My Promise to Myself

About nine years ago, when I had just finished vocational school, I made a promise to myself: I would continue to learn languages, and by the time I turned thirty, I would know at least ten languages. At that time, I knew four languages pretty well (German, English, French, and Spanish), and had another language at a higher elementary level (Italian), and had started with Chinese. In the coming year or two, I added a decent knowledge of Dutch to the list, to the point where I was able to read books in all six languages but Chinese. I bought a language self-learning course for Swedish, and for Chinese, since I wanted to continue with Chinese, and learn Swedish as well (that would have been languages seven and eight, with two more to go).

Fast forward to now: My French, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch are rusty at best (to the point where I’ll still understand a fair amount when reading something, but am unable to hold a simple conversation). I started the Swedish course but stopped not even one unit in. I started the umpteenth attempt to learn Chinese this spring, and didn’t continue because life, work, and university got in the way again. I studied Turkish for two semesters at university, and have forgotten most of it again. So basically, I speak two languages fluently and have ruins of five (six if I count Chinese) other languages in my brain that need severe repairs. Still two languages missing. I did try to learn Hungarian (broke off because I’d missed two weeks in a row and didn’t have time to catch up) and Arabic (same story) in university courses.

I turn thirty next year at the end of October. My deadline is getting closer and closer, and the work has become a lot more since I made that promise to myself, not less.

In the coming two semesters (which will end before my thirtieth birthday), I’ll have to learn Sanskrit for my linguistics degree (the historical part), which will be the first dead language on my list. That makes three (German and English being the first two, since I use them daily and teach English).

I just started refreshing my French (which was the first foreign language I learned after English), count four. Once I’m back up to a decent level (not even aiming at my previous B2/C1 level, just getting back to B1 across the skills would be nice), I’m going to do the same for my Spanish. Then, to (hopefully) prevent myself from mixing those two again, I’m going to work on my Dutch before refreshing Italian. B1 across the board is the goal for those four languages. Count seven.

Since I already did Turkish up to A2.1 level, I guess going for Turkish next, up to A2 across the board, is realistic. Count eight.

Chinese is still on my bucket list, and I’m planning on taking the HSK exam next year if it is offered in Berlin again. My minimal goal is HSK 2 (which, I think, is the Chinese equivalent to CEFR A2), both the written and oral test, but I’ll shoot for HSK 3 in writing if I feel confident by the time the exam comes around. I’ll probably study Chinese here and there while also refreshing the other languages, just because I know it’ll take a hell of a lot of time to get those characters memorized. Count nine.

The last one will be Swedish, for two reasons. One, it’s been on my bucket list for a long time now. Two, it’s a Germanic language like German, English, and Dutch, and Dutch was fairly easy to learn for me because of the similarities to German and English. I’m hoping for some help from those three languages when I try to get Swedish up to A2 level by October 29, 2017. Count ten.

I haven’t yet figured out how to evaluate my language skills, though, since there are probably not enough language exam dates available to cover all those languages in the next year (plus, exams can be pretty expensive). Any recommendations of cheap or free online tests are appreciated.

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