Multilingual Language Plan–June 2016


In March, I went to a local bookstore and got Benny Lewis’ book Fluent in 3 Months.   One of his first recommendations for learning multiple languages at the same time is to make concrete goals for each of the languages you intend to focus on.

So I wrote down a multilingual learning plan, which I intend to review every month.    The purpose of today’s post is to review the last month’s plan and improve upon it in drawing up a plan for the month of June and July.

  1. Multilingual language goals–Long-term

I am fluent in five foreign languages if you measure that fluency in terms of B1 level or higher on the Common European Language Framework.

So for those five languages, I have put my goal to become one level higher by 2017.

For the languages I have been studying but which I have not achieved fluency, I am also putting my goal to become one level higher by 2017.

For those languages I have not studied before, but which I want to study in 2016, I’m putting the target as BEGINNER (A1).

Level Goal Language
C2–Mastery
C1–Advanced Japanese, French
B2—Upper Intermediate Chinese, German, Spanish
B1–Intermediate Italian, Portuguese
A2–Elementary Arabic
A1–Beginner Korean, Dutch, Hindi, Irish

Although I put all languages on my level goal list, certain languages have higher priority level, which translates into studying frequency.   Also, although my ultimate goal is to speak with native speakers, my intermediate goal  is to use textbooks in order to prepare for proficiency tests.

2.  Multilingual goals–method, priority level

Language Goal (Test/Textbook) Priority
Japanese JLPT N2, Tobira High
French DALF C1/C2 Medium
Chinese HSK 4, eChineseLearning (online lessons) High
German ZDfB (B2) Medium
Spanish DELE B2, AP Spanish Medium
Italian Italian Now Medium
Portuguese Portugues Actual Medium
Arabic Mastering Arabic, Rosetta Stone Level 3 Low
Korean Integrated Korean Beginning 1 Low
Dutch Living Language Beginner Low
Hindi Beginning Hindi, Rosetta Stone Level 1 Low
Irish Living Language Essential Low
Vietnamese Elementary Vietnamese Low

3.   Multilingual goals–May 016 (review)

Here were my goals for the past month..

Language Goal (Test/Textbook)
Japanese Kanji Kentei review level 9–still working on level 9!!
French Start review of Foreign Service Institute French course level 1, units 1 and 2–now on unit 2
Chinese–DONE Finished 2x/week Skype lesson with eChineseLearning, HSK 4 listening comprehension test #2 prep, will now switch to Intermediate Spoken Chinese and Intermediate Written Chinese textbooks
German Duolingo (complete entire skill tree)–completed up to level 6 out of 8, start Foreign Service Institute German course level 1
Spanish Start review of Foreign Service Institute Spanish course level 1, units 1 and 2–now on unit 2
Italian None
Portuguese None
Arabic Mastering Arabic ch. 2, 3–only completed ch. 1
Korean Integrated Korean Beginning 1 (reading Hangul)–haven’t completed Hangul
Dutch NONE
Hindi Finished Pimsleur Hindi course units 1 and 2
Irish NONE
Vietnamese NONE

Well, I can tell you I didn’t accomplish very many language goals in April.   I did complete my three-month course of language learning at eChineseLearning, but the other goals I only partially completed.

But here’s why I’m putting these goals on my blog–because my failure to achieve them is public, it makes me want to rededicate myself to the goals of May.

Let’s see what I accomplish in the month of May!

Language Goal (Test/Textbook)
Japanese Kanji review level 9 (grade school level 2)
French Duolingo (refresh skill tree)–start DALF training (C1/C2)
Chinese Intermediate Spoken Chinese Unit 1
German Duolingo (complete entire skill tree), Foreign Service Institute Course
Spanish Duolingo (refresh skill tree)–start AP Spanish (C1)
Italian Start Italian Now
Portuguese Start Portuguese Grammar
Arabic Mastering Arabic ch. 2, Rosetta Stone Level 1 review
Korean Integrated Korean Beginning 1 (reading Hangul)
Dutch None
Hindi Pimsleur Hindi Course units 3-10, Beginning Hindi (reading Hindi script)
Irish Living Language Essential ch. 1
Vietnamese Elementary Vietnamese Pronunciation Guide

Here’s how I will improve my language plan for June.

a.  High-priority languages–after completing a three month Skype course in Chinese, I need review of some basic conversational patterns.   I got a textbook Intermediate Spoken Chinese from Tuttle Publishing which does exactly that.   What I like is that the conversations are recorded so that you can take the part of one person in the dialog at a time to really see if you can speak Chinese not just correctly, but at a conversational pace.

For Japanese, I found that the first step of the  review I can do for the JLPT N2 level exam is to review the Kanji and vocabulary for levels N5, N4, and N3.  In turn, the way to do this is to go through the elementary school Kanji grades 1 through 6, which means in terms of the Kanji Kentei (the Japanese Kanji Proficiency test aimed at native Japanese) to review levels 10 through 5.   This month I reviewed level 9 (grade school 2) by going all of the readings in a workbook and putting them on flash cards.   However, each grade there are more and more Kanji so, although I could finish all the level 10 Kanji in a month in March, I wasn’t able to do the same for the level 9 Kanji in April.    I’m practicing my Japanese listening skills by watching the NHK historical drama Ryomaden on Drama Fever.

b.  Medium-priority languages–I finished the skill trees for Spanish and French on Duolingo and am reviewing those languages now by listening to the Foreign Service Institute’s courses for Spanish and French.

I’m starting the 7th level of the German skill tree.   I aim to be done by the month of July.  It works well to concentrate on completing one skill tree at a time while periodically reviewing the ones I’ve already completed.    So I’ll complete the German skill tree before I start on Italian and Portuguese.

c. Low-priority languages–I was WAY too ambitious by listing all of the languages.   I started Arabic using a great textbook Mastering Arabic Vol. 1, but need to continue with Chapter 2.    I found that textbook is way better than the one I had been using before.   Korean and Hindi have different writing systems which I need to master before studying the languages in more depth.

d. Metalanguage–I found that Benny Lewis’ book Fluent in 3 Months was a great motivator for my language studies.  I’ve decided to get an online subscription to his Fluent in 3 Months website in order to go into more depth the principles that were in his book.   The first section is on Language Hacking, using tips and tricks to accelerate my language study of any language I’m studying

Let’s see what I accomplish in the month of June and July!

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Saying Goodbye–On Father’s Day


At our service this morning, a fellow member of the congregation Leanne Roth gave a sermon on “Saying Goodbye” for Father’s Day.   Her father passed away last year, and the sermon was how she reconciled with him during his lifetime after a difficult relationship she had with him as a child.    He was a military father, and his profession made him, in her young eyes, strict and overbearing.    He divorced from her mother when she was a teenager and Leanne lost contact with him until her mother passed away.

When she passed away, her father contacted her and they began a slow reconciliation that took place over years.   By the time he moved into a retirement home, they spoke everyday on the phone.   When he needed to go into an assisted living facility when he grew more frail, she insisted he move near her so she could take care of him.   They grew together throughout their lives through a frank reassessment of his relationship with her as a child, and his passing last year was sad for her, of course, but she felt at peace because she had in effect been saying goodbye to him constantly in the last year of his life in the process of taking  care of him.

When she finished her talk, as her worship assistant, I took the opportunity to let her know that her memory had sparked a memory of my own that occurred to me.   You see, my father passed away last year as well.    I came back from Los Angeles to Chicago in 2013 in response to his request for assistance after he had a mild stroke following an exploratory procedure prior to a proposed heart valve surgery.    He went to a rehab facility, and I visited him every day until he was released.   I decided to stay in the Chicago area with my father, and I took it upon myself to be his “turn-down service” in the evening, helping putting him to bed after his caregiver left for the evening.

In the two years after that, our relationship deepened in the same way that Leanne had described with her father, except in my case my relationship was already close with my father when I was child.    But her story did remind me of when I said goodbye to my own father just before he passed away..

It was the end of September 2015 last year, when my father complained of pains in his side which my sister (who is a physician) suspected were due to his gall bladder.    His own doctor concurred, and had him sent to the hospital.   They determined that he needed to have gall bladder surgery.   Although it was going to be a less invasive form of surgery called laparoscopy rather than the way such surgery used to be done, it was still going to be dangerous for an 89-year-old man to undergo.    They scheduled his surgery for a Monday, and I came to the hospital on Saturday to comfort him.

His caregiver Lacola said that they were giving him something for the pain, but his biggest problem was … boredom.    Laying there waiting for surgery for two years under slight sedation dulled the pain, but didn’t dull his mind.    He complained that the hospital TV didn’t get any of the international channels that he enjoyed at home.    I suddenly got a thought that, since his first career was a newspaper reporter, he might appreciate a newspaper to read.   When I suggested I go downstairs and get one from the gift shop, his eyes lit up and I saw a slight smile cross his face.    And then, he did something extraordinary:   he sat up in bed, adjusted his glasses, and looked over them to me as he said in an aristocratic manner, “I’ll remember you in the will.”    His caregiver rolled her eyes at his making a joke at a time like this, but I knew that this was his way of thanking me.

I decided to play along with “aristocratic” role he was jokingly playing, and went and got a newspaper from the gift shop.   On returning to the room, I asked a nurse’s aide for a tray, and I placed the newspaper on the tray and brought it in to him with the air of a servant bringing something to his master.   I saw a twinkle in his eye as he appreciated my playing along with his jest.

That was the last time I saw him alive–the next morning as I left church and prepared to see him at the hospital, my sister called and said the hospital just contacted her to tell her our father had just passed away.   When I went to the hospital, I said goodbye to him, but somewhere in my mind I realized I had been saying goodbye to him in effect the past few years of his life.    This was why although I was sad at his passing, I felt at peace like Leanne did,  because I didn’t take his presence for granted and had constant contact with him.    I appreciated that, even though his body was weaker than it was when he was younger, his curiosity and his sense of humor were intact to the very day he died.    In our last meeting, he showed that he loved telling a joke for its own sake, but if others played together with him in the telling, he appreciated it so much more.    With that memory, my seeing his body in the hospital was not as much of a shock.

I saw him, lying there peacefully as if he would get up any moment to say “where the hell are my reading glasses?”, and instead of thinking about the loss of him no longer being here, I thought of what the nurse had said.    She was taking care of the patient in the next bed, when she heard my dad cry out.   As she parted the curtain, she saw my dad reaching out, crying my mother’s name and then … his eyes rolled up and he dropped back down in his bed–and was gone.

I thought of his reuniting with her and telling her jokes which she still didn’t get.   And I felt at peace.

So my advice to you all whose fathers are still alive is … don’t be like the man in the song “The Cat’s Cradle” by Harry Chapin.   Make time for him, even if it is a weekly phone call.   Your relationship with him will not end when he passes away, but your ability to improve that relationship will.    Take the opportunity now–while you can!