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me and my bright ideas

i must remember to tell you

i've changed things around. it's been... different.


a few weeks ago, i decided to take a new approach to my great language learning adventure: rather than trying to practice a number of languages at once and making tiny bits of progress on each, i decided to focus on one language and just dedicate myself to that for the time being. i chose to dedicate myself to swedish, for no other reason than it was the language course i was closest to completing on duolingo. i know that completing the course wouldn't make me fluent, but it would give me a sense of real progress and accomplishment, which is something that micro-progress in a number of languages just wasn't doing.

i've already talked about the fact that swedish has been a challenge for me, because, despite its [deserved] reputation for being an easy shift in terms of grammar and vocabulary for an english speaker, the accent and pronunciation is fiendishly difficult, which is a surprisingly great hurdle for me. if getting perfect pronunciation isn't among your chief goals, swedish will be a dream for you, but my inability to master things like the "sj", "tj" or soft "k" sounds, along with their bizarre adjustment of the "sion/ tion" sound drives me nuts. that said, the vocabulary and regular grammatical structure [verb goes second, always], and its striking similarity to english make it easier to master than most.

so what are the results of this new plan of attack?

i'm doing worse.

seriously, i'm struggling to remember everything i'm learning and i'm not learning anymore than i was before. i'm just focusing it on one particular area and i'm struggling way more.

if anyone wants to explain to me why that might be, i'd love to hear it, because a lot of the conventional [albeit anecdotal] wisdom i've heard is that the brain gets rattled when forced to learn multiple things at once and therefore learns all of them slower. i'm finding the opposite: i'm not retaining nearly as much as i was when i was spreading my brain thinner on the linguistic spectrum.

i'm already terrible about forcing my brain to change gears every hour or so, focusing deeply on one subject and then jumping to another. hell, sometimes i don't even give it an hour. a work project i had yesterday involved looking at marketing programs for heavy equipment manufacturers. [do you know what your company needs to do to compete in the tire market in india? i do.] i pretty much immediately jumped to the chemistry of skincare [thanks for getting me to review my info on this, the ordinary], onto my evening diet of news television [my friends on msnbc are awesome] and then to learning swedish [why am i struggling with past participles that seemed so easy at first?]. i realise that my language studies are at a disadvantage because they come at the end of a long mental day, but that's generally been my habit and i've fared much better when that work has involved multiple languages from unrelated language groups. [when i'm practicing multiple languages, i like to keep the ones that i'm doing on the same day as far from each other as possible, despite the fact that i've recommended closely related pairs in the past. i enjoy learning close cognates at once, just not practicing them on the same day.]

unfortunately, while i've been ikea-focused, skills in other languages that i'm learning have deteriorated, to the point where i almost feel obliged to go back and relearn skills from scratch that i'd previously felt that i'd mastered. that makes learning all those other languages a bit more frustrating, and makes me think that each one of them will require a period of prolonged concentration to get back to the point where i was. i've fallen into a trap here people.

so what's my advice in this situation? don't believe what anyone tells you about learning. figure out how you learn best by playing around with different systems and screw everything else.

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