New books

I got the official guide to the French exam for levels 5, 4 and 3. I am planning on taking level 3 this year, but looking at the practice tests that are in the book, I realise that I’m still level 5…. Got a long way to go! My test in June has been cancelled, so I have more time to study. I think the next one is in November.

I got two new Chinese books. I am studying for level 3 on the HSK test, but there is a high chance that it will be cancelled in June. So, I’m thinking about skipping level 3 and going for level 4. I bought three level 4 books – one is the official guide, one has practice tests in, and one is a workbook. I’ve studied the level 3 material multiple times now. Perhaps I will improve if I just keep pushing on and aiming higher.

New Chinese book

I bought a new “Ondoku” Chinese study book. “Ondoku” is Japanese, and means “read aloud”. I already have the French book in this series, so I bought the Chinese one. (I also bought the Korean one for when I study Korean.) Each unit is short, with a series of sentences to read aloud, and then there is some vocabulary practice. I haven’t started it yet, but am hoping to start soon. I need the listening practice!

New French books

I got two new French books – one is about pronouns and prepositions (I need so much more practice with these), and the other is for conversation. I’m going to start them when I’ve finished my main textbook as I need to know more words and expressions to complete some of the exercises.

These will become my main textbooks once I’m done with the grammar book, and the other books I bought recently (the “reading aloud” book and the numbers book) will become supplementary texts.

I should also make a start on the books for the test in June…so many books, so little time!

New French books

I bought two new French books. They are both published in Japan, so all the explanations etc. are in Japanese.

The first one is all about numbers. What a great idea for a textbook. It has lots of listening exercises to get used to numbers. If I start using it now, I should be used to numbers by the time the test comes around.

The other one is a “read aloud” book. It has sentences and words which you read aloud along with the CD. I’m looking forward to starting it. I already use a reader for shadowing, but that one has long(ish) passages. This one has short sentences.

I have two more books on the way too. I won’t be short of study materials for a while!

FSI Language Difficulty Ranking – Don’t Let it Put You Off

The Foreign Services Institute (FSI) has developed a difficulty ranking of languages based on the time it will take an English speaker to learn the different languages. You can see the ranking here: https://www.state.gov/foreign-language-training/

It ranks the languages on their similarity to English. For example, Spanish and Swedish are in category 1, requiring an average study time of 24 weeks. At the other end of the scale are Chinese and Japanese, ranked category 4, and requiring a study time of 88 weeks.

Of course, there are variables – does the language learner live in the country where the language is spoken? Is the language learner a “natural”? Does he or she pick up languages easily? How much opportunity does the learner have to practice the language?

Over the years, I have studied a number of languages. My language learning experiences do not correlate to the ranking. For example, I spent five years studying German in school. German is category 2, which should take approximately 36 weeks to learn. I struggled with the grammar, and didn’t get beyond the most basic level, even though I enjoyed learning it and spent much longer than 36 weeks studying it. I found Japanese to be much easier to learn. For me, the grammar was a lot easier than German. I think it is ranked so highly because of its writing systems. There are three to learn – two can be learnt in a few days, one takes considerably longer. Another reason it is ranked as the most difficult is its honorifics, although if you live in Japan, you get used to these pretty quickly.

I am now studying Mandarin Chinese, another language ranked category 4. Having a background in Japanese is really helpful, and I am progressing at a satisfactory pace. In fact, I am finding it a lot easier than I find French, which I have been trying to learn for a while. French is category 1, and should be easy for me. For some reason, it isn’t. Maybe I just don’t dedicate enough time to it. Maybe I’m just not a natural when it comes to European languages. I also want to learn Russian and Korean. Russian is category 3, and Korean category 4. I have dabbled in both, and in the few hours I have spent on both languages, I have made much more progress in Korean, despite already being able to read the Cyrillic alphabet, and only having a basic grasp of the Korean characters.

Everyone learns differently. Everyone has different motivations for learning a language. Don’t let the difficulty ranking put you off learning a language you really want to master. If you have struggled with an “easy” language like me, it doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to find a “difficult” language impossible. You might be suited to the more difficult languages. Try it and see.