In an attempt to bring up my Swedish comprehension level, I’ve been trying a little experiment. I’m trying to see how much time I can put in over a 10 day period, focusing on Listening-Reading. Using English text and Swedish audio, I’m studying at least 5 hours per day, and trying for more. While not for the faint of heart, this method suits me right now because I have a block of spare time, so I can throw all of my effort into this project. So far, after 8 days I’ve done 44.5 hours of studying in this fashion. Today is day 9.
I’ve discovered two difficulties. One is obviously to do with time. If I waste 15 minutes every hour chatting with people on the internet and surfing web pages, then it’s actually quite a significant fraction of my daily time, even though it seems insignificant in the moment. On the day where I tried the hardest, it took me over 15 hours to get 10 hours of productivity, but on most days it was far less than that. That extreme day meant that I only got up to cook/eat/shower, and I didn’t even leave my apartment the entire day. Not very sustainable, but it was interesting.
Incidentally, I also thought it would be easy to get 8 hours of productivity in, because it’d be similar to an office work-day. I found out, however, that in any 8 hour period of a “work-day”, not all of it is productive time. Trying quite hard, I’d be lucky to get 6 hours of productivity over that 8 hour period, which I suspect is actually far more than I ever did at a real job. It’s really hard to stay on-task for that length of time.
The next problem is attention. While raw time is important, its value will vary depending on how much attention you can pay to the various language features you encounter. While Listening-Reading, I noticed that sometimes I would get absorbed in the English text and block out the Swedish audio, and other times I was only half-listening to the Swedish audio, but not trying super hard to pick out every single word and come up with the meanings.
Overall I found this method quite satisfying. I fully understood everything since I was reading in English, but I was also picking up a lot of new Swedish words from the audio. So far I’ve read John Boyne’s The boy in the striped pyjamas (“Pojken i randig pyjamas”), Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (“Alkemisten”), Roald Dahl’s The Witches, and most of Stieg Larsson’s The girl with the dragon tattoo (“Män som hatar kvinnor”).
One thing I’d prefer in the future is to use parallel texts, where each sentence or paragraph of English is matched up with the transcript of the target-language audio. This would be vital for starting a language from scratch, I think, but I managed without it this time because of my previous experience with Swedish using other study methods. I haven’t created parallel texts yet for my Swedish books because I’ve had a lot of problems finding PDFs of the Swedish text online, so I’ve had to settle for my regular Swedish paperbacks. I have some tentative plans in the near future to try this method from scratch for other languages, and for those I’ll definitely be using line-by-line parallel texts.
I’m continuing today, after I get a few things done in the real world. I’m enjoying my new apartment here in Berlin, but I still have to buy some vital things like a fridge. It’s fun to ignore the world and study Swedish all day, but responsibilities sometimes intervene.
I should be able to easily reach 50 hours total by the end of my 10-day study period, but I also hope that I can raise that to 100 hours by the end of the month. Hopefully that should put me on pretty firm ground in Swedish, and I’ll be able to continue my studying a little bit more casually by just reading a lot of books whenever I have the chance.