We all know you can’t learn a language in five weeks. However, you can make a great deal of progress. You may have read about my five weeks going to language school in Paris where I’ve documented in voice recordings my progress.
I’m really pleased with the progress that I made, but not at all surprised. The more time you spend on a language, the more progress you can make. Clearly, being in the target language country makes that very easy. With all of that said, all the time that you have doing other things wherever you are, thanks to today’s technology, can be turned into productive language learning experiences.
During this five-week period in French, I focused on my commuting time. I used my 10 hours a week of commuting by car listening to novels. I re-listened to one novel I listened to a couple of years ago La Fille du Train. I listened to three books from my Audible account that I haven’t listened to before. I listened to one to two books a week (depending on the length- they vary from 4 1/2 to about 10 hours in length).
I like to listen to novels 2 and 3 times. I am also going to be searching for a good self-help book. This was one of the things that really helped me hit that top level in Spanish- listening to self-help books over and over again. They use lots of high level grammar and vocabulary, and the repetition really helps present language completely in context, as well as suggesting ways to improve my life.
Commuting is one of my favorite ways to study language. Commuting can be boring, but with your mobile phone, you can turn it into one of the most productive times of your day. You can do something like use Gabriel Wyner’s new app, or the traditional Anki Flashcards that he talks about. If you are on a train, you can use Duolingo. Those are all great ways to pass the time and build your skills at the same time.
There are so many great audio courses out there. Think Pimsleur, Collins, Living Language, Earworms- those are all ways to turn your commuting time-whether you’re walking, driving or in a train- into real language learning time.
Please see my recordings below of my progress at the end of this five weeks. I’m now getting to a level where the gains start to really slow down. When you go from CEFR B2 or ACTFL Intermediate High and move into the level where you’re speaking in paragraphs, progress can seem to halt. It is my opinion that the 750 to 1000 hours that it takes to go with from zero language up to that B2/Intermediate High level, and to go from that B2/Intermediate High level up to C1/C2, takes 2 to 3 times as long.
The actual content of the recordings is not particularly interesting. I’m really just talking about my week and about the things that I listened to, but that’s not the point. You’re going to hear lots of errors and lots of mistakes. Some recordings will be longer than others, but the content isn’t the objective. The purpose of recording yourself is to document your fluency and your progress. Do this frequently and be amazed at the progress you make.