The only system of language learning that I have ever fully experienced in my life is the one for Soviet diplomats to be. For the first two months of my German training I was not allowed even to attempt to construct a sentence on my own. For two months in a row, we were learning by heart tiny texts without understanding a word, and it was meant to make us comfortable with the use of language and to help us to develop a correct pronunciation. The effectiveness of this approach was questionable: a phonetics exam at the end of the semester was failed by the entire class. Two months of tongue rolling and lips curling were followed by a “speak-German-properly-don’t-you-dare-to-make-a-mistake” terror. Everything was put into a system and split into modules. Without a full understanding of a rule “A” there was no way to move to a rule “B”. As a result, when I did arrive to Germany, I was seriously frightened to speak, as I was too scared to make a mistake.
It might sound like a purely traumatizing experience, but now, after having enjoyed the results for several years, I should admit its benefits too. Thanks to such a system a proper use of grammar becomes a natural habit and takes your language skills to a completely different level.
I do not think that it is a right method to learn a language for everyone, but it was the only one I knew when I decided to learn Hindi on my own. Hence, it was clear to me that before daring to say confidently “Namaste. Ap kaise hai?” [Hello! How are you?], I had to make a strict plan, break it into steps and work hard. That was the plan:
Step 1. Finish a 200-page book dedicated to Devanagari script.
Step 2. Switch to another book with pronunciation basics and finish it too.
Step 3. Read through (on the way to work in a tram) first chapters covering basic grammar rules.
Step 4. Listen to everything you can find in Hindi.
But then something went wrong. I was scared to start with such a different script and postponed it as much as possible. I was not able to complete a Step 1, therefore there was no way for me to move to a Step 2. I got stuck and it resulted into Hindi books staying untouched on my table with a sticky note TO-DO for almost two years.
Everything changed one day when I came home after spending 20 hours in front of the computer, and in order to switch an activity I decided to “draw” Devanagari signs for fun, as an entertainment. A week later I got a new copybook, and two weeks later I could read and write Hindi. I discovered tones of available resources for Hindi learning and soon realized that I was spending several hours a week on it. Motivation and excitement came out of nowhere.
The secret was very simple. For the first time in my “learning practice” there was no plan, no steps and no deadlines. Instead, there was a new hobby, which was so different from my every day routine, that it became an after-work relaxation, replacing old habits like episodes watching. My mindset changed in a natural way and I discovered a whole new way of learning things without a rigid system and frameworks set. Of course, there is no way to avoid a system of languages learning completely. In the end of the day, I use books and videos, which are structured in a certain way. But I have a freedom to adjust it to my personal rhythm and enjoy the process, and it is utterly rewarding. Sometimes, we should just start doing things instead of concentrating on how we are going to do them.