Sunday, October 11, 2015

Crawl, Walk, Run

Five weeks into language training and I'm feeling pretty good. Surprisingly good. I know I'll hit a wall soon, but for now I'm enjoying learning a new language. This is my third language training at FSI. The pain and struggle of the first two have led to a self-awareness that benefits me tremendously this time around. A few things I've learned that are helping me get through the first two months:

I try to speak the way a 5 year old would. If I can forget that I'm an intelligent, well-educated 40-something year old woman, it takes the sting out of the early weeks of language training. It's much easier to talk about a news story the way a 5 year old would talk about it, than to try to talk about the news the way an educated adult would.

I'm a very literal person and I tend to say only what I mean to say. But nobody cares about what I actually did over the weekend. So instead of trying to say what I really *want* to say, I practice saying what I *can* say, even if it means making stuff up.

I am impatient by nature and a perfectionist - two things that may make for a good Foreign Service Officer, but make for a terrible language student. I know now that during the first few weeks, I'm supposed to be awful. I will get better.

I cannot go directly to a 3/3 level of proficiency, no matter how many flashcards I memorize or how much grammar I study. You have to get to a 1/1 before you can get to a 2/2. As much as it pains me to say it - Aim low (at least for now)!

And in my most profound bit of self-analysis, I understand that listening comprehension is the last thing that comes to me, long after writing, speaking, and reading. So there's no point stressing out now when I watch the news clips on YouTube and cannot understand anything.

Naturally, this advice doesn't hold true at the end of language training. At some point, I will have to be able to say what I *want* to say. I can't very well change U.S. policy to suit my language proficiency. But for now, I'll stick with crawling.

No comments: