Languages: Why 5 Weeks?
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Hola, bonjour. Konnichiwa on yourself Bongiorno. Hello. I hope you are all well today. I want to talk about a question I get a lot.
The name of this show obviously is the Five-week Linguist. I have a book by the same name and there’s a reason for it. So I wanted to explain where the five weeks came from.
When I was a young language teacher, I had about nine weeks of not working during the summer and that time was absolutely precious to me.
When I was a young Spanish teacher, I was at a similar proficiency level to where a lot of non-native speaking college graduates were. That sort of intermediate high/ Advanced low. B2 kind of approaching C1.
At the end of the day, I knew that I needed to learn more Spanish, especially if I was teaching upper levels. I also had the experience of teaching at a university (English) and so they were completely different experiences with English being my native language.
It was a lot easier for me to be able to answer any question I needed to, and I wanted to be able to do the same in Spanish. I knew that it would be better for me. It’ll be better for my students. So I always had five weeks that I could find during the summer to work on my language skills, whatever to work on them fairly intensely.
And some of the things that I did early on was study in Spain very intensively and intensely during that time. I took classes there, did some private tutoring, and even did a master’s degree some of which are classes met during the summer in Spain for five weeks. I’ve been to private language schools during five week periods.Basically, it came out of being able to fit it into my schedule. And as the years went on I discovered that.
Time had a huge impact on language proficiency. So I would try to get in as much time as possible. And I used to do something called the 200-hour Challenge and I would make huge progress by investing 200 hours in language study. And this also looked many different ways. As I said I spent time working on a master’s degree.
In Spain I spent time studying Spanish at private language schools, and spent time traveling. I’ve also spent five-week periods where I didn’t leave my house very much and I read and did courses.
The 200 hours comes from research. So basically Spanish being a category one language, t’s fairly close to English and you can make marked progress by investing about 200 hours in activities that allow you to understand new language and produce new language. So when you’re an absolute beginner, in that 200 hours you can make huge progress.
You’re going to make less progress in that 200 hours. And then when you get to doing that sea level that advanced that advanced into Superior on the actual scale. The progress is a whole lot slower. And that’s where I was the first time I did the Five Linguist and the 200-hour challenge etcetera. I knew that 200 hours was based on research.
To give me marked progress, I would get results. And as I said, it was really important to me the level I was at going through that advanced level. It takes at least three times as long to make the same amount of progress as it does when you’re beginning in a language and then if you think about languages that are more difficult like a category two or three)I’m referring to the Foreign Service Institute) and how they measure time spent in languages to prepare diplomats going abroad.
You can still get something out of a couple of hundred hours of study, even though it takes so much longer to reach the same level of proficiency as the years went on, I discovered that I still wanted to study languages. I got some great benefits out of it. It’s great for your health. It delays dementia by four to five years. And on a very practical level, I wanted to be able to speak to more people. I also wanted to do more interesting things in my classes. I’m a language nut, and not everybody I teach is. So the more interesting and engaging and effective I can make the experience for them the better and I get that.
Another thing that’s happened over the years is that technology has evolved so doing these five week periods. They can happen anywhere. I used to do a few 200-hour Challenges throughout the year and they will coincide with my schedule and my life a lot of times these intense 200- hour periods that I would do over five weeks would happen maybe during the summer, or somehow close to Winter holidays where, I would have a couple of weeks off from school when I would spend perhaps in France or dnd when I was living there.
Several years ago, I met an amazing writing mentor, Farnoosh Torabi. She writes a lot of financial articles for Oprah. She told me that 200 hours sounds like a lot. Immediately, I was a bit defensive about the idea of not talking about 200 hours because I felt it was being irresponsible in not being realistic about the time investment. I thought 200 hours gives you enough time to see progress to see some results for your efforts.
And then, I thought, “Wait a minute. There’s definitely something here. I’m going to try to do something a little bit different and instead of doing my 200-hour Challenges maybe four times a year or three times a year. I’m going to spread it out over a year.” I had the most amazing, engaging fun five-week periods for 2018.
When I first started teaching languages, and really wanted to get to that almost that near-native speaker level of Spanish. That was a long time ago and I used to do things like drag back magazines and movies cassettes DVD CDs photos from Spanish-speaking countries to share with my students as well. As for my own study books. This is all completely changed more and more and more. We are connected and if you have a phone or the internet and or the internet, you can connect to the internet you have the ultimate language learning lab you can get language anywhere and everywhere and you can fit it really easily into your life.
So one year I thought- I’m going to commit to not doing 200-hour challenges, except for summer because I really enjoy traveling and learning languages and creating activities and materials that come out of my own studies.
And again, I’m not teaching during the summer. I have that uninterrupted time. Realistically. I really don’t have great amounts of time to study languages when I am teaching. So I decided to take a more relaxed approach to the whole thing. And it was fantastic. I did five weeks of Yabla in French. I did five weeks of one of my Practice Makes Perfect books.
I did five weeks binge-watching on Netflix. I did five weeks of lots of lessons on italki. I did five weeks of pleasure reading with my feet up and I did several others journaling for 5 weeks. I did five weeks in Paris. I did five weeks working on AP French, which I highly recommend l to really give yourself a bump is to study the materials really readily available on Amazon online for the AP exams. They do a lot of real life preparation for language speaking or teaching exams that students take high school students.
So that’s where the five-week linguist came from- you need to invest time. If you want to learn a language, if you want to improve in a language, you’ve got to invest the time it takes hundreds to thousands of hours to hit.
General working proficiency and lower than that. And so that time has to come from somewhere. You can’t just do a course here or a series of courses, for example, something like Pimsleur another thing. I’ve done in my 5 week periods and expect to be fluent once you’ve finished their course series.
You didn’t learn your first language that way. You didn’t do a few weeks of study or a few months or a few years, it was things coming at you from all over the place. You had your family, you had school, you had media. You learn to read, are immersed in language and constantly grow your vocabulary and learning grammar and learning content in and through the language that you’re engaged in. So to replicate it isn’t realistic. But now it’s just amazing the world we live in. It’s really exciting to be a language teacher in a language learner right now because so many things in the world are readily available online for us to study. It’s so much fun.
Listen to music in a new language, learn something in a new language, read in a new language, draw in and label the words and learn a new language to journal among the endless amount of possibilities that are out there.
Another thing that I absolutely love about the five weeks is the variety when I used to do my 200 our challenges.
I would try to do as many different things as I could with that uninterrupted time. So for example, when I was learning French, one of my very favorite activities was to do personality quizzes in French, which is essentially reading in France. You can buy these magazines at the supermarket. They’re really light reading but they were challenging for me and it was something I loved the weather being nice, opening the door, having my feet up, having a cup of coffee and doing personality quizzes and what that uninterrupted time. I would try to soak up as many activities as possible listening to music listening to conversations listening to people
and I would try to give myself as much variety as possible. And when I wasn’t in the target language country, I would try to offer myself variety that realistically fit into my life. So for example watching films in the target language at night is an easy way to get that and some variety into my language learning. So every five weeks. I like to switch it up.
so I’m still getting the investment of time it fits into my life, but I also
don’t let myself quit.
Because if you did the same thing over and over again, you’ll quit. I love Duolingo, but do Duolingo indefinitely you’ll quit and you’ll do the same with any one activity. Anyone course. You didn’t do that in your own language. You didn’t learn your own native language through one repetitive activity. So my five weeks always gives me something fresh and new to look forward to
And then the end is in sight particularly with some of the rougher spots for example as much as I love. My practice makes perfect books.
Spending 20 to 25 minutes a day is enough for me. I feel like I’ve made progress.
And I’m learning but to think about doing that until the end. I would probably quit putting it aside and not bring it back instead. I do a portion of the book and then maybe that following five weeks. I have traveled to look forward to or I have more sessions on italki or I have a period of time to look forward to just going to read things I like in the language. So it keeps you accountable. It keeps you going but you always have something fresh.
To look forward to so that’s where the five-week linguist came from. It’s all about investing time and adequate time. But doing it in a way that fits realistically into your life and that’s enjoyable and that offers you variety.
So I want to thank you so much for listening and we’ll talk soon. Adiós.