1. What languages do you speak and at what level?
I speak English fluently. It is my native language and the one that I use the most frequently. French comes in close second. It is one of the languages that I speak at home, but I don’t use it as often as English since I live and work in an English-speaking country.
After French and English, Mandarin is the language that I speak the best. Even though I’ve only studied it for a year (the shortest time I’ve spent with other languages), I’ve really worked on it intensely, so my ability in the language progressed much more quickly than languages I’ve studied longer (or that I’ve let slide).
Croatian, German and Italian are languages that I’ve studied in the past but haven’t done a great job of keeping up. I was working quite hard at Croatian up until recently, but I decided to take a break from it to really focus on Mandarin.
Lastly, I’ve recently started studying Russian. I don’t spend a lot of time with it because my focus is still Chinese. I also find it more difficult than the other languages I’ve studied, so my progress is quite slow. Despite my snail-like pace, however, I really enjoy studying it and look forward to spending more time on it after I sit the HSK exam for Chinese.
To know more: Languages
2. How do you choose the languages you learn?
This is actually a really tough question. I chose them all for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it was because I had a burning desire to learn them, others because I thought they would be practical, and even because they were the only option available to me at the time.
What I think is a bit more important than how I choose them is what needs to happen once I start to learn them.
I need to fall madly in love with them. If I don’t, I find that I’m unable to continue studying them. I quickly lose interest. I love trying out new languages to see if they’re a good fit for me (regardless of why I’ve decided to try them out). When they are, it’s a great feeling and I love studying them. When they aren’t, I move onto another language.
There is one in particular, however, that I feel is worth singling out.
Chinese was a particularly odd one for me. It was the first language I chose because I thought it would be practical (the others I chose because I wanted to learn them or because I had no other choice). I was undecided between it and Japanese (the language that I thought I wanted to learn), but decided to go with Chinese. I initially had a hard time with it because it wasn’t really my first choice, but after I spent a few months with it, it started to grow on me. Now I’m totally obsessed and I spend almost all my free time studying Mandarin. It is definitely the perfect example of how falling in love with a language dictates whether or not I will stick with it.
To know more: Why you should choose a language that you love
3. When did you begin learning each language?
When my brother and I were growing up, we were spoken to in two languages – Spanish and English. But when I was about four or five, English took over and now, I really don’t remember any of the Spanish I had learnt. I have family that is from all over Europe – German, French, and Croatian grandparents – and while I never really got to meet them all, I heard stories about language and communication frequently as a child. I think that really played a huge part in language being an interest for me later on.
I started formal language lessons at the age of twelve, but it was in a language I was already familiar with, so when I was fifteen, I started taking language courses at our local college. I chose the languages my friends spoke so that we could have a “secret” language to share, but I didn’t really pursue language learning seriously until I began my master’s degree at Queen’s University Belfast. There, I realized just how much I enjoyed the learning process. I filled my schedule with as many language courses they would allow and lived in the library studying the languages that I wasn’t able to take as part of a class.
When I graduated, that passion stayed with me which is why I began Eurolinguiste.
4. How often do you use each language?
I study Chinese every day and Russian most days. I occasionally study Croatian and Italian, but not often. I almost never study German any more. I recently wrote a post about my plan to refresh both German and Italian, though I will probably wait until after the HSK exam to do it.
To know more: Making time for language studies
5. Which materials and methods do you use?
I wrote a post on the top eight resources I actually use, but the four I use most often are Memrise, Assimil, Pimsleur and iTalki, in no particular order. They are the first tools that I invest in whenever I start a new language and I have used them quite consistently the past few years.
6. Share any thoughts/tips you’d like with the readers.
This is tough because it’s hard to single out any one piece of advice. I would say that one of the most important things I can tell other learners – especially those a part of the online community – is to not compare yourself with other language learners. We all study and progress at different rates and we all learn differently. What one person might be doing might not work for you. It’s important to spend some time at the beginning to figure out who you are as a language learner, what your goals are and what study strategies are effective for you. You are your own unique person and you will learn new languages in your own unique way.