Last year, I took a break from my usual self-flagellating New Year’s pledges to stop drinking, go running at 6am every day or some other thing that I was clearly never going to do, and instead made a fun resolution: to visit 5 brand-new countries during the year.
I achieved my goal quite easily in the end, thanks to my partner being as much of a language and travel geek as I am.
I started the year well, with New Years celebrations in Italy, teaching Italians how to pull crackers, eat Christmas pudding correctly (hint: don’t stir it!) and make tea in the British way. I also spent a week struggling along with my roughly 20 words of Italian (I know a bit more now!).
In March, I spent 5 days in Luxembourg with friends from University. Luxembourg is a strange, quintessentially European country that could easily be overlooked, but has a great mix of French and German culture.
The Easter bank holiday saw me take a sneaky trip to Amsterdam, adding the Netherlands to my roster. After four solid days of sampling the Dutch lifestyle, from the socially-acceptable pursuits of sight-seeing and tasting Dutch food and drink, to some of the other activities that Amsterdam is famous for, I definitely needed a holiday to recover from the holiday, but I loved the Netherlands and the straightforward, open-minded nature of its people.
In May, I visited Ukraine for the first time, and I have fledgling plans to go back soon. We visited during some of the events of the ‘revolution’ there, and it was a very interesting moment to see Kiev. Hopefully I will learn much more about the place, its people and culture this year!
Finally, I took a summer trip to Aarhus in Denmark, to add another very relaxed and yet efficient Northern country to my year. The weather was incredible and this was a really surprisingly fantastic little city, with surprisingly great beaches (some FKK) and interesting sights, such as the Old Town (den Gamle By).
… As for this year, I’ve already had a pretty dry January simply by virtue of being too sick to drink alcohol. I have a few other goals in mind, but my main language learning resolutions are below!
- I’m starting the year with a challenge. This January I’ve been doing the EuroTalk #NewYearNewuTalk challenge – to learn as much Romanian as I can in a month. You can read about my progress on the ET blog. I wouldn’t say I’m in with any chance of winning, but it’s been an interesting experiment to start a completely new language and experience a new set of challenges. It’s great to be able to impress my colleague Ioana with my random Romanian words and phrases. Although I don’t think I’ll take the language further, just knowing the basics is quite interesting, as this isn’t such a ‘mainstream’ language for a Brit to learn.
- Get my Italian and French up to a decent standard. I’d say I’m hovering around intermediate in both of these, albeit with the main deficiency in the area of speaking… I intend to hit them both hard by continuing my (occasional) French lessons and Duolingo, as well as trying loads of new learning methods (see my next post).
- Build up my translation work. More about this later, but I’m hoping my translation work might become a bigger part of my life in the not-too-distant future. So I’m on the lookout for new clients, as well as trying to improve my abilities (as always).
- Start learning Russian. This is on the backburner for now, but it’s definitely a goal for later on this year, if things go to plan.
- Make more use of my German and Spanish. These are my two more fluent languages, and I hope to make more time for reading, chatting, watching movies and whatever else I can think of in both of them.
So these are my 5 goals for 2015. They might sound a bit general and non-specific, but I plan several more posts on here about my more specific language learning strategies and goals.
Happy New Year, and happy language learning