Multilingual Learning Plan for 2013


I’ve been enthused about language learning all my life, but I made a real discovery this year of an Irish guy named Benny Lewis who travels the world learning new languages and shares his language-learning tips on his website fluentin3months.com.

One of the things he encourages those members of his community to do is to set out a plan on how they want to tackle a new language in the coming year.  I’ve spent this weekend thinking about what I’ve done in the past year with the various languages I’ve learned, and planning what I want to do next year with each one. This post is the result of that effort.  I hope you can get inspired by it to create a language learning plan of your own for the next year.

In the chart below, I list for each language what level of fluency I am at now, any notable accomplishments I’ve done in learning that language in 2012, and then what my target level for 2013 is, together with any specific goals I have and what method I plan to use to reach those goals.

I must first, however, explain the shorthand I use when it comes to the fluency level for each language. This is the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This framework has been influential worldwide because China’s proficiency exams have been changed to conform to this framework.

Level Explanation
A1 Beginner Can introduce oneself and understand familiar everyday expressions.
A2 Elementary Can describe oneself and communicate about one’s immediate environment.
B1 Intermediate Can talk about past and future events and about most situations encountered at work or school.
B2 Upper Intermediate Can communicate about simple ideas and concepts in a way that is generally understood.
C1 Advanced Can communicate about complex ideas and concepts in a way that is easily understood.
C2 Fluent Can summarize complex idea and concepts and create coherent presentations.

With the fluency levels understood to be those referred to above, here’s my language planning chart for 2013. In the chart, RS means “Rosetta Stone”, TB means “Textbook”, FSI means “Foreign Service Institute course.”  The various abbreviations in the “Achievements” column are for the officially recognized proficiency exam for that country.

If it’s a European language I have it colored in red, if it’s an Asian language I have it colored in yellow, and if it’s a Middle Eastern language it’s colored in green. Spanish and Portuguese are, of course, originally European languages, but I’m specifically learning the South American version of these languages as opposed to the European version, so I have colored these two in orange.

Language 2012
Fluency

Level

Achievements in 2012 2013 Fluency

Level

Plan for 2013 Learning Resource(s)
Spanish B1 Passed DELE A1,
RS Level 4
B2 DELE A2, B1,
RS Level 5
FSI
French B2 Passed DELF B2, RS Level 4 C1 DALF C1,
RS Level 5

 

FSI
German B1 Passed Zertifikat B1
RS Level 4
B2 Zertifikat B2,
RS Level 5
FSI
Japanese C1 Passed JLPT N2 C2 JLPT N1 (C2) TB 
Chinese B1 Passed HSK 3 (B1) B2 HSK 4 (B2) TB
Arabic A1 RS Level 1 A2 RS Level 2-3, ALPT A1 TB, RS
Portuguese A1 RS Level 1 A2 RS Level 2-3,
CELPE-Bras A1
RS
Korean None None A1 KPE 1 (A1) TB
Italian None None A1 RS Level 1 TB
Farsi None None A1 RS Level 1 TB

So essentially my plan is to move up one level of fluency in the five languages I’ve studied and am already proficient in (B or C level), as well as in the two languages I’ve studied and am still a beginner in (A level).   I also plan to start three new languages in the coming year.  I would never have had the audacity to try such a thing if it weren’t for the inspiration of Benny Lewis, who knows a DOZEN foreign languages fluently.

Why am I starting these new languages? Korean is an obvious one to me because I’m in the manufacturing sector and Korea has become such a powerhouse in manufacturing, especially if you live like I do on the West Coast. Italian has no real direct professional reason but I am inspired to learn it for fun and because it’s the next European language on my list of languages I want to learn. Farsi is because there are so many people of Iranian heritage here in the Los Angeles area and I want to learn to speak their language. Someday I’ll try a language that’s from a different area, such as India or Africa.

But the point is to have a plan, and to use multitasking whenever possible to practice using the languages you are learning.

  1. I listen to language recordings while driving. Traffic is not seen as a curse but as a way of turning your vehicle into a language lab. Plus if you get frustrated, you can practice yelling insults to the other drivers in other languages!
  2. I listen to language recordings while doing housework. It takes away the drudgery of routine physical tasks by listening to foreign languages while doing it.   You’ll reorder your brain while putting order into your environment, let’s put in that way.
  3. I like renting foreign films from Netflix and watching the film first in the foreign language, and then again with the English subtitles turned off after I know the story.
  4. I like the Spanish, French, and German audio magazines from Plango which I listen to on their mobile phone app while waiting in line at the grocery store, DMV, etc.  I also like the phone app called Skritter which helps me practice Japanese and Chinese character writing when I want a short break from work. There is something about recalling and tracing characters on the screen that relaxes me almost as much as meditation.
  5. Finally, the proof of language learning is in the speaking, and I plan to find native speakers through Meetup groups, through my Toastmasters network, or other means.

These are some creative ways I try to use my time so that I can do something as audacious as to follow Benny Lewis’ lead, whom I mentioned at the beginning of the post.   There’s no reason why I can’t shoot for the same goal of being fluent (C2 level) at a dozen or more foreign languages.   It is a journey of 1,000 miles, but I can do it–one step at a time for each language I’m studying.

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