Language Buddies are the Best Accountability Partners

Blogging. I used to be good at this. For the Total Language Challenge 2013, I blogged almost every day for 5 months.  But now? Now it’s hard.  I’m on Twitter a lot more than here (@AiyaLianxi), so feel free to poke me there if you stumble across this.

In fact, it’s because of Twitter that I’m writing this. Someone retweeted The Compassionate Language Learner’s post about language buddies.  You could consider this a prolonged comment to that post, if you like.  It addressed something I think is very important.  While the polyglots are inspiring to watch, to read, and perhaps even talk to, it can seem a little overwhelming to think that we can make the leap from aspiring language learner to fluent speaker.

For me, it’s enviable that some of them have accomplished in weeks that I haven’t managed in four years: self teach themselves a language. Yes, I started self studying Korean in late 2011, and I’ve only recently learned to string sentences together in a grammatical fashion.  Sure, I can travel Japan pretty well, converse in a variety of topics, and manage to baffle native speakers by talking about politics, but that came from classrooms. That came from study abroad. That came from hours spent, thousands of dollars in student loans, and the threat of GPA and financial aid if I didn’t meet my goals.

After graduation? Both Japanese and Chinese dried up on me, and what little Korean I’d gained disappeared. Until I got serious about iTalki in January, and restarted my tutoring sessions last month, I wasn’t speaking at all. Even though I work in an office with Japanese, Chinese, and Korean speakers!

So why do I think language buddies are the answer?  Well, I think the thing those amazing polyglots have that we all envy is determination and willpower that those of us still struggling…well, struggle with.  With language buddies, I don’t think we need to be studying the same language, that’s not really the point, and might even be a problem in some situations. I know I’m jealous of several friends who are more fluent in Mandarin than I am, and that doesn’t help me or them.  But I think accountability is important, and accountability works a lot better if you are both enthusiastic about it.  It’s why I get together with noveling friends a couple times a week to write and talk about our struggles. I mean, I tell my husband I wrote 25,000 words, and his response is a flat stare, and a woo? It doesn’t mean he’s not supportive, it just means he doesn’t understand how incredible it is to reach that landmark.

Like, reaching the milestone of conjugating verbs into present, past and future tense in Korean? That was mind blowing to me.  And I didn’t really have anyone to share that moment with.  (Korean is a agglutinative language like Turkish and Japanese, so verbs are insane)  If I’d had a language partner, even online to share that moment with, it would have meant more, and I think pushed me to make more sentences, and push farther.  But I don’t have that right now.

Compassionate Language Learner is talking about sending out daily emails, pairing up language learners, but I want to go one step further.  For people on WordPress or other blogs trying to track their language progress, why don’t we reach out to each other, encourage ourselves to keep learning, keep practicing–but also keep writing?

One of the reasons my blogs fail is because I feel like nobody’s reading them.  And if anyone out there has felt that way, why don’t we team up?  I’ll push you to keep going, if you push me.  Let’s work our way from I want to speak this language to Yeah, I guess you could call me fluent.

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