Friday, June 1, 2018

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


I am tired of hearing people evaluating languages as difficult or easy. It really doesn't matter. All it does is to scare people. :-(
So, no, I don't want to know that Navajo is one of the hardest languages to learn for an English speaker. I am not an English speaker. I'm a Finnish speaker. As far as I know, EVERY LANGUAGE (except Estonian and Sami) are "difficult" to learn for a Finnish speaker. I still get articles and prepositions wrong, and will continue doing so for the rest of my life, because... it's just something that has to be grown into. But, I learn more and more. When I die, I will be doing fewer mistakes :-D

Anyway, Navajo.
I found the Wind Talkers story fascinating, so I want to learn Navajo.

Navajo language at Omniglot
It's a bit hard knowing that most non-European languages have been written by Europeans (whether they were born in Europe or several generations later somewhere else), with a European mindset, so they were forcing the language to fit their expectations on what language should be and how it should function, but they were ignoring small details because they didn't understand their importance... :-(
But... let's trust two things here. 1) languages are living things - the literature, grammar and writing systems can change. 2) as long as people speak these languages as their mothertongue, these languages can survive the abuse from white people.

Navajo resources:
Navajo at Forvo
Navajo at Wikipedia
Navajo language learners' community at Reddit
Let's Talk Navajo with some lessons
Navajo at Memrise
Talking Navajo before you know it - booklet and course at Memrise
Some Navajo texts
Navajo language apps

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Language learning tips

 So... I was studying kanji, and thought about the Chinese word 白 bái. It has over 20 different meanings in English, and how screwed one would be if one learned all the different meanings by heart... and how screwed one would be if one didn't learn any of them, because "one cannot say one knows a language unless one knows all the different meanings of a word and how it is used in context, with other words etc. etc. etc." 
No, you don't need to know ALL the different forms and ways of every word. It is quite enough to learn "白 - snow, white". All the different meanings will come clear (白) in the future as you learn more. And in the future the meaning "白 anti-Communist" becomes clear 白 and obvious. I as a Finn know this already. ;-) We use the word "white" in the same sense.

So, go ahead and learn L2 words as direct translations of the L1 words. It won't harm you, limit you, make it harder to learn a language etc. etc. as all the nay-sayers and fear mongerers say.

30 Incredibly Effective Tips and Tricks to Learn a New Language
(I am posting the list here, because sometimes pages disappear. There is a lot more information on the site, so do follow the link.)

1. Choose a Word of the Day
2. Practice With Native Speakers.
3. Take Notes Whenever You Connect With The Language
(watching television, YouTube, internet surfing, reading, listening, on the bus etc. etc.)
4. Sink or Swim/All or Nothing
(move to a place where target language is spoken and refuse to speak any other language)
5. Learn Cognates
6. Use an App
7. Focus on What’s Relevant/Most Important To You
8. Set up a Routine
9. Find and Attend Local Events
10. Remember why you started
11. Track Your Progress
12. Learn the Phrase “How do you say X?”
13. Learn What You Need
14. Pace Yourself: One Step at a Time (5-15 minutes of intensive studies 10 times during a day is more worth than 3 hours block of studies).
15. Study smarter, not harder.
16. Be kind to yourself - it's OK to make mistakes, you are learning, not mastering
17. Watching, reading, listening, and talking about the news in your new language
18. Food - cooking and eating
19. Use your social intelligence, intuition and natural instincts to interpret social situations; works both in real life social interaction and tv series/movies/videos
20. Watch Movies (Remember, there's the right way and the wrong way of doing this, too. Or the effective, functional way and the ineffective way with little if any results.)
21. Believe in Yourself
22. recreational entertainment in new language
23. Enough.
You have enough, enough time, resources, intelligence, talents, memory, what ever is needed to learn a new language.
Also, five new words is enough. Five minutes is enough. You CAN learn 100 words in an hour, but you don't need to. It's enough to learn five new words every day. Or less. It's enough.
24. Be Kind to Yourself
It's OK to make mistakes.
Slow is good enough.
Focus on what you have achieved, what you do, not on what you might/could/should.
25. role play in your new language, alone or with friends
26. Flashcards
27. Storytelling
28. Learn with a friend
29. Learn Synonyms (Er... I'm not convinced. But try it out.)
30. Immersion - AJATT

Some other ideas:

31. Eavesdrop on Local’s Conversations
32. Re-read Your Favorite Children’s Books in Your New Language
33. Start With High Frequency Words and Phrases.
34. Passive listening
35. Study pronunciation
36. Use all ways of learning; auditory, visual, tactile, reading-writing...
37. Learn Esperanto
38. Set Specific, Measurable Goals. (Instead of "learn French", "Learn 50 French food vocabulary terms and how to use them when at restaurant and cooking")
39. Carry a pocket dictionary
40. Make It Fun - Produce language in a fun way; write songs, comic strips, play, podcast, poem, short story... what ever rocks your boat.

DO NOT use the diglot weave technique. Don't mix languages, to support your brain to keep the different languages separate and to automate the language production. If you teach yourself to mix the languages, you will not be learning any new words, because your brain tells you the different language words are just synonymes. You will be talking Frenglish or Farsitalian or something

Other things to think about: Why I Taught Myself 20 Languages by Timothy Doner
Just remember that when you start whining about knowing languages and fluency.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


"However this idea (of a fictional language) only really began to take proper shape as a literary motif in Gulliver’s Travels and the 1899 short story “The White People” in which the fictitious Aklo was introduced proving so popular, that it was subsequently borrowed by other novelists such as H.P Lovecraft in his two books “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Haunter of the Dark”. It also made a more contemporary appearance in Alan Moore’s “The Courtyard”.
- The Rise of Fictitious Languages by Anantha Anilkumar
in Olavian Duolingo Magazine Volume I Summer 2015

"I must not write down the real names of the days and months which I found out a year ago, nor the way to make the Aklo letters, or the Chian language, or the great beautiful Circles, nor the Mao Games, nor the chief songs."
Mentioning of Aklo in The White People by Arthur Machen 

On the evening of September 2nd the last major barrier gave way, and Dr. Armitage read for the first time a continuous passage of Wilbur Whateley’s annals. It was in truth a diary, as all had thought; and it was couched in a style clearly shewing the mixed occult erudition and general illiteracy of the strange being who wrote it. Almost the first long passage that Armitage deciphered, an entry dated November 26, 1916, proved highly startling and disquieting. It was written, he remembered, by a child of three and a half who looked like a lad of twelve or thirteen.

    “Today learned the Aklo for the Sabaoth,” it ran, “which did not like, it being answerable from the hill and not from the air. That upstairs more ahead of me than I had thought it would be, and is not like to have much earth brain. Shot Elam Hutchins’ collie Jack when he went to bite me, and Elam says he would kill me if he dast. I guess he won’t. Grandfather kept me saying the Dho formula last night, and I think I saw the inner city at the 2 magnetic poles. I shall go to those poles when the earth is cleared off, if I can’t break through with the Dho-Hna formula when I commit it. They from the air told me at Sabbat that it will be years before I can clear off the earth, and I guess grandfather will be dead then, so I shall have to learn all the angles of the planes and all the formulas between the Yr and the Nhhngr. They from outside will help, but they cannot take body without human blood. That upstairs looks it will have the right cast. I can see it a little when I make the Voorish sign or blow the powder of Ibn Ghazi at it, and it is near like them at May-Eve on the Hill. The other face may wear off some. I wonder how I shall look when the earth is cleared and there are no earth beings on it. He that came with the Aklo Sabaoth said I may be transfigured, there being much of outside to work on.”

Aklo in The Dunwich Horror by H.P.Lovecraft

"It was in June that Blake’s diary told of his victory over the cryptogram. The text was, he found, in the dark Aklo language used by certain cults of evil antiquity, and known to him in a halting way through previous researches."

Mention of Aklo in The Haunter of the Dark by H. P. Lovecraft

Wikipedia article about Aklo

H.P.Lovecraft Wiki's article about Aklo

luis-gonza asked:
Hi David! What do you think about Aklo conlang? Do you know where I can learn it?

You know, I did a brief search, and I don’t think there’s one answer to this. For example, I thought you meant the Aklo language created by friend Britton Watkins for Marx Pyle’s Cthulhu series, but I don’t think it ever came into existence, so I don’t think there’s any info about the language on the web. So if it wasn’t that, I’m not sure what you could be after.
If you’re talking about the original stuff in the Cthulhu story, that’s just gibberish; not a conlang.
I’m sure there have been others who have tried to turn it into a conlang, though I haven’t heard of any projects other than Marx and Britton’s.

David J. Peterson's Tumblr
So... how ever intriguing this is, it doesn't exist, and I'm not accepting the idea of someone creating Aklo. There's bound to be people, but you will know they are lying. ;-)

P.S. "Upon discovering Finnish, Tolkien felt a sensation he described later as  "like discovering a complete wine-cellar filled with bottles of an amazing wine of a kind and flavour never tasted before. It quite intoxicated me."
Yes. Exactly. That's the feeling. So go learn languages.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Is it worth it?

Someone asked a question "is learning ------ (language) worth it?"
The answer is "yes". It doesn't matter which language it is.
Now, there are some people who don't understand how languages work, who will tell you it's useless to study anything else than Power languages and come up with idiotic parallels, like "it's like physical exercise, learning an isolated language is like doing some petty little movement with your hand, and learning a big language is like doing whole body exercise, it's obvious you get more use of the whole body exercise". No. Languages are not like a physical exercise in that way. The effect on your brain is the same whether you learn a big, strong, living language or an extinct, tiny language with no relations to any modern language. You will still get all the benefits of the "physical exercise".

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Learning languages as a shy introvert misanthrope

Learning Chinese as an introverted student

I don't chat with people, even in languages I know. I hate chatting. I hate talking in the phone. I won't Skype. I hate Skyping even with my family.
I don't do Meetups.
Sure, all these are really great suggestions for people who wish to learn to communicate in a foreign language, because there is bound to be at least a couple of people near you who speak the language you are learning, at least if it's a language with more than a million speakers.

I live in Södertälje, which is a small town in Sweden. In Sweden there's a law that says all the children has to be able to study their native language, if it's
a) an official language in Sweden (Swedish, Finnish, Meänkieli (Torne valley Finnish), Sami, Romani and Yiddish)
b) Nordic language (Swedish, Finnish, Danish, Norwegian, Icelandic)
c) there is more than five children in the school district speaking the language as their mothertongue. The most common immigrant/refugee languages in Sweden are Finnish, Arabic, Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegran and Serbian), Kurdish, Polish, Spanish, Farsi, German, Danish and Norwegian. Now, they are currently seeking for Mothertongue teachers in Indonesian, Pashto, Mongolian, Somalian, Turkish and Neo-Aramaic.
If I wanted to, there's quite a lot of languages around me.

Language skills consist of four areas; listening, reading, writing and speaking.
Most shy introvert misanthropes aren't interested in learning languages to be able to communicate with other people, but to be able to collect information in that language - possible also to "collect languages", to learn a language just because they can, because it's there and "fuck you, that's why". Now, if this is your motivation to learn a language, speaking it is not interesting at all.
You won't EVER be traveling in a country where people speak this language, you won't EVER be interacting with real people, being polite and social, and using the spoken language to be understood.

Fascinating, isn't it?
99% of language learning advice tells you to start speaking as soon as possible.
But think if you were to learn Latin or Biblical Hebrew. These are "dead languages". There have been no people alive speaking either of these languages as their native language, mother tongue, for some 2000 years. We don't know how to speak either of these languages.
For all practical reasons ANY pronunciation is as good a guess as any other.
Now, some of these pronunciations are PROBABLY better guesses than others, and there are people who use both of these languages regularly, so there is a generally accepted pronunciation. Nevertheless, no-one requires you can speak either language to be able to say you know either language. You just need to be able to read and write.
Now, I wouldn't say you know Finnish, if you can't speak it, but... if you may count Latin just by reading and writing, you should be able to count ANY language is you just read and write it.
(Or if the language doesn't have a writing system, THEN you should be able to speak it. It's a bit irrelevant for this topic, though. Most shy introvert misanthropes won't be learning some languages without written form.)

But - can you learn to SPEAK a language without EVER speaking with another person?
I say, yes. 
1) IPA - the phonetic alphabet actually IS good enough to give anyone good enough pronunciation of words written in phonetic alphabet.
2) You get the intonation right by listening and repeating after native speakers. There is a LOT of languages with at least some sentences spoken in the language. Omniglot has the "Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights" in quite a many language, both written and spoken. Record yourself and compare to the native speaker, and correct yourself until you can read the text together with the native speaker and you pronounce the words the same.
3) You can converse with yourself. Pretend to be a lot of people and speak for all of them. You can even replay scenes from movies or books.
No-one ever needs to hear you speak. No-one ever needs to correct your speech.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Aaaannd... it's over.

There's still some occasional flashes of fire, but basically the language rush of Spring 2018 is over.

Here's some interesting stuff: 20 slang Malaysians love to use

Made me interested in Malay