Change Writer

be the change you want to see

Month: March 2016

Language Hack 1: Carry A Notebook

This might seem super obvious on paper, but you’d be surprised how easy it is to forget to carry around some kind of recording device for the new words you’ll discover in your target language.

I take a belt-and-braces approach with my word collection and carry a paper notebook and have the Anki app on my phone for creating electronic flashcards.

Why the two? Several reasons:

  1. Not everyone is good at spelling. In fact some people I come across can’t read and write. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn new Arabic words from them, I just need to be cautious about creating a long-term record based on what they tell me. If I put the words straight into my phone, I’ll end up learning an incorrect spelling (and pronunciation) of the word.
  2. There are local variations of how you say everything in Arabic. Even simple things like what people call their parents can be different between towns. I like to record what I’m told while on visits and double check with another person, sometimes a teacher, sometimes a friend, who help me filter what I’m learning.
  3. Repetition. It’s actually really helpful to write the word down, as well as to type it. With Arabic, I’m learning a whole new alphabet, and writing right-to-left, which means that I can use all the practice I can get.

So I usually scribble down my best attempt at a spelling for the word, check it with someone else, add it to my electronic dictionary and regularly revisit my new words until they’re committed to memory.

(Image source: Kevin O’Mara)

My Language Learning Hacks

I write this blog to document and explore change. 

At the moment the biggest change I’ve been going through is the transition from being a mono-and-a-half-lingual to bilingual.

I’ve spent the last year and eight months learning Arabic. Before this point I was a mediocre Swedish speaker. I’d picked up most of my Swedish by osmosis, living in the country, hanging out with my in-laws, watching Scandinavian crime dramas.

Learning Arabic was different. I’ve given it my all and was even able to press pause on my web business to throw everything into it.

Now that I’m approaching the end of my formal schooling in spoken Levantine Arabic (with some Modern Standard thrown in for good measure), I thought it might be nice to blog about things I’ve learned along the way.

Some of my tips will be best-case-scenarios: things I managed to do on the good weeks and might not have been so hot on in the weeks that involved juggling extreme amounts of homework, homesickness, culture shock, guests and more than 15 hours of home visits. 

But they are sure fire ways that I’ve found to learn more.

Before I sign off on this brief intro to the next couple of posts I want you to know something: I’m no language learning whiz. Language learning doesn’t come as second nature to me, and I didn’t grow up in an environment that made it seem normal.

These tips are things that have helped me keep placing one foot consistently in front of the other. They are small, achievable activities that can be integrated into everyday life.

My Language Learning Hacks:

  1. Carry A Notebook
  2. Make it Default
  3. Telling Stories
  4. Use All Your Senses

(Image source: carol and co

© 2014-2017 Jonathan Morgan