Today I got to play around with some Persian again. I had done some sessions with my friend some months ago, with pens, so today, I started with two cups of tea, one full and one empty.
In the beginning I had a hard time making her not translate everything, and not to talk about the grammar. This is something that occurs to me all the time, I think one reason is that this is the way they used to learn languages, and humans being a creature of habit, they want to do something the way they’ve always done it, even if you tell them the other method is better. Another reason is that of course, if you explain/translate everything, you “progress” faster. But in my experience (and I’m pretty bad at memorizing in general, although I get better), whatever I learn this way, I forget really fast. On the other hand, when I struggled for twenty minutes to understand why Persian uses شاید (šāiad) in places where German/English use different words that to me until now meant very different things, it sticks. The more language sticks, the more fluent I am.
Alas, now that I peeked in wiktionary, I’m not really sure any more that my šāiad hypothesis is not my fluent fool misenterpreting my gestures :) That’s another thing I’m learning, that it does not hurt to run around one week or so with a totally wrong way of understanding one part of language, as long as you keep testing your skills on your fluent fool, because if you realize that you were talking total trash before, the a-ha moment is even stronger.
Another insight was that Persian seems to have a formal register different from German: in German, we have an informal and a formal “you”; Persian seems to have an informal and formal “they”. But I’ll have to investigate this further next time, I was pretty tired after work, and we didn’t have much time; so there’s a real possibility I got that wrong.
When we were talking about the cups, at one point i very effortlessly, and without noticing at first, used the word for “pen” that we’d used in a session months ago. How Fascinating! :) That gave us a big laugh.
When my friend needed to leave to go to her dance class, I went with her on The Walk, playing with stuff like “if you go, I go”, “you go and I don’t go”, and “why don’t you go?” (holding her by the arm), when she Sorry Charlie’d me with her playfully irate answer. That’s the power of not knowing a language: verbal insults can’t touch you ;)
What I realize is that I get better and better at hunting languages for myself (and also feeding language to one person), but I’m shunning the work of creating bigger groups. I read/heard somewhere (Willem?) that the difference between people that become experts and those that don’t is that the future experts always try to do the stuff that they find hard, and that they’re not used to, while those that stagnate keep repeating the stuff that’s already in their comfort zone. I have strong experiences of the latter method (mostly from practicing piano), so in order to become an expert in becoming an expert, I’ll have to concentrate more on leading groups :)