Learning and Maintaining 10+ Languages

Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

(Edit – this is 2 days old; I just forgot to post it)

Today is my last day in Korea, and I have to admit, I didn’t achieve the things I’d planned on. I had a lot of bad luck, tbh.


1)    Kakaotalk, the Korean Whatsapp that almost everyone here uses exclusively, didn’t work for me because of new restrictions against foreigners. Some foreigners have been able to get it to work, but after a couple hours of trying stuff suggested to me online, I gave up.

2)    The sim card that I purchased in advance was unable to give/receive phone calls or messages.

3)    Creating new Kakaotalk or Line (Japanese Whatsapp used by some people) accounts was impossible, because phone message confirmation is required, and as mentioned before, I couldn’t receive them.

4)    I couldn’t find any of the big language exchange meetings, which I depend on for meeting new partners to meet one-on-one with. They used to be listed in Meetup.com. In fact, many are still listed there, but I went to 3 different meeting locations at the appropriate time and there were no meetings. So I gave up on them.

5)    The language exchange websites that I’ve used in the past are really bad now. I was using 5 of them, and sent out literally hundreds of requests for exchanges, and only wound up with 2 language partners. I also had my friend from before, so 3 total. They are good partners, but not able to do the volume of exchanges that I was hoping for. I did about 15 exchanges; normal is around 50.

6)    The computer chair in my room is quite uncomfortable, preventing me from doing too much studying.

7)    The room is a bit depressing. It’s ground floor, but it may as well be a basement, judging from how the few windows are so covered up for privacy/noise insulation. It’s a nice little room, just depressing.

8)    I got very sick one of my first nights. I woke up in the middle of the night with terrible nausea, similar to how I felt when I had amoebas in the Philippines one year ago, and spent about an hour on the bathroom floor. I recovered quickly; it clearly wasn’t amoebas, but it really scared me.


So those are my excuses. I wanted to do a hard 100hr+ spurt, but ended up doing less than 50. The good news is that my level hasn’t dropped much, if any, since the last time I was here. So even though I clearly need to do a long hard Korean spurt, I’m not going to change the order that I’ve been planning on. It will still be German, Italian, Japanese, then finally Korean. German, Italian and Japanese all have very clear, achievable goals imo. But when I get to Korean, in addition to freshening up my conversation, I’m going to really attack listening, and try some intensive listening tricks I’ve heard of.


I want to be able to watch (listen to) K-dramas effortlessly. Using some tool like Migaku or Language Reactor, I’ll watch the first episode of a drama line by line. If I don’t understand it, I’ll check the Korean subtitles, and if I still don’t understand, I’ll check the English subtitles. I may harvest unknown sentences for anki; I haven’t decided yet. I’ll do this for a fixed amount of time, or fixed amount of anki cards, every day. At the end of each episode, I’ll discuss it with a teacher who has seen it before. I’ll do this until I finish the K-drama, then start another one if necessary.


Tomorrow I go to Thailand, where I start my final German spurt. It will be warm. There will be sunlight. There will be lots of people eager to meet me. Wish me luck!

 

Learning Italian every day!

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#61
Posts45Likes23Joined4/5/2020LocationGH
Native
English
Learning Chinese - Mandarin, French, Japanese, Korean, Swahili, Chinese - Cantonese

Terrible luck, especially the bout of ill-health. But it seems the other languages are going well, and there will be other trips to Korea. Hang in there!

???

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#62
Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

After spending two months here, tomorrow is my last day in Thailand. This leg of my trip went much better than the last one. I accomplished most of what I was shooting for, spent time with old and new friends, went swimming a lot, enjoyed the local food, and had tons of fun in general.


I ended my eight month German spurt today, after my 103rd lesson. This only translates to roughly 93 hours of conversation, since about 20 of these lessons were half-hour. I was shooting for 100 hours of conversation, so I almost made it. I’m still B1ish imo, although noticeably better than I was before Thailand. I feel I’m lacking too much vocabulary to consider myself B2. And I’m still improving my word-endings; it’s been a struggle, but considering the progress I’ve been making recently, I think if I were to put in another 50 hours or so they would be quite good. The rest of my grammar is in pretty good shape. Anyway, I will put German on hold with the rest of my languages, and see how it goes. I will start out putting it in the rotation twice. In other words, there are 11 languages, but German gets put in twice, so the rotation is 12 days, every language gets reviewed once in the rotation except German, which is reviewed twice in the rotation, or once every 6 days. Final stats on the German spurt: 8 months, 750 hours, roughly B1.5.


Tomorrow night I fly to Tanzania to start my third leg of the trip. I’ll be there for one month. I’ll visit the school at least once, and travel a bit around the country. I’ll stay in Arusha the first two weeks, but have no set plan for the rest of the time. I’ll go to Zanzibar at some point, and maybe make some new friends and visit some areas where I’ve never been.


I plan on only reviewing my languages from now until I go back home at the end of April. That’s a three month rest, and my brain could sure use it. The idea of only spending a couple hours on them every morning sounds really appealing to me. I remember the old days when I used to consider an hour a day an almost insurmountable chore. My how things have changed!

Learning Italian every day!

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#63
Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

I am finally back home from my 6 month annual trip, and it feels good. In my last post, I talked about reviewing one language per day over the course of my 1 month in Tanzania and 2 months in the Philippines. But I only did it for 2 weeks in Tanzania, and 2 weeks in the Philippines. The rest of the time, I just did my Anki cards in the morning (about 30 min). This was due to poor internet, and me wanting a break. I feel nicely rested now, and ready to start Italian.


Here is my rough plan for Italian:

1st month

Alphabet/pronunciation

Pimsleur

Italianpod 101 (background noise only)

 

2nd - 6th months

Conversation

Read and Listen

Language Transfer Italian/Teach Yourself Italian

Watch videos/series

 

Actually, I have already started. I study/review pronunciation daily using the tool I made here. I’m on Pimsleur lesson 4, and I play italianpod101 when I walk. 


I watch some Italian Netflix too. For example, Lidia Poët, a sexy female lawyer in the days before females were allowed to do such work, who does her own detective work too. I don’t understand well without subtitles, but that’s to be expected at this point.

I’ll probably start Language Transfer early, just so I have grammar a better grammar base before beginning conversation.

This is, in theory, my last language, so it’s an exciting time!

Learning Italian every day!

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#64
Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

I’ve reached a bit of a milestone in Italian, so I though I’d post about it. Regarding the old list, I finished the Alphabet/pronunciation step, and continue to listen to Italianpod 101 when I do my walks, every other day. Even though it was supposed to be in the second month, I started watching videos/series already. My comprehension isn’t great, but that’s normal at this stage. I also started reading/listening. It was a rough start, but now I’m up to about 30 min/day, and it’s surprisingly smooth. More on that later.


And surprisingly enough, I got interested in grammar and finished Language Transfer already. It was only an introductory course; 45 lessons, or about 7 hours total audio. I did 5 lessons per day, so it took 9 days. It was somewhat challenging, but very well put together, so I got a lot out of it. I would listen to a lesson, answer as well as I could, and write down the things that I wanted to review later in Anki. I got most answers right, but still want to review a lot of stuff in Anki. What a superb free resource; it makes me consider creating something similar. Being an introductory course, it lacks some important stuff – like the imperative. But it’s a great start. My next step, grammar wise, will be Teach Yourself.


All this time I’ve been doing Pimsleur, but today I decided to stop for the same reason I stopped Pimsleur German. The language they use is too formal and not colloquial. They use the formal form of you (lei) 100% of the time, for example. Of course, they will eventually get to the informal (tu). But I, along with most people, will use the informal almost all the time, so I want to start with it. I’d prefer starting with tu 100% of the time, then add in lei later. I’d even accept 50/50, but 100% lei is ridiculous.


Pimsleur is great for pronunciation, chunking, and preparing one to speak, but I think I’ve gotten enough out of it. No need to learn a bunch of stuff that I will not use. I wouldn’t be wasting my time, but it wouldn’t be the best use of it either. So what will I do instead? Build islands. This is a concept explained in How to Improve your Foreign Language Immediately. Basically, I’ll write and memorize little monologues for many separate topics.


The more such monologues the speaker knows, the more such “island” are available when the need arises, the easier it is for him/her to speak/swim. In essence, even a native speaker has a number of such islands. These are the speeches in which the speaker sounds more effective and articulate than usual. These are stories which, as the result of much repetition, are more polished and impressive. These are formulas for expressing certain positions or conceptions about which the speaker has thought and spoken often. These are the speaker’s speeches, lectures, “opening lines”, and remnants from earlier training. The use of such islands helps the native speaker to express him/herself more precisely and eloquently. If islands can be so helpful to native speakers, what can we conclude about foreign speakers? For the foreign speaker, an island is salvation: it provides a chance for improving communication contact, it affords a desirable break, it attracts the attention of the native speaker. I would say that the confidence of the foreigner in speaking is directly dependent upon the number of islands he/she has in his/her command. It is not possible to overstate the communicative value or importance of islands for speech.

Actually, I’ll start out by memorizing single sentences. I’ll make a list of sentence I think I’ll use often, memorize them, and review them daily until they are automatic. I’m not going to put these in Anki – I’ll benefit by the context of leaving them in list form and reviewing them all every day. I’ll post them so native speakers can correct them. I think audio would be helpful, so I may post them as a tool on my website, since I can add audio to them there. Eventually I’ll grow these single sentences into longer monologues, or islands. It may have to wait until I start conversation though; I haven’t decided yet.


This is the new routine I’ll start tomorrow, some of which is continuation of what I’ve already been doing:

1)    Anki reviews.

2)    Write out 10 sentences that I will need for my conversation classes per day, memorize them, review the old ones. These range from really simple stuff (How do you say X in Italian, etc.) to more personalized stuff (I don’t like to dive, but I like to snorkel, etc.).

3)    Read passages that have audio for 60 min out loud, then listen to the audio while following along silently with the text. Put 20 words per day from the reading into Anki, and start reviewing them the next day. I’ve been using Learn Italian with Lucrezia for this, since it’s comprehensible and has real subtitles in YouTube (not auto-generated).


After 5 days or so, I’ll probably have enough sentences, so number 2 above will become Teach Yourself. A week or two after that, the sentences will probably be really solid, so it will be time to start conversation. I’m thinking that will be around June 1, exactly 1 month after starting. That’s early – I messed up by starting too early with German, but I don’t think that’s going to be an issue with Italian; I seem to be making pretty fast progress.

Learning Italian every day!

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#65
Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

I hit another milestone, and it’s a big one – did my first conversation on italki! It went well; much better than my first German (my last language) one. I decided to do 30 min lessons for a week or so, then increase it to 60 minutes. I got 25 anki notes in that 30 min, so I’m glad it wasn’t any longer. One nice thing about Italian is that, for me, the vocabulary is familiar enough so that drilling whole sentences is sufficient. I rarely feel the need to break out single words. Anyway, I didn’t embarrass myself too bad. I only used google a few times, and I understood most of what the teacher said.


My grammar was pretty good too, and that old theory about only needing 6 of the 21 “tenses” for the majority of colloquial speech seems to be holding up. The short list I was given by a helpful native was:

Presente semplice (mangio, bevo, ecc...)

Passato prossimo (Ho mangiato, ho bevuto)

Stare + gerundio (sto mangiando, sto bevendo)

Imperativo (mangia! bevi!)

Condizionale presente (mangerei, berrei)

Imperfetto (mangiavo, bevevo)

I used the first 3 frequently. I don’t know, but didn’t need, the 3rd and 4th. I don’t know but needed the 6th, so I studied it right after the class.


About a week ago I was in somewhat of a panic over grammar. I had finished creating all my conversation-primer sentences, which turned out to be 40, and wanted to start TY. Well, TY Italian is crap – one of the worst textbooks I’ve ever used. It covered very little, had way too much English, too much formal register, lot’s of mistakes, etc. So I did some serious searching for textbooks/grammars. I read a ton of reviews on Amazon and Reddit, then checked out any free samples I could get my hands on. I eliminated all of the English based ones. There was one that sounded good, recommended by Lucrezia; GP. Grammatica pratica della lingua italiana. Livello A1-C1: Grammatica - for English Speakers. But I couldn’t take a look at it, and there is no e-book version. Other than that, the best English based one I could find was Italian made Simple. The content was really good, although quite heavy (too much vocab imo). But it’s really dense; they split the page vertically and write in two columns. There is no e-book, but I was looking at a pdf, and it moves really slowly. The other thing is that it’s from 1960. The runner up was Complete Italian Step-by-Step. Fully functional e-book, so I thought I’d struck gold, but it turns out they took an older version, chopped it up and made it into an e-book. It’s basically a very dry grammar with some exercises inserted in strategic places. It’s probably ok to function as a grammar, but I find it difficult to work through those types of text books. I checked out 5 or 6 more of the most popular English based books, but won’t bother to list them here.


Now if you’re looking for a good, free, English based Italian text book, and don’t mind that most of it’s exercises are based on audio and video (also free), then you might want to check out WellesleyX: Italian Language and Culture: Beginner (2023-2024). But I don’t want to be juggling audio and video in my text books. I get enough audio and video elsewhere; I just want good, digestible grammar.


The reason I eliminated all the English based books is that I discovered I can handle monolingual ones, and they are much better overall. I can do this because I completed Language Transfer and have done a fair amount of reading already. So I’d recommend this to others that are in the same boat. The first ones I checked out are the ones they always recommend on Reddit. Nuovissimo Progetto Italiano and Nuovo Espresso are both designed for classroom, are heavily dependent on audio/video, and don’t have normal e-books. Nuovo Espresso claims to have an e-book, but I’ve heard that it is only accessible on their site, and only for 1 month. Anyway, I want a self-study text book that doesn’t have audio/video, so I checked out some more of Lucrezia’s suggestions.


I was able to check out Parla e Scrivi, Grammatica pratica della lingua italiana and Nuova Grammatica Pratica Della Lingua Italiana. Nuova Grammatica Pratica Della Lingua Italiana looked good, but there was no e-book and the pdf I was looking at was really slow. So I had to choose between the other two, which were pretty much exactly what I was looking for. No official e-books, but the pdfs I checked out moved fast enough. I selected Parla e Scrivi, maybe because it was the first one Lucrezia recommended.


The only other thing I wanted to mention here was that my reading has improved a lot. I can now tolerate reading any subtitles I want to import from Youtube. By that I mean, I know enough of the vocabulary so it doesn’t burn me out to read it. Keep in mind that I’m using a reading tool, which gives me a great advantage. But this has made it possible to read a lot more variety; a lot more stuff that interests me. Another thing that really helps is that I can put sloppy auto-generated subs into Chat GPT and make them much more readable by adding punctuation and capitalization without changing any words.


In closing, here is my current daily routine:
1) Anki reviews.

2) 30 min conversation class (soon to increase to 60)

3) Watch Netflix series during breakfast

4) Review my 40 conversation-starter sentences (this will be dropped before the end of the month)

5) Read passages that have audio for 60 min out loud, then listen to the audio while following along silently with the text.

6) 30-60 min textbook

7) Listen to pod101 if I walk. Watch Netflix/YouTube 30-60 min.

Learning Italian every day!

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#66
Posts1661Likes1103Joined18/3/2018LocationBellingham / US
Native
English
Learning Italian
Other Chinese - Mandarin, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swahili, Tagalog, Thai

Today I broke the 10 hours of conversation barrier. My first 5 lessons were 30 min each, and today was my 8th one hour lesson, so I have a total of 10.5 hours. I rate my teachers in my own little spreadsheet, because I use a lot of them and I’d hate to lose track of the ones I like the most. I use a 3 star system. 3 stars = repeat, 2 stars = maybe, 1 star = never again. I’m finding Italian teachers to be above average for my purposes, compared to other languages. Seven 3s, five 2s and only one 1(she’s an over-corrector who has done a lot of travelling and doesn’t like developing countries).


I consider the first 10 hours to be an important milestone, because it’s the hardest period of language learning for me, and I just want to get through it. It’s such an awkward feeling sometimes. All that struggling, and long pauses. But Italian wasn’t that bad, and needless to say, I’m much better now than I was in the first lesson. After my 11th lesson, I felt like I’d leveled up, but I held off on declaring myself A1-ish until today. I feel like my true level is actually A2-ish, but I need to catch up with my conversation. I’m guessing another 20 hours or so to get there.


Textbook wise, I decided to make a switch to the nicer Una Grammatica Italiana per Tutti. It’s a great book. My only complaint is that it has some vague exercises, meaning there can be more than one answer, but only about 10% of the time, so not a show stopper. My previous choice had more issues in addition to vague exercises: it was a bit hard to look at, used more vocabulary, had more mistakes, and even introduced some grammar points in the exercises. Still a relatively good text though, which tells you something about the quality of textbooks in general. Anyway, I’m on Lesson 19 of 67 in the new textbook. It’s going to be more time consuming than I thought – probably about 1 hour per lesson. That’s the biggest change to my daily routine, which is now:

1) 30-45 min Anki reviews.

2) 30-60 min read passages that have audio out loud, then listen to the audio while following along silently with the text.

3) 60 min conversation class. Curate a list of words/sentences for the next day's Anki reviews.

(60 min listen to audio stripped from easy youtube vlogs if I walk.)

(30 min watch Netflix series during lunch.)

4) 60 min textbook.

(30 min watch Netflix/YouTube videos.)

It amounts to about 3 hrs of full concentration study, with up to an additional 2 hrs of partial attention listening/watching (in parentheses above)

 

Learning Italian every day!

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#67
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