto were you to find someone to canoodle with on Saturdays, in yet a third unknown neighbourhood.
Foreign languages are just another brain output, like finding your way, though much more complex. For that reason, some residual problems are probably to be expected. For example, when I’m attempting to speak Spanish, the Swedish word for ‘but’ (‘men’) invariably turns up in conversation in place of the Spanish ‘pero’, thereby confusing my lovely Mexican teacher, though often I might be unaware, initally, that there’s a problem.
The French ‘mais’, the Turkish ‘ama’, and the Italian ‘ma’ seem to work just fine, but there’s definitely a short circuit in my head between the fairly complete Swedish section of my mental database (begun four years back) and the Spanish construction site, the foundations of which were only laid last year. It’s not the end of the world, though.
My second suggestion is similar, and that’s for Isabel to do more reading/listening in Italian, so strenghening the Italian mental pathways and therefore, hopefully, building levees that might prevent leakage from Russian.
Short answer: if you have multiple foreign languages in your head, and you use them all regularly, it should get easier to keep them in order. If not, then not – either then unused language or language will get filed neatly away (and so be hard to access if ever needed), or you’ll end up with some sort of pidgin that’s unique to you, which isn’t a good look for diplomats or interpreters but can be charming in ordinary mortals.
My personal strategy, then, is to try to use all four of my non-Italian foreign languages regularly (I don’t need to make any effort with Italian, as I’m surrounded by it), if not every day, then at least every week. And settle for ‘good enough is good enough’.
For ‘perfect’ is rarely worth the time and effort.
Hope that helps, Isabel!
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