Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Language Learning Chalet School Style

Anyone read the Chalet School series when they were young? Well, despite having about 3 of them when I was a little kid, I really only discovered them in my early 30s, but I'm quite hooked now. The point of relevance here is that the girls were expected to be trilingual - English, French and German.

At the fictional school, Monday and Thursday were German days, on Tuesday and Friday only French was to be spoken and English was for Wednesday and Saturday, with any language on Sunday (some of the girls were Dutch, Hungarian, Norwegian, Italian etc). My hubby and I decided to try this at an easier level, meaning that Tuesday is Chinese day and Friday is German day. I won't say it gets stuck to 100% (or even remembered about all day!), but it does help to make one use those languages. If someone were learning a language 'alone', then why not write a diary entry or keep a blog in that language that day of the week, plus try to think in the new language?

Another good tip from the Chaletians was given by the School Secretary, Miss Rosalie Dene (in the days when all career women were single!!!) herself an Old Girl of the school to a new arrival with next to no knowledge of either language: "Make sure you've learned 5 words of each language before you go to bed each day." If one were to do that with, say, Sunday off to re-cap etc, then one would actually pack away over 1550 words of each language per year! Amazing, no? So, I've decided to do that too. 5 words of Chinese and 5 words of German each day from Monday - Saturday with a break day once a week to go over them all.

An additional thing along the same lines here is to do a small grammar exercise or two in each language each day too. Things like the Schaum's Outline series, or the more recently published Practice Makes Perfect series (with Verb Tenses, Pronouns & Prepositions and full grammar titles) lend themselves marvellously to this kind of thing and make it really possible to learn a couple of new languages to a decent standard within a couple of years. If it's a language with complex verb declensions too, then one could also add in the conjugations for one tense of one verb each day too.

If someone was only learning one language, then doing these, plus using the whole vocab quota for that one language would mean that a vocabulary of over 3000 words plus the common conjugations of all regular verbs plus 50 or more irregulars as well as a substantial grip on other aspects of grammar and increasingly free expression within a year and all in the comfort of one's own home. Worth a try? I think so!

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