LingQ User Stories: Markus’ Journey to Fluency
LingQ User Stories are articles written by LingQ users. This is their chance to document their journey to fluency and share their experiences in order to help inspire other language learners.
At the time of writing, I am studying Spanish, French, German, Italian and Dutch.
The reason why I study any language is because I like exploring new cultures and learning about new people and the countries that they come from. When I was younger, I studied for reasons of vanity. I also like a challenge and in the future I might study other languages because of the grammatical challenge involved.
How long have I been studying
In terms of years, I have been studying Spanish for 10 years, French for 9 years, German for 6 months back in 2011 and took a bit of a hiatus until a few years ago, Italian for a few months (started in 2019) and I’ve recently started studying Dutch.
I have had periods where I have been extremely focused and made immense progress but ended up getting stuck. This is common amongst language learners because usually when learners get to an intermediate level, they start to put in less work because they are at a conversational level. They start to think that they’ll get fluent automatically.
I have no idea how many hours I have put into language learning but I do know that I have wasted a lot of time “studying” passively and not being 100% focused. This is probably due to my arrogance and me saying to myself, “I know the grammar already, I’ll just read over whatever comes my way”.
What are my goals
My goals are to obtain a CEFR B2 certificate in at least two languages (probably Spanish and Italian) by the end of the year (2019). Then I want to obtain CEFR B2 certificates in German and French.
However, for many years, I felt that these goals were far from attainable because I felt that I didn’t put in the necessary effort required to reach them.
I later decided that I would increase my effort and once and for all achieve my linguistic goals. I have tried to be smart and to develop a language learning method that is so meticulous that would make even Sherlock Holmes proud 😉
Immersion (without going overseas)
In order to immerse myself, I read a lot of books. Most books I read are written by native speakers of the language I am learning (rather than being translated).
I enjoy reading classic literature but I try to stay away from these types of books in the early stages of learning.
I like to use Amazon for buying books because it is a source that I am familiar with and it prevents me from jumping back and forth between various sites.
Listening is something that I think I should do a lot more since it is the best way to utilise free time (for example, walking to work, riding a train, or working out).
I used to have a Sony Walkman (remember those?!) but the audio quality was dreadful and having to fiddle around with the wires was a pain. These days, I much prefer using a mobile phone and wireless headphones.
At first it was hard to get into the habit of downloading audio files from my computer to my phone and putting on the headset. However as with any habitual routine I’ve gotten used to it.
Pro-tip: LingQ comes with 1000s of hours of content, including audio. You can also import audio from YouTube and other media sources within seconds, store it on your phone, and listen to it.
If you are learning Spanish, RTVE is great for listening to podcasts. I like Asia Hoy, Africa Hoy and Hora America. It also has TV shows in Spanish that include Spanish subtitles.
Pro-tip: You can import content from RTVE into LingQ in seconds to make your studying easier! LingQ imports the audio and pulls the transcript allowing you to go through the dialogue, look up new words, listen to their pronunciation, create flashcards, and much more! Below is a screenshot of a LingQ lesson containing a popular Spanish TV show.
This French news website comes is updated with new content from Monday to Friday. However, the transcripts are not fully transcribed. I guess they want encourage people to try and listen without transcripts, rather than always reading them.
A German news radio station with news podcasts and transcripts.
Here are the YouTubers I follow in no particular order:
She is a professional language teacher who does grammar videos and vlogs on YouTube. Her videos are almost exclusively in Italian. She has a clear and pleasant voice and I think her grammar explanations are easy to follow.
Vincent has lots of videos on grammar but I wish he would provide more example sentences. However, I do think that he explains grammar in a concise and clear manner.
Jason is similar to the previous YouTubers I mentioned except that he teaches Spanish and Portuguese. Highly recommended.
These YouTubers are a married couple. The husband is an English native Spanish teacher and his wife is a native Spanish teacher. I recommend their video series called Gordon’s Diaries.
Jenny has a pleasant voice, gives lots of example sentences, covers grammar, and has a few travel vlogs too.
Up until the beginning of this year, I haven’t been listening much. However, I have been trying to incorporate more listening into my day-to-day activities such as going to the store, waiting for the bus, and so on.
The joy of writing is something that I have only recently discovered and plan to do more as a part of my “Sherlock Holmes” method. The way I would go about this is first I write in one of my stronger languages and then I start translating that piece into another language I am studying.
If you’re familiar in several languages, give this method a try.
I typically read a couple of chapters at a time. I try not to exhaust myself, I don’t typically read things twice but I plan to implement a routine that takes care of this.
I buy books on Amazon and import them to LingQ. Of course, reading books does more or less require you to be at a sort of B1 level at least. To be perfectly clear I have only studied languages where I was already at an intermediate level when I started to use LingQ.
Learning Italian, a closer look
Since Italian is closely related to Spanish and French, I used to skim through lessons. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I needed to start to read more books to maintain my vocabulary and improve faster.
I started reading the Sherlock Holmes Collection in Italian, which I bought off of Amazon. However, books like Sherlock Holme use a lot of archaic expressions and are not the best option in my opinion. If I were to start over I would probably buy a Harry Potter book or a Dan Brown novel.
Mistakes I made learning a new language
Forcing myself when I should have stopped
Perhaps my biggest mistake occurred when I was studying German at school.
I was the only one in the class that was a complete beginner and my German teacher didn’t inspire me with the same sort of passion that my Spanish and French teacher did.
My learning experience was frustrating because I had a book with no dialogue, a teacher who wasn’t inspirational, and was forced into a situation where I had to start speaking right away.
Anyways, I decided to push through…which was a mistake.
Why? It soured my relationship with German and is the main reason that I lost interest (until recently).
When I was about 19, I had a lot of personal issues that stifled my potential. Thankfully, learning new languages has built up my confidence immensely. For example, there were times where I thought I’d never learn the subjunctive of any romance language, the Germanic cases system, and much more.
Yet, here I am making plans to obtain my B2 CEFR certificate for the romance languages that I have been studying as well as German by the end of 2020. I honestly never thought any of this was possible.
But as Hannibal Barca once said “aut viam inveniam aut faciam” (I will find a way or I will make a way).
This LingQ User Story has been written by Markus (user ID Swedishfinngermanophile)