Lost in Translation
Until you value yourself, you won’t value your time. Until you value your time, you will not do anything with it.
– M. Scott Peck
I’m on a mission to seize the spare moments. I want to reclaim lost time.
I would like to think that when I travel I wake up earlier. I spend the day exploring, learning. I sleep without knowing what tomorrow will bring. To me, those are the sweetest dreams.
This isn’t quite true.
Flights get delayed. Plans go awry. And sometimes I just stare into space. For a while.
We talk about killing time. We ponder how to pass it. We while away the hours.
Then a New Year comes and – suddenly – time becomes omnipresent. As christmas lights dim they are replaced with a flickering awareness of our own transience. Then it all goes bang – a flash of neon color in the night sky.
After the fireworks we are left with the scent of sulphur and our resolutions. Here are mine for 2015
1.) Make the most of my time
2.) Learn Swedish
3.) Improve my French
For me, learning a language in 2015 is not so much a resolution as an imperative. I need to improve my French so that I can interact with the locals in the small Moroccan town that we live in. I need to learn Swedish to truly get to know my boyfriend’s friends and family.
So I have decided to seize the spare moments – reclaim lost time – to study languages.
It was with all three of my resolutions in mind that yesterday I was gifted a copy of “Fluent in Three Months” by Benny Lewis
After a restless night, I have finished the book. Here are the four most important lessons that I took from it.
1. There is no such thing as ‘the Language Gene”.
Its not about being naturally good at languages. Otherwise I would just give up now. According to Lewis, it always takes dedication and hard work. There are just better ways of learning languages than the traditional ways that we have been taught in schools.
2. Live don’t learn it.
Immersion is key to learning languages. Lewis insists that this doesn’t mean that you have to be in the country. You do, however, have to consume their media. Tv shows, magazines, blogs, movies, and music can all be amazing language tools. For me, this has been the perfect opportunity to turn my lazy moments into productive habits. I have started reading Swedish fashion blogs and watching Bron (The Bridge). Obsessed.
3. Start speaking from day one.
This is the hardest one for me, but probably the most important. It’s tempting to wait until I reach a level where I will be ‘ready’ to speak to native speakers. Lewis argues -vehemently – that we resist this urge. Its all about having the confidence to make mistakes. Lewis insists that a ten second conversation is better than hours of study. If native speakers are hard to find, he suggests website such as italki for an online language exchange. Couch surfing meetings are also one of his favorite ways to test out a new language. Google it.
4.) Mneumonics, not repetition.
Lewis bemoans the fact that, although we learn so many facts at school, we rarely get the opportunity to learn how to learn. So, most of us attempt to memorize new vocabulary through repetition. Modern schooling has replaced the mneumonic techniques of ancient Greece with a system of repetitive exposure. We try to “burn” the information into our brain.
A better way? We make memories through association. Sights, smells, feelings and powerful images are what knit together our memories. It is better to associate the word phonetically, the way that it sounds, with a story that we make up.
For example, yesterday I tried to learn the Swedish word Stund, which means moment. So in my mind I see myself stand (sounds like stund) waiting ‘just a moment’ for the bus. Then I see, and feel, the first snowfall of the winter. The bus gets caught in the snow and takes far longer than a moment to come.
It sounds like this story, actually a true memory, would take way to long to work as a ‘keyword association’. But trust me, it works.
So, in the name of creative learning, I have made up the prettiest flashcards that I could muster. They are made with the beautiful Brancott Estate Wine labels, my new favorite. Interspersed here are some of the loveliest Swedish phrases that I have discovered so far. Jag hoppas ni gillar det!
If you have any tips about learning a second language I would love some help! Feel free to comment below.