#Add1Challenge – Intro post from Mizuu

You know me, you saw my Personal Learning Plan, now I decided to add a little twist to it.

First I saw Lingholic (Sam) doing it, and then in short succession everybody seemed to jump on the bandwagon of awesomeness: Michał, Eriko, Richard… so why shouldn’t I?

#Add1Challenge is basically a community that challenges you to add 1 language to your reportaire by the end of 2013. I thought that not only will I gain additional motivation to keep up with my PLP, but also meet some new people fascinated by foreign languages. Since yesterday, when I published the video, even though I am not a part of the Facebook group, I received messages, subscribtions and genuine encouragement. Feels great!

Also, some people are taking on the challenge with languages that I teach – Polish or Japanese, so I’ll be able to help! I’m superhappy.

My planned winter semester starts in less than a week – on Saturday, so I am also anxious and excited, slowly tackling down MOOCs, to get into the spirit.

I want to share one more project with you, Rachel AKA Moosader is a beginner esperantist and she started to make short animations to help others learn or teach the language. The first episode, “Saluton!” (=Hello!), is below, with my Japanese and Polish version of subtitles in it, so everyone can enjoy it (other people contributed other languages :D)! Please subscribe to her channel and get new episodes delivered to you!



The Color Green

Autumn here in Central Europe! Wonderful gold, yellow, brown, copper, and red leaves hanging with all their might to the branches – but not for long!


But the whole Internet will soon enough stop with their “Autumn, be nice to me” JPGs and cozy pictures of steaming tea and warm blankets to join the shrilling outcry of “WE MISS SPRING!”. That, by some crazy brain cogs moving, led me to a post on the associations with the color green in various languages, but most widely Polish (nothing about Polish for quite a while!).

The color green, as such has, IMHO, two main groups of associations: one is cultural (mostly about feelings, sensations) and one is civilizational (connected with things and globalisation of their usage).

Cultural associations

Green in this group is the color of envy, hope and freshness.
I can understand freshness and hope well – green is the color of plants in the spring, providing fresh, new food, and hope for warmer days. But why envy? Jack Tressider in his book “Symbols and Their Meaning” explains that green and envy come together precisely because of the “youthness” and “freshness” – envy is a feeling not proper for a well-mannered adult, hence it’s given to those who are young and immature.

What do we have in languages then?
Być zielonym (w czymś)” (lit. be green (in something)) in Polish means you are inexperienced in a given field – many Americans would use the noun “greenhorn” in that meaning. Japanese would also say that somebody is 青い (aoi) to mean he’s just starting out. But with Japanese there is one thing, you might have heard – 青い is a color that encompasses various shades of blue and green (and that’s a proper i-adjective), when Westerners turned out to distinguish between blues and greens, a noun of  (midori) was introduced and it means solely green. Yet, it doesn’t show up in many expressions, unless they are taken straight from Chinese. Chinese, by the way, assosciate color green with perfection and immortality (during Ming dynasty it was the color of the emperor) – mostly because of their love to gems like jade and nephrite – for example see 最青的貨 (zui qing de huo) in Chinese means “top quality goods” (lit. “the most green…”). In Japanese there’s also more neutral word of 青年 (seinen) meaning just a young man or even youth as a whole (lack of experience slightly implied *nudge nudge*) and a rude word 青臭い (aokusai, lit. having a green odour) to imply one’s not only inexperienced, but too lame
to do the job.

Then some people in English refer to jealousy or envy as “the green-eyed monster“, didn’t really catch on in the languages I speak. Polish people say “zzielenieć z zazdrości” (to turn green from envy), but even though English people use “green from envy” expression, “turning green” translated poorly to other languages – in English it means one follows pro-ecological ideas of renewable energy sources and sorting trash, in Japanese 青くなる (aoku-naru) means somebody is in a state of shock, turned pale. This is probably because of the fact that oxidized blood is red (we blush with pinkish/reddish/brownish color depending on skin tone) and the blood that is non-oxidized is blue which in combination with yellow skin tone and dim lights gives a greenish-blue result. Hence, the word 青筋 (aosuji) means a vein, especially the one on the head, that appears as a + or X sign on an annoyed Anime/Manga character’s forehead (see expression: 青筋を立てて怒る – so angry his/her veins stood out).

Green is also the color of sickness. You can “look green around the gills” or just “pozielenieć” (lit. gradually turn green) in Polish. In Japanese someone who has a green face 青い顔 (aoi kao) is weak from sickness.

Any other surprising “green idioms”? Yes!

  • bei Mutter Grün” – German for “next to Mother Green” means “in open air, outside”
  • 万緑一紅 (banryoku ikkou) – Japanese idiom literally saying “10.000 greens, on crimson” or in more poetic English “one red flower among the abundance of green leaves” is either a figure of speech meaning a beautiful woman among regular people or a high-quality item among heaps of cliche or badly made stuff
  • mieć zielono w głowie” (lit. have green in your head) is a Polish expression for falling in love or daydreaming (esp. about a crush) often given in first person exclamation of “Zielono mi!” (lit. I’m (feeling) green!)
  • nie mieć zielonego pojęcia” is a Polish equivalent of “not having the faintest idea”, but faintest was replaced with “green” for some unbeknown (at least to me) reason

Civilizational assosciations

Green propagated across the globe as the color of “OK” and “GO!”.
Hence in almost all the languages I know you can “recive or give the green light” meaning a permission was granted (“green light” in German – “grünes Licht“, in Polish – “zielone światło“, in Japanese – “青信号 (aoshingou)”, in Esperanto – “verda lumo“, in Korean – “녹색 빛을 (nogsaeg bich-eul)”, and in French “le feu vert“).

Esperanto, as “the language of hope” (espero = hope) is very fond of promoting the green color with their symbols – their flag (esperanta flago) is green with a green star (La Verda Stelo) in upper left-hand corner. You can also look up “jubilea simbolo” (jubilee symbol) – yup, green as well. Because of their obsession with green on their things, there’s an expression of “verda papo” (lit. a green pope) to name someone who endlessly about the ideals of Esperanto. It’s not good to be a verda papo, obviously. You can also hope (hehe) to receive a green card – which is a document required in the USA to work legally.

You know what else is green in the US? Dollars. When you are wealthy you could have said (it’s a bit outdated now) that you have “the greenness” or “the green stuff” – now I think most young people would think about marihuana if they heard that (a similar shift occured in Polish with the literal translation of the above phrase “mieć zielone“).

One can also have one more green thing – a thumb! When one has a green thumb – or 緑の指 (midori no yubi) in Japanese – it means that person is a great, natural-born gardener. I’m not having green thumbs, apparently, and the expression is non-existant in Polish, too. But we used to “grać w zielone” (lit. play the green) which was a common game in former generations. People playing it were required to have something green on them for the game time-span which could last up to a couple of weeks until everyone got bored. If someone was caught (at school, during a party, on the playground) without something green, s/he was eliminated. Even I used to play it, but I don’t know any primary school students who still do. As my grandma used to play it (there wasn’t an aweful lot of choice in clothes back then in Poland) – a player was required to have a fresh leaf with them wherever they go.

I was also told a story by a German friend who have an expression “das ist dasselbe in Grün” (lit. “it’s the same in green”) meaning someone sees no difference between two options. It started (and is still used in some places) in 1920s when and Opel factory in Germany produced a car almost identical to a French Citroёn, but its body color was changed to green. Strange stories behind some idioms!

OK, that’s enough for today, everybody :D!
Maybe you know some other languages with interesting expressions with color “green” in them? Please share them in the comments, that might be fun!


Also, if you want to read some more articles for me, a while back I did a guest post at Babla on Sign Languages – you can read it in English or in Polish! 🙂

Personal Learning Plan – The Way I Do It, The Way You’d Improve It

As I promised in one of my other blogs, I’m up for describing my routine for the upcoming semester. This note might be a bit lengthy, so I won’t be mad if you save it to your Pocket or somewhere similar.

PLP – What is it?

Since visiting this page and being turned down for a PhD programme, I slowly grew to think about myself as an Edupunk – someone who is solely responsible for one’s educational goals, can take advantage of modern technology and knows how to give and take in the skill market.

Being an edupunk requires some cunning planning. The central part of it is called a PLP – Personal Learning Plan. I’ll show you the process of creating my first PLP.

What this post is for?

I can think of three reasons:
1) For people that want to create their own PLPs, let it be a walkthrough and inspiration. I’d also love to see yours, when you’re finished!
2) Sharing it will provide some accountability to the process.
3) I’d LOVE to get some feedback. More on it at the end of the post.


I got really inspired by “The Edupunks’ Guide to DIY Credential” by Anya Kamenetz (you can download the book for free!)! I breezed through it during one night!

That got me thinking – I want new knowledge, but this year there is no university curriculum to keep it structured! Bummer! I need to take care of it myself!

Writing many curricula for my students I though that it would be easy-peasy, yet it turned out to be much more complicated when you want to cover totally different fields, alone, without any specific exam you are working towards and no imposed restrictions. I also need to keep my motivation and flexibility high!

What I ended up with is THIS – click to open in a new window for reference.

I organize a lot of my links, lists and notes in Springpad and I grew to like it. Please use any platform that you like, be it Evernote, Diigo, Google Drive, Wunderlist etc.

First of all – remember how to use SMART technique in setting up your goals. Here’s a crib on SMART goals:

For me, some of those were taken care of of – the goals should be assigned to me and I decided upon the time constraints rather quickly – they are more or less similar to the original winter semester, hence this part of the project lasts for 22 weeks (including one week off around Christmas) from 28 September 2013 to 28 Februrary 2014.

A word of explanation on why I decided to start on Saturday – a lot of productivity gurus (see Tim Ferris or Scott Young) remind you to take a day far, faaar away from work – for me a day to sort out my priorities and reflect is Friday, because on Friday there are a lot of party opportunities, cultural events happening and it tricks my mind a bit. Frown-upon Monday is already the middle of my week! Also if a job opportunity comes my way, I’ll be able to tackle most of tasks during weekend and go easy for the rest of the week.

Another step was to write down my Expectations – I didn’t name them goals to assure myself that the world won’t end if anything goes wrong and I tweak those along the way. I also feel more responsible and less tense about my “expectations” than, say, “responsibilities”.

Some of my expectations, as you might see, are general – I want to keep on blogging, for example, or remember about making proper breaks and keeping up with current news and creative presentations. The rest of them I divided into 5 fields I feel passionate about right now: education, languages, culinary, sociology and science (esp. neuroscience). I then proceeded to breaking it down to more
measurable, specific skills and concepts I want to master or books I want to read.

Even though it looks busy, I weren’t harsh with myself. I thought that after a year in post-grad on Public Relations (away from linguistic major), it’s time to finally to refine my elemental skills, defossilize some basic knowledge and review some vocabulary depending on my mastery of given language (my students were surprised I decided to work through the whole Basic Kanji Book series in one semester – being it both a time-consuming, and fairly… well, basic task). Furthermore, I took genuine interest in fields I won’t be able to master at a University (FOOD. Still, I have to admit I’ve just received my Certificate of Accomplishment in “The Science of Gastronomy” MOOC from The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology).

I decided also what to leave out – for example I want to hone my computer science skills (esp. coding) again, but during the summer semester. I have some interest in multimedia – but the idea of shooting anything in dim winter light seemed unappealing and so I postponed it until summer as well.

I tried to include not only passive knowledge, but also productive output – like tweeting, reflecting on blogs, putting things up for peer review and making connections.

Then I compiled lists of resources, books I want to read (Sorry for so many Polish titles! That’s what I have at hand!), courses I want to attend (MOOCs mostly) and lectures I want to dive into. To keep it simple, I refer back to specific parts in my Expectations drive. Later on I also started saving links to resources I want to tackle if I find the time – if not, they are valuable resources for the next semester.

To be sure I stay on track I designed what I called a Progress Page – PDF for that is included in the Springpad notebook. Taking into account what can be done to make me closer to the desired outcome, a Progress Page is a single sheet of paper to log my successes, failures (“There’s no failure – only feedback!”) and reflections each Friday.

Your Feedback

I would really love you to take a look at my PLP and share your thoughts, for example:

  • How would you batch the tasks together? 
  • Do you think it’s more sensible to choose a field each day on a whim or to tackle tasks based on some sort of timetable, regardless of I want to do something or not?
  • Can you support me in any of those goals? (shout out to Katriel, who has my back on Korean and German!) 
  • Do you see any possible failing points in my PLP? Would you add anything or cross anything out? Make anything less daunting or more specific?
  • Have you ever designed a PLP yourself? If so, can you share it? Any thoughts / expiriences worth sharing? 
  • Maybe you are willing to become a fellow edupunk? I love meeting new people and helping each other! Please contact me! 😀

Not Getting Jokes In Your Target Language? Try Jokes ABOUT That Language!!

Some people thought that my last post was pretty dim, when I actually wanted to give some optimism and hope to the community. So today I though about a video compilation post of my favorite comedy routines on language. PLEASE, if you have more share them with me in the comments, via twitter (@kantanda) or e-mail!


Japanese group Raamenzu on Americans learning about Japanese culture and language

Adam Hills on Australian accents (and other nations visiting Australia…)

Continue reading

Dear Language Learner Who Cries At Night…

Dear Language Learner Who Cries At Night,

Sorry for not writing to you earlier. Life was busy, the Internet was full. All of us forget about that special, quiet person from time to time. But I know how you feel.

In weeks and months to come, you will sigh, cry, and dispair some more. You will hate your Anki deck, your might want to shred your notes to pieces, you will put your dictionaries up for sale or donate them to the closest library. There will be no job post for someone whose biggest achievement is mastering Wilamowicean, your better half will hate your Skype friends of opposite sex and KPop will have lost its appeal.

But let me tell you something. Those shreded notes? – they’ll become a colorful confetti over the most English breakfast and the most Japanese lunch you’ll ever eat. The dictionaries will be the beginning of a new polyglot study group at that local library of yours – maybe you should pay them a visit? And the job post you’ll create for yourself one day will earn you enough money that someday you will go teary at a karaoke bar somewhere in Asia, hearing the first song in Korean you mastered lyrics to.

There are many people out there, whom you meet online and share your passions with. They cry over their languages too, you know? Maybe they shall visit you one day? People who are like you have tired eyes sometimes, be there for them. Write e-mails like this and tell them how awesome they are. Be a good ambassador or a good host. Reach out. All the bloggers want is to hear from their readers, know they have an impact.

You’re having an impact too, Dear Language Learner Who Cries At Night, not only with every Anki deck you share and every language exchange over Skype you have and each piece at Lang-8 you checked – but also with every dictionary you sold, every notebook you tore and every break-up you lived through.

Please gather the confetti. And throw a party, alone, sobbing.

Then we need to know your name. Tweet it, blog it, vlog it, in any language you want – let us now. We’d be delighted to share our old textbooks with you and embark on much happier adventures ahead.

Agnieszka “Mizuu” Gorońska

The Passion for Utopia, the Utopia of Passion

“Talent is a pursued interest. In other words, anything that you’re willing to practice, you can do.”
Bob Ross, TV host and painter

I had a really interesting talk a few days ago with one of my online friends, Grzegorz (who you can follow here or here or see his new project here), and one subject of our discussion got stuck with me, because we didn’t seem to agree on one point I feel strongly about – passion.

If I understood Greg correctly, he thinks that passion is a scarce resource. Like being a natural redhead – not many people are endowed with the gift of passion. They are not “blessed” with it. The implication here is twofold: no matter how hard adults would try, not every person will be passionate about something in their life, and the environment influence is marginal – a person who has a burning passion within will show it sooner or later.

I have a greatly different standpoint – in my opinion each and every person has a passion circuit built within them, waiting to be turned on. The fact that only a minority of people are deeply passionate about something in their lives is the fault of not coming across The Thing – because of poverty, poor education, no Internet access, abusive families and a plethora of other reasons. Our job, as educators, is to open as many doors as possible for each kid. It’s a quest to find what turns the switch on and build a proper scaffolding around it at the beginner stage. And if we try hard enough, this is possible for every individual. I’m also saying “kids” but sometimes we find passion as an adult, because of lucky circumstances and fun peers / great mentors.

The conflict between those two approaches haunted me – is my approach utopian? – and I asked various people around me about their insight (for complex discussion the shout-out goes to Jasmine, Lazarus and Ausir). While my and Greg’s opinions seemed to be very extreme in comparison, one specific thought from the grey area between them disturbed me (and people opinions swayed both ways). Namely, the fact that probably majority of people have some sort of passion (not 100%; more like 80%) but for various reasons they decide not to pursue it. They PREFER to drop it, never fight for it, never nurture it, for the sake of being regular, normal, don’t stick their heads out. And this is why educators across globe fail – because of the presence of laziness, fear or shame of having a particular passion.

Is that so? How do you feel about it. I really need you feedback on that because of what I do. I MUST KNOW!


Head Over Heels With Kanji?

kaishaDon’t you just hate it when you sit at a classroom or at your school library and someone approaches you from the front inquiring about the stuff you’re doing? I was the person to ask that nagging question several times when I was still at the pre-intermediate stage with my Japanese.

– Oh, why do you have to read such a long text on Japanese companies [=日本の会社]?

– It’s about Japanese society [=日本の社会], you moron.

– Ah, that’s right. – I turned the book upside down and noticed my mistake.


When learning kanji you have to remember about a ton of things – the readings, the stroke order, the meanings… and a lot of quite funny methods were applied to learning kanji for easy remembering. Various mnemonics, tracing exercises and JLPT examinations… wait, that’s not funny. But how about the usage? Why don’t we stir things a bit and put some kanji upside down? Well, at least their order… let me propose a new way you can pair up the words you learn by a list of 10 such symmetrical kanji relationships (almost like two halves of the same apple, huh?):


会社 (かいしゃ)a company ⇔ 社会 (しゃかい)society

途中 (とちゅう)en route, on the way ⇔ 中途 (ちゅうと)in the middle, half-way

白黒 (しろくろ)monochrome ⇔ 黒白 (こくはく)right and wrong, black and white

五十 (ごじゅう)fifty ⇔ 十五 (じゅうご) fifteen

一万 (いちまん)ten thousand ⇔ 万一 (まんいち)once-in-a-lifetime chance

中年 (ちゅうねん)middle-aged ⇔ 年中 (ねんちゅう)during the year, a whole year

子馬 (こうま)foal ⇔ 馬子 (まご)packhorse driver

生卵 (なまたまご)raw egg, uncooked egg ⇔ 卵生 (らんせい) oviparity

日本 (にほん)Japan ⇔ 本日 (ほんじつ) that (specific) day

理論 (りろん)theory ⇔ 論理 (ろんり)logic, logical


Memorizing Japanese vocab in pairs is a very effective technique – and you’ve probably tried learning antonyms (words with opposite meaning) or synonyms (words with the same meaning). Maybe you’ve even tried learning only half of the material leaving the other half for the friend who will sit beside you on JLPT or any other Japanese test, that’s also your choice. But, honestly, tell me about any other creative ways of pairing up words you personally use or know!

What Brides Can Teach You About Self-Directed Learning

(the following article is a crosspost between Kantan datta! and 1 Habit At a Time)

How many of you are married? Raise your hands! Good for you! But can you remember the rhyme passed on from mothers to daughters essentially pinpointing what items should the bride carry to become a happy wife? Yes, yes…


Something old
something new
something borrowed
something blue
and a sixpence in her shoe

Let’s break it down and see how this leads to a flawless victory in skill acquisition, taking learning new languages as an example.



Originally it was a symbol of continuity, passing traditions on. In a good self-directed learning system the base is setting up a revision system within it. Each new material you begin to internalize should stem from already internalized knowledge and concepts. This is especially true for learning a foreign language – it’s useless to memorize names of geological layers and then jump to future tenses. The connection between those two is too weak and far-fetched. It’s better to couple words for groceries and the imperative form of verbs – you will be able to follow recipes! A simple and not time-consuming trick is to put a post-it note at the end of each lesson you finish, so that you can write down 5 concepts you have remembered at the beginning of the next lesson – be it 5 words, 5 dates, 5 key concepts, 5 formulas or 5 definitions. It helps you to anchor new things in your memory. If you cannot come up with five items, maybe it’s better to review the previous lesson instead of starting a new one.


Something new was to symbolise hope and optimism in the original rhyme. That always helps, but I want to stress something very important here. Building a lesson around solely new material is of no use. In language learning this was voiced in the 80s by Stephen Krashen and his set of hypotheses, especially the Input Hypothesis (if you are unfamiliar with the work of Stephen Krashen – here is a nice summary) which says we need so-called comprehensible input (n+1 where n is what we already know) to acquire language properly. It might be especially tricky if you learn something seemingly for scratch. Please be sure to center beginner lessons on your existing knowledge – like comparing sounds across languages you know or looking up a list of internationalisms (similar words in different languages – e.g. metro, computer, democracy, stop) and false friends. In disciplines like biology or geography it’s even easier to do as you can always compare across different organisms and countries.


Borrowing something means the bride can depend on others and their luck is carried over to her. It’s the same in learning new things. There were others on this road before you (even if you are a Thai person learning Wolof) and in the Internet era, finding them is easier than ever. Connect with people, find mentors, ask questions, consider setting up a study group (yes, online as well!), motivate each other, and above all – don’t forget to reach out to those who are following you! Other people will want to “borrow” something from you too!
What’s more, “something borrowed” connects to the preceding lines of the rhyme – you should rely on what you already know, like other foreign languages, but not too heavily. After all, it’s just one line among five of them.


The meaning of the blue item is widely disputed, but it’s believed to be a symbol of modesty, fidelity as well as love. It’s good to be modest and love what you do, but let’s actually change the meaning here. You need other senses to learn the best. Even if you are not predominantly a visual learner, add color, diagrams, movies to what you learn. Engage other senses if possible. If you learn Japanese, take your textbook for a date to a sushi restaurant (or a cozy tea house if sushi is a luxury good where you live). Munch on some nuts on long study sessions, they allegedly improve you memory. Organise one study session of history in a room filled with faint incense stick aroma. Utilize your touch not only by fiddling with your pen and highlighters, but by handling the core of your study. Have you ever touched paper made in China, or made an origami crane out of it? Did you actually go outside to touch and smell the flowers when you were learning about pollination? Use your imagination to discover “something blue” in your area of study!


Although sixpence is not much, that was a minimal representation of future wealth and financial security for the newlyweds. For me it’s a small sum of money that allows you not to let a chance pass. Sometimes, out of the, er, blue, a chance to boost your learning appears:

  • bumping into a particularly open foreigner that speaks your L2 that you might invite for a drink
  • an indie movie being shown in 15 minutes in the cinema you’re passing on your way home
  • huge price cut in your local bookshop or in your favorite online store
  • a silly lottery with something useful to have (like a pretty notebook, a pocket dictionary or a fun cup covered with chemical formulas to look at while you drink tea)

Of course you want to save up for a new microscope, this very expensive Java textbook with over 1000 pages and a trip to Greece after you finish your modern Greek course, but jumping at a chance when it happens isn’t anything bad, especially when you are provided with so many free resources on the Internet. It’s worthy to have a few bucks at your disposal, anytime, anywhere.

OK, so now you became true to your learning goals in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health… what will you do right now?

How To Make a Polyglot’s Brain Explode

I had my weirdest multilingual experience today and I absolutely have to share. But first: background story.

The person who made my brain explode was Danny Gong. Danny is an Asian CODA from New York City. For those of you who know me a bit already, CODA is like the holy grail of sign linguistics. For those of you who don’t know what I do – CODA is derived from the phrase “Child Of a Deaf Parent”. CODA are bilingual but in different modalities – signed and spoken.
A couple of years ago Danny moved to Japan and set up Deaf Japan company, a school teaching people ASL (American Sign Language), JSL / NS (Japanese Sign Language / Nihon Shuwa) and English. His mastery of Japanese was next to none, so he started from learning JSL first – that really helped him before he could talk, read and understand anything.
From his online presence emerges a wonderful, bright man. He’s just… awesome.

How I cam across him? By this movie. And I was flabbergasted for a while.

My brain couldn’t cope. I know all of those language and I don’t know if you have noticed – they are three of them.

(2) SPOKEN – Japanese
(3) WRITTEN – English
(protip: spoken and signed Japanese have different grammars!)

This is by far the most bizarre feeling I ever had. Each of the modalities was bombarded with different input and my brain wanted to keep them all in place analyzing the quality of each translation pair between (1) and (2), (2) and (3) as well as (3) and (1). Totally eerie…

…has someone ever made experiments like that? Showing polyglots 3 different languages through three different modalities at the same time? Gosh, it feels funny…


If you are worried by the amount of posts at this blog you can also keep up with what I do through Google+, twitter or my other blogging projects like: 1 Habit At A Time (1HAT; on lifehacking in English), Bo W Ryj! (personal blog, in Polish) or Mizuumi’s Soup (tumblr-like digital scrapbook for quotes, pics and videos). I promise I’m getting back to blogging here as well.

Thinking In Another Language = Jobless, Boring Future

A lot of you are probably planning your New Year’s Resolutions. You know from many guides and life hacking sites that your goals should be actionable, doable and measurable etc. And some of you probably don’t strive for a high grade on your language certificate, but rather choose to wait for the day you dream and think in your target language. BUT WHYYY?!


Let me tell you this:

Let me tell you one more thing:

OK, OK, some of you will argue that you don’t want a job in the language industry whatsoever. But one day you just might want it. And it will be too late! You cannot reverse the process of acquiring the language to think in it. And this is detrimentory to your skills.

They tell it’s the best way for you – make flashcards with pitures on one side instead of translations, because that lets you pass round the brain circuits responsible for your mother tongue; or watch movies without subtitles and totally immerse yourself within the language… that leaves you crippled mentally. What you should practice instead is dynamic switching between your languages. And let me tell you what you miss out when you aren’t a “language switcher”:

1. Language Tandems

Most of them are melting pots of languages. Language exhanges seldomly work like two halves of a soccer match where you score to a different goal each half. If you cannot recall how to say a word in the language your partner asks you about, you fail. You’re not helping anybody. It has to be a seamless communication act (even, or maybe especially, online) and looking stuff up in a dictionary every other second is not the way to achieve that. Some lnguage tandems use even 3 or more language (one of them being common for both speakers and the others are their targer langagues), in what language do you want to think then, huh?

2. Being a Teacher

In language exchanges you had to be a notorious switcher. Even more so if you stand in front of a class that bombards you with a cannonade on vocabulary questions. You are, after all, their main source of language, even more important and interesting than a dictionary. As this is a very common way to travel – to become a foreign language teacher or a teacher’s assistant – think about how quickly you are able to switch, not how well you think in their language.

3. Translation and Interpreting

This should be obvious. If your conciousness has no connection between “dog” and “Hund”, “lake” and “湖” or “to study” and “uczyć się” – you are no material for a translator nor interpreter. And that’s a good deal of money oftentimes. Why not use it for more classes, language materials or a trip? The sole act of translation is the firstmost classic and popular way of learning another language. Yes, it can be dull and boring, but that’s not the only option you have, right? But to be given cash for a part of your study – isn’t that alluring?

4. Linguistic Jokes

Polyglots (and less skilled non-monoglots) are among the most interesting and funny people you can get to know. But they have a peculiar sense of humour. Only if you can switch your monolingual (or rather: one-language-at-a-time) thinking off for a while, you can get a joke like that:

イヌはいくつまで数えられますか。 (Up to what number can a dog count?)
ワン! (Woof!)

The pun here is bilingual. “ワン” (Wan!) is the sound a dog makes in Japanese, but it’s also prounanced similarly to English “one”.

Another such a case:

Dlaczego w Watykanie nie grają w bilard? (Why they don’t play pool in Vatican?)
Bo papamobile. (‘Cause papamobile.)

“Papamobile” is the Italian name for “Popemobile”, the vehicle used by the Pope, but in sloppy Polish prounanciation is sounds like “papa mo bile” which roughly translates into “Pope has the (billiard) balls” – hence no one else can play.

To sum up, you’ve already missing out on cash, friendship and having a good laugh. And probably more! Do you still want to think in your target language 100% times you are speaking it?