Since it’s the start of a new year, I thought I’d write about my language learning goals for 2019, in the hope that this will help me become clearer about what I want to achieve (and also help me stick to it!).
I realised recently that, despite having a languages degree and reaching C2 level in Spanish, my language learning strategies aren’t particularly well developed. I’ve always been lucky enough to “pick up” vocabulary quite quickly, especially when I was living in Chile (but also when I was studying at university and spending a lot of time reading complex literary texts in Spanish). This means that I don’t really have strategies for learning vocabulary (apart from the classic “read, cover, write, check” strategy that I remember from primary school spelling tests). So, I’m also hoping to experiment with different language learning strategies and use what I learn from this to help my students.
I’m going to focus on two languages, Spanish and Polish.
Where I am now.
Having studied Spanish at university and lived in Chile for 2 years, I’d say I’m probably at C2 level. I’ve never taken any formal proficiency tests (apart from university language exams) but essentially, everything I would normally do in English, I can also do in Spanish, including reading academic texts and writing academic articles – a couple of articles that I wrote with some Chilean friends have been published. Even now I’m not living in a Spanish-speaking country, I still use Spanish on a regular basis to keep in touch with friends and read news articles in Spanish.
What I want to achieve.
However, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing left for me to achieve. The prospect of living and working in Chile again has given me a new set of goals:
- I want to improve my general vocabulary. Overall, I think my receptive vocabulary is pretty good, but I could sometimes push myself to use more sophisticated vocabulary when speaking and writing.
- Although I’ll mostly be working in English, there’s also the possibility of being involved in a couple of Spanish-language projects. So I want to be able to discuss teaching methodology comfortably in Spanish, with both specialists and non-specialists. This would also be useful outside of work: my best friend in Chile is a Spanish-language teacher in a Chilean state school, and we often talk about teaching.
- I want to be able to write formal emails more comfortably. This is something I’ve never actually been taught to do – at school and university, we were only ever taught to write essays and summaries. At the moment, I often get my Spanish-speaking friends to proof-read important emails I have to send (and they normally tell me that the email’s fine) but I’d like to be confident enough not to need this.
- I want to start reading for pleasure in Spanish again. I don’t often read novels in Spanish (analyzing Spanish texts to death at university took all of the joy out of reading in Spanish for me) but it’ll be much easier for me to get hold of books in Spanish than in English once I move to Chile.
What I’m going to do
I’d like to have some lessons, but I don’t think that’s going to be possible – as I’ve got very specific goals, I’d want to have 1-2-1 lessons, rather than group classes, which are probably out of my price range. So, this is what I’m going to do:
- Extensive reading: this will hopefully help me both get more comfortable with reading for pleasure in Spanish AND acquire some more vocab. I want to read 5 books in Spanish in 2019.
- Intensive reading: I’ve recently started reading newspaper articles in Spanish in a more focussed way, really trying to notice the language used and stealing useful chunks of language. I want to read at least 2 articles a week and record useful language in a notebook.
- Formal emails: I’m going to look at formal emails I’ve received and keep a list of useful expressions for formal emails.
I would also like to read more methodology books in Spanish, but I haven’t found any I like yet – of course, the majority of ELT methodology books are in English. I’ve been looking into ELE (Spanish as a foreign language) resources, but with no luck so far. I’d be grateful for any recommendations…
Where I am now.
After living for 3 years in Poland, my Polish is probably somewhere around high elementary level. I went to a Polish class once a week during my first year but then life got in the way and I didn’t go to classes regularly after that. I managed to have some decent conversations with the school driver, Mr Zbyszek, on the way to my company classes – on a good day, we could spend almost all of the 40 minute journey talking about our families, holidays we’d had/ were planning to have, and life in England/Poland, with a little help from Google Translate occasionally. But I’m also very aware that my grammar is shaky and there are big gaps in my vocabulary. One of my biggest regrets about my time in Poland is not learning more Polish – if I could go back in time, I’d add 15 mins of studying Polish a day to my routine.
What I want to achieve.
- I want to improve my general level of Polish for when I visit Poland in the future.
- I want to be able to communicate better with my Polish friends – all of my close Polish friends speak English, but some of them occasionally message me in Polish, and I’d like to be able to reply more easily.
What I’m going to do.
- I’m going to learn 5 new words a day on Memrise. I’ve just started doing this, and the course I’m using is mostly revision at the moment, but should have some new vocabulary in the later part of the course. So far, I’m on a 5-day streak…
- By the end of 2019, I will have read a book in Polish. My book of choice is “Mały Książę” (otherwise known as “Le Petit Prince”, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry). I picked it up about 3 years ago in my local convenience store in Poland but it took me a while to get round to reading it. I tried a bit last year, but I could only understand about 10% of it without a dictionary (and I don’t want to look up every single word in the dictionary!). So this might be one for later on in the year…
What are your language learning goals for 2019?