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Benny’s New Year’s Resolution: NOT learn a new language this year(?!)


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A belated Happy 2014 to everyone! And a สวัสดีครับ (hello) from Thailand – my temporary stop before I head to Japan in a couple of weeks to begin my language and cultural immersion experience there. I can't wait!

This post is an update of my plans for the year, but it's not the big news I've been promising for a long time – that will finally come on Friday 😉

For those of you who have been hitting my site looking for advice in the last days from having taken on a New Year's Resolution to learn a language yourselves, please see some older (but still relevant) posts I wrote on other blogs to help you with that:

All Japanese All The Time: Ditch your Resolution, it's time for a language mission!

Location 180: 13 ways to actually stick to your resolutions this year

The theme of both is of course to have intensive missions of just a few months (notice the name of this blog?) with a very specific target to aim for. As such, I've found year-long resolutions don't work for me, and I “resolved” to not do the New Year's Resolution thing any more, a long time ago.

In a way, I'm not going to break that “New Century Resolution” because the plan for this year is actually a plan of “inaction”, which will lead to some wonderful benefits. In a way, my “non resolution” is to not learn a new language this year.

1st world polyglot problems

Ever since I started this blog back in 2009, I've devoted several weeks or three entire months to learning many new languages:

Czech in 2009, Thai, German and Hungarian in 2010, Tagalog, ASL, Dutch, Turkish, Klingon, Quechua in 2011 (what a year!!), Mandarin and Egyptian Arabic in 2012, and Japanese in 2013. That pattern is 1… 3… 6… 2… 1 in case you're wondering! [Scroll half way down this page for links to the starts and ends of each mission]

Learning so many languages sounds like fun, but there's a catch – you simply can't just keep doing nothing but learn new languages all the time, or your old ones will fall off to the side. This has definitely happened and many of these languages I've just listed have been all but forgotten for me. While it's definitely true that I can reactivate them pretty quickly, ultimately I'm not interested in trying to claim a huge number of languages, especially if many of them are not languages I'd use actively and frequently.

As such, there are certain languages that I've decided that I do want to maintain long-term (French, Italian, Esperanto, Irish, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Mandarin, Dutch, American Sign Language; adding Japanese to that list, pending my experience in Japan!) but they don't just stick around in your brain forever, you have to work hard to maintain them and improve on them. My Dutch, ASL and Mandarin for instance, are languages that have slipped into A2-B1 levels due to lack of practice, and this makes me sad!

A true “polyglot problem” is that I now have too many languages in my head, so I'm going to take a long break from learning new ones and focus on maintaining and improving my current ones, specifically just the ones in my long-term list. I feel bad otherwise when I'm so out of practice in a language that I should and want to know well and make some silly mistakes in it.

Make my current languages stronger in 2014

So, once my time in Japan is up, I'll be doing some interesting other activities (finally telling you what this very week!) for the entire year, but then otherwise hopping on italki or having in person opportunities to both practise and to push my levels up, in each of my long-term languages, for the rest of the time, all year long.

I'll write about my experience of doing so, and of striving towards higher levels in languages over the long-term, throughout the year, and of course I'll be recording many more videos in those languages!

Sorry if you've been waiting for me to finally get around to your favourite language, but I'm sure many of you who have seen me touch on a certain language in the past, would like to see me write much more about that language now again. So I hope you enjoy my year of improving my language skills! I can't wait to have some fun with languages I know well, and can already have lots of fun in, but that do indeed require a little de-rusting!

I hope you enjoy following along with me this year, as I get back to the wonderful languages I'm so passionate about. Can't wait to make videos and write about each one again! 😀

Also, this post was inspired by Alex Rawlings' similar thoughts a few months ago, Language learning never stops, and that’s why I’ve stopped (for now).

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Benny Lewis

Founder, Fluent in 3 Months

Fun-loving Irish guy, full-time globe trotter and international bestselling author. Benny believes the best approach to language learning is to speak from day one.

Speaks: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Esperanto, Mandarin Chinese, American Sign Language, Dutch, Irish

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