Learning My Wife’s Native Language — One Month Update (Video)

A month ago, I started learning my wife’s native language, Macedonian. To do that, we’re only speaking Macedonian at home with each other.

Here’s a brief video with subtitles sharing the progress I’ve made so far:

I also recorded a longer lesson with my tutor, Jovan, to show what a typical lesson looks like for me right now (no subtitles):

How Did the Project Go?

Overall I’m quite satisfied with the progress of the project. There’s still more to go — we want to continue the No-English Rule at home for another two months at least. But, given that I continued to work full-time during the project, I’m pleased with the outcome after one month.

In addition to the No English Rule at home, I did a few other things that helped:

My total time investment in studying (ignoring the daily life conversations with my wife) is difficult to know exactly, as I didn’t study with fixed hours as I have with other projects. Instead, I studied in gaps of time as they appeared in my schedule. Still, I would estimate I spent:

  • Roughly 30 minutes per day on textbook practice. Perhaps, 15–20 hours total.
  • I know from iTalki.com that I did 20 one-hour lessons.
  • Anki tells me I spent 17 hours on flashcards, but this doesn’t include the time to make flashcards. Conservatively, I think ~25 hours would be an over-estimate.

With these estimates, I can say that my overall studying time this month was no more than 65 hours, or ~2 hours per day. Certainly a large time investment if you’re working full-time and have a baby at home, but not anything unattainable for someone suitably dedicated.

Of course, what this omits are the countless hours I spent actually using Macedonian at home in daily life. That’s why I’m such a fan of this approach to language learning, because it allows a disproportionate amount of learning to occur for the actual amount of time you set aside to study on your calendar.

My Plans for Future Progress

We plan on continuing the No English Rule at home for the next two months. I’d like to finish my textbook and continue tutoring whenever possible, but it may end up being less than the first month as work gets busier.

In terms of my ability itself, I want to clean up my spoken language a lot more. I make a lot of basic mistakes with gender, conjugation or simply just cleanly pronouncing some words. That’s acceptable in the beginning, but if I ignore it too long it can create problems later.

I think writing more might be a helpful drill, as would focusing on simple sentence translations. Writing, since you can go slow and edit yourself more easily than with speech. Translations help because you only have to think of how to say something simple, rather than simply what you want to say.

Once my textbook is finished, I’d also like to transition into reading and listening to more native-level media. That’s a bit hard now, but input becomes increasingly important once you’re trying to go beyond basic linguistic abilities and trying to get into a comfortably intermediate position with more specialized vocabulary.

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Photo by Alice Hampson on Unsplash

Still, I’m more than happy with where I ended up after one month. It’s easy to obsess over what you still need to do and neglect how far you’ve come. I’ve done more in the past month than in the past five and half years that I’ve been with my wife, and it will now be much easier to progress in the future.

If anyone else wants to attempt a similar project with their spouse, partner, friend or roommate, let me know in the comments. Learning a new language is a great experience. It’s just up to you to take the leap!

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Author of WSJ best selling book: Ultralearning www.scotthyoung.com | Twitter: @scotthyoung

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