in Challenge

As I said briefly on the last post the challenge for May is to learn as much of a language in 30 days using just an iPad. This is something that many people want to do and yet often have a lot of issues with which hold them back. Personally, I have some very strong reasons for wanting to get better at learning a language. My wife is Polish so I want to get better at communicating with her (and her family) and I am a teacher of English as a second language so it would be great to be a better student myself.

To make this challenge as fair as possible I decided to choose a new language (as this is what you might want to do), one which I don’t have a strong reason to learn (like my wife speaks it) and one that should be pretty difficult to find resources for but one which I find interesting. I came down to a couple of choices, Arabic or Welsh. Arabic appealed because I think that the Middle East is a very important region right now but unfortunately Arabic is a very diverse language. There are many regional variations in Arabic and it’s not so simple to just learn one version (even though there is “modern Arabic” which almost no one speaks) So I decided to go for Welsh, partially as a tribute to my late grandfather.

I’m going to try and do as much as possible on the iPad but I’m allowing myself the option to use my iPhone for some learning on the go with this challenge. For a final assessment, I’d love to try and have a chat with someone who speaks Welsh and to record it to share. I think that would be a good way to show people the effects but I don’t know how easy that will be. [if you know anyone who speaks Welsh, let me know!]

Why this isn’t actually that difficult

Here are a couple of things that people don’t know about languages that actually mean this is a lot easier than you’d think.

  1. Beginning is difficult but you make a lot of progress quickly
  2. Finding resource to learn any language is easier than you think
  3. It’s easy to impress people with your level in a foreign language

Breaking that down a bit. The beginning of a language is always difficult because all the words are new, you’re not used to hearing the sounds, you don’t know what to listen out for and so on. It feels very uncomfortable and you’re bound to make mistakes. However, the 1000 most common words make up something like 90% of communication (it depends on the language obviously) then the next 1000 (up to 2000) make up to 95% (again language depending). Learning 1000 might sound difficult at first but 1000 words in a month works out at 33 words a day or so. That’s actually not that hard and gets easier as time goes on. The there is the power of learning the most common phrases which helps you overcome lots of other barriers.

With the Internet, it’s really easy to find example of people speaking and writing in a language you want to learn. Even greater, there are often resources on a topic you really like. Tim Ferris learnt judo and Japanese at the same time because he was interested in both. If you love something, it can be a great naturally motive to take in some of the language you want to learn. Whatsmore, if you want to practice speaking with someone, there are ways to connect with a native speaker and practice with them via language exchange sites and similar.

The final point is that it doesn’t take much to impress people with your language level. If you can cope with basic introductions, tell a bit about yourself and then ask someone a few questions, they’ll be impressed. You can make all sorts of vocab or grammar mistakes and as long as you get your meaning across, people don’t care. I’ve been amazed how many times I’ve been terrible at a language.

Next time I’m going to look at some useful apps at tactics I’m using to learn Welsh. Maybe you’ll like to join in and learn a language.

What language are you going to learn?

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