The year 2017 is almost over and I decided to write a summary of what I did during this year for my language studies. It’s also the first year that I came back to language learning after a long break of doing almost nothing and started studying regularly, actually more regularly than ever before!
After I was in Japan in December 2016 for 2 weeks, I came back fully motivated to pick up the language again. But my problem was that I just didn’t know where to start reviewing what I had learned before. At this point I didn’t know about most learning apps/websites and had zero plan. So even though I wanted to study Japanese again, I didn’t do anything for it.
In October 2016 I started going to an Arabic course and it went pretty well until I went abroad for 7 weeks. After I was back in January I had missed a lot of the course. But the main problem was that I had realized even more now that Modern Standard Arabic (which was taught in the course) wasn’t helpful for me. I want to learn Arabic so I can talk to people in a specific region and their dialect is different from MSA. So I decided to drop the course (the first language course I ever dropped, I felt horrible after doing it). I tried to learn the basics of the dialect I wanted to be able to speak myself, but it didn’t go well. It was very frustrating and I gave up. I still want to learn Arabic one day, but I will definitely need a better approach for this.
February – May
I heard from someone using Duolingo for their studies and found out that they would release a Japanese course soon! I decided I could try Duolingo to refresh my Spanish skills until then and started using the app regularly. I finished the Spanish tree pretty quickly and was very happy that I still knew so much (I stopped learning Spanish in 2010).
There was still time until the Japanese course would be released so I started with French on Duolingo. I had a few years of French in school and it was horrible. I didn’t have the best teachers and didn’t have any motivation to learn the language. I decided to give it another try now that I have some more motivation to learn it. I only covered some of the basic skills though before the Japanese course came out at the beginning of June. Then I stopped because I wanted to focus on Japanese.
In April I reactivated my old twitter account (which I had never really used in all the years) and started following people who also like learning languages and accounts focussing on language learning. I was never a twitter fan in the past, but now I really like it! You get a lot of great information there and the people I’ve met so far are really nice.
June – July
I completed the Duolingo Japanese tree in about 4 weeks. Everything that they had in their beta tree were things that I had already learned before and I have to say, as a review tool it was amazing for me. No going over grammar or learning vocab, I just went through all the lessons and everything I had learned before came back to me naturally. It was absolutely amazing and motivated me a lot.
At the end of July I had the chance to go to a JLPT N5 preparation course. At this point I still wasn’t sure if I should take the test or not, but I thought I could go there and take all the information I can get. It was a great course. We didn’t really review grammar or other stuff (just a bit of grammar), it was mostly the teacher explaining us how the JLPT works and giving us tips for the test and studying Japanese in general. It helped me a lot. We also got a lot of material (old tests) that we could use to prepare for the test. It was also the time I started using Memrise regularly because the teacher recommended it.
August – September
After the JLPT prep course I was even more motivated and something was really clear to me: I really wanted to learn the Japanese language this time and not stop like I did before. I did a lot of research about apps, study techniques, resources etc. to find what would help me best. I had a lot of time during these two months too, so I could really do a lot.
At the beginning of September I finally decided that I would take the JLPT. The only reason why I hesitated was the high fee. This wasn’t the best time for me to spend so much money on a test so I was a bit tempted to just skip it. But in the end all my pro arguments won and I registered for the December test. My level at this time was between N5 and N4 but I registered for the N5. I was sure I wouldn’t be able to prepare for the N4 until December and I’d rather have a good test result that would motivate me than failing the test.
October – November
I started a new job and had basically zero time. I could study/review some cards with Memrise when commuting to and from work, but that was basically it. The job was so demanding that even when I had some time I was just too tired to learn. These two months were really bad for my language learning projects.
On December 3rd I took the JLPT N5. After I was done I really had mixed feelings about it. I didn’t let this discourage me though. Finally the job became less stressful so I could start learning a bit more again.
I never really stopped with French on Duolingo, but I kept it at 1-2 lessons per day (mostly reviews). Now that I had more time again I also started doing a bit more here. I’m a bit unsure what to do with my French learning now. Just using Duolingo alone isn’t helpful. But I want to focus more on Japanese so I can’t really use other French resources. I don’t want to drop it or put it on on-hold because I don’t want to forget what I learned. So I might continue like before with just doing a little bit every day for now.
Some months ago I also tried the first few lessons for Dutch on Duolingo. I was really curious how easy it would be for me (since Dutch and German are very similar). I stopped quickly because I didn’t want to add another language at this point. In December Duolingo released the new version of the Dutch tree to all users and I tried it again. It’s kind of fun because there are really many similarities and I can understand a lot without even learning anything. But I have problems with how to write things and for this I would start to put more effort into my learning. I also only did again some basic lessons. I haven’t fully decided yet but I think I will put it again on on-hold for now because it doesn’t make much sense to add another language when I don’t have time for it. It’s a bit sad because I know two Dutch people who I could talk to, but I just don’t have time for it now. And Japanese is more important to me.
Overall this was a very interesting language learning year for me! I finally found my motivation again and so many great resources and apps that language learning is even more fun now than it was when I started it many years ago.
For the new year I think my main goal is to focus on Japanese. While I would LOVE to study more languages, I don’t think it’s a very good idea (not enough time for everything). Japanese is the most important language to me so this will be my top priority for a while.