When I married Denisa, I had a simple goal: become fluent in Slovak. That goal never really went away, but I’ve been absolutely terrible at accomplishing it. I tried several things over the years. Bought a text book. Tried to set small goals. Bought kids books in Slovak. But it just hasn’t happened. I speak some Slovak, but nothing more than caveman level stuff, really. Sixteen years, and I’ve been a pretty big failure at that. Other things always seem to get in the way.
So for the last while I’ve tried to alter my approach. “Become fluent in Slovak” seems like it’s just been too big of a goal for me. I’m admitting defeat, and changing the goal. Now it’s “Become better at Slovak.” The mental shift is something I did toward the end of last year, and I’ve been able (it seems to me) to stick to the goal much more diligently than I had before.
What it means in practice is that each day during my lunch break, I take about fifteen minutes to focus on learning Slovak. I read vocabulary lists, watch some Slovak television. or go over Slovak grammar online. There are a few resources I’ve found particularly helpful:
- joj.sk is an online Slovak television station. You never know what you’re going to see when you turn it on. (Well, I suppose there’s a schedule printed somewhere, but I don’t worry about it.) I’ve seen bits of Finding Nemo, but I usually end up watching the news, trying to focus on understanding as many individual words that I can.
- rtvs.sk is another TV station. In my experience, they have many more blocked programs, so often I try to watch them but can’t.
- slovake.eu is the most helpful resource I’ve found. It’s got a wealth of online language lessons, all available for free. I’ve been working my way through them, and I think it’s had the biggest impact on me so far. (The biggest problem I have is that I get off track, and it’s hard to get back into it sometimes. But that’s just me, not it.)
In the end, I just made a simple observation: if I’d spent 15 minutes a day working on my Slovak for the last 16 years, I would be in such a better spot when it came to the language. Because I was too worried about doing a “serious” job of it, I instead did nothing, just started and stopped in little bursts of energy. This is true with so many huge projects I try to undertake. Split them up into smaller pieces, and you can do so much better.