So I'm well into my Month of Mandarin series in Singapore. Here's a little update of how I've been going + as well as some language learning tips and ideas.
Listening vs. speaking
More time listening and attempting to engage with others in Mandarin has made the pattern pretty clear: listening is the limiting step in all of my target languages at the moment except for Cantonese. I've now found I'm able to communicate some basic things when speaking Mandarin, but am struggling a lot more when listening to others speak. Here's why: when you speak, you can twist and contort your phrasing using existing vocabulary to communicate things. When you listen, the vocabulary is dependent on the person speaking, and if you don't know it you just don't know it.
Out of all of my target languages, this listening-speaking gap as I call it (yes, I love sounding fancy) has been most noticeable for French and Spanish, then Mandarin (see 'cognates' below), then Cantonese. It really unmasks the benefits of the 6+ years I was exposed to Cantonese in Hong Kong, while highlighting how much listening exposure I'll need for my other 3 target languages to achieve my goal of becoming a functional conversationalist.
The grind has arrived
It's taken almost 3 months of travelling, but the grind of this intensive language focus is starting to hit. I think there's a few factors at play here:
- General tiredness from travelling, placements and other life stressors (like trying to find a new place to rent when I'm back in Australia in the midst of a horribly steep inflation).
- The above point: I'm now at a point for all of my target languages where it's mostly about building vocabulary, and that takes time and a consistent effort.
- Language learning itself is tiring, man. I've never appreciated how much living in a country where you don't fully speak the language drains your batteries until now. I mentioned this in my French post as well, but language learning can really be such a good exercise in gratitude.
I'm mentioning this because WIP is about highlighting the entire journey of doing things, and journeys have ups and downs. Suffice to say, I think a small break when I'm back in Australia is in order. But I'm not back yet nor am I straight up burnt out, so I may as well make the most of Singapore for the little time that remains.
Working backwards to test yourself
Idea of the day 1: start by testing yourself on a language before you go back to study individual topics. This is something I suggest you try especially if you're learning a language that you have at least some background or previous knowledge of.
Putting a spotlight on cognates
Idea of the day 2: Here's something we probably all do when we learn a language: compare words in the new language to a language we already know. Is this a good thing or bad thing? Well as I go into below, it's probably more net good than net bad. But be mindful to find out when it's bad.
Having a think about how to deliver language content
I mentioned this in my last post but I'm having a brainstorm about how to deliver some snappier, more short-form language content. I'm still brainstorming, but the 2 IG posts above are a little foray on that front. To make sure you don't miss anything follow my current WIPs by 1) subscribing to this blog and 2) following my current Instagram pages: general account, lifestyle, drums, languages.