The Babel Project is about human capability (and foolishness) and testing what works for one individual in the world of language. Over the course of 2012, I plan to test multiple approaches to learning a foreign language.
This blog will chart that experiment. I understand that I am not the first person to use self-experimentation to test a hypothesis. My “peers” have already won a Nobel Prize and an Ig Nobel Prize. Self-experimenters have attempted to follow the tenets of the Bible, and used their own body to test ultimate health.
So what? What is my contribution to the world of weirdness and scientific exploration?
I have set myself the goal of learning five different languages simultaneously. I have chosen five methods of learning and will track what works and what doesn’t. At the end of the year, I will assess the subjective outcomes (what I liked) and the objective outcomes (how native speakers understand me).
How will I learn? I have chosen five separate approaches:
- Group Instruction: Go with the classic – join a class of other beginners at an evening school
- Private Instruction: One-on-one with a teacher. One hour per week (plus whatever homework I can squeeze in)
- Software – it’s hip, it’s 21st century, let’s go with one of the many providers of “teach yourself” tools to learn a language
- The Internet – now we are moving into the realms of the no-fee. Scour the Web for free resources (more than one if necessary) to learn
- Conversation exchange – this is different from #2, because there will be no money changing hands, and I will not be learning from a qualified teacher (probably). I have put up notices offering conversation exchange, where I offer my services to help a foreign student learn (or improve) English, and they teach me their language
What will I learn? I have made my selection of five different languages based on;
- What interests me
- Languages that may offer me native speakers to meet in Australia
- A potentially equal degree-of-difficulty
- No close relations – no learning Danish and Norwegian at the same time
The following 5 languages (and their accompanying methods) will be my focus for 2012:
- Arabic – studied by Group
- Chinese (Mandarin) – with individual instruction
- Polish – through Software
- Hindi – I have already found this site as a launching pad
- Korean – because there are heaps of Korean stores and students around Melbourne, and I love the food.
After my own experiences as a teacher of English to native Adult speakers of other languages, I have my own opinions about what works and what doesn’t in language learning. This project will allow me to assess how I perform in different environments. Through this blog, I will track how I feel about the different learning styles, what suits me and where I struggle.
Please feel free to offer your own thoughts and comments on this experiment. If you are learning a language, see what matches your experience and what seems different.