My Language Logs

Here I share my records tracking how I practice and study my different languages over the course of a week. Navigate by clicking on the table of contents below:

CONTENTS
1. Week-by-week analysis, March 20 - May 28, 2016
2. Averaged results for the above 10-week period
3. Further developments, fall 2016





Week 1 results


WEEK #1: 3/20-3/26, 2016 LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTAL Eng Rus Geor Germ Span Fren Pol Ukr Slov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words) 23:10 4:25 15:15 3:25 0:05
2. language clubs (may sometime look up words) 5:05 0:50 0:30 1:25 1:00 1:20
3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7) 4:15 0:20 3:10 0:15 0:10 0:20
4. listening to notes (FM step 6) 0:25 0:20 0:05
5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting 4:50 1:20 2:40 0:05 0:15 0:15 0:05 0:05 0:05
6. phonetics training 0:20 0:20
time taken out of schedule (2+3+6) 9:30 1:30 3:40 1:40 1:10 1:40
TOTAL TIME SPENT 38:00 4:25 17:55 10:15 1:50 1:25 2:00 0:05 0:05 0:05

Comments on Week 1


Russian and Georgian are my top-priority languages, and I'm satisfied with the total amount of time spent on each of those. I spent about the right amount of time on German, Spanish, and French. I'd like to increase Polish and Ukrainian to one hour a week or more.

Recently I've gotten more and more into shadowing (repeating audio out loud without pressing pause), usually at half speed. It's super effective for speaking mechanics and technical listening and is also a good substitute for conversation practice if you don't have enough of that. I expect shadowing to become a permanent part of my language practice and will include more information on it in my book. I mainly practice shadowing while doing housework in the mornings, so now my apartment is nearly immaculate, and the heap of dirty dishes is gone. 

This week I caught up on language note backlog for Georgian, so my numbers for private study were higher than they would normally be. 

Some people assume that I spend a ton of time studying languages. Yet language study and practice for all 8 foreign languages only took 9:30 out of my schedule, or about 1 hour 20 minutes per day. I work foreign languages into my daily life rather than devote my life to foreign languages. Even language clubs are arguably not really "time taken out of schedule" because they can be viewed as informal socializing and meeting people. Most of us need some amount of this anyway. 

Plans for Week 2


- catch up up on language note backlog for Russian; no more backlog from now on!
- find a good podcast in Ukrainian for shadowing
- increase shadowing practice for my 3 less active languages (especially Polish and Ukrainian) 
- get Polish and Ukrainian back into "ready-to-use" mode after months of neglect 
- increase time spent listening to notes
- have first lesson with Georgian speech therapist
- focus more on technical listening and note-taking at upcoming German and Spanish clubs

Week 2 results



WEEK #2: 3/27-4/2, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)23:105:5512:404:35


2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)5:25
2:000:401:30
1:15
3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:45
0:200:25


4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:35

0:25

0:10

5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting3:50
0:100:300:550:150:250:350:550:05
6. phonetics training2:05
0:201:45




time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)8:15
2:402:501:30
1:15

TOTAL TIME SPENT35:505:5515:308:202:250:151:500:350:550:05

Comments on Week 2


I finally began speech therapy in Georgian. It's a fascinating new challenge. Of course, I should've begun a while back, but it's not at all too late. I expect to work with a speech therapist off and on for the next several years.

There's only so much time in the day. I love shadowing, but I did so much with other languages this week that I miss the effect it had on my Georgian, which is top priority. Shadowing will help to reactivate my Ukrainian before my trip to Ukraine in a week.

I could have been a bit more proactive taking notes in Georgian this week.

My plans for this week will be modest because I am focusing on finishing some very important writing, and that diverts a little bit of energy from language study. 

Plans for Week 3


- more shadowing in Georgian to keep the language in a fully active state
- work on Georgian phonetics on my own in addition to lessons
- some shadowing in Ukrainian and Polish, since I'll be using both soon
- get to those Russian notes finally!

Week 3 results



WEEK #3: 4/3-4/9, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)19:459:157:153:15




2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)2:00


2:00



3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:20
0:20





4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:05

0:05




5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting1:45
1:050:100:30




6. phonetics training2:00

2:00




time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)4:20
0:202:002:00



TOTAL TIME SPENT25:559:158:405:302:30





Comments on Week 3


This is what a very busy, intensely work-focused week looks like. I skipped almost all my language clubs and didn't spend as much time talking as I normally do. I could definitely notice the difference. There was a slight drop in my ability to express myself in Georgian and Russian compared to usual. German club was extremely productive, and I very much enjoyed shadowing an interesting podcast in preparation for the meeting. I felt like I could really make some good progress in German over the next year or so by continuing at this 2-2.5 hr/wk pace with some shadowing included. Probably the same goes for my other 2nd priority languages as well (the 5 to the right of German).

Plans for Week 4


I'm going to be in Ukraine all week on business, so next week will look very different from the previous. Interesting question: is it best to spend one's free time during such trips on maintaining other languages or on squeezing more out of one's time in a particular country? I lean towards the latter.

Week 4 results



WEEK #4: 4/10-4/16, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)21:057:3013:30




0:05
2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)








3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:40
0:40





4. listening to notes (FM step 6)








5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting9:305:054:25






6. phonetics training








time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)0:40
0:40





TOTAL TIME SPENT31:1512:3518:35




0:05

Comments on Week 4


My language activities rarely get this simple. This is reminiscent of the months and years when I was speaking Russian exclusively. Those were good times! Most of the week I was working with a British film crew in Ukraine. Because of the workload and my other business I didn't even attempt to fit other languages in.

This visit to Ukraine has clearly illustrated what I said in my book. It's better to know one language really well than ten at a mediocre level. There is so much I can do because of my near-native Russian. The ease with which I connect with people and act socially dominant in Ukraine is far above what I can do with any of my other languages. There are countless opportunities for me to do interesting work (interesting for me): simultaneous interpretation, working with film crews, meeting new people, explaining things, giving presentations and seminars, leadership...

Yes, I enjoy all my hobby languages and the social opportunities they provide. But when it comes to my performance and self-realization, Russian is really all I need. 

Plans for Week 5


Half of the week I'll be in Ukraine, then I'll return to Georgia and resume my typical language practice. But I think I am going to focus even more on Russian than previously. We'll see.

Week 5 results



WEEK #5: 4/17-4/23, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)31:3512:4517:051:40



0:05
2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)1:15


1:15



3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)1:10
1:00
0:10



4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:05

0:05




5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting1:45
1:45






6. phonetics training5:10
5:10





time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)7:35
6:10
1:25



TOTAL TIME SPENT41:0012:4525:001:451:25


0:05

Comments on Week 5


Half of the week I was in Ukraine. I had three lessons with my speech therapist and resolved to make individual pronunciation work a high priority for the next month. I hope to spend 20-30 minutes a day on it. I'm excited about my progress and want to see if I can really speed things up by making a daily practice of my phonetics work.

I've noticed that I've gotten a lot better at shadowing and can keep it up for an hour or more while doing menial tasks without exhausting myself. The brain is flexible and can learn to do some really strange things with minimal effort.

A pattern is emerging: I take an average of about 6-7 hours a week out of my schedule for language learning (the second-to-last row). I spend this time a bit differently each week, but the amount stays roughly the same. A year or two ago, when language clubs were a bigger part of my social life, this amount was greater — 10-12 hours. 

Plans for Week 6


I'm excited to keep working on my Russian phonetics with the same intensity. I feel like I'm on a roll. At the same time, I need to work Georgian back into my schedule because otherwise I begin to feel less engaged in society around me. I don't expect to put any special effort into the other languages for now.


Week 6 results



WEEK #6: 4/24-4/30, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)22:203:4512:156:20




2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)5:15
1:25
2:301:20


3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:50

0:50




4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:20

0:20




5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting2:35
2:100:25





6. phonetics training1:45
1:45





time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)7:50
3:100:502:301:20


TOTAL TIME SPENT33:053:4517:357:552:301:20




Comments on Week 6


This week had a nice balance of Russian, Georgian, and English along with stimulating conversations at German and Spanish clubs. I focused a lot on phonetics training and shadowing in Russian, but still ended up doing a bit less than planned.

Larger amounts of Georgian practice helped me to feel more connected to and invested in society around me.

After 5 weeks without Spanish I could tell I was a bit rusty. Some basic words kept escaping me. But the stimulating conversation helped me get back into the swing of things speaking more or less fluently.

Plans for Week 7


Keep up the phonetics and shadowing training in Russian at the same or higher levels than last week. Keep up the Georgian conversation practice at similar levels.

Week 7 results



WEEK #7: 5/1-5/7, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)11:003:203:553:45




2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)1:50


1:50



3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)







4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:05

0:05




5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting1:10
1:10






6. phonetics training1:00
1:00





time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)2:50
1:00
1:50



TOTAL TIME SPENT14:053:206:053:501:50





Comments on Week 7


This is what a sick week looks like! I spoke very little and didn't go out much due to a bad cold. Not much else to say!

Plans for Week 8


As the cold is not over yet, I expect the next week to be low on practice. But I will slowly start talking again towards the end of the week.


Week 8 results



WEEK #8: 5/8-5/14, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)17:405:258:453:050:25



2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)5:30
2:10
1:501:000:30

3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:05

0:05




4. listening to notes (FM step 6)







5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting2:30
2:30






6. phonetics training1:15
1:15





time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)6:50
3:250:051:501:000:30

TOTAL TIME SPENT27:005:2514:403:102:151:000:30



Comments on Week 8


A much better week! I started talking and leading a normal social life again. I would always like to be doing more phonetics work than I currently am, but I find this amount of training (>1 hr) combined with mostly half-speed shadowing (>2 hrs), which gives me time to focus on proper enunciation, is sufficient to enable progress.

Plans for Week 9


Since my recent trip to Ukraine, I have been focusing effort more on Russian (specifically, pronunciation work), while my Georgian has suffered somewhat. This has the effect of making me feel a bit out of touch with my local surroundings. Somehow I need to find a balance between the two so that I am pursuing absolute mastery in Russian AND becoming more and more effective in Georgian society.

It is a lot easier to pursue mastery and integration in one language than in two. You can have lots of second and third-tier languages which don't compete with your main languages. It's the mastery focus that seems to take up mental energy.

This coming week I'm going to be interpreting at a conference in Budapest, so I won't be able to attend any language clubs.

Week 9 results



WEEK #9: 5/15-5/21, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)27:502:3024:200:55


0:05
2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)








3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:30
0:30





4. listening to notes (FM step 6)







5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting8:106:002:10






6. phonetics training0:15
0:15





time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)0:45
0:45





TOTAL TIME SPENT36:458:3027:150:55


0:05


Comments on Week 9


My language use was skewed by my interpreting work in Budapest. I would say that 25-30 hours of spoken communication per week is where I'd like to be. Significantly less than that feels like not talking enough.

It occurred to me that I haven't been keeping track of the time I spend looking up terminology during interpreting assignments and looking up any words I am unsure of, while reading, writing, etc. This would contribute to row #3 for Russian.

Plans for Week 10


Restart my shadowing practice for Georgian, but not to the detriment of Russian shadowing and phonetics work. Get my brain back into an active Georgian-learning state.

Week 10 results



WEEK #10: 5/22-5/28, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)22:006:2013:501:350:15



2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)2:45
1:15
1:30



3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:45
0:45





4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:05

0:05




5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting19:4511:506:050:50





6. phonetics training2:200:501:250:05




time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)4:200:503:250:05




TOTAL TIME SPENT46:4019:0023:202:351:45





Comments on Week 10


Several days of interpreting, this time mostly into English. As I was preparing for a video I'm making, I started working on some imperfections in my English articulation and ended up spending 50 minutes working on my English pronunciation. This was interesting since I hadn't consciously worked on it for many, many years.

Plans for the future


I am going to make a summary table for the past 10 weeks with average times spent on everything. Then I am going to take a break from the practice of recording everything and return to this at some later date.



10-WEEK SNAPSHOT (AVERAGES PER WEEK)



3/20-5/28, 2016LANGUAGES
ACTIVITY
(ordinary reading, writing, and listening activities not measured!)
TOTALEngRusGeorGermSpanFrenPolUkrSlov
1. conversations (may sometime look up words)22:106:1311:542:520:04
0:010:010:01
2. language clubs (may sometime look up words)2:55
0:460:071:240:200:19

3. private study (mostly FM steps 3-5 and 7)0:56
0:240:270:030:010:02

4. listening to notes (FM step 6)0:10

0:090:01
0:01

5. shadowing or simultaneous interpreting5:352:182:170:280:090:030:040:040:060:01
6. phonetics training1:370:051:090:23




time taken out of schedule (2+3+6)4:180:052:190:571:170:210:21

TOTAL TIME SPENT32:588:3017:284:261:390:240:260:050:070:01

Comments on 10-week snapshot

The numbers above are the average amount of each activity per week over the past 10 weeks. I'll remind readers that I did not record time spend reading, writing, and passively listening (as opposed to shadowing, which is included). So, all the time spent on these activities using English, Russian, and Georgian on a daily basis did not go into the chart.

It so happens that my decision to track my language activities was made right before a period of fairly intense focus on professional goals. During these 10 weeks I began limiting time spent on things of less relevance to these goals. As a result, I cut down on language clubs and mostly went just to German, where I am the club organizer.

I also decided during this time to invest a critical mass of time to Russian pronunciation work in order to make a breakthrough. My work with a speech therapist and on my own has paid off; a Russian girl I had gone on a hike with three years ago recently visited Georgia and came on one of my hikes. She said, "When I was here before you had a slight accent, but now you have none at all." I know you can't necessary nonprofessionals' opinions at face value, but it's still a landmark moment!

Refocusing on Russian like this caused me to stop investing as much effort in Georgian, and my Georgian actually seemed to degrade during this period, despite my ongoing language practice and exposure! My Circle of Command shrunk a bit, and I could not say things that I had said correctly not too long ago. This speaks to the role of mental blocks and other psychological factors in language acquisition.

During this period my use of shadowing as a language tool really matured. I began doing things like listening to Russian podcasts at half-speed lying down with my eyes closed to really focus on precisely imitating pronunciation (each language has its particular set of pronunciation patterns). My endurance increased to the point that a number of times I shadowed for over an hour at full speed without stopping, typically while doing housework.

At the same time, during this period I had considerable sleeping issues and was mostly not in peak mental and communicative form. I would sometimes go to a language club such as French and speak very little. I didn't feel ready to engage, and my mind felt too sluggish to struggle with my lower-tier languages. This is a question of language-learning Fitness, which I talk about in my book. My attention and energy were enough to make substantial progress in my Russian, but little or none in most of my other languages.

Expectations for the future

I expect to focus on improving my language-learning Fitness so that I have enough energy and focus to make little breakthroughs each time I speak any language other than English and Russian. The main limiting factors have been insufficient sleep and a somewhat less than optimal total amount of time spent communicating (speaking) aloud per day.

I expect to have to deal repeatedly with the issue of balancing my Russian and my Georgian. The former is my absolute priority, while the latter is directly related to how well I feel in Georgia. Again, improving my Fitness will allow me to do both.

I expect to listen to more and more podcasts in Russian. I notice their effect in clueing me into ideas and trends that are being discussed in the Russian speaking world and making me feel more a part of it. It also makes me more confident in my simultaneous interpretation, especially when I find lectures to listen to on topics related to the conferences I am working at.

As my Fitness improves (I think this is already happening), I expect to first of all direct my surplus energy at practicing and improving my Georgian (Russian is non-negotiable, even if I'm tired and lack energy!). Part of this will be resuming my proper use of my own 8-step algorithm, which noticeably suffered during these 10 weeks.



NEW DEVELOPMENTS: FALL 2016

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