Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Need to Speak

I love to learn languages.

Well, honestly I love the concept behind language - bits and pieces of sound from our mouths, coming together in some masterful order that relays messages of any sort. And then, there are so many different ways to attach the sounds to each other that it just leaves me in awe. But I've noticed something just a few minutes ago:

I don't use them!

Really, all this time learning French and Japanese yet in the end I use English because its what I need to use. There aren't enough French and/or Japanese outlets for me into interact with on a constant basis. And because of that, all my effort slowly start to unwind themselves and I end up forgetting what I learned.

Now what is a boy to do? Is he to run away, abandon his dreams of traveling to faraway lands and actually understanding the natives instead of depending on hastily brought phrase books to get him through the trip? And heaven forbid he ever gets lost, for he won't know heads from tails, much less how to read a map.

No, he will not run away. Instead, he will create avenues to interact with the languages in a more hands on manner.

Now, I'm the type of person who when learning a language likes to only read. Reading is easy. Its personal and you can take as much time as you need to look up words and the such. But now, I'm sick of simply just reading. It doesn't help me when I need to speak, which should be most of the time. So, here is my plan to fix this:

As I look around my room right now, I see a good amount of books in French and Japanese that I've collected through nothing less than unusual means. Most of them are in a bookshelf just watching the days roll past. Now what I would like to do is once or twice a week, take a passage from one of these books and record myself reading it. Then allow for full public humiliation by posting the audio files right here on this blog.

Why would I be so willing to send myself up the river like that? Well, its because this is the area that I am lacking in - speaking in another language. I am far too bashful for my own good and my speech is choppy at best. By putting the files online, I'll have a record of my progress so I can see how far I've come and how far I still need to go.

Here is what I hope to be the most interesting part. In every post with audio, I plan to have a copy of the text I'm reading typed out for all to see. This way, not only can people who actually do speak the langauge properly can point out where I made mistakes and maybe even make audio files of their own for me and anyone else to listen to and repeat after, working on the sounds we mercilessly massacred. Matter of fact, I want anyone who is learning the language the post is in to post audio of what their reading so that they can get feedback as well.

Of course, there are some flaws I see in this. One is that its going to be seriously painful for me to go back and listen to my own files since I completely detest the sound of my own voice when recorded. Second is that no one will upload files with me. But even if that does happen, its still ok because what matters is the practice I'll get from it.

Anyways, I plan to get the first file up, if not today, then by Friday. I still can't believe this never occurred to me before...


  1. A couple interesting language learning posts from Timothy Ferriss:

  2. Audioblog sounds like a great approach.

    You could also start a language speaking meetup group, after some time. People who just get together to try out different languages.

    But you're definitely right on track about doing something to keep up with the languages you have learned so far -- I got a distinction in French in grammar school, but so much time has passed in actually keeping practice that I can barely follow along these days, esp. in the spoken form.

  3. I'm happy to see that you're trying my advice! It's no humiliation - People who laugh about that are stupid.What about those little homeworks? If you want to talk in French we should try once.Next time you're on maybe...