Speak to me...

As many of you may know, I am a believer in the language learning method of Benny the Irish Polyglot. He believes one can become fluent in a language in three months. And he believes this because he’s done it. Now, if you follow him, you know it takes a lot of work to become fluent in three months–in fact, it’s essentially Benny’s full-time job. But that doesn’t mean it’s out of reach for the rest of us.

I also follow the methods of David Snopek of LinguaTrek, who essentially learned Polish by reading and listening to one of the Harry Potter books in Polish. I am following his method by reading and listening to The Little Prince in Polish (Mały Książę). Though it was a while ago, I have read the book in English so I know the basics of the story. That is very helpful as I read it in another language. With dictionary close at hand, of course..

(As an aside, I bought my copy of the Mały Książę at the Polish bookstore in Paris, which I was happy to discover just a few blocks from the apartment where I stayed last summer.)

They both believe, and I agree with them, that traditional language classes and a focus on grammar are not the best way to learn a language. The best way is by jumping in with both feet–speaking, reading, listening, and writing. One must eventually learn some grammar, of course, but that’s not the place to start.

And if you doubt, here is a paragraph from the book 301 Polish Verbs. Take into account that as I read this passage, I was fully aware of the meaning and use of the two verbs they used in the example (pisać and napisać, to write). Yet, it still took several readings of this passage for me to understand what the heck this means. Sort of.

“Almost all Polish verbs are either imperfective or perfective and are concerned with the character or quality of the action. An action that is never completed in the present calls for an imperfective verb in the present tense, but an action that gives no indication of completion in the future, only that it will occur in the future, requires the imperfective aspect–the compound future form. On the other hand, an action that is to be completed in the future demands the perfective aspect and the simple future tense form. Finally, an action in progress, repeated or habitual, requires the imperfective aspect and the past tense derived from it; moreover an action that is definitely finished and completed calls for the perfective aspect and the past tense derived from it.”

Um…what?

Let’s face it, I would hardly know what that means if that passage was discussing English language verbs. So it’s definitely not a great place to start if you don’t know anything about the language. In fact, I know those two verbs from reading them and figuring out on my own that they each mean the same thing, but somehow differently. And it was still a challenge to interpret this grammatical rule from this paragraph and the accompanying examples.

My language learning slowed down a little bit at the end of the year, due to a motivational deficit. As I work on my goals for 2013, I will be incorporating learning Polish into my intermediate goals, so I can ramp up my learning. Not fluent in three months as I originally hoped. But soon!

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