Last time we talked with David he had just gotten home from travelling. Today on the podcast, he's still travelling. Does that guy ever work? We talk about conquering doubt in a language and travelling with little planning.
Keiran: Hey everyone, How's it going? Today we have a more regular guest back from the podcast. How's it going, David?
David: Hey, Keiran. It is going really really well. It’s a bit chilly here, which means, I am not in Australia anymore.
Keiran: So, where are you at? But yeah things are going fine.
David: I’m currently in the heart of Europe. I mean, Slovakia, right on the north border.
David: So, basically, I used to work in Slovakia. I worked here for 3 years. So, this is a little visit, just to say, hi to everyone, and hi to my old teachers and old students.
Keiran: Alright, cool. David, last time we did the podcast, you were talking about travelling and experiences in Southeast Asia
Keiran: Which was not too long ago.
David: That’s true, couple of months ago, I think
Keiran: Seems like you get around a lot, in the travelling sense.
David: I think this will be my last major journey for quite a few months. Maybe, I’ll do something at the end of the year, but, yeah, but I’m not planning to do, too quickly, after this.
Keiran: David, I know because of our podcast in the past, and you just said, you have have lived in Slovakia before, right?
David: Yep, 3 years teaching, and living here.
Keiran: And to what degree did you learn the language when you were there?
David: Really good question. I’ll say, for the first year, I was still very much at elementary level. It is very tempting when you are out of your comfort zone to try to hold on to your comfort zone.
David: I was still talking in English when I could, and watching English TV Series, and reading in English. So, admittedly, I was a bit slack. A couple for years later, which was my last year in Slovakia, I was up to conversation level. I’d say intermediate, which was absolutely fine. Everyone in town knew I wasn’t, like, a local. And they were very very tolerant and yeah. I could actually enjoy proper conversations with friends without resorting to English.
Keiran: Great. Great. I noticed sort of studied French for my own courses back in October. Basically now, I feel like I can have pretty fluent conversations. I feel a lot more confident. It’s interesting how a language get’s rusty. Have you noticed that the language came back to you automatically, or did you have to put a little work in? What was the process for you in Slovakia, these days?
David: That’s a really really good question because there is this whole process of remembering it. It really surprises you when you are when you're re-immersed. How much do you actually do remember and you just hear phrases and pieces of conversation or you see something like a sign or an article and then a whole chunk of information will come back. Let’s see….. but yeah.. it’s not a smooth transit, because between my last time in Slovakia and now I’d spend a year in Russia and I’m still finding myself responding or wanting to respond with Russian phrases and Russian words. I still have to think a bit before I say anything and confirm in my own mind, that I am going to say something in Slovaak and something that is not Russian for Example.
Keiran: David you said. Yeah go ahead
David: I think I was going to say that there is a little bit of control that needs to be there, if I want to go back to a regular Slovak conversation.
Keiran: Right. You gotta put a little bit of effort in, right?
David: Exactly, yes. Just not to distract yourself.
Keiran: Right. I’m curious. Have you done or are you doing anything different than you did the first time? I know what you said in the first year, you kind of held on to the English because you are out of your comfort zone. And, myself, when I started doing French four months ago, I learnt French the traditional way in school. It was forced on me and I kind of regretted it.
David: Forced on you That’s the school way
Keiran: Yeah they rape you with language, and this time around, it was a choice that I did on my own. I surrounded myself with French. You know, I go in the car and the radio is in French. I watch a movie, and it’s in French. I read a book and it’s in French. I’m wondering, have you done anything differently, this time around? Or have you done anything to.., or even maybe in your third year in Slovakia, did you do something to facilitate the speaking of the language?
David: Definitely. There were a couple of things. Yes, I started focusing a lot more on reading. I had a couple of books in Slovak. Just storybooks. Honestly, storybooks for children, but that’s the way it goes. I was watching a really good TV Series called The Professionals. It is a Police Comedy in from Slovakia and there are no subtitles. So I couldn’t even have that as an option. I just had to listen and try to understand as much as I could. Just before coming back this time, I pulled at the memorize app and went through a few Slovak courses just to remind myself and actually just to train myself to choose those words.
Keiran: Oh great. You’re doing like space repetition and flashcards on your phone.
David: Yes Exactly. It’s been a bit more about training. Mentally, this time.
Keiran: Yeah, that’s so simple and so many people don’t do that. It frustrates me when I tell them, you know, just find useful sentences and put them in a flash card program, and you’ll be amazed how much quicker you’ll start using the language you need, right?
David: Yep. Repetition and recognition. These are really really valuable, especially this time. I noticed, this time, I’m communicating with people and also saying hello to people I have never spoken English to, but always spoken Slovak to. How would I say, I’m not second guessing myself this time. I’m actually diving straight into the conversation. Even if I picked the wrong word or a phrase comes out in Russian, that won’t stop me. I’ll still dive straight into the conversation.
Keiran: Ah you mean, you mean like.. I know what you mean. You mean, sometimes you’re talking to someone and you’re saying something and you’re like ‘ah am I right, am I saying the right word’ or..
David: Exactly. So, less doubtful, this time.
Keiran: Yeah, that just deflates your confidence to have that second guessing attitude. So what’s been the change that allowed you to drop that?
David: Good question. I guess it is the familiarity with the town and the people. And yah, I think when I talk to people, they can sense that I am a lot more confident event though I am making errors. The confidence is still a big factor and I’ll actively listen and I’ll spend less time worrying about how I’ll sound or If I’ll even say something comprehensible.
Keiran: I imagine that also helps like you’ve been a language instructor for how long now?
David: Let’s say close to ten years now.
Keiran: That is a lot.
David: It is.
Keiran: So basically, you are an expert in teaching English, right? I imagine that also helps to know that you had over ten years, so many students, and you know that even if they can’t express themselves perfectly, they don’t have to be perfect. I mean, communication is not so much of a perfectionism, but just getting your message across and connecting to people. Alright.
David: Yeah, definitely, and making the mistakes and going through that process and even feeling a bit frustrated and maybe embarrassed. I simply tell my students in class that they don’t need to know everything. It’s not an exam, it was a class. It’s training.
David: Sometimes I want them to make mistakes. Sometimes I want them to say the wrong things. And then we can take that time to clarify what’s correct and then we’ll forget it.
David: Because I know, I forget my mistakes.
Keiran: Yeah, mistakes. I think the first step is you know, being aware of them and even sometimes you’re aware of them, you keep making them for a while, but there comes a point, where you start noticing your own mistakes. It’s natural. I think ,in school we are trained, oh you make a mistake, you’re dumb. You know, It’s not simple to learn to speak a language that has a new structure easily, because you have your old language structure in the back of your head, right?
David: Definitely, you always want to resort to that, because, it is familiar and also comfortable. I think just trying out the new things and making the learning process a whole new discovery. I think a wonderful wonderful experience, and probably that’s why I enjoyed coming back to Slovak, because sometimes I need to rewire my thinking, in order to communicate properly.
Keiran: Right. Great. David, before we always have a podcast, we always have a few messages back and forth, to choose a time. The last few times, every time we do it, your messages are always in the realm of ‘oh I’m travelling from here to here at this time, maybe we can do here. We can maybe meet this time’. And I’m always on the other hand always like, oh this guy’s life is so much more exciting than mine, and right before the session, you were talking about you have a plan to go to Barcelona airport in the next two weeks, right?
David: Yes, yes, I’m flying out of Barcelona back to Australia.
Keiran: But between that time, you don’t really have a plan set.
David: It’s a giant question mark, yes. I think, that is part of my travel style. I want to a degree get myself into trouble a bit. I’m trying to workout a way out. So, this is not a completely planned trip. This is a half planned trip. I planned as far as Slovakia. In the next couple of weeks, I have to pull my act together on the fly, and somehow fly out of Spain later. I mean, obviously, there are flights and there is transport and I have plenty of time. The challenge is always organizing that time, which is fun.
Keiran: Right, There’s this aspect of being in the moment and being spontaneous, which I think is the best part of travelling. And I always thought there are two kinds of travel styles. There’s what you’re doing which is totally, you know, off the cut, and I’m gonna leave myself in space to do whatever I want, and then there’s other people who map and plan every single item on their itinerary. I just feel like the second travel style is…, I mean, it maybe it is for some people but it just seems like you’re not alive if you know what you’re doing, in like three days from now. Everything’s kind of static.
David: Yeah, Yeah, I think that this is still a happy medium because my father actually does the package tours, and he enjoys that, and that’s suitable for him, and it’s comfortable, and he uses the package tours to explore the UK. If you don’t have a guide which is, of course, very very useful. I think myself is a bit like the backpacker style, where you literally get up in the morning and think okay where am I going to go today. Yeah this is definitely like this buzz you get when you know when you have to make the choice and there is no plan, but you have to direct yourself somehow.
Keiran: And yeah, and that was always the downer when I came back home and all of sudden the mystery and spontaneity kind of like saps up and it’s gone.
David: Yep, Exactly. Actually, it’s also, it’s one of the beauties of being in Europe, and I love travelling on the trains here, and I think, when you’re at a train station, and you’re literally thinking okay which seating am I going to go, to which direction do I want to go, and you have these options open in front of you. And that’s definitely you can do in Europe, not so easy in Australia. Yeah, because we have cities, but they are much much farther apart. We don’t have the zigzag option that you do have in Europe.
Keiran: Well, David, I think we are gonna have to wrap this up because I’m starting to get depressed.
David: oh I’m so sorry.
Keiran: But how much fun you’re having.
David: Ok, I’ll have a drink for you.
Keiran: Yeah, exactly, but David, thanks so much for coming in the podcast again.
David: Keiran it's been a pleasure as always. Trying to plan it.
Keiran: Alright man, well enjoy the rest of your travels, and I hope it all goes well for you.
David: Ok, cheers, and we’ll talk soon.
Keiran: Alright, ciao David!