Month: May 2015

Two weeks ago I was awesome.

Life felt very good for a while, but it’s getting more stressful lately (being forced to move house, having some health issues cropping up — as well as feeling at the mercy of the whims of the NHS, always fun). I wrote the below during my good few weeks, but never got around to posting it. I thought I’d put it up now as a reminder to myself of how it felt, and as a way to acknowledge my accomplishments.

Here we go, straight from the mouth of me a couple of weeks ago:

I’m feeling pretty confident about my German lately (… don’t ask me about my French, just don’t). Recently, I had an unexpected opportunity to use German for work purposes. I thought I’d probably just end up making small talk and introductions and then we’d all switch to English, but I ended up conducting business in German for hours! I felt like I was floating on air the rest of the day (and then I slept really well that night, because it was exhausting).

It was a good confidence boost in any case, but especially because one of my goals is to speak German well enough to work in a German-speaking office. Suddenly conversing auf Deutsch in an office (even if not in a daily sort of sense, but for a special purpose like a meeting) transformed me from someone who studies languages out of interest and curiosity to someone who might be able to make money from speaking languages.

Let me be clear: I’m not studying languages to earn money per se (except if one wants to live in Germany, it’s obviously an advantage to be able to speak German well enough to get along in an office). And I’ve seen many language learners who have no intention of using their languages in work contexts, but nevertheless speak very well. But for me, someone who has a habit of diving into new hobbies with vigor and then gradually abandoning them, being able to speak German for work, no matter in how limited a context, made me feel like maybe I could take myself more seriously.

It’s nice not to feel like a flake!

On another note, I’ve also been doing several yoga videos in German. This, too, is immensely satisfying. Let’s be frank: I’m probably unbearably smug after I finish each one, both from the physical deliciousness of yoga and from being able to do it in German. It helps that I’ve been practicing yoga for a while, so certain sequences are predictable; it’s easier to hear the German and understand quickly. I can feel roughly how long someone would expect you to stay in a certain position, and I can tell, from the cadence of the instructor’s voice, whether or not it’s along the lines of, “inhale, exhale, relax yourself into this position a little more,” or, “now stand up and go into a different position,” even if I can’t see the screen at the moment.

It’s reinforcing the body parts vocabulary that I’d already picked up, as well as giving me some new words. And while we know that we can’t really multitask, doing yoga while also getting some target language practice in actually works!

… and now back to me today, trying to batten down all the hatches, productivity- and self-care-wise, and telling myself sometimes life changes can be an adventure and maybe I’m up for them. Tomorrow I’m also starting the June italki Challenge! So, okay, self, this month you just have to be freakin’ awesome and kick some ass. Let’s do it.

Anyone else doing the italki Challenge? Anyone else need to psych themselves up to get through this month? Feel free to comment with your particular circumstances and I (and other readers, perhaps?) can cheer you on!


Gearing up for the June italki Challenge

So who’s doing the June italki Challenge? I’ve been meaning to do one of their challenges for almost a year, but they always happened when I knew I wouldn’t have the energy. I figured sooner or later one would happen at a better time for me (… I hope I didn’t just jinx myself by saying that). And as I’m prone to intermediate slump, I hope that a month of focused lessons will help push me past that.

I do like the idea of language-learning challenges — and there are so many to choose from! — but I also just don’t want to sign up for things and flake on them (like the music challenge. I love music. I generally go to at least two shows a month. I already use music for language-learning. And yet I crapped out on that almost immediately…).

I’m hoping this will be different: maybe because there’s some of my money on the line! And familiarity may help, as I’ve done numerous italki lessons before. Sometimes they’re really helpful, sometimes not, but that’s true with anything: conventional classes, conversation exchange, self-study sessions.

I find it both useful and unnerving to have the undivided attention of a teacher during these sessions. Ideally, it puts you, the learner, more in the driver’s seat. Often teachers are happy to suggest topics and come up with their own lesson plans, but sometimes not. For me, whether I have something specific to suggest can vary. I find it can be just good to put aside time for a tutoring session and trust that, no matter what the topic or lesson plan is, the teacher and I can find a way to make it useful for me. Especially with German last year, when I was at a much lower level, I figured that whatever suggestions teachers made would be things I needed to learn eventually anyway, so why not go with the flow?

This time around, as I book my sessions, I’m trying to suggest things in advance. It feels good to request specific tricky things for me to focus on, instead of just having them in the back of my head as things I should go review, but that somehow I never end up reviewing.

Still, I’m pretty worried that I will crap out during the challenge, or that I’ll burn myself out so that, while I might technically complete it, I’ll be unable to make good use of the sessions. Not only is that a waste of time and money, I also feel embarrassed if I don’t think I’m doing very well in a lesson. When it’s just you and the tutor, you can’t hide!

But we’ll see. Alongside my worry, I’m actually feeling mildly positive. And it helps that I’m starting off with a tutor with whom I’ve already done a whole set of lessons. (And, well, I managed to do two packages of italki lessons, in French and German, when I was so actively suicidal that I was ending each lesson wondering if I’d be around for the next one. So — and I’m not tempting fate here! — assuming things don’t get that bad or worse, I’m probably all right…)

Who else is doing the challenge? Have you done any of them before? What tactics are you using in order to fit in your hours? Do you suggest topics to your teachers? What are you anticipating will be the toughest thing for you?

Good luck to all the other participants!