From homemade flashcards to learning websites to movies, books, dictionaries, and grammars, Sam and I have tried many different methods to learn Romanian. All at once.
All these methods were helpful. Sam could carry on a very decent conversation in Romanian, and while I was still afraid to actually speak it I could understand a lot of what I heard. Each time we had a Bible study I learned new Bible terms from my parallel Bible and I could pick up words here and there in conversation. The most helpful learning tools for me were making my own flashcards on Quizlet from a word list I got from Gabriel Wyrner’s Fluent Forever and using Duolingo and Memrize every day. It would take me about thirty minutes every day, but along with my online classes and everything else we had going on I felt like that was a decent amount. Plus I was exposed to it every time I did anything outside of our apartment.
In an attempt to get more serious about our learning Sam created a learning schedule for us. Every Wednesday he prepared a Romanian lesson on a topic such as articles, pronouns, verbs, etc, and it was helpful for both of us. We also each read a chapter in Colloquial Romanian each week and on Sunday night we did all the exercises from the chapter as our “test.”
This all worked well, and we really were learning. But it was still very hard. Sam was much farther ahead of me and could speak a lot more, but for me it was still exhausting to try to understand what I was hearing, what the verb tenses were, and what adjective form goes with what noun (and does it go before or after?). It was easy for me to get discouraged and think I would never learn the language or be able to connect with people. I would then go do my flashcards, learn a few new words, and continue with my day.
One night, as we like to do often, Sam and I made coffee and sat down to watch a TED talk. That night we chose to watch one about learning a new language from two guys who learned four languages in one year, three months per language. Their trick? Do not speak English. Even if you must look up every single word, do not speak English. This forces you to learn your normal vocabulary and become comfortable with it.
When the video ended I looked over at Sam and asked, “Nu Engleza?” (No English?). “Da,” he replied, “numai Romaneste” (yes, only Romanian). We proceeded to talk about our plan and determine what the rules and parameters would be (and we used Google Translate to speak in Romanian to make our plans) and decided that this was what we needed to learn Romanian. We could only speak in English in our bedroom on our bed, or if we are in a situation where we cannot go to our bed and we have something important to say. We have not stuck to this rule 100%, but so far we have been pretty close!
Although we have not been doing this experiment for very long we are already seeing the benefits. I am more comfortable with speaking Romanian when before I was much more hesitant to try to pronounce the words. We have found that some words and phrases are so natural for us to say that we use them even when we’re talking in English. It is still easy to get discouraged, but we are definitely learning a lot and staying encouraged most of the time.
Learning a new language is hard, but it is also very exciting!