My Path to Learning a New Language

Ok, so how does it go – me learning the Hungarian language from scratch?

Well, first off, it’s a completely different language compared to other languages I possess. Even though it uses the Latin alphabet (so you don’t have to learn hieroglyphs), it does have its own unique characters which you have to get used to their distinct pronunciation: á, é, ó, ö, ő, ű, ú, cz, cs, dz, dzs, gy, etc.

It’s been 8 days so far, and I keep studying every single day for about 30 to 50 minutes which I’m very proud of. Usually I revise all the words and phrases in the morning (10-15 min), then while going in a metro I start a new lesson in my book (15 min), and in the evening I write down new words into my Excel file and revise them again.

I’ve been writing down the number of new words I learn every day and the time I spend on studying. As I mentioned in some of my posts about memory, to better learn new words you either have to repeat them numerous times or you have to convey them an association related to a similar word in your own language or to an image. I try to use both approaches, i.e. I repeat words on a daily basis and I try to associate some of the difficult to remember Hungarian words with various images or other words from my native language. So far, I’ve learnt 162 words and with all other exercises it took me a little bit more than 5 hours.

I multiply every word learnt and every minute spent by 2 and get amount in Russian rubles which I am saving in a separate envelope. I am going to use this money to buy a ticket to Hungary – this is part of my long-term motivation plan to keep learning. As for now, I’ve made almost 1000 rubles which is roughly 17 US dollars.

I keep an Excel file where I write down all new words with their translation. The file is divided into separate spreadsheets depending on the part of the speech (nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc). The Noun group is also divided into smaller groups such as People, Objects, Places, Food, Animals, Notions.

I revise all the words every day at least once. The ones that I learnt on the very first days are very familiar to me now and it takes me miliseconds to translate them or imagine a picture in my mind when I hear them. But, this is not the case with new words or complete sentences which I still struggle to comprehend when listening.

So far, I haven’t started learning any grammar rules, just words, phrases and their pronunciation.

I also practice listening a lot. As you understand, people usually speak at a certain speed and new learners of a foreign language often can’t understand what is being said to them because their speed of processing those separate words is not high enough. So, I listen to separate words and try to perceive them in my mind while also increasing the speed of the audio.

What I also wanted to mention is that I stopped using any mobile apps for the time being. Not that they are not that good, quite the opposite, some of them are really thought over with tons of useful exercises for beginners. I just figured out that I need a physical book where I can take some notes and feel how many pages I’ve already covered. Besides, what I learned from my previous experiences of learning new languages is that if you pick a good language book which is well structured and balanced between vocabulary, basic grammar and exercises, you are half-way to succeed in learning the language. So, ten days ago or so I went to a number of bookstores to look for a suitable book and found one which I think is quite comprehensive and will suit my learning pace. It has audio exercises to practice pronunciation, it starts with very basic ideas and learning new words and its last chapters feature some long texts which I hope I’ll be able to read and comprehend by the end of my learning journey.

And what is your experience in learning a new language from scratch without the help of any teachers and tutors?

One thought on “My Path to Learning a New Language

  1. This has been exactly one month since I started learning Hungarian from scratch.
    So, what are my interim results after one month of learning?

    – I tried very hard to study every consecutive day for at least 20-30 minutes. As you probably understand, it’s quite difficult to find free time for an adult, but overall, I think I managed to do that. During this month, I spent over 12 hours of learning this beautiful language!
    – I learnt 295 words altogether.
    – According to my motivation scheme which I described in my post above, I earned approximately 35 US dollars, which I’m going to spend on my next trip to Hungary!
    When I listen to audio exercises I still can’t understand the text from the first time. My speed of processing the meaning of a sentence and its constituent words is still slower than the speed of a normal reciting. It means my brain still needs more than 0.5 seconds to translate every word I hear, instead of creating the picture as a whole.
    300 words so far.. What can I say? Is it enough to be able to speak a little bit or at least understand something in a foreign language? I doubt.. Especially, when different people pronounce the same word slightly differently. Well, anyway, I’m continuing learning it. Will see how I feel after another month of constant learning.


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