Language Learning Carnival

*Today’s blog post is part of a language learning moms blog carnival.
These post are written by moms, for moms and are intended to be a great
resource of encouragement, advice, tips and ideas for language learning
moms.  If you’re a mom or if you know a mom who is a language learner or
who would like to be a language learner, please enjoy this post, share it
with others and visit the other participating bloggers via the links at the
bottom of this post.*

I (used to and kind of still do) speak Bulgarian.  I learned it way back (more than ten years ago) when I was called to serve in Bulgaria as a missionary for the LDS (Mormon) Church. Whenever I tell someone that I speak Bulgarian, they always ask if it was hard to learn.

Um, yes, I suppose it was.  But it was not impossible.

Here’s what I began.  The very first thing I did was buy a good beginning grammar book.  Bulgarian has a different alphabet so I started with that.  Then I learned the very most common phrases:  Hello, How are you, and My name is.

My experience was different than someone learning language totally on their own, because the next thing I did was report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah.  We had classes all day everyday. But the things we did can easily be applied to a solo learner.

Start reading right away.  We started with scriptures, but you could start with any book that you are very familiar with in your own language.  Just start learning to wrap your mouth around the new sounds of your language.

Label everything.  In my classroom at the MTC, and in my apartment in Bulgaria, everything was labeled with Bulgarian words.

Use your new words.  When you learn a word in your new language, replace the old one.  If you don’t start speaking, you’ll never commit your new vocab to memory.

Find anyone you can to talk to.  When I was learning Spanish in college, I went to my sis’s house everyday and since she speaks Spanish way better than me, we practiced speaking.  It was really fun and really helpful.  On my mission, even though most of my companions were English speakers, we were encouraged to try to speak Bulgarian to each other, even when we were just at home, not out in public.

Listen to your language.  If you can’t travel to another country or place and immerse yourself in the new language, there are still plenty of things you can do.  With the internet, you can always find a radio station to listen to or something to watch in the language you’re learning.

Study, Study, Study.  As missionaries, we set aside time each morning to study.  Every single day you need to have that grammar book out, studying some new part of the language.  Every single day.

Obviously, with language learning, there will be ups and downs.  These days my biggest challenge is just holding on to what I’ve learned.  (Sometimes I still dream in Bulgarian, but I’m usually telling others I can’t understand them, or saying, please slow down…..)

I remember one terrible day when I understood nothing.  I was with two other missionaries.  One of the others had been in Bulgaria the longest, and I was expecting to rely on her understanding.  After about an hour of talking, the lady we were visiting left the room, and the other missionary turned to me and said, “I am so sick with this cold, I have no idea what she’s saying!”  Oh the horror!  Not one of us knew what was going on!  That day we nicknamed the language barrier the “Great Wall of China.”

That truly was a terrible/hilarious day, but I also remember the first time I understood everything in a conversation.  I was meeting with a dear elderly man as he related to me some of the hardships that had come into his life when Bulgaria turned to communism.  It was amazing to understand what he was saying, in his own language.  It was worth every minute of study.  It was worth the Great Wall of China days.  It was an extraordinary moment.

*Thanks for reading and be sure and stop by these other great posts:*

Learning Spanish Language: McMom’s Happy Meal at Your Language Guide

Motherhood & Language Learning: An Attempt to Reach the Lower Level of Babel at Multilingual Living

The Story of How It Worked For Me: One Mom’s Journey at The Everyday Language Learner

7 Tips to Learn a New Language as a Mom at Early Languages

The Lazy Expat Mom’s Guide to Language Learning at I Was An Expat Wife

10 Tips to learning a New Language and Surviving it Mentally at Rachel’s Rantings

Language Learning Mom Blog Carnival at The Crazy Baby Mama

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4 Responses to Language Learning Carnival

  1. Abbie says:

    I SO remember that day. *mortified* He he he…I was SICK!! She was always hard to understand anyway…Dimitrov even said so!

  2. Consuelo says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience! I can relate to the “Great Wall of China” moment and it is a wonder when you cross that invisible line of mentally translating to just understanding. Language learning is a really neat opportunity. Great post!

  3. Franck says:

    Starting to read right away is great advice. I should do more of it 😉 Thanks for sharing your experience!

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