A pen on a ring pad. Keeping a note of your tasks helps you spot the gaps. Image from freeimages.com.

Mind the Gaps

Last year, during the first Covid-19 lockdown, I took to logging my ever-increasing weekly language learning activities.

It seemed a sensible way to track how I was using all that extra time at home, and gauge how fair I was being with my language timetabling. Ultimately, it evolved to be a log of mainly face-to-face activities rather than every little thing. But even so, at the height of the crisis last year, I was filling my week with iTalki sessions, Zoom classes and polyglot get-togethers.

Weekly language learning log from September 2020

One of my weekly language learning logs from September 2020

As you can see, things had hotted up pretty well by September. I’d had even busier weeks, although they fell before I started logging. So that packed picture above fails to capture the true fever pitch at its height!

Side note: It might look like I’m blowing my own trumpet here. But some polyglots I know would scoff at this as a mere trifle; I’ve heard of  a few very dedicated people taking three or four iTalki lessons a day!

Right now, though, the picture is a little bit different:

A snapshot of my (relatively) quiet weekly language learning log from June 2021.

A snapshot of my (relatively) quiet weekly language learning log from June 2021.

That’s just four face-to-face language learning activities I managed this week. Two are iTalki lessons, one is a voluntary university class, and the other is an informal online meet-up for learners. Quite a bit of slack compared to all those months ago.

Gaps… or a Breather?

It’s not really ‘slack’, of course. As society opened up again, things got busier and busier with, well, life stuff. I’ve done the first year of a part-time Masters, gradually started travelling for work again, and we’ve all seen the first shoots of real-life, face-to-face social life poking through once more. So, perhaps, those gaps have served an important purpose: a well-needed chance to catch my breath.

But now, with a relatively quieter few summer months, it’s hard not to think “fill them now!” as a language junkie. And the itch has me scratching already. It won’t all be iTalki, of course. For one thing, over the coming weeks I’ve earmarked a bit of time each day to work on Irish 107 from the truly excellent series of courses by FutureLearn and Dublin City University. The intensive Gaelic summer courses at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig have caught my fancy, too. I’m eyeing up more evening classes at Edinburgh University for September. And I’m considering some group conversation meet-ups with The Online Greek Tutor site (which produces some brilliant free YouTube material, too).

Gaps? What gaps?

So what am I saying here? I was doing loads, now I’m doing less, so I’ve decided to do more again, to put it banally. But it’s thanks to that weekly language log that I’ve been able to track my activity levels and monitor those gaps. It’s given me a knowledge of my pace and my capacity.

And knowledge, in (meta-)learning, is power.

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