11 marca 2011

How do you learn?

The guilt from my infrequent blogging is setting in. With so many great blogs out there I should be inspired to write more frequently, but instead I read the 'other' blogs and feel content that a good job was done. An interesting blog post was written today, just not by me! What do I read?

I don't miss a day without reading W-wa Jeziorki (I think of him as 'The Blogfather') or PzU. If you don't already know about Polandian then I'd be surprised. Check the 'Updated Blogs' section on the right for more.

What about my Polish? I've concluded that I speak Polish. Do I speak French? No, just a few words. A few years ago I used to be able to hack through a few sentences in Spanish and I'm sure that ability could return. But I don't feel like I speak Spanish. Although I finally speak Polish, I don't speak or understand it particularly well. I'm probably still an upper beginner or low intermediate speaker. How have I decided that I can speak Polish? Simply, I use the language to communicate:
  • I can follow at least the topics of most conversations. The more context I have, the easier it is. Hearing stories about events I'm already familiar with is especially encouraging.
  • I watch Polish TV and actually get something out of it. 'Talking heads' news shows aren't as easy as silly talk shows.
  • I can pick up a newspaper or article and get the gist as well as many details quickly. I laughed the other day when I was handed a Metro paper near home and nonchalantly scanned the headline and a few lines of text as I walked. I folded up the paper, then realised 'shit, I just understood that!'
  • I rarely use Google Translate anymore to translate entire webpages. I still frequently translate extracts and sentences I don't understand, when in a hurry.
  • I can interact with people in shops successfully if I have a bit of time to think about what I need to say.
  • I chat (with varying success) with my students occasionally in Polish after our lessons. They pretend to understand me.
  • I interact with my wife on a basic level about a number of things at home. Usually, this consists of me saying childish things and her patiently humouring me.
I have a long, long way to go. I run out of words very quickly and my grammar is atrocious. I have an intuitive understanding of only a few cases, some of the time. People say I sound 'different than my normal self' in Polish and this worries me a little. At home I know I do a silly voice, sometimes emulating dramatic TV voiceover voices or a strange old fashioned Eastern European style I have invented. I think I might also sound different because I apply English style intonation to Polish, making me sound a little more odd than normal.

I'm not currently in a Polish course. I had planned on taking an A2 course somewhere in town this winter term, but it slipped off the priority list and will remain that way for the near future. For now I am taking a more natural approach. What are my methods?

As referred to in my description of shopping for glasses, I have scraps of paper with phrases and vocabulary on them all over my desk. I have stopped apologising for my poor Polish in public (say that three times fast) and no longer ask people if they speak English. Other than that, that's about the extent of my 'natural approach' right now. It's not enough.

As a mentor of mine once told me, 'the best way to learn is every way.' He was right. I certainly don't think there is one best method for learning language and I enjoy variety in my own learning and also in teaching. Variety works. How will I augment my Polish learning in the next weeks and days?
  • By studying Polish 'Fiszki" in my downtime in the city
  • By assembling my vocabulary and phrase scraps into topics in a notebook
  • By setting aside a few hours a week to go through exercises in my "Hurrah Po Polsku" texts.
  • By blogging more, especially in Polish.
What else should I do?

As evidence of my ability to write or talk about various topics, I implore you to suggest a short writing topic for me. Please, nothing too hard. I'll take the best suggestion and compose something about it in Polish before Tuesday. Promise. What shall it be?

Edit: Tuesday 15 Mar. Sorry, can't write about doggies tonight. I know I promised. I have all the photos ready but I need to write the captions. And there will be a caption contest!