What’s possible in a week? If you dedicated seven days to the achievement of one goal, how ambitious could you make this goal? These were the questions that the multilingual friends Katy and Sara posed themselves when they determined to learn English in one week, to prove that it can be done and anyone can do it with the right methods.
They would attempt to liberate themselves from the distractions and responsibilities of modern-day life in order to cram eight hours of study time and I was observing some of the world’s most capable language learners at work.
The friends set themselves the challenge of learning a language in a week in order to stretch themselves, and then it was a question of choosing which language to learn. English presented itself as a natural option; there are nigh on 300,000 English speakers in Germany’s capital, and the areas are dotted with stores adorned with signs in English.
“Truly understanding one’s environment requires one to first understand English”
The first operational step in the friends learning process was to decorate the entire apartment with sticky notes. This had an almost ceremonial touch to it as the friends delved into dictionaries and proceeded to label everything with its corresponding English name.
Within the space of about an hour it was impossible to carry out any menial task, be it making a coffee or flicking off a light switch, without first being presented with at least three different words related to this action.
The importance of the other twin’s presence became immediately apparent as Katy and Sara delegated responsibilities for rooms to decorate with sticky notes. This simple task was augmented by continuous little tests that they would spring on one another, and the fact that they split up their day slightly differently and studied different topics meant that each twin became a source of knowledge for the other.
The most extraordinary moment came towards the end of the week!
The friends simply switched their everyday conversations to English, asking one another if they wanted tea or coffee, were ready to cook dinner or when they were going to leave the house.
Katy and Sara had numerous micro-challenges throughout the week. On the first day they were visited by a English friend who greeted them in English and complimented them on how quickly they’d picked up their first words and phrases.
They then learned the names of fruits and the numbers from one to a billion so that they could visit the English market (although they refrained from purchasing nine hundred thousand kumquats). Displaying their haul after their first functional exchange in English, they beamed with pride and a palpable sense of accomplishment before marching back home to study further.
On our second visit to the brother’s apartment 24 hours into the week, we found them sampling dozens of different kinds of English snacks.