Thursday, June 1, 2017

Meta: 6 month checkup

It’s been ~6 months since I started learning Czech.

Last week I had a really exciting and gratifying series of experiences in which I actually started to feel some amount of confidence and satisfaction in my progress. Not really specific experiences - but a general feeling of, “Hey, I am making progress! I am doing better! I’m guessing the right words!”

I think the feelings of satisfaction and progress came in large part because I returned to doing some genealogy work with transcriptions and there I could really tangibly see and experience my progress. I mean, really, it was like a giant leap forward in my ability to decode the old writing to the new, standardized writing. It was a really nice realization, to see that all my efforts are actually paying off in big ways.

But it wasn’t just this - it was also several pockets of times when I would be talking with one of my Czech friends and then suddenly I understood what they were saying.

I had my first dream in Czech last month. It was really lame and dumb, because it was me texting in Czech. But I used the correct case.

These feelings were all dashed to pieces earlier this week when I tried (again) to read this really difficult book about Czech Folk Culture which has been on my reading list for at least 3 years, and I didn’t even comprehend some of the very basic ideas. It’s a difficult subject full of subtle nuances, and the book itself has many euphemisms and archaic expressions. The section I was trying to read was about stigma against unwed mothers, and it mentioned a story where the father made his daughter go work in the field and leave the illegitimate infant at home with nobody to take care of him or her. But I understood it the opposite: I understood that the father made the daughter leave the infant in the field to die. This goes against everything I know about Catholic culture and value of life. I was super glad to learn that I was reading it wrong. But it seems I need to wait a while to touch this book again.

It is really difficult for me to wait patiently for my Czech language skills to come. I am really craving accessing knowledge from a bottom-up methodology, which, if you knew me, would probably shock you. But I really would read every book I could get my hands on about Czech culture and history. It’s just that so many of them are written in Czech!


Some more about my learning processes, what’s working, what’s not:

I really enjoy feedback. It is really, really helpful to me. It makes me feel like somebody else cares about my efforts. It makes me feel less lonely in this pursuit. Targeted feedback also helps me to improve my skills.

By now I have developed a core group of Czech language collaborators with whom I enjoy skyping. Some are more or less frequent than others. All of them are really fun and interesting and have something to teach me. Some of them have become really close friends.

Now that it is summer, I have a new schedule, and this is how I want things to work.

I have been teaching English in the mornings from 6-9 am. Danny takes the kids over to my mom’s house in the mornings. She wants to watch them almost every day in the morning, because she really wants to help me learn Czech and pursue my genealogy goals. My family is all very supportive, which is fortunate; otherwise, this venture would definitely be impossible.

I will work on Czech stuff from 9-12 every morning. This is actually pretty similar to what I had been doing, but it will be nice to continue, and it will be nice to keep improving and focusing.

But I don’t want to waste my time drowning in meta right now. Suffice it to say that I’m adding more films and drills to my routine, putting a pause on really tough reading, moving away from some of the translator-dependent writing.

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