So here’s a way to maintain one language when starting to learn another – use lessons for the new language created for speakers of the first language. I’ve recently started on German here. (This is the second time I’ve mentioned it, so now I must go through with it. In addition to the mini stories I’ve started watching German lessons given in Russian on YouTube, specifically Dmitri Petrov’s German series.
Russian speakers and learners might already have encountered Dmitri Petrov, a Russian “polyglot, simultaneous translator, lecturer, broadcaster, teacher” (Wikipedia) who has (or had?) a Russian TV show, “The Polyglot”. His standard format is to teach a language in sixteen 1-hour lessons to a small collection of students in the studio. Of course, no one learns a language in sixteen hours. He presents what he calls the “algorithms” of the language in order to give the students a sense of the structures of the language on which to hang acquired vocabulary. He gives the example of a child just learning to speak. The child has few words, but he can combine them in a multitude of ways using the structures of the language.
Petrov has some interesting things to say about languages and language learning in general in the first German lesson (- YouTube). At 9:12 (my loose translation):
“Study of a language is an endless process. As long as we live we continue to learn even our native language. So what does a language exist for? It’s not for taking exams and getting good grades. A language is a phenomenon which exists for people to communicate, for people to understand each other. Yes, at first there are mistakes, and at the beginning it occurs on a simple, even primitive level. But mistakes are our greatest friends. We’ll learn nothing in life if we fear mistakes. Therefore I categorically disagree with the position that it’s better not to speak at all than it is to speak with mistakes. Quite the opposite. Always speak, wherever there’s an opportunity, with any mistakes, because that’s the only way we can learn to do it.”
And at 11:07: “A language is of course not only the part which presents itself as written speech, as text. A language is perception, an entire dimension – how people talk, how people communicate, how they greet and say goodbye, how they relate to each other, how they look at the world around them. All of this is also a part of language. That is, a language is above all a multidimensional space of limitless possibilities which we can learn forever. But it’s most important to begin in the same manner that we began with our native language – not with conjugations and cases, but with perception. In the beginning with our native language we feel, we inhale, we eat, and only then we begin to build some kind of structure and make some sort of texts.”
He then launches into conjugation tables…