Hey, Why Don’t You Follow Your Own Advice For A Change?

I’ve not written a language post for a while. The reason being that I’m in a rut the size of the Ethiopian Great Rift Valley.

As an old friend of mine is fond of saying, at times like these, it pays to “have a word with oneself”. Nothing to lose by giving it a go, I suppose…

*    *    *    *    *

I: I’m frustrated as hell. I’ve been trying to learn Portuguese for an entire year now. I’m getting nowhere with it. I started way too early, I should have waited for my Spanish to solidify enough before tackling this. I feel like shelving the whole project for a couple of years.

Me: If you abandon this now, you’ll have to start from zero again a couple of years down the line. Is that what you really want? Your teacher tells you that you speak quite well.

I: I pay her. It’s in her interest to stroke my ego. But I see her rolling her eyes all the time, because I can’t work the present tense of even the most basic regular verbs.  

Me: And why can’t you?

I: Because I’m not putting in enough time.

Me: Aha. What is it that you tell all those people who come to you every week to practise their English and their German?

I: I tell them that for every hour of formal class, they need to put in three more at home. I tell them that they should spend at least half an hour every day practising/studying their target language, rather than cramming it all into one two-hour session once a week.

Me: And what did you do with your Portuguese last week?

I: I… rushed through all of my homework on Monday, a couple of hours before class.

Me: I see.

I: But I do my Duolingo lessons every day. And I have been for ages. I’m on a 146-day unbroken streak!

Me: And how long does it take you to do one of those?

I: ten, fifteen minutes…?

Me: Aha. I can’t help but wonder… if you’d also been practising those pesky verbs for 15 minutes a day for 146 days, don’t you think you’d be running rings around them by now, and your teacher wouldn’t need to be rolling her eyes quite so much. Just sayin’…

I: I hate verbs.

Me: I know you do. What else do you suck at?

I: Listening comprehension. My teacher plays me a dialogue, I hardly catch anything. She implores me to listen more at home.

Me: And you’re doing that?

I: Nope.

Me: There’s this one girl you see fairly regularly. Her spoken English is quite good, but she has real trouble understanding what’s being said to her. What’s your advice to her?

I: That she needs to listen at home. I’ve given her links to some good podcasts. She nods her head every time I broach the subject, but she doesn’t follow through.

Me:  Do you roll your eyes at her?

I: I do.

Me: I know you’re fond of dead people’s quotes. Here’s one by some medieval German scholar called Thomas von Kempen, it goes like this:

“Be not angry that you cannot make others as you wish them to be, since you cannot make yourself as you wish to be.”

I: Ahrwgh… sod off, will you!

Me: Just sit down and get on with those bloody verbs, will you!?!

Blue Flower

Have you ever had to have a word with yourself…?

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80 thoughts on “Hey, Why Don’t You Follow Your Own Advice For A Change?

  1. suejansons

    I believe you have read my post about negative self-talk. You are much nicer to yourself, than I was. Yes, you need to study more, and you know it. Just make it a point to do it………. Love the quote, too!

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  2. Karolyn Cooper

    I hate verbs too. Japanese verbs. I don’t know if they are as evil as Portuguese verbs, but they slide in and out of my brain without sticking.

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  3. Wendy Kate

    Portuguese is HARD. We were in Oporto for 2 years and by the end I still had trouble getting taxis drivers to understand the name of the road where we lived- Rua de Serralves….Rua de que?! PS My Spanish is still c**p too 😦

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  4. wannabe polyglot

    I was wondering how your Portuguese was going, but then I’ve sort of disappeared and didn’t think I could bug you! Haha I go through phases like that too, I’m sure it passes. Though honestly I don’t think I could learn Portuguese while living in a Spanish speaking environment. I have to keep them very separate. If I watch a Spanish movie the night before a class, I’m mixing the languages like crazy and it’s so frustrating that I want to chuck it all.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      You can always bug me – on the blog, via email, I really don’t mind 😉

      Yeah, I’m struggling badly. But I can’t give up now. I’ll just have to throw the odd tantrum once in a while.

      How’s your shoulder?

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      1. wannabe polyglot

        Good to know! 🙂 Yeah, I hear you. It’ll pass. Surgery no 3 was a week ago, so another 5 weeks in a sling and then 6 months rehab, but hey with any luck I’ll be back to normal by then. Haven’t done much of anything other than the skype lessons either.

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Awrgh, what a long and drawn out process, how tedious this must be for you, never mind painful 😦

        At least you’re managing to keep the lessons up, and not let it all atrophy.

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  5. narami

    I don’t want to be this person BUT, can you stand soaps? They are not something I love, but spending so much time with the tv on will do things to you and I’ve found soaps from brasil are the bestest ever. My grandmother loves them even. My favorite was called Gabriella, out was a time period script and the sets, the dresses

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I remember watching a Brazilian soap (Sinha Moça?) when I was a kid. In German, not Portuguese.

      A Brazilian soap wouldn’t really help me right now, though, because Portuguese from Portugal, which I’m focusing on right now, sounds very different from Brazilian. I need to find myself a Lisbon-based soap 😉

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    2. narami

      Mobile cut me….were lovely. The story was quite cute too.I’m currently watching Avenida Brasil, based on a true story. Also brazilian actors are HOT. Like, the guy in this soap is 8 feet tall and all 8 feet are abs. Not kidding. The girls are also beautiful. I think it’s a brazilian thing.

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yup, they have a reputation for that. I’ve only just discovered Rodrigo Santoro… am always behind with these things 😉

        I think you may have sold it to me, lol.

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  6. Jessica of HolaYessica

    Ugh. I hate this stage of language learning. It’s soooo frustrating! Don’t give up though, I’m sure you can do it.

    I gave up on the verb tenses for a while a just started watching movies instead. Way more fun! It helped break through the tedium as well.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Yeah, that’s how I’m getting my Spanish verbs to slot into place, but I really need to make an initial and systematic effort at this point where the Portuguese is concerned. It’s a total pain. Whatever language I’m learning next (if! at all), it’ll have to be one where the verbs are static. Chinese! Coz that’s so easy… lol 😉

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Oh no, Russian has verbs that do horrible things, despite only having one past tense (I suffered through two years of this at school).

        Arabic is a fucking nightmare. I’ve been told by tons of people.

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  7. freebutfun

    I like your conclusion 😉 I’ve had many of those talks with myself and they seem to all have ended with “ah well i can pick it up in a few years time again when I have more time”… the lazy bugger over here believes (hopes) a language, if not used, gets a bit rusty, but doesn’t disappear. And I do not want to hear the opposite!

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      1. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Got plenty of that going on myself. I refuse to give up on the hope that my Spanish will be equivalent in every way (save, perhaps, for a perfect accent) to that of a native speaker’s, given enough time.

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  8. Giovannoni Claudine

    Do not be upset by the events!
    You will learn the Portuguese… certainly takes a little time, it is true, perhaps taking a trip to Brazil or Portugal will shorten the work …
    I love your interview, you’ve given me an idea 🙂
    If you want, I can point out for you a blog where a Portuguese friend writes on very interesting topics … to do a little practice!
    Sunny weekend 🙂 claudine

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  9. barbedwords

    I like the idea of putting a stern talk to yourself in writing. Did it work? Are you feeling more motivated? I may try it when I’m putting off writing in favour of watching crap TV/making endless cups of tea/doing a sudoko in an old Daily Mail that I just found down the back of the dresser. As someone who still has to mime ‘half a loaf of bread’ in the local bakery, I’m in awe of your language skills and think you’re doing a great job 😉

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  10. June

    Someone asked me recently what I’m doing to learn Lithuanian. I replied “I moved here”. That about sums it up. Most of my conversations are still in English. I very rarely watch TV. Besides, LT TV is really appalling. But I am improving, slowly but surely. I can follow conversations quite well. I know mostly nouns – no verbs at all. I think they’re highly overrated! Now, stop talking to yourself (cos that’s just crazy!) and give yourself a break. You’re already fluent in three languages – that’s pretty impressive!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Depends on your personal goals, I think. I want to have satisfying conversations, and be able to deal with paperwork etc. myself.

      And I AM just a little bit crazy 😉

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  11. roamingtheworld

    I loved this! Ah… what we tell our student’s and what we actually do ourselves. If we only took our own advice sometimes…
    So how you feeling now after this conversation with yourself?

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      1. roamingtheworld

        that just means you hit a plateau!
        Maybe time to live in Portugal for a while…

        Yeah, finally writing again… I go in spurts. Full of ideas and then easily distracted by the computer when I have time and the job search!

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Nah, I’m not done with Spain yet… not by a long shot.

        Writing is always daunting before you get into it. I never know how to start until I’ve started. No matter how often I do it, or for how long.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      A friend of mine, who’s learning to play the guitar, told me last night that the more she practiced at home, the worse her recitals in class seemed to get. I so get that, lol! I think it’s because you expect that much more of yourself, and the first mistake you make in front of the teacher/class brings the whole house of cards tumbling down.

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  12. Kim G

    Interesting funny post!

    I do have a few thoughts/suggestions that might help. As someone who speaks Spanish reasonably fluently, but has never studied Portuguese, I find that I can pretty much read Portuguese if I take it easy and think hard. This means that only studying Spanish is not a waste of time with regard to your Portuguese. They are similar enough that learning one will help the other.

    As for verbs, yes, they are odious, though not nearly as odious as German verbs. (One semester of college German was enough for me, thank you very much!) But they are the heart of the language. Once you’ve studied the verbs, you can basically learn everything else on the fly. After I met F in Mexico City in Jan of 2006, I came back to Boston, found a tutor, and spent a year doing what I’ve since called “The Forced March Through Spanish Verbs.” And as I’ve said, I learned pretty much everything else on the fly.

    On learning to understand spoken conversation, music can be a BIG help. Find some Portuguese songs you like, then Google the lyrics. Memorize the lyrics as you sing along with the songs. Once you’ve done that for 8-10 songs, you’d be amazed at how much easier it is to understand normal conversations. And your accent will improve more than doing just about anything else. This method (which I sort of stumbled upon) worked wonders for my Spanish.

    And of course persistence. Learning a language is a bit like learning a musical instrument. You can’t cram it all the night before. Instead, you have to give your brain time to build new neural pathways. This takes regular, deep practice.

    And don’t be hard on yourself. That never helps.

    Saludos,

    Kim G
    Boston, MA
    Where we are intrigued by how how sexy Portuguese (at least the Brazilian variety) sounds.

    P.S. Finding a love interest who only speaks the target language is also a time-honored and fun method. Don’t rule it out.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Persistence… persistence… I do have that 😉
      I should look into the musical side of things, just to try that out, really. I’ve always been reluctant, coz lyrics tend to be grammatically screwed up to fit the verse, and the choice of vocab can be less than ‘natural’, if you know what I mean.

      Sounds like you might be tempted to give Portuguese a go 😉

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  13. TBM

    Ah, verbs. I hate them as well. I mean I really hate them. I probably should just get over it and study–but I hate them, why spend more time with something I hate. However, if I understood them I wouldn’t hate them.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      If only they could be “understood”, that would be fine… but it’s a case of learning them by rote, and I hate that type of “learning” more than anything else in the world! It’s all we ever did at school, sigh.

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  14. Kim in Fiji

    Hey Lady, I found your posts. I was wondering why they weren’t coming in my inbox, but now I see a tickbox below that I must not have ticked. Anyway, I LOVED this post – can identify, have spent over a year trying to learn Fiji Hindi – which is just what is spoken here by my neighbors – a patois or pidgin of real Hindi. Proper Hindi is useless. Verbs suck, but prepositions are even worse. Anyway, good luck with Portuguese – you are already way better at it than 99% of the world’s population.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Prepositions always suck- they’re the last thing you get right, and the first thing you forget when you stop using the language daily. I even wrote a short rant about this https://ladyofthecakes.wordpress.com/2013/07/11/prepositions-so-much-depends-of-them/

      Actually, almost 4% of the World’s population are native Portuguese speakers, so you’re just slightly off with your calculation there 😉

      That’s a bit of a shame about the Hindi… learning “proper” Hindi would be great for travelling, I suppose. But seeing as you live in Fiji, it makes sense to learn whatever language is spoken locally. I’d hate being an outside observer forever, perpetually reliant on people translating for me. It’s just not the same, and you’d never get to understand how people really *think*. Good luck with your progress. Wait… luck’s not really involved, just a lot of blood sweat and tears 😉

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  15. Nick

    I really enjoyed reading this, and I think as language learners/teachers we’ve all been there. Keep on trying and continue to keep up the good humour while you’re at it 🙂

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