One of the most helpful, practical tips that I picked up in the last month from blog browsing is the practice of writing out goals and actionable steps and keeping track of them in a spreadsheet.
I wrote out my goals, one sheet as an overview with a broad deadline, and another one as a daily checklist of lifestyle goals and habits I'd like to incorporate into my life.
One of my top priority goals is to learn Korean and French. I know some Korean and a little bit of French but I've become so rusty that it's been embarrassing admitting to knowing either. On top of that, I've been in enough international settings to realize how important it is know other languages in showing respect and a regard for other cultures and communities.
It feels quite good to finally do something about and in this blog post, I'd like to share the tools and daily actions that have been helping me.
1. Online News/Radio/Podcasts - Everyday, I read one article in Korean and French, and if possible, I try and hear the article read in a native tongue.
For French, I found a fantastic resource from RFI (Radio France International). RFI offers a language learning website that includes an easy french news brief with script , as well as a host of other interactive radio story programs designed to help you learn the language. Right now, I'm really enjoying "L'affaire du coffret" which is a mystery program series about a British journalist in Paris who is on a quest to figure out how he ended up in a hotel room with a nasty hangover.
For Korean, I've been reading an article from the Chosun Ilbo but haven't been entirely satisfied with the dry reports and may switch over to KBS World News. KBS World News is a radio station with nice international sources (up to 11 different languages of their broadcasts) and lots of radio program options to listen to.
Also, I've been amazed at the plethora of free podcast language learning programs available from iTunes. It's incredible. I tried out Coffee Break French and while it was quite good, I found that there was too much English spoken for my tastes. It would be an excellent podcast for true beginners.
2. Language Learning Programs - New French With Ease (Assimil Method Books - Book and CD Edition)) is a language program I found out about from an NPR commentary by a linguist. He recommended Assimil as the best language learning program out there, and I stored that piece of info away for several years. I finally ordered the program (such a bargain for little over $30) and I've been very happy with it. I do an exercise a day, it takes me about 10 minutes, and it has an immersion feel to it. There's no English in the audio lesson--just different scenarios in French and a compact workbook that's intuitive and easy to follow. In one lesson, I could hear my accent improving. I'm looking forward to advancing to the advanced series.
J. has Rosetta Stone Korean Level 1. I haven't tried it in a few months but I'm going to try it again. Although Level 1 may seem to easy for me, I find that it goes over basic grammar and vocabulary that I've forgotten.
3. Korean Dramas/French Films -And lastly, we must never underestimate the power of the Korean drama! I've really resisted Korean dramas because they can be so addictive and time sucking but I finally caved yesterday. I realized that if I cut out all my English Hulu tv programming and replace it with Korean tv, I don't lose any more time to tv. Currently, I'm watching Cinderella's Sister through dramacrazy.net and having a blast. The key to Korean dramas is to watch the first 5 episodes then switch over to reading recaps on wonderful blogs such as this one until the plot picks up again. Otherwise it's hours of back and forth emotional masochism that can really feel stupid after awhile.
And of course, les films francais. I get my regular fix through netflix.com but as of late, I've been drying up their watch instantly resources so I'll have to find a better way to get access to french films.
By putting in about 1 hour of language learning scattered throughout my day for two weeks, I've discerned a noticeable improvement in French comprehension and pronunciation. And after a day of Korean drama watching, I became a feisty Korean spouting dinner partner for J. Looks promising. Can't wait to add a fourth language to my arsenal.