When I was young my dad gave me a small book with a black cover and rainbow-colored lettering called, If You Don’t Know Where You’re Going You’ll Probably End Up Somewhere Else.
I’m sure that I still have that book somewhere, within one of the many cardboard boxes of books that I refuse to throw way as I’ve moved from my childhood home to dorm to apartment after apartment to house, etc.
The title really says it all. In order to take ambition to the next level it’s important to set clear goals. It’s the same idea that Stephen Covey touted in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: beginning with the end in mind. The same holds true for language learning and I’ve found some fabulous blogs by fellow language learners that address the topic in various ways. (Check out www.thepolyglotdream.com) After goals are defined, a person should set out to establish consistent daily and weekly habits in order to learn content and practice his language of choice. (See Gretchen Rubin’s book Better than Before for ideas on what works for you.)
I’ve established some language goals for myself which include taking a DELF exam this spring – more about that in a later blog post – and finding ways to get out of my comfort zone so that I’m immersing myself in situations where I can converse and get feedback. And of course, singing French art song.
I’ve learned that speed of learning depends on an individual’s previous language learning experience, environment, time spent learning, and how close the new language is to my own.
French is straightforward in syntax, yes, but it’s a frontal, highly placed language which incorporates sounds not used in the English language, i.e. mixed vowels, nasal vowels, and the uvular r. It’s also a legato language in which all syllables are equally unaccented until the last syllable of a word or phrase. Consonants are unaspirated and smooth word connection is created with the help of liaison and elision. As a classical singer, I’ve already mastered the phonetic aspect of French, but these are with prepared texts. Speaking off the cuff is a different ballgame altogether.