In 6th grade I was introduced to the music of ZZ Top and I loved it. I had listened to their music before then, however it was my parent’s music. So it would take many years before I appreciated their music. ZZ Top was the start but two years later I was introduce to Heavy Metal. I knew I loved it but I had no idea what the people were singing/screaming. I would spend hours with the lyrics listening to the music and learning how to hear it and understand it. In a way, I was learning a new language.
In 6th grade my academic performance started to slip. (Side note: That was not the fault of falling in love with music. It was in 6th Grade that my depression started to become so frequent and strong that it interfered with my everyday life, along with a few other issues.) Over the next five to six years my parents would frequently hear about how much potential I had but I just needed to apply myself. I cared little for school and never really figured out how important learning was until later in life.
Now I’m in Taiwan learning Mandarin and I am not progressing as well as most people are after almost two years. I’m not stupid, I’m just having issues retaining what I’m learning. The Chinese teaching method is a whole lot of rote memorization, and let me tell you, that is not a strong point for me. It’s not that it doesn’t work at all but it’s not something I am good at. I know more Mandarin now then two years ago. I know more than six months ago but it’s slow going.
And now after three paragraphs, I will get to the point of what I am writing about and tie it into what has been written. Yeah! Recently after chatting with a few fellow missionaries I purchased a language learning program called Glossika. I won’t get into the theory behind why they formatted their language program the way they did but I will explain how I use it and if it works.
Glossika basically has quite a few audio files that I listen to and a few books I read. I have three e-books that have a grant total of (I think) three thousand sentences that I read from and repeat in conjunction with these audio files I am listening to. I read a sentence in English then I read the same sentence in Mandarin. I then hear the sentence spoken in English once, then repeated in Mandarin twice. I will do my best to repeat those Mandarin sentences twice. Do you see the similarities to how I learned to listen and understand Heavy Metal music?
Now, is it working? Yes. Slowly, but yes. The program gives me the flexibility to choose what speed I want to go through the material, from 21 weeks to nine months. It’s all about how much time I want/can commit to every day. I started out with the most intensive plan and after about ten days decided I needed to try a different plan. Sometimes our goals and ideas are too lofty for a starting point but those same goals and ideas can be something we grow to. I have found myself not so much talking more in Mandarin but understand more of what I am hearing. As I learn to listen and understand what I hear, I will also grow in what I can say. My hope is to see continued improvement and growth in my listening and speaking skills. Eventually I want to be going through this program again on the intensive level.
I am grateful for different learning tools and the flexibility to find what method works best for me. There is hope!