Learning by doing

Today is the last day I focus on Irish after doing so for a whole month. That may not sound like much, but for me it is – I tend to flit from language to language and rarely spend very long on any one of them. Every day, with only a few exceptions, I’ve written something in Irish on my other blog and recorded it. There were a few days last week when I didn’t find time to write something, but I caught up later. I’ve also been listening to Raidió na Gaeltachta (Irish language radio) every day, and spent last week in Ireland speaking a lot of Irish. My ability to speak and write Irish has improved, and I think that the practice of writing in it every day made a big contribution to that. My listening has also improved. From tomorrow I will be focusing on Scottish Gaelic, and might continue writing in Irish, as well as Scottish Gaelic and English, on my blog, so that I keep it ticking over.

I know other people have probably had these thoughts, but I have come to the conclusion that regular use of a language you’re learning in writing and speech is possibly the best way to improve. When learning languages I tend to spend a lot of time listening to and reading, so I am usually a lot better at those skills than at speaking and writing. The way I’ve done it also gives me chances to practise speaking, or at least reading aloud.

Do you try to actively use languages you’re learning as you learn them? Does this help?

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This entry was posted in English, Irish, Language, Language learning.

3 Responses to Learning by doing

  1. David Eger says:

    Personally, I have never learned a language successfully without either the need or the opportunity to use it regularly. I ‘learned’ French and German at school – the latter, up to ‘A’ Level – but never achieved anything near fluency in either until years later, when I spent some time independently (i.e. not on holiday with my parents) in France and Germany. I went to Latvia in 1997 and, never having heard the language before, was able to communicate fairly easily in Latvian within a year.

    I have now been living in Wales for almost 7 years and began attending Welsh classes about a year after moving here. However, as there is not much Welsh spoken in the area where I live, I do not find much need to use it and find few opportunities to speak it outside the classroom. Whilst I have a reasonable vocabulary and can read Welsh without too much effort, I cannot speak it fluently and often struggle to understand native speakers.

  2. Matthew Roy says:

    I completely agree that writing and speaking output is extremely important. Not doing it would be like trying to learn to play the piano without pressing the keys.

    That being said, I find it to be very difficult. Perhaps it gets easier? :) I am attempting to simultaneously learn German and French. We are required to pass a test on both these languages for my gradschool program, but the test has ended up being translating a few paragraphs with the help of a dictionary… come one, academia! Don’t wimp out on the languages!

    I’m taking a look at your other blog to see what sort of things your write about. I need to make myself keep writing, especially when the sentences are childish and flawed. Thanks for the encouragement.

  3. Chris Waugh says:

    Coincidentally, this morning I read in the Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language book I’m studying for an exam later this month this statement: 语言是练会的,不是学会的, which I will translate as “language is learned through practice, not through study”. And yes, I wholeheartedly agree, and have often told my students that learning a language, language being a practical skill, is like learning to ride a bicycle. You’ve got to get on, pedal, lose your balance, fall off, get up and get right back on again. The more you do it, the better you get.