Friday, 16 January 2015

We need to talk

I last spoke Russian (to someone outside my family, who can't understand me anyway) in 2007. Yep, 2007, probably around June to be exact, when I had my last Russian lesson. Of course I also stopped studying Russian at this point. I had two small children and my third baby on the way. It wasn't until last Summer that I actually started learning Russian again, and not consistently at that.

taken by Emma Sibley, Russia, 2007

I looked around for classes at first (this is how I learnt first time around). Although I don't feel this is a great way for me to learn, I know it does make me speak. There's little choice really! Russian classes are usually quite small here, so there's no chance of hiding at the back! Unfortunately they had stopped due to lack of interest, and the nearest class was in London. Not so far, but travel and the cost of the class itself would make it very expensive. At this point I turned to the internet and discovered that in my 7 years of absence the language learning world had erupted. It took some very late nights to get through all the fascinating language blogs I was discovering. I spent a while on sites like Fluent in 3 Months, while getting to grips with Memrise and playing around with Anki. I dug out my old language learning books, and after reading many reviews ending up purchasing a load more. I discovered language learning apps, podcasts, and much more all while avoiding sites like italki.

I know it's a subject covered by lots of language learning blogs, and I've read some great articles about over coming the fear of speaking. There's lots of advice out there. I especially like this post and more recently this one. I still couldn't bring myself to do it though!

Part of it is personality. I'm shy and introverted. I find that talking and generally interacting with people takes a huge amount of my energy, and so it's not something I'm drawn to, or have a real need to do. I kept doing that thing of saying 'I'll talk to someone when my Russian is better'...whatever better is and whenever that may be! 

My preferred language learning activities are reading and listening, followed by writing and lastly speaking. I recently realised that I was spending most of my time on reading and listening, far less on writing and really nothing on speaking (unless talking to myself or the 6 year old counts!) - my preferred activities were ones where I didn't have to produce anything. I found this an interesting discovery. I'm not sure exactly what it means, but I realise that I have to find a more balanced approach if I want to go to Russia and do more than eavesdrop and read signs!

  taken by Emma Sibley, Russia, 2007

One of my reasons for joining the Add1Challenge was just this, and it has been the other participants who have encouraged me to get on italki and get talking. I honestly don't think I would have done it without that support. Although the challenge has only been going 4 days it's incredible how strong the sense of community already is.  One of the first challenges was to make a video of ourselves speaking the language we were leaning, and frankly I was shocked at how little Russian I could turn into proper sentences. I spoke better Russian in Russia seven years ago. All because of not practising, and not putting what I was learning into practice.

So, I finally registered for italki. I trawled through the Russian tutors for a few days before sending messages to 3 different tutors saying that I needed to practise basic conversation skills, and that I was still very much on a low level. I received messages back that we're friendly and encouraging, and I booked 3 trial sessions. I had the first of those sessions today, and I cannot tell you how nervous I was! Part of me wanted to cancel, and the other part wanted the tutor to cancel! As it grew closer to the time of the session I really was a nervous wreck. I had a cheat sheet written out (that in the end I hardy used as it just didn't seem right once I was actually talking to the tutor), and google translate open (which did come in handy for words and phrases I didn't know). But I was terrified of the call starting! And then it did! And I spoke a bit of Russian and then the tutor did, and we spoke a bit of English (frowned upon by some, but there is no way I could explain to her why I was learning Russian or what I wanted to achieve otherwise), and then we spoke more Russian and we did an exercise from a book she had. And then time ran out. And I survived! It probably wasn't the most pleasant experience ever, but that was due to me and my nerves not the tutor! And as we spoke I remembered more, and she has already addressed a few things I didn't understand and how to say some things that I couldn't figure out.

taken by Emma Sibley, Russia, 2007

Will I be having more sessions? Yes! I have already booked another session with the tutor from today, and have 2 other trial sessions to go, so hopefully I will be able to update you next week with how I'm doing. Am I annoyed I didn't do it sooner? To be honest not really, it's all part of the process and I just couldn't do it before now. I have no time limit on how long I'll be learning Russian for, and I'm not rushing to achieve a certain level in it so I'm happy to go at a pace that suits me.  I won't be returning to Russia for a few years, so have time yet to perfect it!  :)

No comments:

Post a Comment