David Mansaray’s recent post about the power of project based learning coupled with my own post about Fartlek language learning have challenged me to think about what I can and need to do to continue to move forward as a Turkish speaker. While I write regularly about language learning, about sustaining motivation and about ideas for maximizing our language learning journey, I am by no means a prolific language learner. I take comfort in the fact that while Phil Jackson was a mediocre basketball player in his NBA career, he was a prolific coach – one of the best ever. So while I have worked hard this last year to help others be better language learners through my language coaching and writing, my own journey to master Turkish has at times stagnated.
As I look at the ACTFL Proficiency scale found in The EDLL Guide to Self-Assessment, I know that I my Turkish is at an Advanced High level of mastery. This means that there is little that I cannot do with the language but also that there is little that I do really well. I am way beyond mere survival levels in my Turkish, but there is still a long way to go.
One problem advanced speakers face is pinpointing what to work on in the language. More and even more exposure is probably the best rule, but at this level another challenge arises. I don’t need to learn any more. I want to, but I do not need to. And more often than not, it is our need that drives us to continue to improve. Because I can continue to live comfortably in Turkey with my Turkish at its present level and because writing and language coaching take up more and more of my time, I find it increasingly difficult to intentionally commit to improving my Turkish. I would suppose it is like this in any discipline in life whether it be sport or business or relationships.
What I need a good project. It needs to be easy to execute, to have a tangible end result, to be measurable, timely and I think it will help if it is public.
Here is my goal:
I will be able to know and understand – in or out of context – and be able to use correctly in a sentence all of the 2000 most common Turkish words by January 1, 2012.
As an advanced speaker of Turkish, I would have thought that I would know all of the 2000 most common Turkish words by now. I just finished going through all of the “A” words though. There were 149 total words beginning with the letter A. Of those 149, I added 46 to my ‘still need to learn’ list. That’s 31%! Imagine not knowing 31% of the 2000 most common words in a language. Imagine what knowing them would do for your understanding! I am excited.
I didn’t give myself any slack in identifying the words I added to my list. I am not fooling anyone. If I had any question about a word, I wrote it down. Many I would know had I heard or read them in context. But if they are going to be a real part of my working vocabulary then I really need to know them – not just sort of know them. It seems a goal I can accomplish as well – 31% of 2000 is just over 600 words I need to learn in two months. That’s about 77 new words a week, many of which I am pretty familiar with already.
I have started by imputing all these new words and definitions into my Anki deck. I am not very good at consistently using Anki though so I also plan on making paper flashcards to carry with me. Next I want to begin writing daily Lang-8 journal entries with the goal of using each word twice before January 1st. I’ll also try and create handcrafted audio for all of these journal entries so that I can listen to them throughout my day. In this way I hope to master these 2000 words.
I hope that this will be just the project I need to move my Turkish ahead another step. Is it a perfect plan? By no means, but it is something that I can do that is tangible, measurable and timely. This is far better than a wide open goal like “I want to improve my Turkish.” Now I have a concrete job to accomplish.
I have made this goal public to create some accountability – something I really need. And in order to put a little bite into this accountability, I want to ask for a few native Turkish speaking readers to volunteer to test me come the first of the year. I’ll send you the list of 2000 words I am working from and then we will talk on skype and you can chose 50 – 100 words at random and test me on them. Let me know if you would be willing to work with me on this.
So that is my project for the next two months to help me push forward in Turkish. I’ll try and give periodic updates to let you know how it’s going. Feel free to email me and encourage me to work hard on this – I am one who needs regular kicks in the butt to succeed.
What project have you created on your language learning journey?
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