Friday, April 18, 2014

Language Freak Summer Challenge

What a fantastic challenge! I just stumbled on it last night and I can't believe I missed it last year. It's hosted by Ekaterina at In My Book. As I've mentioned, I have several books in foreign languages that I've been meaning to read for several years now, but haven't done so. This challenge will really help me motivate myself to read these books.

Here are my answers to the questions (sorry, I am going to ramble, these will be long answers):

What languages do you know? Note: even if you are a beginner, it totally counts! And don't forget to mention what your mother-tongue is!

Obviously, I speak English - it's my native language. Aside from reading, studying languages is something I adore. I also speak French, Russian, and Dutch at a beginner level, and I know a few words/phrases/etc. in a dozen other languages. I can really only read actual books in French, Russian, and Dutch at this point.

What is your history with these languages?

Sadly, I was raised in a house where only English was spoken, and in my day/where I grew up, foreign language classes weren't offered in schools until high school. I started studying French when I started high school, and I started Russian when I went to college (university). So I had 4 years of high school French + some classes at college, and 4 years of college Russian (most of which I have forgotten at this point, к сожалению). I was lucky enough to travel to France in high school and Russia in college.

After I got my college degree, I continued taking college classes, and one of the classes I took was a year of Japanese. Unfortunately I moved after that first year so I wasn't able to continue that class with the second year or beyond. :( 

Over the years I have taken many community education type classes in various languages, so I can maybe say a few words/phrases, but that's all. Mainly these classes help me feel like I can pronounce places or character names properly if I read a book that features places where those languages are spoken, ha ha. 

In all this time, I had always wanted to study Dutch, but could never find a class until a couple years ago. I was able to take a couple classes and also work with the teacher independently (the classes were discontinued - grr!). I have some books in Dutch that I have been meaning to read but I have been worried that they will be too hard. 

Do you use them or are you out of practice?

In the past 2-3 years I decided it was important to really improve my French, mainly because I travelled there twice. I wanted to be able to communicate as much as I could in French while I was there (I don't believe in speaking English in foreign countries unless it's 1) the native language already, e.g., the UK, or 2) it's totally necessary because I can't be understood in my attempts at the local language). So I have been taking French classes and occasionally going to a French meetup group to practice. I was able to communicate reasonably well in French when I was there last year, and people were speaking to me in French as well, which I felt good about. At this point I can understand at least 50% of conversations spoken by native speakers, although I can't reply in a fluid way :( I am much better at reading, I can read and comprehend things fairly easily if they are at an intermediate level. 

I'm out of practice entirely with Russian. I put it aside to focus on French, but I don't want to completely forget it either. I need to figure out a way to practice or study on my own a bit. 

Dutch is definitely a beginner level language for me, but I just have to be more disciplined about studying on my own. I need a lot more practice. Last summer I listened to Dutch radio over the internet every morning and I enjoyed that, but I could only understand about 25% of what I heard. 

Have you read some books in these languages? Did you like it?

In high school we read a book in French in a class, and in college we read Molière and various French poets. I loved it! I love reading in other languages, it's just hard for me if the vocabulary is at too high of a level. 

What are your plans for the challenge?

I am not going to overcommit to this challenge - I don't want to set myself up for failure. I am going to commit to the Beginner level, which is 1 book. I secretly plan to do more, but this way, as long as I read one book, I will have fulfilled the challenge. :)

So there you have it! I'm really looking forward to this. It's a great opportunity for me to practice, and to finally read the foreign language books I have on hand. большое спасибо Екатерина!


  1. Yay, welcome! I love long rumbles about languages! :) Dutch is strangely popular: we already have one participant which will be reading Dutch! :) Your Russian are so cute! If you ever need some help with finding books, etc. in Russian, please don't hesitate to ask! And good luck!

  2. Glad to see that you're joining too, Anja! Your French level sounds similar to mine. When I was in France, I would speak in French and, if I got stuck, I would just throw in an English word and keep going. It worked very well. :-)

    I think it's wise to start small and add books if you have the time. That's basically my plan too, although I have lots of books in mind!

    Happy reading!

  3. Ohh Dutch :D My native language. Awesome! Which language are you planning to read in? :)

  4. Привет Екатерина! I will be asking you for recommendations but probably not until later this summer, after I have figured out exactly what I can read for this challenge. :)

  5. Hi cleopatra! I tend to over-plan so I am trying not to do that here, but I am secretly hoping to read at least 3 books for this challenge, if I can manage it. I have more books on hand than I realized, which is good.

  6. Hallo Carola! Ik hoop ik kan een boek in het Nederlands te lezen! Ik heb "De Eenzamheid van de Priemgetallen" en 3 anderen boeken, maar ik heel laaaaaangzaaaaam lezen, dus misschien een boek in frances... het is een beetje makkelijker. And in case I made too many mistakes: I hope to read a book in Dutch! I have a copy of "The Loneliness of Prime Numbers" in Dutch, and a couple of other books, but I read reaaaaaly sloooooooowly in Dutch, so I might read a book in French instead, as it's easier for me to read. But I have high hopes! :)

    1. Je Nederlands is goed! Er zijn wat kleine foutjes, maar je bent makkelijk te begrijpen :)
      Succes! Als je hulp nodig hebt, laat het me maar weten!

      (Your Dutch is good! There are some small mistakes but you're very easy to understand :) Good luck! If you need any help, let me know!)