Gobsmacked and goalless

united-kingdomIf you’re anything like me and you like to keep abreast of the online world of language learning, you’ve probably read a lot of Tweets, Instagram posts and indeed blog posts about goals for the new year. I have, and you’re all such an inspiration to me that you’ve made me really reflect hard on what mine should be. So, with that in mind, there’s a rather lovely Swedish word that I’d like to teach you: mållös. Now, let’s break this down, starting from the end. The suffix -lös is roughly equivalent to ‘-less’ in English and expresses a lack of something. Due to some quirk of etymology, the word mål means two things in Swedish, from two different roots which have converged into an identical spelling: from the Proto-Germanic *maþlą and *mēlą via the Old Norse mál in both cases, we get the modern Swedish mål, meaning both ‘speech’ or ‘language’ and ‘goal’ or ‘target’ respectively. So combine this with our suffix, and we get a word that simultaneously means both ‘speechless’ or ‘dumbfounded’ and ‘goalless’ or ‘aimless’. And I think that’s the perfect way to describe my 2021.

So this year, I’ve decided to shy away from formal goal setting – because basically, I don’t have any. I’ve not managed to do anything language-related or even vaguely useful for about a month, ever since in I moved into my new place. I feel like one of those plants that gets put into a new pot and then withers due to the shock of the whole ordeal. I’m due a re-bloom, but there’s no sign of that at the moment. The only thing I have done is dabble a little bit in Russian, working my way slowly through the A1 course on Busuu. Skärmavbild 2021-01-01 kl. 21.36.26I’m currently at 16%, and it’s going fairly well. I can hold an incredibly basic conversation about who I am and where I’m from, and that’ll go very well if I get to say спасибо большое after roughly 90 seconds, walk away and then never see that person again. So hopefully that’ll get better. We can but hope. Busuu has calculated rather unhelpfully that if I continue at the pace I’m going, I should hit B2 level in 2027. So if you’re reading this while being Russian, hit me up in six years and see if I can understand a single word you’re saying. Maybe I’ll book myself a one-way flight to Moscow in January 2027 and just see if I can find my way back while wearing a t-shirt urging people to only speak to me in Russian. That would be an interesting challenge… maybe.

Skärmavbild 2021-01-01 kl. 13.31.23The other thing I’ve decided to set as a formal goal is setting quite a low bar for my Goodreads challenge for this year. Last year I attempted to read 15 books and only managed 12, so I’ve decided to try that again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice… well, you know. It should be absolutely doable. Especially as I’ve created a book club at work which runs every month, so that should be 12 right there. ‘Should’ is quite an operative word in those sentences. But I remain somewhat optimistic.

So… the point here is that I’m not really setting any sort of goal for this year, I’m just going to take it as it comes and see what happens. Hopefully with a little bit of Russian and a bit more reading in various languages. There are some books I’ve been ‘currently reading’ since 2017, so I’d very much like to get those finished and done. And I guess I’ll see where we’re at next January!

Thanks for reading this… waffle. It’s all entirely stream of consciousness, but I wanted to join the conversation – in a way, just to show that it’s okay not to be as focused. We’re on our way out of a period of perpetual trauma and it’s fine if your brain isn’t geared up enough to decide what you want to do for the next hour, let alone the next month. Because that’s very much where I’m at. As always, you can find me on Twitter and Instagram (@sprakskatan on both) or if you’d like to continue the conversation, feel free to leave a comment! I hope you’ve all had a lovely New Year and festive period, and I’ll see you all next month.

– J.

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