Well, now that Australia and New Zealand are out of the World Cup, football fans might be able to get some regular sleep again! But while South Africa is still in the public eye, I’d like to draw attention to the multi-lingual status of the country.
Despite its past and present reputation for racial intolerance, South Africa’s constitution affords equal status to not just one or two languages, but 11. Although English is almost universally spoken and understood, it is the fifth most common mother tongue of South Africans.
The most commonly spoken native language is isiZulu, and the other ten official languages are Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, SiSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga. As well as the official languages, there are a multitude of other languages which are recognised by the constitution, including some creoles and pidgins. SouthAfrica.info has a very comprehensive page about the country’s languages if you would like to read more.
I think it’s wonderful that so many diverse cultures and languages are recognised and celebrated. I can only imagine all those translations would make the official signs and notices pretty long, though!
When it comes to goal-setting in language learning, how do you measure your progress, or know you have achieved your goals? Do you define study goals as different from assessment goals? Here are a few different ways you can chart your language progression:
- Per class – do your homework and collate your notes, organising your new words and sentence structures.
- Per number of words – test yourself on the words you learned in one class, or reward yourself every time you successfully learn 10 (or 20, or 100) new words.
- Per chapter – reward yourself every time you finish a chapter or a unit in a textbook, or after you have read a chapter in a book or successfully watched an episode of target language TV.
- Per assignment – aim for a certain base score (e.g. 80%) in your homework assignments or course assessments.
- Per semester – aim to achieve a certain score for the calendar month or term/semester at your course.
- External examinations – aim to reach a certain score in public examinations. Certain tests (e.g. IELTS) have only one exam paper but a wide range of scores. Try to aim for an achievable score for your level, but one that will give you a challenge.
Which method(s) do you use to keep track of your learning?
Language learning is just one of the many things in life that you need motivation to do. Many people start with the best intentions, but it takes some dedication to keep going after the first burst of enthusiasm and visible progression. The beginning is often the easiest time, but how do you keep going after you’ve learned your first hundred words?
Looking broadly, motivation can come from one of two places – external or internal. I, sadly, respond best to external motivators like having to meet someone for a class, being assigned a homework due date, and studying for exams. Strong deadlines are important, and if there is no fear of a punishment (whether that be a failing grade, or just embarrassment or disappointment in myself), I find it hard to stick to a due date. Some people manage well with setting goals for themselves, and it tends to work quite well if you have smaller goals that add up to a big or distant achievement. Other forms of internal motivation include making timetables, giving yourself small rewards, marking your progress as you go, or withholding rewards until you have reached your targets.
Ideally, a combination of internal and external motivators would work best. Perhaps meeting someone for a language exchange once a week, while doing self-study three times a week will work. Perhaps denying yourself your favourite TV show until you’ve watched a show in your target language will work. Everybody is different.
I guess language learning is one of those situations where ‘you only disappoint yourself’ if you don’t keep trying, but it’s hard to be your own sole motivator. What’s your favourite or most successful way of finding motivation?
Everybody’s talking about the FIFA World Cup these days, whether they are interested in it or not. Fans are discussing the results and upcoming matches, and disinterested spouses are complaining about the lack of attention they’re getting while the football (or soccer, depending on where you come from) is on.
It’s pretty exciting that both New Zealand and Australia qualified this year, and I think it’s a good opportunity to learn a bit more about other countries and their languages. For example, as you’ll probably know, Kiwis and Aussies don’t usually mean soccer when they talk about football. Luckily, there are so many sports that could be called football (rugby (union), soccer, Aussie Rules, (rugby) league) that people usually just call them by their proper names. Most ‘serious’ football-playing nations will call it football, though (or some variation of that name). Some words borrow from the English word (e.g. the Spanish and Turkish word futbol and the Serbian word fudbal), and some are a direct translation of the words foot and ball (like the German Fussball/Fußball, and the Dutch voetbal).
Enjoy the competition, whatever you’re calling the sport!