#clearthelist July 2018: French, Welsh, And Why I Am Not Learning Chinese Yet

language goals 2018 july

Welcome to my latest language learning update through #clearthelist. Clear the List is a support and accountability blog group sharing monthly language learning goals.

The Fluent Show

Fantastic month for the Fluent Show as we reached 270,000 downloads in under a year. YAY!! Thank you so much.

I loved the conversation Lindsay and I had in the episode “What is Fluency, What Is Mastery…And How Do You Get There?”, my top pick for the month. Every ambitious learner should hear discussion, so do check it out.

What Happened in June

June was always going to be a busy one, because it was the first launch of my brand new course German Uncovered. This is a story-based German course going from zero all the way to B1. There was much to do, and it meant a few early mornings and evening shifts. If you’re on the course, give me a shout. I’m so excited to finally share it with you.

 Working on German Uncovered. Look at those lights!

Working on German Uncovered. Look at those lights!

In June, I also attended my first Canterbury Pride celebration and took a lovely week off travelling to Marseille. I also attended the People's Vote March in London.

Learning Welsh

Welsh is still my main language, though it came up a little short this month.

Cymraeg Gogledd neu Cymraeg De?

One thing that slowed me down was my belief that I should switch from the Northern Welsh accent (which I’d studied for 2+ years) to the Southern Welsh accent. Why? Because I moved from North to South in England.

This turns out to be a silly idea. When people tell me “everyone will understand you no matter what accent”, they are right. When they say “only a few words are different”, they aren’t right. Even though it’s possible to understand both types of Welsh, learning to speak them both is harder than I thought. Just look at these two sentences:

1. North Welsh: Dw i eisiau gorffen cyn yfory.

2. South Welsh: Dw i’n moyn cwpla cyn yfory.

As far as I know, these are supposed to mean the same thing, but all native Welsh speakers will understand both.

My tutor at the Welsh class I attended told me “no mixing your accents”, which has made the idea of switching what I’ve studied next to impossible. My italki tutor is a lot more chilled, saying it doesn’t really matter as long as I’m not taking formal tests.

Conclusion: Welsh accents are confusing. I think I’ll declare Project Southern Welsh something I don’t want to continue. I stopped making progress because I felt trapped in this whole accent confusion, when it’s not that relevant. For now, I’ll speak how I speak and let life go on.

Let’s look at the goals from last month.

Listening

I had hoped to continue watching the series Ffit Cymru. But the show’s focus on weight loss as a measure of all good in the world started getting on my nerves. So I watched perhaps one more episode, and my listening in Welsh came up a little short.

Reading

I had hoped to finish the book Sgwp (there should be a ^ on the w but my keyboard can’t cope), and I’m getting behind on this one. But I did take my edition of the magazine Lingo Newydd with me and read it on the beach in France. Result!

One cool new resource I’m using in Welsh now is parallel.cymru, a website featuring parallel articles in Welsh and English. I’m loving the fact that I can read more on screen now, and I even submitted an article myself.

Click here to read my article on parallel.cymru in English or Welsh

Speaking

My goal was to fit in two 30 minute sessions with my tutor Gwyneth, and I did succeed. Scheduling these in advance was a huge help. I was a worse speaker than usual due to the accent kerfuffle, and due to speaking French for 10 days this month. But overall, mission accomplished.

Writing

I wanted to stick with poetry and write a haiku in Welsh, but I didn’t get it done. I didn’t even write much else. WARGH.

Daily Contact Goal

In May, I logged 14 days of contact with the Welsh language. Pretty good considering I was very busy with the German course, and also spent 10 days in France. My most used resources were Lingo Newydd, Ap Geiriaduron, and italki.

Speaking French In France

IMG_8612.jpg

My second language of June was French, as I recorded my first bilingual podcast in French and English and then took some time off in Marseille. I had a great time, and noticed the difference a week in the country makes.

I was able to speak French pretty well anyway, as it’s a language I’ve studied on and off for 22 years. The week in France worked wonders for my comprehension and my speaking confidence. I refreshed all those everyday phrases like “you’re welcome”, “that was awesome”, or “for takeaway, please”.

I also learnt I enjoy being not-perfect at French. Here in England, I speak a foreign language almost every minute of every day. It doesn’t feel all that foreign anymore. But in French, I am still a learner. There’s a challenge, and that felt great because challenge means progress.

We didn’t stay in the main tourist quarter, and so a lot of people were amused and curious about this German and English couple where only one half speaks French. My husband relied on my French skills and I could tell that speaking the language was an advantage almost everywhere.

Good to Remember: People Switch To English For THEIR Reasons

In a busy restaurant, the host told me how to get to my table in French. It was noisy, and I didn’t understand what he was saying. I said Pardon? and he switched to English. I told him that I do speak French and he can speak to me in French.

His answer? “It is very busy here and I can speak English. In other words: He was too busy to slow down. He didn’t care if I speak French well, and he wasn’t judging my language skills. This was about getting something done.

If you’ve ever been in a similar situation, remember that people switch languages because it’s best for them. When someone switches to English, it’s often because they have other things on their mind than your language progress. Click to read more about this and get tips for dealing with the situation.

Goals For July 2018

Now that I’m in the intermediate haze with Welsh, I find it more important than ever to keep going forward. Happy to put French to one side and focus on Welsh again this month, especially because at the start of August I want to go to the National Eisteddfod again!

Listening

So disappointed I can’t watch the World Cup with Welsh commentary! I need to get ready for the Eisteddfod so it’s time to hear a lot of Welsh. I will Listen to Welsh For 90 Minutes Every Week Doesn’t matter if it’s the Pigion podcast or a show on S4C, the most important thing is that I hear a lot of Welsh right now.

Reading

Try and Finish The Book Sgwp Same as last month!

Speaking

Have 1 Long Lesson and 3 Conversations Loved having shorter classes in June (I scheduled 30 minutes at lunch times) and I’ll keep going with that, but as we know I struggle with yes/no in Welsh so I’ll also book a long lesson to drill these specifically.

And it’s time to catch up with my exchange partner!

Writing

Every month, I read about poetry and I read some poetry. But I’ve not written any. Goal: Write 1 Poem, Any Kind

Maybe asking myself to even to a Haiku was too much, a hurdle in front of getting started. So I will dial down the ambition one more. Easy.

Finally there is one more language I am playing around with, but here’s why I’m not learning Chinese right now.

Chinese

I’m still not learning Chinese. I’m going at the pace of two words a week. There’s so much in this language: words, tones, characters, all of it unknown to me. I can best describe this as a Prep phase, way before “learning the language”. I don’t want to put pressure on myself at this stage at all, and all I’m doing is driven by curiosity.

I had a similar phase in Russian and Welsh, where I’m currently at A1 and B1. Prep phases feel so valuable to me, especially when the other language is different from the ones I already know.

The Prep Phase And My Languages

Here’s an overview of the languages I know:

  • I speak German and English at native levels. (C2)
  • I’m fluent in French (C1?).
  • I’m conversational in Welsh, if the conversation partner helps me. (B1)
  • I’m somewhat conversational in Spanish, if the conversation partner helps me loads. (A1-A2)
  • I can read Spanish, Italian, some Latin. (A1)
  • I can read Cyrillic and exchange basic pleasantries in Russian. (A1)

I’ve never done much with Asian languages.

If I started to learn Romanian or Swedish I probably wouldn’t need a Prep phase. But with a new unfamiliar system, I find this extremely useful. If I decide to take this further, dabbling with tones and apps could turn into learning Chinese for real. But for now, I’m just learning about the language.

How Was YOUR Month?

Do you have a Prep phase too? Are you struggling with accents in your target language?

I would love to read about what you’re up to in the comments below!

If you want to join the linkup and share your own goals for the month, hop on to Clear The List with Lindsay Williams and Shannon Kennedy.