After a massive three weeks of tireless effort, I shall take a moment to reflect upon what I have learned about learning.
When a friend heard about the Babel Project and about the languages and the approaches, he immediately said that his money was on Polish. I thought that was a guaranteed loss of a dollar (my friends tend to be prudent).
I began Polish with low expectations. I had bought a grammar guide (in English) and a software program. The grammar guide put the fear of God into me with a pronunciation table that contained about twelve different combinations of “c”, “s” and “z”. The grammar seemed to be like German crossed with Russian and then passed through a sieve.
In addition to this, I had a poor opinion of software as a learning mechanism. My employer had previously signed a global deal with a provider of online software, and my two experiments (Japanese and Farsi) had been very disappointing.
Three weeks in I am mildly stunned to say that I have probably made the most progress in Polish out of the five target languages (time to cash in your chips Murray?)
At my deli, I was able to greet the Polish lady and ask how she was going after the first week. After the third week, we could exchange names, I was able to confirm that she was originally from Warsaw, and I could even explain that my father was Polish. I cheated a bit with the past tense which was from the grammar book rather than the software.
What is more, the software has proven itself to be well structured, a good mix of vocab, situations and even some pronunciation exercises. Mrs Babel Project, who normally treats this experiment the way a dog owner considers a tennis ball, has thrown a jaundiced eye at the corny illustrations, the Scrabble-busting words and the extreme pronunciation and recognised the insidious addictive qualities of the program.
So where does this leave me after three weeks? Firstly, in the wrong, as my initial expectation of the superiority of face-to-face learning has wobbled. At least I am now on track with all languages under way.
Now comes the challenge for any language student. After the first flush of the initial lessons; learning Polish greetings, successfully writing and reading (some) Arabic, saying “Thank you” and surprising my Korean waitress, I now have to keep going.
Thank you to all (both?) my readers so far. Please feel free to comment on any posts. Perhaps this adventure is tickling your language bone. I would love to hear what languages you would choose, which learning style, and why.