Working on my language skills in 5-week chunks works beautifully for me. My 5-week chunks began early in my teaching career when I was able to easily carve out 5 weeks to make great progress on my language skills each summer. For example, I might spend 5 weeks in Spain or five weeks in France, or simply five weeks immersed in reviewing materials, books, and resources at home, and improving my language skills at the same time.
As technology has evolved, carving out 5 weeks to study languages has never been easier. I also find that 5 weeks is the perfect amount of time to do something without getting bored. If you get bored, you’ll give up. If you give up, you’ll never make any progress.
I also find that 5 weeks allows me to continue to work on my language skills without feeling overwhelmed. For example, I can work on my language skills in my car when I’m commuting to work- something I need to do anyway. But there are other things that we need to do in life that take time. Having a home that’s free of clutter is something I need to put some effort into at the moment.
I’m in the process of buying a new house, and just sold a property. There have been a lot of decluttering that has needed to happen as I move from the old house into the new house. With the help of my smartphone, I’ve been able to do a great deal of decluttering from the old house. I’ve focused on listening to Pimsleur Italian 3 for this 5-week chunk.
If you’re familiar with Pimsleur, it’s a fantastic program available in many languages. It’s based on the work of Dr. Paul Pimsleur. He was a great linguist and professor of languages.
Essentially, you start with a dialogue. They break down all the different parts of the dialogue, and use spaced repetition to help you recall what you’ve been taught. Each lesson lasts about a half an hour, and you’re only supposed to do one lesson a day. I follow that faithfully. When I repeat the course (I do this several times), I’ll listen to several lessons in the same day. I do this on my phone, while I’m cleaning and decluttering and clearing things out, and in my car when I’m going to places like the dump or charity shops to get rid of the things that I no longer want or need.
I plan on investing in a hands-free speaker when I move into my new house to be able to continue to work on my language skills while I’m putting everything away and can hear it in different rooms without carrying my phone around.
Below you’ll find my weekly progress checks. Each week I do a recording using voice memos on my phone. I must warn you that the content is pretty uninteresting. I also make loads of mistakes, but that’s not the point. It’s embarrassing to put yourself out there, and it can be really embarrassing at first to listen to yourself. With that said, I promise you if you do this on a weekly basis, you will be so impressed with the progress you make on your language skills.
If you’re an absolute beginner, you can get a book, a phrase book, a textbook, a vocabulary book or notes from what you learned on apps like Duolingo. Many of the audio courses that you buy on places like Amazon or Audible come with pdf supplemental handouts. Where this comes from (websites, magazines, your notes) is not greatly important. You can even start by reading dialogues, reading vocabulary if you feel like you can’t say anything on your own, and then build in to speaking independently.
You can even journal each week- again, a favorite for documenting progress. Turn on a timer, pick a topic, and write. Early on you can allow yourself aids. Later on, don’t allow yourself aids. When the timer’s up, go back and look up the words that you didn’t know. It’s a great way to fill in your gaps. You can use these while you’re getting started for your recordings.
I look forward to checking in again in 5 weeks. Arrivederci!