There's something nice about taking time away from the task at hand which helps us to get refocused on it once that break is over. Every time I put something out of mind for a short period of time, I find that my effectiveness is improved once I return to it.
I believe that taking those breaks gives you a chance to convert what you've learned from short-term memory to long-term memory. And this is why I have welcomed what seem to be "distractions", such as my week of Esperanto.
I have found, for example, that while I concentrate on Italian this year, my Russian has improved tremendously! Yes, of course I'm always still learning, but I think the biggest reason for the improvement is the fact that I'm not constantly cramming more and more new information into it. I've given my Russian brain almost a year to relax, and to behave like any brain would in Russian — learning casually, through normal daily use.
Yes, certainly you forget a few things when you take a break. But that's a necessary fact of life, and it's no different from what happens in your own native language.
And so, for that reason I am quite comfortable with taking breaks. And since I'm naturally curios and I want to know everything, I often use those breaks to get a look into other languages. Which brings me to the topic of Mandarin...
Speak Mandarin in just 10 days?
As this blog continues to grow, I get surprised constantly by the new things that come with that growth. Whether that's the emails from amazing people around the world thanking me for writing, or the guest posts I've been invited to write, or receiving free copies of language-related books and learning products.
Last week, I was contacted by a representative from The Pimsleur Approach (I will like to them exactly once here, and I am definitely not advertising nor promoting their products), who offered me a free copy of their language learning materials in the language of my chosing, in exchange for a review.
That's an easy deal for me to accept, because I already write about my opinion of various learning materials, so it's not doing anything I wouldn't already do. But before I agreed to this, I made sure the representative understood that I would write my honest opinion, good or bad.
And I must now admit that I actually have been expecting to hate this product. I've used Pimsleur materials in the past, including having tried some last year for Russian, and I was not satisfied. However, now that I have this product in my hands, I can see that it's not the same as what I tried previously, so I am feeling perhaps a bit more objective now.
Interestingly, I've discovered that Pimsleur Approach is not the same as Pimsleur, and is not in any way affiliated with Simon & Schuster. And so I'm initially inclined to think of that as misleading, even deceptive. I can't tell whether the product itself is related in any way to the products bearing the name "Pimsleur".
I suppose I'll know better once I press play and start using the materials. I guess it doesn't matter if they're related or not. All that really matters is whether or not the product actually helps you to learn a language.
It's a 10-day course on 5 CDs, each containing two 30-minute lessons, though the giant slogan "learn to speak in 10 days" from the web site is conspicuously missing from the actual product. With the exception of a small booklet of welcome text, the product is all audio. Therefore, my first impression is that this product completely fails anyone who has any reading and writing expectations when learning a language.
However, I knew from the start that this was an audio-only course, so I chose a language for which I felt that would not be a huge problem: Mandarin! Since there isn't a hint of phonetic help to be found in the Chinese writing system, I won't lose anything by learning only by audio. And later, I can learn the writing if I choose.
So that's the challenge, and that's the plan. Now, it's time for me to go listen to lesson 1 and learn some Mandarin. I'll write again at the end and let you all know how it went and what I think of the product. But I'll probably also leave some comments on Twitter, so follow me there to see my thoughts as I have them!
Want to see my favorite language resources and courses?
I listed them here.