First of all thank you to fellow polyglot and awesome blogger Maria from Dedidated Polyglot for tagging me in this language tag.
I’ll get right to answering the questions and hope you may find this post interesting.
What would you consider your native language?
Danish is my native language. It’s the language spoken in my childhood home, and it’s the language I share with my husband, though admittedly, we mix in a lot of English. Over the years I’ve come to use English more and more and while it’s not my first language, it’s the language I use for work and therefore also the language I use for more abstract thinking.
What was your first language learning experience?
When I was around 3 I realized there was a language called German. I grew up around one hour from the German border and naturally went there a lot with my family as a child. Specifically my father speaks German very well and it can’t have been long after I started speaking that I realized that he would sometimes say things I didn’t understand. I was born curious and quickly started asking what this and that German word meant and how to say simple sentences in German. To me, it was a game and frankly a hilarious one.
What languages have you studied and why did you learn them?
From the 4th grade I started learning English in school. This was an until then relatively unfamiliar language, although I’d hear English songs on the radio and watch subtitled English content on TV. I loved learning this new language and felt a whole new world open up to me as I could gradually understand more and more of what was being said in the media. Discovering that the popsongs I had memorized had actual meanings was a thrilling experience. From 6th grade we continued with German, where I had a clear edge over my classmates. I decided to become just as fluent as my dad and dived into German TV programs, my parents’ tapes(!) with German pop songs from the ’80s and anything German to make this happen. I even loved German grammar, which to me had a logical shine to it, something completely lost on my classmates who mostly hated German. After a family trip to Italy in 7th grade I committed to self-studying Italian in my spare time. I got my hands on a set of Italian textbooks, had a few CDs with Italian pop songs, and an occassional access to Italian broadcasting networks. I devoured everything Italian and quickly noticed that I could understand more and more. I practiced my pronunciation by shadowing the more slow Italian pop songs and singlehandedly reached a fairly decent level of Italian proficiency. A couple of years later when we were again in Italy, I was able to carry conversations with the Italians without much trouble. I was around 14 at the time and so excited to see the fruit of my efforts. From the 8th grade I started learning French, which I took as an elective in school. I already had a fairly good grasp of the language because of its similarities with Italian, and thus quickly got bored when we 3 months into the course hadn’t moved past self introductions. The slow pace was killing me, and I begged my parents to let me skip the course. I got their permission and quit French around Christmas. For quite a few years, this would be the full extent of my multilingualism. I eventually did take French again in highschool, now a different teacher and a different pace, but even though I got top grades I never really developed the same interest and passion for French as I had done with e.g. Italian. One summer after highschool I spent some time at an international youth summer camp in Lithuania. One day into the program I was so intrigued by the Lithuanian language that I bought a phrasebook and quickly learned a few survival phrases to the joy of some of the non-English speaking camp supervisors. Even though this is 12 years ago, I still remember the basic expressions to this day. Obviously this was a shortlived interest, but I did learn a little over the relatively short time span. During my first two years in college I enrolled in a lot of German classes only to discover that if you really want to kill your interest for any language you should go study it at a university. I quickly changed my major to economics and business administration and never looked back. Over the next many years I would learn no new languages and sometimes even forget that I, at heart, am a polyglot. In fact it wasn’t until three years ago where I had to spend a semester in Sweden as part of my doctoral degree that I set out to learn Swedish. Since this is similar to Danish, my approach here was natually a bit different. I found one textbook and supplemented with all the Swedish audio and reading material I could get my hands on. After four months I was fluent in Swedish and able to use it as my professional working language. The following year marked the beginning of my linguistic love affair with Korean and I’ve shared many times on this blog how I started learning Korean in preparation for going to Korea with my Korean adoptee husband. Then, last summer I felt that I had reached a solid command of Korean, and having rediscovered my passion for language learning I spontaneously signed up for a Chinese (Mandarin) evening class. I went three times and then decided to quit on the same grounds as quitting French in the 8th grade. I may take it up again, but if I do I’ll do it on my own.
How does your personality affect your language learning?
I’m extremely persistent and stubborn and I’ve come to think that this may actually be an advantage when it comes to language learning. I’m in many ways a person who enjoys routines and find them hard to break. In this way studying Korean every morning is a useful routine I wouldn’t ever be without.
Do you prefer learning a language in a class or on your own?
Definitely on my own. That said I believe in finding a good conversation partner who can encourage and correct you.
What are your favorite language learning materials?
Korean drama series, Korean podcasts, and books, books, books! I love reading, and reading in Korean is just awesome. I actually measure my proficiency in a language by whether or not I’m able to read an entire novel in that language. So far I’ve read (and completely understood) novels in English, German, Swedish, and Korean. I haven’t done so with Italian, which is also why I no longer feel that I’m truly proficient in Italian.
How much time do you spend learning a language per day?
When all is combined I spend around 3-4 hours doing something language learning related every single day.
What are your short-term and long-term language goals?
In the short term I want to improve my Korean as much as possible before going to Seoul in August. In the longer term I want to become as close to a Korean native speaker’s level as possible.
What is your favorite language?
Korean. No contest.
What is the next language you want to learn?
I’m not really sure yet. It may be Mandarin but I don’t see it happening anytime in the near future.
What advice could you give new language learners?
Find some good materials, pair up with a native speaker, and commit to doing something related to your target language Every. Single. Day.
If you have any more questions, or would like me to elaborate on any of the above, please comment below.
To keep the fun rolling I’d like to tag:
Cammilla from Cammillas’s Korea
Koen from Koen Speaks
I look forward to hearing your language learning stories!