What was your first language-learning experience?
In elementary school we had around 2 hours of English per week, and I really loved it. The teacher made it really fun and approachable, and our textbook was cool. Every chapter was introduced by a short illustrated story, and it had five volumes, each for every school year. I remember immediately reading all of it (not understanding much, obviously) when my mum brought the new school books home for the new year. It was great
What languages have you studied and why did you start them?
I started learning English, French and Spanish because they were compulsory in school. Latin and ancient Greek too but it’s not like they count, and I don’t remember a single thing anymore. Now I’m studying Chinese and Japanese. There are a lot of reasons why I wanted to study them and other languages too, but in general, it might sound dumb, I’m very food motivated, lol. Ever since I was a child I wanted to try new tastes, buy new stuff from new supermarkets. When I discovered Chinatown and its huge amount of completely different products I went insane. I also always loved Chinese food and we often had it at home and for my birthdays. Obviously there’s more to that, but food was kind of the catalyst for my interest in Chinese. Same thing with all the other languages I’m interested with: in 2015 I was starving and I found an Eritrean street vendor, I didn’t even know Tigrinya existed back then. I sat down, ate delicious food, and a switch turned on in my brain; with Japanese, when I was in middle school my dad got me a kappamaki. That was my first time eating anything Japanese. It’s just cucumber and rice and nori, but it was so good I wanted to cry.
It’s also interesting how my least favourite languages and least favourite cuisines are pretty much from the same countries. It’s obviously not tightly related lol, but interesting nonetheless.
How does your personality affect how you learn languages?
I’m a very curious person, so that’s good, but I’m also shy. There are a lot of Chinese people who speak a decent putonghua in my city, but it’s really hard for me to break the ice. It’s also because I’m scared to annoy them.
Do you prefer learning languages in a class or individually?
Both are essential to me. I’m not sure if only learning individually makes sense, unless your goals are strictly related to grammar. You need a native or someone who’s extremely knowledgable about the language to teach you how to speak naturally.
What are your favourite language-learning materials?
Plain old flashcards
How much time do you spend actively learning per day?
It really really varies. It could go from 0 to a whole day (not uninterrupted though lol)
What are your short-term and long-term language learning goals?
My long term goal is getting a C2 in Chinese and doing as much as I can in Japanese.
Short-term.. I’m not sure. Passing my uni exams, lol.
What is your favourite language?
English and Chinese (Mandarin). I can’t really choose between them
What is the next language you want to learn?
Not to be depressing, I know my language page is pretty ambitious, but I can’t imagine myself actually, truly learning another language, ever. I still wanna know how some other languages work, and if I find them fun I might try and get to a somewhat half fluency level, but that’s it. Mainly because to be C2 like fluent in a language you need, in my opinion, to 1. focus and 2. to immerse in the language. There’s so many languages I can do that with at the same time, and when I’ll be done with these ones my life will hopefully be very different from now and I’ll have other responsibilities. Who knows though! I’m not even sure what is the next language I’d like to learn. It depends. I think it’s either Tigrinya, Arabic or a Chinese dialect, the latter being the most realistic. Wenzhounese and Manchu are currently the ones I could have access to.
What advice can you give new language learners?
1. go with your gut unless you’re trying to economically profit from a language
2. don’t be hard on yourself
3. find native friends you genuinely like so you’ll constantly be excited to talk to them and what they tell you will stick to your brain way more than what a random person you don’t care about says
4. in the beginning, focus on learning three groups of words: (1) common words (2) personal words (3) words to describe other words (“it’s like…” “its meaning is the same/similar/opposite to…” “I heard it in this context”). In Chinese, learning the radicals' and the strokes’ names will also be helpful
5. don’t fall into the youtube/social media polyglot rabbit hole