It's March 8th, so I want to wish a happy International Women's Day to all my female readers today. And this year, it happens to coincide with Fat Tuesday, which means that here in Chicago, we also celebrate Pączki Day. (The Polish actually celebrated this last Thursday.) And speaking of Polish, that brings me to today's topic.
After having discovered the joys of Kindle, I have decided that I no longer need to own actual books. They're cumbersome, inefficient, and really heavy on moving day — and no one is ever really as impressed by our book collections as we are — so I'm getting rid of my books.
But I don't want to throw out things I haven't yet read, so I've given myself a year to get through them. Whether I've read them or not, all books will be gone by the end of this year. Now there's motivation!
So, with that in mind, nine days ago I picked up the copy of Colloquial Polish that's been sitting on my shelf and started reading. Last night, I finished it. All 200+ pages.
What? That's crazy! You read an an entire book about a language that you don't speak in just eight days? There's no way you could have possibly learned anything that fast!
Actually, I've learned quite a lot! I've learned three grammatical genders in singular and two more in plural. I've learned seven grammatical cases. I've learned two verb aspects, as well as several Slavic verbs of motion. I've discovered the most cumbersome past tense conjugation of any language I've learned so far. Oh, and also a metric ton of vocabulary.
Yes... but eight days? You can't possibly learn anything useful that fast!
Actually, believe it or not, I've already had several chats, completely in Polish. I've written two entries at Lang-8 in Polish, and I'm planning on writing more. I'm understanding my Polish friends on Twitter without going to Google Translate. Believe me, I'm just as amazed as you are, but yes... I've just learned Polish in 8 days. (Who needs Esperanto after that!)
Now let me be clear: I'm not fluent. My spelling is still pretty bad. And I'm sure my pronunciation is worse. No miracles have happened here. But who knows how much farther I could take this if I were to give it a full 30 days, instead of just 8? I'm not going to do that, because I need to get back to Turkish. But just imagine the possibilities!
Also, I'm absolutely certain a large part of my ability to get through it this quickly has to do with similarities to a language I already do speak (Russian), so I don't think a person could just do this with every language... though it gives me some really interesting ideas for next year's language challenge.
Finally, I think there is one last detail here which is really important: I'm not afraid of grammar. Instead of complaining about grammar, and treating it like some ugly, scary thing, I have learned what those words mean. I've made myself comfortable with terms like instrumental and partitive, and that has given me the ability to read a description of grammar and understand it, rather than fighting with a bunch of strange examples in some book.
Just think how much you might be able to accelerate your own language learning if you stopped fighting against grammar, and instead learned to appreciate it!