For the next four weeks my language learning will change gear. I’m upping the time that goes into my focussed study of beginner’s Japanese and intermediate Basque. It’s a summer learning “sprint” or, if you like, a two-language tango. (Scroll down for vid).
If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know that I’m nearly seven months into a project to learn basic Japanese in advance of my first visit to the country in the second half of October.
I’ve been aiming to study 30 minutes a day seven days a week. When I last reported back at the end of month six, I’d clocked up 115 hours 30 minutes.
I began learning Basque in 2013 and have continued ever since at varying levels of intensity. My most intense period was summer 2016, when I spent a month at the Maizpide residential school in the Spanish Basque Country and blogged and vlogged the experience. I last increased my efforts with Basque in August last year, in preparation for an appearance on a Basque TV show.
Summer language sprint study schedule
My plan is to modify my Japanese schedule for the next four weeks, beginning tomorrow. My target is 60 minutes a day of Japanese Monday to Friday (a total of five hours a week instead of three and a half ). That’s a new minimum. I’ll do more when I can.
In addition, I’m aiming to put in an hour of Basque on weekdays, too. I’ve been learning Basque for several years and am now at a solid intermediate level.
I’ll be taking a complete break from active study on the weekends (though may well do get some audio exposure and sometimes I may catch up on the weekend if I’ve fallen behind during the week).
I can change up a gear because I’ve just started my annual one-month sabbatical from the office. I’ll be dividing the time between my own language learning (mornings) and creating content for you here on Howtogetfluent and the channel (afternoons).
Japanese study plan
With Japanese, I’ll be continuing to organise my studies round the Japanese from Zero textbook series.
As well as continuing to press ahead, I’ll be giving over a lot of time to flash-carding words and phrases that I’ve covered so far in the first two volumes.
I’ll also continue to use the Pimsleur audio course and dip in and out of the Assimil textbook that’s my secondary back up.
The other thing I’d like to do with Japanese is to start to get more passive audio input, at least fifteen minutes a day on weekdays (over and above the ninety minute active study target).
That could be a podcast or YouTube video. I’ve found one or two native-level vlogs which look fun. Of course, I can’t understand much, but it helps tune my ear and get used to native-level speeds. If you have suggestions of good things to listen to, please let me know. Either things aimed at learners or short, native level material (vlog format is good because the pictures and action help).
At the end of the summer spring, we’ll be in the middle of August and there will be just two months left to my trip.
My aim is to get myself as much into form as possible to start speaking at the end of the four weeks. After the end of the sprint (19th August), I’ll try having one-to-one conversation sessions with a teacher on Skype. I will record myself in action with a teacher at the end of the month.
This interim goal is why I’m putting effort on deliberate spaced recall practice (flashcarding) and listening practice (it’s easy to forget that listening skills are half of any conversation).
As I see things now, one-to-one conversation practice will be an integral part of the final stage of my linguistic preparations for the trip. In that stage, I’ll revert to my normal thirty minutes a day, seven days-a-week Japanese schedule.
Basque January to June 2019 update
My last update on Basque was way back in December.
Since then, I’ve continued to keep my active work on the language ticking over “one the side” while I focus on Japanese. I’ve been taking thirty-minute one-to-one Basque lessons with teachers.
Most of the self-study I’ve done has been preparation for those lessons.
As always, I log the focussed work I put in to my language learning. I find it helps with motivation and a feeling of achievement (or at least, it helps me to remember that no, I haven’t just been fritting away time).
Here, then, is a Basque update:
January: self-study – six hours 10 minutes. Three lessons with Irati, three with Eider. Total: 9 hours
February: self-study – five hours, 35 minutes. Three lessons with Irati, thiree with Eider. Total: 8 hours, thirty-five minutes.
March: self-study – thirty minutes. Two lessons with Irati, two lessons with Eider. Total: 2 hours 30 minutes.
April: self-study – two hours, thirty minutes. One lesson with Irati, three lessons with Eider. Total: 4 hours, thirty minutes.
May: self-study – three hours. One lesson with Irati and two lessons with Eider. Total: 4 hours, thirty minutes.
June: self-study – thirty minutes. Two lessons with Irati, two lessons with Eider. Total: 2 hours thirty minutes.
Total for first half of 2019: nineteen hours, 35 minutes
July to date: self-study – one hour thirty minutes, Two lessons with Irati, two lessons with Eider.
I have only attended one event with the London Basque Society so far this year. That was their mini version of the “korrika”.
The korrika is run every two years (round the clock) over ten days. Each time, it snakes through the towns and villages of the Basque country by a different route. I’ve taken part myself twice (before I started learning the language).
I vlogged the London event (and it was a chance to practice the language once again).
In addition to the lessons and study, I continue to listen to native level Basque talk radio.
I listen to at least fifteen minutes while I’m getting up and showering. This happens nearly every morning, including when I’m away from home.
I used to listen to the Basque radio during my twice or thrice-weekly thirty minute jogs round the park as well. Since the spring, though, I’ve been listening to Pimsleur Japanese on the runs. Trade-offs, trade-offs.
At this point there’s lots to celebrate with my Basque. I’m understanding more and more. I can follow the gist of native level radio and follow the plot in novels, even if there are quite a few words I still won’t get. Lessons tend to go well.
However, I still haven’t covered all the complex forms of the Basque verb (conditionals still weak and I haven’t looked at the subjunctive at all). I can’t use all the short forms I’ve learned, even though I may recognise them passively. Yet my main weakness, I’d say, is my limited vocab.
Basque study plan
For Basque I’ll be doing three things:
Continuing to work with my current textbook Bakarka 4 with Eider (this is course that puts a lot of emphasis on practising grammatical structures. It uses a limited vocabulary and is not at all “conversational”. A dialogue free zone.
Working with Irati on the Habe materials. These materials – lessons in .pdf form – are a bit quirky but cover a wide range of situational topics (and vocab).
For next week, I’m also trialling an additional teacher on italki (as Irati’s availability is limited). With him, I’ll probably work on a Habe unit that I haven’t done with Irati.
I’ll be working on my own with the excellent Arian B2.1 course as well.
To tackle the vocab problem I’ll be doing deliberate vocabulary building using the Gold List Method. I’ll extract the phrases for gold listing from Habe and from the Arian B2.1 book.
My expectation is that the vocab work will feedback into a positive loop with my conversational and listening/reading practice (I read a few pages of native-level novels now and again).
I’ll be keeping a diary of my efforts, which will appear weekly here on the site. There’ll also be a weekly catch-up vlog on my progress with some Basque (and, who knows, maybe a bit of Japanese…).
A wasted opportunity to travel?
You have a month off work and you’re staying at home?
With a whole free month ahead, some readers may wonder why I haven’t headed off for the Basque country or gone travelling elsewhere.
I did toy with the idea of finding an Airbnb for a month’s relocation to Moscow, Berlin or Vienna.
My answer is first, London’s great in summer.
Second, if you have serious work to do, travel can be a massive disruption and drain on energy. More efficient to stay here. Plus, and this ties in with the first point, I’ll have more time to catch up with friends and relatives here at home.
That brings me to the third point. I’ve already done quite a lot travelling this year. There’s a big trip coming up in the autumn (a full month away, beginning only five weeks after the end of the sabbatical).
Don’t get me wrong, I love travel. That said, aside from the environmental impact and cost, I do find the manic travel schedules of some of my millennial language learning friends excessive. They’re exhausting just to read about. Maybe it’s an age thing.
Over to you?
The timing may not be right for you, but if you’d like to start a mini project along with me, head over to the Howtogetfluent Facebook group and let us know what it is.