D and I just came back from a trip to Cuba. Here are 5 things I noticed about the people and some pictures.
1. There is live music everywhere. Please listen to song above while you read rest of this post :)
2. The people were really warm and friendly. The society seems more collaborative than most i.e. people helping strangers, hitchhiking etc
3. It is amazing to see people talk and interact in absence of widespread internet (vs everyface buried in a phone/tablet/Candy Crush!)
4. Generally people were much more overweight than we thought they would be
5. Baseball is a national obsession
Languages take a long time to acquire and can be easily lost without careful attention and time invested. The sentences below would have taken me 2 minutes to write about 5 years ago. Yet neglected and underused, it took me close to 5 minutes today to write.Recently I have been making a conscious effort to try and protect my past investments in language. I have been looking for opportunities to speak and write in Japanese and German. At our home, my wife and I try and speak in our mother-tongue Gujarati when no-one else in around (or if we want to talk about people when they are around!)
And yet despite these efforts, there is some sadness or regret when one realises that these word don't roll off the lips or out of the pen as freely as they once did.
So what can one do to help use it and not lose it? Here are a few tricks I have been trying of late...
1/ Digital Newspapers - no excuse for me here as I work with media and news companies all the time
2/ Inhale books/magazines/songs - if the context of the story is set in the country of the language you learnt, it might help to motivate you via nostalgia and curiosity.
3/ Watch movies/documentaries - great selections of Asian movies on sites like Netflix and Viki. I have just been working through the Takeshi Kitano back catalogue. I also love to watch documentaries on VICE Japan about weird and wonderful things.
4/ Chat - connect with old friends on the chat app of their choice. WeChat for Chinese, LINE for Japanese, Kakao for Korean and Whatsapp/Facebook/Hangouts/Twitter for everyone else
5/ Re-immerse - if all else fails then nothing beats taking yourself back to the country and finding a project to engage yourself in.
My biggest motivation has been to think of the time spent in the past as a wasted investment if I were to lose all ability to speak an acquired language. After all as Confucious said:學而時習之 不亦說乎 - Is it not enjoyable to learn and practice what you learn?
Feel free to share any tips and tricks you use to help protect your past investment in learning new languages...!