“Perhaps there is another kind of writing, I only know this one, in the night, when fear does not let me sleep, I only know this one.”* –Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka used sleepless, anxiety-filled nights to be artistically productive and expressed this notion beautifully in a letter to Max Brod from July 1922.
On a somewhat lighter note, I thought I’d list some activities for insomniac language enthusiasts today.
I promise that these little exercises are more rewarding than frantically calculating your remaining hours of sleep or desperately trying to make yourself forget the last horrow movie you watched!
1. Recap the day
Review the activities of the day in your foreign language of choice. You may find this to be an easy exercise with a very welcome soothing side effect!
2.Study nonverbal communication
Your partner, your cat or your roomate is slumbering peacefully in your close proximity and your headphones are out of reach?
For this scenario I’d suggest you grab your phone nontheless and search for a video of a native speaker. Turn off the sound and watch the video focusing on the nonverbal communication. Mirrowing the body language of a native speaker may greatly improve the authenticity of your communication performance.
3. Describe your surroundings
What might remind you of obsessive compulsive behaviour at first is actually a highly effective language exercise. Focus on an object in your room and try to be as precise in your description as possible. Who would have thought how difficult it could be to describe a window in all its technical detail? You may save the terminological research for the next morning, though!
4. Count down
Lastly, I’d like to present you with one of the most addictive exercises. Its simplicity makes it even more brilliant. Count down from 10 to 1 in all of the languages you speak. You will realize immediately how little cognitive effort is required for doing so in your native language. Sleepless hours are an excellent opportunity to practise counting in your weaker languages. After counting, try the days of the week, the months or the alphabet – the possibilities are endless. Maybe you’ll even fall asleep before you know it!
*English translation cited from: CORNGOLD Stanley, Franz Kafka. The Necessity of Form, Cornell University Press 1988, p.22.