Carl Barenbrug

Product design, creative direction

Learning a Second Language

How I envy polyglots. They have remarkable minds, and a remarkable dedication to learning. How some people are capable and proficient in reading, writing, and speaking several languages, baffles me. Just being able to retain that magnitude of information on top of everything else learned day-to-day is mightily impressive. Not that I have any desires to become a polyglot, but I do have a desire to be bilingual.

British people are notoriously terrible at learning a second language, let alone several. I’m ashamed to say that I am one such case. Yes, I’d get by just fine relying solely on English. I certainly don’t need to learn any other languages, but that’s not really the point.

In the past, I’ve attempted and failed to learn a second language on more than one occasion. I tried French (first introduced through school), I tried Polish (because of my partner), and I tried German (because I am half German anyway and felt a stronger connection to it than other languages). Although I found French the easier of the three (and can still remember a reasonable amount), I have decided to focus on learning German. It’s a decision I made at the start of the year, not only because of my heritage, but because I do see myself living in the country at some point in the future. I’m also in the process of obtaining a German passport (for political reasons, but let’s not get into that).

The next question was what method(s) should I use to learn? I decided to download the highly-rated Memrise app, which I bought a subscription for. It’s a brilliant app, which teaches common words, phrases, spelling, grammar, pronunciation, as well as learning with locals. So over the past month, I have allocated 10-15 minutes every day to learn through the app. It’s short enough so it doesn’t feel like a chore, and long enough to allow me to actually learn something, if only five new words per day.

My intention is to continue with the Memrise app until I feel I have exhausted it, then I’ll revisit my old Michel Thomas materials I bought many years ago. Beyond that, I’d like to experience one-on-one sessions with a native speaker, and maybe also practice speaking over Skype with a couple of German friends.

When will that be? I have absolutely no idea and I’m not setting a timeline, but I’ve been pretty disciplined with my learning so far, so I do feel confident that I’ll see this challenge through. And that’s exactly how I see it—a life challenge that I’ll feel immensely proud of if achieved.

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