The Polyglot Conference will soon take place in October of this year in Reykjavík. I usually watch the lectures on the conference’s YouTube channel. So, whilst waiting for this I re-visited a few lectures from past sessions. A useful one for me today was by the highly-respected polyglot Judith Meyer.
Her lecture was on methods and goals and so I thought I’d share her idea of ‘goal-focused learning’. This is largely to identify the resources that allow you to achieve your goal. Her example was that she was interested in the Japanese game Go and her approach to the language was focused on that. So whilst she argues that she is very much a beginner in the language for, say, conversation, when it actually comes to watching TV shows or anime about Go! she is a master. This then, as she says, would allow (if she wanted to) to use that specific field to move onto something else in the language. So, as she again says, if your interest is in reading literature then why spend time doing Pimsleur? Not only is having a specific goal important but if you try to focus on reading, writing and speaking then progress in the language will be slower than if you simply narrow your field. Meyer isn’t saying don’t do all the other things, if you want to do something then do it, but she gives some great advice about how to help your goal. These are just two of the things she outlines.
In order to become confident at speaking you begin with Lang-8 (write what you would say and have it corrected), then move onto Self-Talk, Text Chat and then Skype (can still write things if having difficulties). Next stage is to speak in person and finally phone conversations.
Judith gave a number of resources to use for this. You can begin with books like ‘German for Reading’, ‘Spanish for Reading’ etc. Parallel texts can also be useful and when confronted by, say, difficult, descriptive passages not to feel frustrated but read the native language side. The point is to enjoy what you’re reading. Meyer also recommended the ‘Little Prince’ for its simplicity and nuances and writers such as Dan Brown where interesting things are always happening and you won’t get bogged down with difficulties. In fact, it’s useful even to have a variety of books by the same writer as you’re likely to come across the vocabulary again and therefore this provides great reinforcement, In non-fiction, autobiographies and travel writing can also be useful. In addition, Meyer added that she sometimes does a two hour grammar session before reading to get a sense of the language.