Two weeks ago I began a new project to learn my wife’s native language, Macedonian. To do that, we’ve been avoiding speaking English at home, to mimic the approach I used previously with my language learning trip.
So far the project has been going quite well. I’m already pretty comfortable with the functional day-to-day communication we need, and I’m slowly shifting into deeper conversations.
Early Bumps in the Road
There have been some challenges, however. One evening this week we decided to take a pause for a couple hours. Taken frequently, breaking like this can halt the project, but I think flexibility is necessary. Even Vat and I had occasional breakdown moments later in the trip (particularly in Korea).
I think having the No English Rule in the background is more successful even if you can’t be perfect with it than the usual alternative which is to speak as much as you can (which ends up being not so much).
One major difference between this project and my previous one is that when Vat and I were in the early phases of learning a language and non-stop speaking to each other was hard/tiring, we could simply withdraw for awhile. That’s not an option for me with my wife and baby, so there’s been a bit more pressure to get to a decently level quickly.
Initially I had wanted to commit only to one month of the immersion at home. This wasn’t out of a belief that one month would be sufficient to learn the language, but simply that I didn’t want to commit to too long a time period in the beginning.
Now, however, I’m leaning towards extending the project another month or two. I’m realizing how my initial timeframe had put pressure on me to study a lot, while also having to keep up with my normal work. Adding time at the end will ease off the pressure a little bit without changing the overall strategy for learning that’s worked well for me in the past.
This, however, points to one of the great advantages of learning a language from home–you aren’t going to be forced to leave the country!
Learning while traveling always requires that there be certain time limits that you have to learn within. Even if you continue after your trip, the original immersion environment you had gotten used to abroad will change. If you’re doing immersion at home, however, it’s easier to learn over a longer period of time, especially once you get yourself established in real conversations.