Language spot-check: What do I already know and why?

Learning languages is a bit of an obsession for me. I find that learning a bit of a language adds so much anticipation to a trip and helps me to enjoy it so much more. Keeping the motivation up between trips when there is no sunshine but just you and a grammar book is a lot more difficult though, which is one of the reasons I started this site. 

So, this is where my languages are currently at in Spring 2019. Hopefully they’ll progress quickly! 

Danish  - Currently B2

My language history:

I have a native Danish mother and half Danish father, who can understand but speaks Danish with a strong accent. I grew up hearing the language when my mum was on the phone and when we visited relatives in Denmark but we never seriously tried to learn it at home. I think my brother and I were too lazy and the benefits of learning such a small language weren’t big enough for my mum to force us! A lot of her Danish friends’ children who we played with spoke Danish though, so I always felt a bit remedial for not being bilingual. Even more so when we went on holiday to Denmark and my poor cousins had to speak English to me!

I took action to finally learn Danish when I was 18, applying to do Scandinavian Studies with my history degree at UCL with Danish as my language focus and a year abroad at Aarhus University. It was here that I really realised how little Danish I knew! My year abroad was tough at first as I still wasn’t fluent but I came out the other end able to understand almost everything I read from context and get by in almost any tourist situation. 

My current status:

Thankfully, I learned enough Danish to never really forget and my pronunciation is fairly plausible from having listened to Danish from a young age. I’ve tried to keep up with it in the years since uni by taking holidays there on my own and very patchily reading in Danish and watching films. But, I’m not that confident with conversation and idiom and get full-on waves of anxiety about speaking Danish with family. 

My target: 

I’d like to get to the level to take the Danish mastery exam Studieprøven so that I could work in Denmark. In the shorter term I just want to be fluent enough to show my personality in Danish and not be a total chore to talk to. Practically all Danes, including my family speak English so well that if there’s any friction in the conversation at all it is easier for them to switch to English.

Spanish - A2

My language history: 

Spanish was never on my radar until I started going to the Primavera Sound festival in Barcelona almost every year in 2011. Learning a bit of tourist Spanish to get by took a lot of work as I’d never studied it at school. Weirdly, I had a feeling I know some Spanish from cultural osmosis? I didn’t at all. In 2013, I got interested in learning a language and Spanish seemed the best one to start with as it is meant to be easy (haha) and I would actually be visiting a Spanish-speaking country each year. Also it’s spoken in so many countries. It was a very practical choice and at the time I’m sorry to say I didn’t have much enthusiasm for Spanish culture or visiting many Hispanic countries.

How did I study? I ordered Michel Thomas Total Spanish from Peckham library, got very excited about how easy I was finding it, started texting Spanish-speaking friends in terrible Spanish and eventually bought a notebook and a Complete Spanish text book. I did very sporadic self study for the next five years, getting a tiny bit better every summer. In 2018, I went to Mexico with a group of six friends, one of whom I think of as being amazing at languages and who I thought of as being a Spanish speaker. I found I could read and improvise at about the same level as him and that was a huge motivation booster. I signed up to two terms of class at UCL SELCS at A2/B1starting mid-Jan 2019 and bought an awful lot more books.

My current status: 

Going to class for the past 3 months (gosh) has been positive in that I’ve been speaking a lot more and actually discovered the past tenses. When I think now about what I knew when I joined I have actually made strides, I doesn’t really feel like that though and I’m not totally happy with my class. I think I need more speaking practice on Italki but so far haven’t had the nerve to go through with any lessons.

My target: 

I’d love to be fluent B2 level and be able to understand native speakers. I’m thinking about buying a Pueblo Espanol holiday this year in order to accelerate things. I also have my eye on an Instituto Cervantes DELE B1 exam in December.

Japanese - A1

My language history: 

My boyfriend took me to Japan for my birthday a few years ago and I was so incredibly excited! I bought Michel Thomas Japanese and learned enough spoken Japanese before my trip to chat to a few people and feel very accomplished indeed.  I picked it up again a few years later for another trip. I have never taken lessons and tend to feel guilty about studying it when I could be focusing on Danish or Spanish. I recently bought some more resources and started trying to learn hiragana for the first time though. I would absolutely love to be able to read Japanese materials and just engage with the culture more.

My current status: 

I’ve forgotten most things I learned in spoken Japanese apart from the basics (though I think it would revive quite quickly) and am quite sporadically learning to write hiragana at the moment. Shame I didn't do this to start with!

My target: 

Hard to say, I’m dabbling at the moment because I feel that if I seriously try to learn an asian language it should be Mandarin. On the other hand I am an awful lot more excited about Japanese and I’ve heard the Kanji can help with Mandarin? Basically I have no clear targets, this is just a fun one…


I studied German and French at school. There is a bit still in my head that I would like to revive one day but I’m not working on it at the moment.

No comments:

Post a Comment