As I mentioned in my last post, it's clear that I will not be speaking fluent Turkish by the end of this year - even if I were to be amazingly productive for the rest of this month. But it's still not a total bust. I did learn a lot this year!
First, obviously, I did manage to learn a lot of Turkish. I've been reading tweets in Turkish daily, and understanding a lot of it. I've also learned to read and understand most of what I see on sites like Yonja and Hürriyet. Using music - one of my favorite learning tools - I've also learned a lot of new vocabulary and learned to hear and comprehend a lot of Turkish.
Unfortunately, the few Turkish movies I've watched have been a bit too difficult for me, much like the few real Turkish conversations I've managed to overhear, although I comprehend a good deal of small talk and chit chat like asking directions, the time, plans for the evening, etc.
In addition to Turkish, I did also manage to learn quite a bit of Polish. Again, nothing near fluency, but I was able to leverage my Russian fluency to gain a higher-than-expected level of comprehension in a language related through its Slavic roots in a very short time. This also led to me theorizing a potential new learning method which I will most likely try in earnest with my next language project in 2012.
On top of this, I also dabbled briefly in another Slavic language - Macedonian - and found that with an understanding of grammar and just a bit of practice with a translator, it's not hard at all to quickly find yourself reading and writing mostly unassisted in a brand new language. I didn't spend a great deal of time with this experiment, but it was enough to add significant support to my belief that having someone to talk to is the single most important factor for success when learning a language.
While in Italy at the beginning of the year, I learned some additional Italian that just isn't likely to be learned at home, as one would expect. I also began the process of learning Turkish for the year, as was planned. But on top of this, I took along a German book and spent some time brushing up on things I had learned in school, and learning a few new things.
My dedication to the original plan of learning Turkish without books or other instructional materials also let me to learn some new things about the process of learning languages. As I mentioned, getting in and using the language as soon as possible — even before you have any real vocabulary or grammar skills — yields immediate, tangible results much faster than any study method you can think of. It also helps you to gain confidence with the language early and stave off the dreaded perfectionism that comes up so common for people who spend more time studying a language than using it.
Looking back on my year, it's hard to call this a failure even if I did fail to reach fluency in my target language. And there's still hope. If I do eventually find myself spending time regularly with Turkish-speaking people, I've got a solid foundation from which to continue.
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