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Dabbling Around in Different Languages

Dear Professor Arguelles,

First of all, thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and insights with this community. You, Sir, are a great inspiration.

My name is Daniel Byers. I´m 31 years old. I am from Germany but I am half American and grew up using both German and English. Unfortunately my English is not as good as my German since I was brought up in Germany. I love studying languages, yet I think that I only dabble around in them. I am not really good or proficient at any of them. I alternate between learning French (I am especially fond of Québécois), Russian, Latin and Japanese. I currently live and work in Japan, therefore I returned to Japanese. Last year I worked my way through an old Assimil book for Russian you once recommended in a Youtube video and even contacted Assimil to acquire the old audiofiles. I digitized, edited and converted them via audacity into mp3 files. For me, it’s more enjoyable to put work into something than to review it. I also like to create intricate Anki flashcards. But I don´t like to review them. In general I study autodidactically. I also worked my way through the first Japanese Assimil book. I recently started the second volume. I can only focus on one language at a time. But at the same time I cannot focus on one just one language at a time, it seems. While I study one of them the other languages are on my mind. This distracts me a lot. It’s like taking away a child’s toy. Even though the child is not playing with the toy, she wants it back and drops the one she was just playing with.

Have you had similar experiences and maybe some advice for me? Thank you in advance.

Kind regards,

Daniel Byers

My reply:

Dear Daniel Byers,

Thank you for writing with an issue that I assure you is not unique to your case. You describe a need to focus on one language at a time, but a dissatisfaction with doing so, a need to look at other languages as well. Well then, look at them. The solution for someone like you is to develop a major orbit and a smaller epicycle that circulates around or through it. In your case, the major orbit would be for Japanese, so put all your time and energy into that. However, reserve 15 minutes a day for an epicycle to include French, Latin, and Russian. Experiment with different ways of doing this – 5 minutes a day each, or 15 minutes a day for one, with them taking turns every three days. This will be enough to keep them alive in your head while at the same time allowing you to make strides in Japanese by remaining focused on that. When occasion calls for it, you might put one of the others into the major orbit and put Japanese into the epicycle to maintain it. You may also find that at some point down the line you will be able to devote more time to learning/using your languages, so the system would need to be adjusted accordingly.

With best wishes for success in your language studies,

Alexander Arguelles

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My name is Alexander Arguelles. I have pursued foreign languages and literatures with a passion all my life. My goal is to share the knowledge and experience I have gained with others who would like to do the same. Find out more →

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