Another year is upon us and, although I didn’t really post anything here in 2022 (no, seriously!), it’s time to get back on the horse.
While I didn’t get as much done with regard to language learning in 2022 as I’d hoped, that’s not to say I did nothing at all. I’ve built some good habits and I’m looking forward to leveraging those in 2023!
Overall, 2022 wasn’t a stellar year for my language learning. I picked up and dropped a couple of things and spent more time on German and Spanish than anything else, although I wasn’t exactly hitting high numbers for those either.
In total, I spent just over 350 hours on language learning in 2022. That’s divided up as follows:
I keep track of (almost) every activity I spend time on in a huge spreadsheet, which automatically calculates totals and things like that. However, in February, I decided it might be a good idea to also track some of the things I was doing in English as well.
Of course, I didn’t even try and track all the time I spent speaking – honestly, I don’t do well at tracking that in any language. I started by keeping an eye on how much I was reading, writing, and watching in English; this soon devolved to just how much I was reading and writing, though I intend to keep better track of all three things this year.
The results were pretty enlightening. Even between mostly just reading and writing, I spent over 1,000 hours using English. Granted, it’s my native language, but I definitely can shift some of those hours toward other languages without feeling like I’m missing out on anything.
One very useful thing about 2022 was the ability to travel again. I had the opportunity to attend two awesome events – the Polyglot Gathering, in Poland, and the Polyglot Conference, in Mexico. Both events really hyped me up and reminded me how much I enjoy learning and using languages. I’m going to do my best to attend both again in 2023, which is also informing some of the languages I’m choosing to learn.
But first things first: what did I do for each of my languages this year?
German (~134 hours spent)
One thing I’m proud of is that I maintained my writing streaks throughout the course of 2022. There were some close calls (some very late nights!) but I’m now up to 671 days of writing in German.
Beyond that, I didn’t do all that much that really stands out, despite the fact that I spent more time with German than any other language last year. The Super Challenge began last May and things started off well, but I’ve not read a book or watched a film in German for months.
I did also go to Berlin and Vienna in June, which was a nice test of my German, as I spent most of the time alone. Honestly, it was a really relaxing trip (after a bit of work at the beginning!) and though I didn’t hold any lengthy conversations, I felt very confident and comfortable spending time in both places.
Spanish (~105 hours spent)
Ahhh, Spanish. We’re getting there!
I’d actually planned to do much more Spanish last year, as I really wanted to get to a point where I felt comfortable with the language before I went to Mexico. Honestly, things were both worse and better than I’d imagined they’d be – on the plus side, I could understand a fair bit; but on the downside, I’m really bad at speaking Spanish and also clearly am white, so people spoke to me in English a lot.
Still, Mexico was obviously amazing and that just means I have to improve my Spanish!
One thing that really came in useful (though I haven’t finished it) is an Anki deck I found that helps you to learn Spanish verb conjugations. Between what I’ve done on that and the fact that I’ve maintained my Spanish writing streak, I’m feeling better about that aspect of grammar, at least.
Polish (~73 hours spent)
Once I found out we were definitely going to the Polyglot Gathering in 2022, I spent a chunk of time learning Polish. Then I got to Poland, had a great time, and apart from, again, maintaining a writing streak, I’ve barely done anything since.
So, I’m going into 2023 with the goal of really improving my (basically non-existent) Polish. I think I’ve got a decent grasp of pronunciation, and there are some things I know that have been reinforced through writing and getting corrections. Still, there’s a ton to learn.
Mandarin (~13 hours spent)
Oh, I’ve been neglecting Mandarin so badly for the past few years. In 2022, I think I did a few ‘proper’ study sessions, but then it’s mostly been a few minutes here and there on Anki, and not much else.
But with the Polyglot Conference due to happen in Singapore this year, it’s the best excuse to really dig in, right?
Maltese (~1 hour spent)
I got some italki vouchers at the beginning of last year and did a couple of classes back when I was thinking I might travel to Malta at the end of 2022. Scheduling conflicts meant the classes fizzled out, and I didn’t end up travelling there in the end, either.
Still, at least I’ve given italki a go now – and if I ever get half an excuse, I’ll pick up Maltese again as well.
Malay (~1 hour spent)
I think the hour I spent on Malay was mostly on the plane back from Mexico, where I read through the pronunciation guide in Teach Yourself Malay. Another big one for the Polyglot Conference.
I’m happy for my goals to be semi-nebulous in 2023 (i.e. I’m not as hung up on CEFR levels or exams), though that doesn’t mean I don’t want to achieve anything. Really, I’d like to prepare for (potentially) attending the Polyglot Conference in 2023. I was semi-planning a trip back to that part of the world before covid hit, and I have some friends who live and work out there, so it would be great to turn it into a longer trip, see people, and spend time in a few places I’ve never been before.
That means that I need to work on Malay and Mandarin and that I’m probably going to try and add some Korean into the mix.
I also just saw today that the Polyglot Gathering is going to be in Teresin again in 2023, and I’d love to go back! But I’ve got to have better Polish. So, that’s another one to work on.
Of course, I’ll still be keeping up with German and Spanish, too.
How will I keep all these languages straight?
I read The 12-Week Year last year, though I was familiar with the concept before, as well as the idea of splitting the year up into quarters. So, that’s what I’m going to do!
Well. Each ‘quarter’ will be twelve weeks long. I’ll have one main focus language, two secondary languages, and the others will be tertiary. All this means is that if I’m stuck on what to do, I know which language(s) I ought to be focusing on.
For example, I want to get a good base in Polish out of the way first thing this year. So for the first 12-week stint, my focus language will be Polish. I’ve chosen Spanish and Malay as the secondary languages – Spanish because my level is higher already, and Malay because I also need to get off to a good start with it. Usually, I’d pick two languages of entirely different levels, but I do know some Polish already, and Malay is very different to it.
Then, my other languages – German, Mandarin, and Korean – are just hanging out in the background. I’ll maintain my writing streak for German, but otherwise, I won’t be consistently actively studying these languages until after March.
We’ll see how that works out!
I set reading goals every year in English, but I wanted to add my languages to the mix this year, too. To that end, my German goals are:
- read one book every two weeks
- watch one film per week
Essentially, I want to meet my Super Challenge goals.
I’d like to finally finish the coursebook I have for Spanish, because I really should have done that already. I’ve also got the Anki conjugation deck to work through and I need to get some speaking practice in, which should be easier than it sounds.
Ideally, I’d have all the ‘concrete’ things completed by the end of March; then I can really focus on comprehensible input and using Spanish.
Polish is going to be my main focus language for the first 12 weeks of the year, and I’d love to get to A2 level in this time. I think it’s achievable, considering the base I already have and the fact that there are plenty of resources that cover A1/A2. I do need to find a good grammar book, though!
Definitely all about reactivation. I think Mandarin might end up being the main focus language of Q3 this year, but before then, I need to do some work. I always end up getting hung up on characters and reading, and I really don’t need to worry about that.
Don’t get me wrong; I love reading, and I’d love to be able to read in Mandarin. But if I’m going on a trip and I’ll be in Mandarin-speaking countries, reading definitely comes after understanding and speaking. So, guess where I need to focus?
Probably going to be the main focus language of Q2, but I’m starting to learn it right away. Like I wrote before, I’m not really worried about interference between Polish and Malay, but if that does start to become an issue, I have enough time that I can shelve Malay until Q2 and work on it then – or even after the Gathering is over.
Korean is all for fun! No pressure!
The only thing I’d really like to be able to do is read hangeul pretty easily. I used to be able to read it okay (still had to decipher the vowels), but I’ve not tried in a while, and I’d like to be better at it.
Otherwise, I just need some touristy level skills so that I can look after myself when (/if) I visit. Like Mandarin, that means my main focus is going to be understanding and speaking, though at a much lower level.
Yep, I’m back on it with a lot of languages again, but I think I’ve learnt a lot about language learning in the past few years. I’ve got a better idea of what works for me and I’ve met plenty of people who have had methods that have worked for them, too.
Although I’m aware that there’s still a need to be careful, I can’t deny that it’s exciting to be able to travel again. I’m also still enjoying all the online conferences and meet-ups; even though I love travelling, sometimes I see that events are taking place online and it’s like, oh, that’s great, I can just enjoy it all from somewhere that’s comfortable.
Other than that, it’s time to get started! Here’s to a great 2023, and let me know your goals (if you have any), or even just which languages you’re learning!