Wrapping Up My Mini Add1 Challenge Pt. 2

So was anything gained from this experiment? (spoilers: it was fun)

Last week, I went through my month-long diversion into learning Toki Pona as a play-by-play.  Without further preamble, this blog continues on where that one left off, so let’s dive in.

So, four weeks of Toki Pona, going from a position of knowing nothing to the level I’m at now.  The question then naturally becomes: what is the level I’m at now?  Were the clickbait claims right, and I learned the language in a fortnight, or was that a false promise?  And, well, the answer is a resounding kinda both?

Let’s not mince words here, my Toki Pona is far from fluent, and I’d be hard-pressed to try and classify it as useable.  mi ken toki lili li lukin e sitelen pi toki pona. taso mi ken ala pali mute.  The limitations of the language are hard to wrap your head around, and while the actual vocabulary is compact, there are lots of commonly accepted compound words and phrases that I would need to really learn to get competent at the language.  It is, ultimately, a good start, and one that took me significantly further in significantly less time than my timeframe learning Spanish.  I’d be comfortable saying that after the one month of Toki Pona, I’m at a level with it that was comparable to nine months learning Spanish.  So, yeah, at least some of the hype is true, it really is easy to pick up and comes quickly.

Part of that efficiency comes from me knowing more about language learning now than I did when I started on Spanish, but it’s mostly something baked into the language.  There’s a lot of frontloading with language learning where you’re just picking up and exposing yourself to unfamiliar vocabulary over and over again, and that step is vastly shorter when you can go through 120 words and then you’re done.  It isn’t immediate and falls into the same pitfalls as learning a more complex language, because you do need to understand that you learn, forget, relearn, and reforget words as a natural part of the learning process with a language, and that’s gonna be no different with any language, constructed or otherwise.  A rigid week or two of flashcards isn’t going to teach you Toki Pona any better than it’ll teach you Spanish, you’ll just have slightly better footing going into the real learning process of consuming input.

Which is, I think, the place where things become clear as to the actual timeline necessary for getting good at Toki Pona.  Learning at the start can be accomplished rapidly, and you can see some major gains in a short amount of time, but at a certain point, the curve has to flatten out.  There’s just no substitute for long-term consistency of exposure.  I’ve talked time and time again in this blog of the necessity of consistency with language learning, because it’s the real crux of getting anywhere.  It doesn’t matter how good you do today, or how much effort you put in two weeks ago on it, the only way for it to stick and for you to really learn a language is if you work at it for the long haul.  The consistent exposure beats you down, adds the common patterns of phrases and understanding to your brain, and eventually you just understand the language without thinking about it.  That’s the goal, and it naturally takes a little effort and a lot of time.  Toki Pona is, inevitably, no different.

Now the full timeline is going to be shorter compared to something like Spanish, because there are just significantly fewer words to have to come across and learn, and the grammar is simpler with far less variation.  Exposure is going to carry more weight in its impact, and there’s just overall less to learn, so yeah, it’s just not going to take as long.  That all said, it’s still something that’s going to take a lot of time, just not quite as much.  Can you learn Toki Pona in two weeks?  No, I don’t think you can, but you can learn enough of it to where you can stop studying and start to use and enjoy the language.  As far as claims go, that’s still pretty damn impressive, and saying that in just twice that time you can get to where you can muddle your way through most things is even more impressive still.

So at the end of the day, where does that put me exactly?  I kinda picked up a new language in a month, but not enough to where it’s all that useable yet.  I could get it useable with more time and effort, but I have Spanish waiting for me and am wanting to get back to it (and spoilers for the numbers part of the blog, but I totally did go back).  Was this a fun, if failed experiment, and now my knowledge of Toki Pona is going to atrophy?  Or do I have a solid enough understanding that I’ll hold onto that knowledge, even without really using it?  Do I plan on using it some more, or going back to it?  What are my goals here?

The great thing about ongoing projects like this is that I don’t have to actually answer those questions.  Some of them I can’t answer, because frankly, idfk if I’m going to hold onto Toki Pona or if it’s gonna fall out of my head.  A week into not using it consistently, and it feels a bit shakier now, so there’s a strong chance of that.  On the other hand, I mean, it only took a month, if I did lose all of it, it’s not like it’d take forever to recover lost ground in the future, so I ain’t sweating that.  What I can answer of those questions, though, is what I’d like to do from here, and my ultimate goals.

This week, as you’ll see shortly, was me wanting to return to form with Spanish, out of a weird homesickness for it, but also just to try and test out the idea of seeing improvements after a break.  More on that all that stuff next week after I’ve had a bigger stretch of time bathed in Spanish again, the important takeaway there was me intentionally not worrying about continuing Toki Pona for this week in favor of just diving into Spanish.  That is not my plan for next week or going forward.  Rather, the plan is for Toki Pona to regularly appear on the numbers breakdowns for these blogs.  Not every day, and maybe not every week, but I’d like for it to be there most weeks, with some days given over to a big Toki Pona push.  I don’t expect it to go all that quickly, but hey, it’s a tiny language, it’ll probably go surprisingly quickly anyway.

Because my overall goals are to get things to where I am comfortable in the language, because I think Toki Pona is really interesting and worthwhile, and I’d like to really do stuff with it.  I want to put together translations and write original works in it if I can, have it become a real, useable language for me, and the thing is it feels like it could be, which is compelling and interesting to me.

I know this diversion from learning Spanish might not be for the average person who might stumble onto this blog.  Conlangs are a pretty nerdy intersection of language hobbies, and once you get outside of, like, Dothraki or Klingon enthusiasts who are drawn in by a fictional setting, it gets even more niche.  For those who aren’t necessarily interested in the idea of conlangs, but are interested in learning languages, I do think there’s reason to stop and consider Toki Pona, though.  Lots of people feel like they’re “not good at learning languages,” or are intimidated by all of it, so they never really get started.  Toki Pona’s only got 120 words to learn.  I’m busy talking about how a month of Toki Pona got me about as far as I was at nine months into Spanish, but at nine months into Spanish I was reading Harry Potter, you can see some major gains in not very much time, too.  If you’ve never learned a new language before, Toki Pona might be the best second language out there to learn, because you can take your lumps and make your mistakes learning how to learn on something tiny.

Just a thought.

Okidoke, let’s take a look at this week’s Spanish-heavy numbers.

Tuesday 7/21

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of La Zona Cero, 4 episodes of Arte Divierte, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Wednesday 7/22

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of La Zona Cero, 1 episode of Andrea Ga, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Thursday 7/23

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of La Zona Cero, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Friday 7/24

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 3 episodes of La Zona Cero, 1 episode of Kiwillius, 2 episodes of Andrea Ga, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Saturday 7/25

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of Kiwillius, ~100 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Sunday 7/26

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 1% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~60 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 1 episode of Calex MP, 1 episode of Plano de Juego, 1 episode of BNA, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR,  ~90 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes

Monday 7/27

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes
  • Reading: 2% of El Ojo del Mundo, ~90 minutes
  • Watching/Listening: 2 episodes of BNA, 1 episode of Daniel San GMR, ~60 minutes
  • Speaking: reading out loud, ~30 minutes
  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total reading: 1/10 books read, 570 minutes
  • Total watching/listening: 21 YouTube episodes and 3 television episodes watched, 490 minutes
  • Total speaking: reading out loud, 210 minutes
  • Total Time: 17 hours 40 minutes

A return to normalcy for me, more or less.  After running out of Riftwar books before the Add1 Challenge, I was left without a clear plan on where to take my reading choices next, but over the last month I settled on The Wheel of Time series, or perhaps more accurately to my purposes, La Rueda del Tiempo.  It’s one of those classics of the fantasy genre that I’ve never gotten around to reading before, and one of the major fringe benefits of this language project is having a set schedule for reading a metric fuckton of stuff.  So, y’know, know time like the present.  One week in, and this book be long.  At this current pace and considering this is the first of 15 books total, I might be tied up for a while here.

I had gone into the challenge with the plan of building up a backlog of my usual youtube channels so I had a good amount of binge material once I was back on the Spanish hunt, and to my dismay I’ve burned through it already.  This was apparently the wrong month to try and build a backlog.  Fortunately, I got pointed in the direction of BNA as something to check out recently, so I’ve got some of that exciting furry degeneracy to watch right now.

Being back in the swing of things is quite the relief for me, and despite enjoying the break from the challenge, I’m really glad to be back to this specific grind.  I’d comment on whether I felt the break helped or hurt my Spanish comprehension, but I figured giving myself a bit longer than a single week to judge would make sense.  Plus it’s probably better as its own blog topic, eh?  Was that a hint as to what to expect next week?  Oh my!

Anyway, that’ll do for this one, TTFN.

One thought on “Wrapping Up My Mini Add1 Challenge Pt. 2

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