Friday, August 19, 2016

International Auxiliary Languages

An international auxiliary language (sometimes abbreviated as IAL or auxlang) or interlanguage is a language meant for communication between people from different nations who do not share a common first language. An auxiliary language is primarily a second language.

Languages of dominant societies over the centuries have served as auxiliary languages, sometimes approaching the international level. Latin, Greek and the Mediterranean Lingua Franca were used in the past, and Arabic, English, French, Russian, Spanish, and Standard Chinese have been used as such in recent times in many parts of the world. However, as these languages are associated with the very dominance—cultural, political, and economic—that made them popular, they are often also met with resistance. For this reason, some have turned to the idea of promoting an artificial or constructed language as a possible solution.

The term "auxiliary" implies that it is intended to be an additional language for the people of the world, rather than to replace their native languages. Often, the term is used to refer to planned or constructed languages proposed specifically to ease international communication, such as Esperanto, Ido and Interlingua. However, it can also refer to the concept of such a language being determined by international consensus, including even a standardized natural language (e.g., International English), and has also been connected to the project of constructing a universal language.


Pater noster, qui es in cælis,
sanctificetur nomen tuum.
Adveniat regnum tuum.
Fiat voluntas tua,
sicut in cælo, et in terra.
Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie,
et dimitte nobis debita nostra,
sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris.
Et ne nos inducas in tentationem,
sed libera nos a malo.


Up to 2,000,000 people worldwide, to varying degrees, speak Esperanto, including about 1,000 to 2,000 native speakers who learned Esperanto from birth.

Patro Nia, kiu estas en la ĉielo,
via nomo estu sanktigita.
Venu via regno,
plenumiĝu via volo,
kiel en la ĉielo, tiel ankaŭ sur la tero.
Nian panon ĉiutagan donu al ni hodiaŭ.
Kaj pardonu al ni niajn ŝuldojn,
kiel ankaŭ ni pardonas al niaj ŝuldantoj.
Kaj ne konduku nin en tenton,
sed liberigu nin de la malbono.


estimated 20 Volapük speakers in the world

So, Volapük is on this list for purely sentimental and nostalgic reasons. It was mentioned in the first book from which I learned about languages, Pikkujättiläinen. I think it even had some lessons, too.

O Fat obas, kel binol in süls,
paisaludomöz nem ola!
Kömomöd monargän ola!
Jenomöz vil olik,
äs in sül, i su tal!
Bodi obsik vädeliki givolös obes adelo!
E pardolös obes debis obsik,
äs id obs aipardobs debeles obas.
E no obis nindukolös in tentadi;
sod aidalivolös obis de bad.


Estimated: 500-3000? speakers

Patro nia, qua esas en la cielo,
tua nomo santigesez;
tua regno advenez;
tua volo facesez
quale en la cielo, tale anke sur la tero.
Donez a ni cadie l'omnadiala pano,
e pardonez a ni nia ofensi,
quale anke ni pardonas a nia ofensanti,
e ne duktez ni aden la tento,
ma liberigez ni del malajo.


Estimated: 150-1500? speakers

Patre nostre, qui es in le celos,
que tu nomine sia sanctificate;   
que tu regno veni;
que tu voluntate sia facite
como in le celo, etiam super le terra.   
Da nos hodie nostre pan quotidian,   
e pardona a nos nostre debitas   
como etiam nos los pardona a nostre debitores.
E non induce nos in tentation,
sed libera nos del mal.   


I won't learn any of these, because they are all so stupidly Eurocentered. One could just as well learn Spanish and English and be done with it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

52 in 52: Conlangs

Of course I want to learn these. All of those mentioned. :-D

A planned or constructed language (sometimes called a conlang) is a language whose phonology, grammar, and vocabulary have been consciously devised for human or human-like communication, instead of having developed naturally. It is also referred to as an artificial or invented language. There are many possible reasons to create a constructed language, such as: to ease human communication (see international auxiliary language and code), to give fiction or an associated constructed setting an added layer of realism, for experimentation in the fields of linguistics, cognitive science, and machine learning, for artistic creation, and for language games.

The expression planned language is sometimes used to mean international auxiliary languages and other languages designed for actual use in human communication. Some prefer it to the adjective artificial, for the latter may be perceived as pejorative. Outside Esperanto culture, the term language planning means the prescriptions given to a natural language to standardize it; in this regard, even "natural languages" may be artificial in some respects. Prescriptive grammars, which date to ancient times for classical languages such as Latin and Sanskrit, are rule-based codifications of natural languages, such codifications being a middle ground between naive natural selection and development of language and its explicit construction. The term glossopoeia is also used to mean language construction, particularly construction of artistic languages.

Artistic languages, constructed for literary enjoyment or aesthetic reasons without any claim of usefulness, begin to appear in Early Modern literature (in Pantagruel, and in Utopian contexts), but they only seem to gain notability as serious projects beginning in the 20th century.
A Princess of Mars (1912) by Edgar Rice Burroughs was possibly the first fiction of that century to feature a constructed language.
J. R. R. Tolkien developed a family of related fictional languages and discussed artistic languages publicly, giving a lecture entitled "A Secret Vice" in 1931 at a congress. (Orwell's Newspeak is considered a satire of an IAL rather than an artistic language proper.)
By the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, it had become common for science-fiction and fantasy works set in other worlds to feature constructed languages, or more commonly, an extremely limited but defined vocabulary which suggests the existence of a complete language, and constructed languages are a regular part of the genre, appearing in Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings (Elvish), Stargate SG-1, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Game of Thrones, Avatar, Dune and the Myst series of computer adventure games.

The languages of Star Wars: The Force Awakens’

I would like to say that there are plenty of invented languages around, most of them are not... hmm... viable. Like J.R.Ward's "Old Language". This is supposed to be the language the vampires spoke in Europe for thousands of years ago.

“The Old Language really was beautiful, Blay thought. 
Staring at the symbols, 
for one brief, ridiculous moment 
he imagined his own name across Qhuinn's shoulders, 
carved into that smooth skin in the manner of the mating ritual."
- J.R.Ward: Lover Mine
(Yes, there are people who have gotten a tattoo like this...)

Some words in this "Old Language"

ahvenge (v.) Act of mortal retribution, carried out typically by a male loved one.
cohntehst (n.) Conflict between two males competing for the right to be a female’s mate.
doggen (n.) Member of the servant class within the vampire world.
ehros (n.) A Chosen trained in the matter of sexual arts.
exhile dhoble (n.) The evil or cursed twin, the one born second.
ghardian (n.) Custodian of an individual. There are varying degrees of ghardians, with the most powerful being that of a sehcluded female.
leahdyre (n.) A person of power and influence.
lheage (n.) A term of respect used by a sexual submissive to refer to his or her dominant.
mahmen (n.) Mother. Used both as an identifier and a term of affection.
newling (n.) A virgin.
phearsom (adj.) Term referring to the potency of a male’s sexual organs.
rythe (n.) Ritual manner of assuaging honor granted by one who has offended another.
sehclusion (n.) Places the female under the sole direction of her ghardian.
wahlker (n.) An individual who has died and returned to the living from the Fade.
whard (n.) Equivalent of a godfather or godmother to an individual.

Project 52 in 52: Japanese

 AJATT method - overview
(the old method. It has been improved a couple of times.)
I disagree about the flashcards. There is magic in handwriting. You will learn as you write with pen on paper... it doesn't work if you type it in some computer program. SRS isn't difficult or complicated to create with actual physical cards.

Hanzi, Kanji, Hanja

What's the difference of Hanzi and Kanji?

1) all these are the "Chinese letters"
2) there are differences. Especially in the pronunciation. Above are the romanized names of these signs in Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In some signs the difference is bigger, in others smaller.
3) the meaning can also vary. Chinese signs have only one meaning, the Japanese have several. Nevertheless, most signs are either the same or close enough to say they are the same signs.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A week of not being well

Long story short... ish. I have fibromyalgia. I'm pretty OK most of the time, but when something bad happens, I'm really ill. And it usually lasts really long.
Like for now, it's been a week.
I am really tired, I sleep at least 12 hours every day, and my body aches.
The worst is that I swell up, and that feels especially bad in my hands...
which means it's painful to write, both with a pen and with a keyboard.
Which means that for a week I haven't been able to write much.
And that is pretty important when studying languages.
For me that is, at least.

But... there's

They take really nice photos of language learning :-D

Anyway, my August goals were:

6 Weeks Challenge - study 8 hours every day
Super Challenge
Learn the 5000 most common French words, 100 words a day
Memrise French A1 - 15 minutes a day

I have managed to study 8 hours a day for 10 days. On 11th the FM bomb exploded, and I have managed to put in about 5 hours a day after that... and that was surprising to me. I thought it was less than that.

Super Challenge is "5000 pages read and 9000 minutes movies watched in 20 months"
That is 250 pages and 450 minutes every month.
I started 2 months late, so I have about 300 pages (278 to be exact :-D) and 500 minutes every month
I read 194 pages in July and so far in August I have read 244 pages.
Movie minutes are easily gathered, reading pages is not that easy.
It has been much of this lately, because that's about all I can do right now.

100 words a day stopped on 12th, because I can't type >:->
So so far I have learned 1900 most common words. I should be on 2200 today. I know I can catch up by learning 200 words a day, but I think I'll go easy on me and have a break, and start anew when I'm more OK.

That's also why my Memrise French A1 stopped. I'll pick it up when I am feeling better.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Wolof: day 4

Next 100 words

Next short text

and day's extra: food, cooking, eating, hungry, thirsty, ordering food in restaurant, café talk, buying food at market, food vocabulary, cooking vocabulary

Uh. Lettuce is salaat in Wolof. Ceebu Jën is rice in fish. And banana is banaana. :-D

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Wolof day 3

Ok... this is where it gets difficult... you see, it's day 3, so I should be writing in next 100 words on flashcards. But do I have next 100 words? That will be getting more and more difficult every day...

But, today's "job" is to find a short text. Here's Wikipedia in Wolof

Translate it. Find every word in the text, make flashcards of the words, learn them. Understand the constructions, idioms etc. Understand the text.

Copy the text on a piece of paper. Leave plenty of space between sentences and wide margins. Use black permanent pen

Parse the text. Use different colored pens to mark the subject and predikate (verb), draw arrows to show the dependence and relations, circle the pre- and postpositions (case endings) and other such things.

Look at the similarities, like
work-ER, teach-ER, driv-ER
- physic-AL, ment-AL
- close-LY, simp-LY, quiet-LY.

Learn to recognize a verb and plural form of nouns.

write your thoughts and ideas and suggestions on the margins.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Wolof day 1

First things first: the alphabet

and the numbers

0    barra
1    been
2    ňaar
3    nat, net
4    neent, neneent
5    juroom
6    juroom been
7    juroom ňaar
8    juroom nat
9    juroom neent
10    fukk
11    fukk ak been
12    fukk ak ňaar
20    naar fukk, nitt
21    naar fukk ak been
22    naar fukk ak ňaar
30    ñettfukk, fanweer *)
40    neent fukk, ñent fukk, neneent fukk
50    juroom fukk
60    juroombeen fukk
70    juroomňaar fukk
80    juroomnat fukk
90    juroomneent fukk
100    temeer
101    temeer ak been
105    temeer ak juroom
110    temeer ak fukk
111    junni ak téeméer ak fukk ak benn
200    ňaari temeer
300    nati temeer
400    neenti temeer
500    juroomi temeer
600    juroombeeni temeer
700    juroomňaari temeer
800    juroomnati temeer
900    juroomneenti temeer
1,000    junne, junni, njunni
1,001    junni ak been
junneek been
2,000    naari junne

There is a memrise course about 100 most frequent Wolof words, but it's not complete...

About the language

I think I'll ask Ebrima to translate the gold mine sentences to Wolof.

Project 52 in 52: Wolof

I have a friend who speaks Wolof as his native language. :-D YAY! I get to learn something about a new language!

"Wolof is a language of Senegal, the Gambia, and Mauritania, and the native language of the Wolof people. Like the neighbouring languages Serer and Fula, it belongs to the Senegambian branch of the Niger–Congo language family. Unlike most other languages of Sub-Saharan Africa, Wolof is not a tonal language.

"Wolof" is the standard spelling and may refer to the Wolof people or to Wolof culture. Variants include the older French Ouolof and the principally Gambian "Wollof". "Jolof", "jollof", etc., now typically refers either to the Jolof Empire or to jollof rice, a common West African rice dish. Now-archaic forms include "Volof" and "Olof".

Wolof words in English are believed to include yum/yummy, from Wolof nyam "to taste"; nyam in Barbadian English meaning "to eat" (also compare Seychellois Creole nyanmnyanm, also meaning "to eat"); and banana, via Spanish or Portuguese."
- Wikipedia

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Project 52 in 52: Xhosa

Oh, yeah... I want to learn all of those! Sound interesting!

When it comes to languages, I want to collect all of them :-D Now, it is probably impossible for humans to master more than some 10-20 languages effectively and actively... but Miriam Makeba's language is an interesting candidate to know :-D

The other languages mentioned were Pawnee, Yupik, Silbo Gomero and  Pirahâ.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Leitner flashcard system

Huh! Didn't know about this either! Thank you, Lilly!

"Leitner schedule"
Tab 1: every day
Tab 2: every other day
Tab 3: every 4. day
Tab 4: once a week
Tab 5: once in two weeks
Tab 6: once a month
Tab 7: once in two months
You might want to use paperclips to mark the tabs.
Every day put a paperclip on tab 2 and 3. When you put on the #2 paperclip on tab 2, you go through it. When you put on the #4 paperclip on tab 3, you go through it.
You go through tab 4 the same day every week.
Put a date on the rest of the tabs.

Learning strategy 10: the Leitner card system

Here is the schedule if you feel more comfortable following one

also, this about writing flashcards

some things to think about:
- color code
- associate
- try to involve all senses
- try to invoke emotions

" handwriting is linked to tactile memory, which helps to solidify newly-acquired information into your long-term memory"
- how to remember words

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Project 52 in 52: Swahili

When I was young I wanted to learn at least one language from each continent - and with this I meant indigenous language, not English, French, Spanish or some other European Imperialist language. I wanted to learn those too, but the European variant, as I am very European and love the European cultures and languages very much. From Africa I chose Swahili, as it's one of the biggest languages in Africa. (Right now it's #4 on the list of languages with most speakers in Africa, after English, Arabic and French.)

Swahili is a Bantu language spoken in Tanzania, Burundi, Congo (Kinshasa) Kenya, Mayotte, Mozambique, Oman, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, Uganda, UAE and the USA. Around 5 million people speak Swahili as a native language, and a further 135 million speak is as a second language. Swahili is an official language of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya, and is used as a lingua franca throughout East Africa.

The majority of people in Tanzania and Kenya speak Swahili as a second language, and most educated Kenyans are fluent in the language, as it is compulsory in schools, and also taught in universities. In the Democratic Republic of Congo Swahili is spoken in the five eastern provinces, and overall almost half of the population speak it. In Uganda Swahili is widely spoken among non-Baganda people, and is taught in schools.

The name Swahili comes from the Arabic word سواحل (sawāḥil), the plural of سواحل (sāḥil - boundry, coast) and means "coastal dwellers". The prefix ki- is attached to nouns in the noun class that includes languages, so Kiswahili means "coastal language".

Swahili includes quite a bit of vocabulary of Arabic origin as a result of contact with Arabic-speaking traders and and inhabitants of the Swahili Coast - the coastal area of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, and islands such as Zanzibar and Comoros. There are also words of German, Portuguese, English, Hindi and French origin in Swahili due to contact with traders, slavers and colonial officials.

The earliest known pieces of writing, in the Arabic script, in Swaihili are letters dating from 1711, and the earliest known manuscript, a poetic epic entitled Utendi wa Tambuka (The History of Tambuka), dates from 1728. During the the 19th century Swahili was used as the main language of administration by the European colonial powers in East Africa and under their influence the Latin alphabet was increasingly used to write it. The first Swahili newspaper, Habari ya Mwezi, was published by missionaries in 1895.

La vache, la femme et le Bon Dieu

La vache, la femme et le Bon Dieu

— Comment ferai-je avec mon petit, demandait la vache, qui était très embarrasée de son veau.

— Mets-le à terre, lui répondit le Bon Dieu.

Et la vache mit tout de suite son petit à terre.

— Comment ferai-je avec mon enfant? demandait la femme, qui était très embarrassée de son bébé.

— Mets-le à terre, lui répondit le Bon Dieu.

Mais la femme trouva son enfant trop joli pour le mettre à terre. Son cœur se serrait à cette seule pensée.

— Alors, tiens-le dans tes bras, dit le Bon Dieu.

Et la femme préféra tenir son enfant dans ses bras. C'est pour cela que les petits bœufs marchent depuis le jour de leur naissance, tandis que les petits hommes attendent bien des mois avant de savoir se tenir debout.

Georges Haurigot

The Hardest Language To Spell

Yes! BRING IT ON!!! :-D

Yes, English, French and Irish have their own spelling rules that make the language hard to spell, but some other languages have an interesting writing system... some are more simple than others.

Old Hungarian alphabet?
Brahmi script?

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

My French routine

I am "retired", so I have all the time in the world. I'm "retired" because I'm sick, so I don't have all the stamina and energy in the world.
But, this is what I spend my time doing:

- reading, writing, listening, speaking, grammar, vocabulary

1) Memrise French class, to warm up :-D

I also have the prepositions in Memrise as flashcards and the 5000 most common words, which I am learning 100 a day, just to show off know that I can. Most of it is already familiar to me, I mean, they ARE the most commonly used, so I must have at least met them a couple of times, neh?

2) Extr@

3) Les Voyageurs - reading the forum posts and following the other members of the group

4) Now I want to get into doing some things they have been mentioning in the forum
- reading material on the net, articles, blogs etc.
- grammar lessons

5) Now the Super Challenge; reading books in French. I have a couple of different ways of doing this.

With Arsène Lupin I have the text and a recording of the same
I have Le Mystère de la chambre jaune in text and recording. (I had it also in English, and I read it in English first, but then I noticed that I don't bother understanding French at all that way, so now it's just monolingual.)
I have Le Petit Nicholas on Readlang, there's no audio
I have Jules Verne's Cinq semaines en ballon and Edgar Allan Poe's Histoires Extra-ordinaires as a book. 

6) Then it's Duolingo - working on getting the whole tree golden :-D
This is basically just getting it over and done with. Mainly because Duolingo is really petty in a wrong way.

7) Then Lingvist and MCD
(It says I know 2211 words. Huh.)
and after that some work with grammar - taking up questions of grammar from the presented sentences

8) verb work. It's not enough to know just the present tense and indicative of the verbs any more :-D
Verb a day
and some grammar exercises etc.

9) some other things, like

10) I might be playing a little "Objets Cachés" games in Facebook. Add a bit of excitement when you are looking for things you don't have the slightest idea what that might be :-D

11) I post a sample sentence to be corrected at iTalki
and after it has been corrected, I go to Lingora and read it to get my pronunciation corrected.

     Right now it's so dang choppy and I need to THINK before uttering a sound!
     And it's really, really scary and I hate hearing my voice, because it sounds so childish and blah,
     but to be able to speak in French I have to speak in French :-D
     So I will continue.

12) First a little lyricstraining to get my ears adjusted to listening French
Then to voirfilms (to violate some copyright) and watch a movie from my movie list

13) And I end the day by logging in my Super Challenge and writing something on my blog at Language Learners

This is a very comfortable schedule, mostly play and fun all day long :-D
I might need to add some "hard core" language studies here...

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The state of French

You might know that I have been "studying" French for some 35 years... And now it's the first time I decided to give all my intention to French. It has been a week, and I am already noticing the difference...

I can read French. I don't understand all the words, but I get the idea.
I am starting to understand spoken French.
I am still scared of trying to express myself in written French, but I'm sure that, too, will come.
I am starting to replace some thoughts and expressions with the French ones... like "bonjour", "bien sûr", "oui" and "ouais", "je ne sais pas", "p---n de" and "m-e" "où est...?" and "voudrais-tu une tasse de café?", "n'est-ce pas?" :-D

The language is starting to make sense to me. :-)

I'm really, really happy about this :-)

So... the six week challenge starts in a week. I wonder... if I keep my French to watching a movie and reading some 20 pages every day, and not doing the other things I do right now, it should work to keep it up...  So I could, theoretically take a pause with French and study some other language during the six weeks... Like Korean...

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Project 52 in 52: Indonesian

FSI classification for languages according to difficulty for English speakers: Group 1 "easiest" - Indonesian and Swahili? Easy? OK!

"The Indonesian name for the language is Bahasa Indonesia (literally "the language of Indonesia"). This term is occasionally found in English, and additionally "Malay-Indonesian" is sometimes used to refer collectively to the standardized language of Indonesia (Bahasa Indonesia) and the Malay language of Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore (Bahasa Melayu).

Other examples of the use of affixes to change the meaning of a word can be seen with the word ajar (teach):
  • ajar = teach
  • ajaran = teachings
  • belajar = to learn
  • mengajar = to teach
  • diajar = being taught
  • diajarkan = being taught
  • mempelajari = to study
  • dipelajari = being studied
  • pelajar = student
  • pengajar = teacher
  • pelajaran = subject, education
  • pengajaran = lesson, moral of story
  • pembelajaran = learning
  • terajar = taught (accidentally)
  • terpelajar = well-educated, literally "been taught"
  • berpelajaran = is educated, literally "has education"
Indonesian language at Omniglot

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

phonemes in languages

Language     Phonemes

Rotokas     10-11
Pirahã        11
Hawaiian    13 (28 if diphthongs are counted as separate phonemes)

Japanese     22
Greek         23
Spanish (Cast)     25
Galician     26

Romanian     29
Serbo-Croatian     30
Basque         30
Italian     30
Turkish     31
Esperanto     32
Persian     32

Finnish     34
Arabic         34
Hausa         34
Chinese (Mand)     35
Swedish     35
Catalan     36
English     36
Czech         37
Albanian     37
Hebrew        37
Polish         37
Portuguese     37

Icelandic     38
Dutch         39
Estonian     39
Latvian     39
French         39
Slovak         39
Russian     40
Ukrainian     40
Hungarian     41

Irish Gaelic     44
Norwegian     44
Belarusian     45
German         45
Welsh         45
Hindustani     48

Danish         52
Lithuanian     59

Ubykh        83
!Xóõ        90-140?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

I am watching "The Women on the 6th Floor". It is a French movie about the Spanish housemaids who live in the same house as their employers, in the topmost floor, like the servants in the grand households in England. Their living standard seems to have been about the same as well.
More precisely, the movie follow the lives of Maria, one of the maids, and the couple she works for, and how the husband gets involved in the lives of the maids and sees the world in a whole new way...

I didn't know how low status the Spanish maids had. It reminds me of The Help, about the black maids in South. Did the French REALLY treat their domestic servants that poorly in the 60s? Did we all?

We had a grocery shopping day today, and I'm really sick afterwards, always. So I haven't been doing much today. I have been watching movies, reading some webcomics en français.

Monday, July 18, 2016


Mimicking by Christopher G. Dugdale  ©1995

Shadow Talking, otherwise known as mimicking or echoing, means to continuously copy speech as you listen. It's easier if the delay is around one-half to one second. 
Delays of three, five or even ten seconds may be attempted in order to improve memory.

Mimicking helps to improve understanding, pronunciation, talking speed, clarity, concentration, timing, confidence, grammar and recall.

It can be difficult because your understanding actually decreases at first. It demands a high level of concentration and it's not easy, so it's hard to find the motivation to do it.

But - the inevitable dip in understanding is going to pass in a certain time, so the more you mimic, the faster you get over the dip.

Because it demands high concentration, don't do things that demand concentration when you do this. Don't operate heavy machinery, like cars :-D 

Practice with your native language to get comfortable with the technique.

Shadow talk as frequently as possible. The more you do it, the easier it gets. Do it every day, a couple of times a day, start with a couple of sentences and increase the time gradually to 15-20 minutes and then to an hour. And then to 10 hours. The more you do this, the better it benefits you.

Mimic the tv shows, videos, radio programs, songs and everything else. It's better to mimic natural speech, but it's OK to mimic anything. It is more important that you enjoy the material than that the material is "good". For example, someone mimicking songs learns slower than someone who mimics news anchors, but it's more fun to mimic songs, so it's more likely the person does it more and keeps doing it, which is better in the long run.

Do it silently if it's not OK to speak out loud.

Don't only mimic the sounds, mimic the facial expressions, the mouth movements, the posture

Note that people change the way they speak all the time. There are changes in speed, intonation, pronunciation etc.

"When you first start out, it's tough to continue and an hour seems like forever. If you can manage that then you'll have noticed that your mimicking is rarely accurate for more than a few seconds at a time. You'll also miss words, phrases and sentences with astonishing and perhaps frustrating regularity. That is the first challenge, to be able to shadow continuously without lapses in concentration. The accuracy of what you say, how closely it matches the original, is less of a problem than making some sound (or vocal tract movement if you're doing it silently) of each and every thing you hear. Keep at it until there's not too many concentration lapses. If the source says "I am going shopping" and you come out with "M zum ng chupi" that's no problem! You are not trying to visualize the words or 'catch the meaning,' you're just trying to make a rough copy of the vocal tract movements of the speaker without stopping. Your first target then is to mimic everything, no matter how badly, as soon as you can."

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Carne de frango

Why is chicken called frango in Portuguese?

Someone asked that in a forum... but it was a wrong forum. It was for "lovers of English", which means that frango doesn't mean chicken and is not even close to it. Actually, there are some Frango mints, which were named by the company that made them and changed from Franco to Frango because of General Franco of Spain.

In Portuguese, it's said, "From earlier frângão, of unknown origin."

"it is to be found in R.E.Latham's Revised Medieval Word-List, ISBN 0 19 725 891 3 under "francum", page 200, s.v., as "(?) free range for poultry or pigs, 1318,1419." The interrogation marks show that the data given are not 100% verified as yet, but it could well be as reliable an etymology as the Arabic words, "dajâj" or "farûj`', the most common equivalents given in dictionaries today."

It is interesting that in Latin "frangere" means to break, shatter, vanquish, the word "fragment" and "fragile" comes from this.

Interesting little tidbit: the Thai word for white people is "farang"... they say it meant the Portuguese... are we chicken?

Another thought: you know the Christmas song and "three French hens"... were chicken introduced to Portugal through France?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Research before committing

There is this language learning community. I won't say what it is, for two reasons. I don't want to give it publicity, because I'm really disappointed, and I don't want to give it bad publicity, because I might be wrong.

They sell it well, very well.
I love languages, I love learning, I want to learn accountability, tenacity, commitment, how to stick to something... so it sounded just like something I want to be part of.
But - between the selling pitch and final goal there is no information. I know nothing much.
Apparently I'm on a mailing list and a waiting list.

Now I have learned some other details, that would have been important for me to know.

They just started a new session.
Maybe I need to wait for the session to end to know more about this. Or not.
It's like the White Dinner in Stockholm. It never happened and the people didn't even have the decency to inform people about that. We found out by them asking for someone to arrange it for the next year. People were asking questions, and there was no-one to answer them. There was activity, though, so someone came in and posted, but ignored all the people in there.
I think that's unacceptable, especially considering that OUR rules are very strict. If you get invited to the dinner but doesn't show up - for any reason - you will be blacklisted. It doesn't matter if you were in a hospital that day, it doesn't matter that you were on a vacation and out of reach when they informed you about the date... I think the people arranging the dinner so far should get blacklisted.
But, I'm no longer interested, so I don't care.
The same with this thing. They should have some sort of event clock on the advertisement page, so that people have some sort of idea of the timeline. I need to fit it into my life, and I can't do that, when there's this secrecy about it. It wouldn't be revealing any pertinent information to reveal the dates.

It costs.
I didn't know that.
I have more important things to do with my money. Like making sure I have a working computer.
I am not rich. I don't have 1000 kronor to throw in things that look interesting, ESPECIALLY WHEN I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THEM.

So I'm out.

But... I have applied and I am a bit worried about the consequences.

So, how to get at least some of the benefits when you can't join this thing?

- go to Memrise, find a course (or create one) and set the time goal. This will help you be accountable.
- go to 750 words. Write at least 750 words in your chose language every day. They will track your activity, so this, too, will help you be accountable.
- I am still thinking about how to make ChoreWars your accountability partner as well

- join a language learning forum and make a log there where you share your thoughts and emotions. Put aside time, like 15 minutes at the end of each day, where you commit to writing your log. Find someone else's log and use it to keep yourself motivated. :-)

- start speaking language from day 1. Make a video of yourself speaking the language you want to learn to speak once a week. Make it public. This has several benefits. 1) you will try your best 2) you will train your ability to tolerate mockery and humiliation. (Not that that will happen, just that you are putting yourself out there, and it feels almost the same as if it wasn't a recording.) It will be just as horrible to open your mouth and speak the first word of a foreign language ever, but you are all alone, and WHEN you do it, there is NO-ONE to laugh at you. The possible mockery comes later, and YOU MIGHT JUST FIND OUT THAT IT DOESN'T COME AT ALL. Great! You have been afraid of something that just doesn't exist! I mean, of course it would be best if you talked with another person, but the step might be too big to take. Making a recording of you speaking a language is much easier.

- join the Language Super Challenge
- join the 6 weeks challenge
Both have bots recording the progress

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rekindling the fire

I just listened to a guy trying very hard to sell something. He spoke and spoke and spoke and painted one amazing picture after another, enticed and appealed, seduced and beguiled... it was so obvious it was ridiculous :-D
But... had I been thinking the way his target audience thought, I would have felt compelled to go and buy his merchandise.

So - what did he do? How could I use that to keep my inspiration and motivation burning?

1) Remind yourself of why you wanted to learn the language in the first place.

Imagine yourself walking in to a room full of people.

(Full of people! Yikes! Help! The introvert thinks. 
Oh, no, not this time. This room isn't that big. There is just enough people to challenge your discomfort in social situations, but not enough that you would panic. 
Picture the room being filled with the kind of people you most want to meet and interact with. Like... you died and are entering the heaven. Everyone you have ever wanted, desired, to discuss with is in the room. It doesn't matter if they are real people or fictional, living or dead, right now they are there, in flesh and very alive and well. 
And they are obviously enjoying themselves. Everyone is wearing comfortable clothes, all the sensory input is pleasant and pleasing, the mood is inviting and welcoming.)

As you enter the room, people notice you, and light up. YOU have arrived! Oh, the joy! You can see that you are the favorite person of everyone in the room. They have heard of you, they have followed your journey, they are dying to meet you, they want nothing more than talk with you and answer all your questions you might have.

(Ok, this is a dream. This is the best dream ever. I don't know how your best dream ever would be like, but work with me, OK? Change the details to match your idea of a perfect situation.)

They come to you, one after another, or in small groups, and speak with you. They all speak different languages. AND YOU KNOW THOSE LANGUAGES. You are discussing freely, comfortably, fluently. You are supremely confident about your ability to express your thoughts in all of those languages, and you understand easily everything said to you. You are standing there, relaxed, enjoying yourself, and discussing with these amazing people who look at you thinking you are amazing as well.

What language are people speaking? What do you want to discuss with them?
Write a couple of sentences you'd like to exchange and translate them to your target language.

It is highly unlikely for that kind of situation ever to arrive, but parts of it might. You might meet someone who is as close to the "real thing" as possible, and you need to be able to take advantage of the situation.
Why not practice speaking with people, practice some social exchange so that you won't just stand there star-struck and stare and be unable to get a word out of your mouth?
Why not practice the specific vocabulary needed for the transaction?

If speaking with people feels difficult, practice writing.
Read books about the subject written or translated into the target language. That is not scary.
Try to find a documentary about the subject in target language and watch it. Repeat the sentences after the narrator.

The thing is that I don't know
Think about that.
Think about all the things you want to do with the language and write your own dream-heaven-bliss scenario where you are using the language exactly as you have always wanted to.

Picture yourself diving into a new and fascinating literature written in the language... like Fantasy literature, you know. Every country has its own, and IT'S ALL DIFFERENT. Think about the national epics like Kalevala or Nibelungenlied. We are so used to the Anglo-Saxon fantasy, that we forget there are myths and legends and fairytales all over the world. EVERY HUMAN BEING LOVES STORIES and have been telling stories since the very beginning. Not all literature is written down, you know. :-D I am Finnish and I live in Sweden, and there are Fantasy novels written in Finnish and Swedish THAT HAS NOT BEEN TRANSLATED INTO ANY OTHER LANGUAGE and most likely will never be! And they are not bad! So - if you love Fantasy, remember that. There's tons of interesting books waiting for you!

That was, BTW, my biggest reason to learn Maltese. I wanted to read the Il-Fiddien trilogy.

❝If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart.❞
‒Nelson Mandela

2) Find some easy, quick and fun things to do.
Do this while you are still full of inspiration to be used to refuel your enthusiasm when it's going down.

Ok, so you don't feel like doing anything with the language today. It's OK. But... just do something little and easy. Go to Memrise and pick a course - or create one if there is none - and study 5-15 minutes. You don't need to concentrate much, you don't need to remember what you just did 5 minutes later. Just mindlessly click through the practice and that will do, Pig. That will do.
Go to YouTube and watch a video. If there are no funny videos (with talk, like Mythical Morning but in your target language), watch a music video. Extra points if you find the lyrics and read along the song. You could start a collection of music videos and lyrics and translations on your blog, to have an access to them all the time, so you don't need to go searching for them when you don't feel like it. Prepare yourself! (:-D)
Change your language settings in Facebook and go play some game there.

❝The limits of my language are the limits of my world.❞
‒Ludwig Wittgenstein

3) Divide your road to your goal into steps.
Like in the Super Challenge, you are to watch 100 movies and read 100 books (in 20 months)
That is 5 books and movies in a month.
That's about 1 book and 1 movie in a week. (there's about 88 weeks in 20 months, so it's a little bit more)
1 movie in a week is no problem. 1 book in a week... well, I'm a reader, so to me "1 book" is a mastodon, a bauta rock, of some 100.000 words and 400 pages. In the challenge "a book" is 50 pages. :-D
this is what 50 page book looks like :-D

So 20 months (from May to January) is 610 days. 
100 movies/tv series is 9000 minutes
100 books is 5000 pages
So to finish the challenge to a tee is to read 9 pages a day and watch 15 minutes of television a day.
Make that your daily step YOU COMMIT TO TAKE NO MATTER WHAT.
It takes me 18 minutes to read 9 pages in a language I'm familiar with, and 30 minutes in a language I'm learning - both with Latin letters, so that's easier. :-D Time yourself, if you want to, to know how much time in reality it will take. (Also, this is a great way of recording your progress - the more you read, the less time you will use reading the same amount of text.)
So - I can't imagine it to take more than half an hour to read 9 pages and 15 minutes to watch the show, so one only needs to invest less than one hour a day to succeed in the SUPER challenge!

“A different language is a different vision of life.”
Federico Fellini

4) make it fun, enjoyable, likeable, something you would do anyway

 Which means that if you just change the language of the things you do every day just because you want to do them, and do them in the language you want to learn, it's more likely you keep learning, because you will be doing those things anyway. If you love to read, read books in L2. If you love to exercise, listen to podcasts, radio and foreign music while exercising. If you like going out with friends, get friends who speak the language, and use only that language while you are with them.

Also, the antonyms of "fun" are boring, tiring, unpleasant, unsatisfactory, monotone, stupid and uninteresting. 
So make sure you do nothing for more than 15 minutes, then have a pause when you do something totally different. 
Get a list of different ways of learning a language and vary your input. 
Don't do things you think are stupid or futile.  
Don't even touch grammar books if you think grammar is boring and incomprehensible. You will learn all the grammar you'll need by reading books. 
Don't use flashcards, if you think they are cumbersome, tedious and stupid. 
Don't speak with foreigners if you think that's uncomfortable and scary. 
(I mean, there are introverts and aspies among the  language learners, I'd say the majority of us are exactly that, and to us the social interaction is not rewarding, it's a punishment. We can wait with drilling in that when we feel comfortable with our level of fluency. I mean, most of us* probably wanted to learn a language because of the written information, because we wanted to read a book in original language, or it wasn't translated, or we wanted to read a website, or participate in a forum or something. Doesn't really matter, because the thing is; no matter what ANYONE says, your way of learning languages is OK, your reasons to learn a language are just as valid and good as anyone else's, and you don't ever need to speak a language, if you don't want to.)
Don't think you have to learn languages the way your grandfather, neighbor or that YouTube Polyglot do. It MIGHT work for you, it might not. Find your own way.

Learn what you find meaningful. It would be rather stupid for me to learn restaurant speak, because I hate restaurants and won't go even in my hometown if I can avoid it. For me, on the other hand, it was immensely interesting, fascinating and meaningful to learn what the different parts of "s'il vous plaît" mean and how the sentence was constructed. I also love parsing. :-D Grammar hag I am. :-D

5) Create positive associations around the language learning 

Humans are animals. We are quite simple in that way. So use this for your advantage.

Create a place of study. Make it a habit that you study always in the same spot. (or the main study always happens in that spot. Of course you need to remain flexible so that you could study anywhere, but creating habits, routines and structure helps you keep up with the studying.)

Make yourself a timetable. Every morning at 6 (or whichever time suits you best) you will be sitting by your desk and studying, come rain, come shine. You will do something for 15 minutes, then you will exercise a little, eat your breakfast and come back. 

Every time you sit by your desk, close your eyes, take a deep breath and relax. Remind yourself of why you are studying. Picture yourself doing the things you want to do. FEEL it. Feel how comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy you are, studying languages, using languages, mastering languages. Work actively to feel as comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy as you can.
Surround yourself with things that make you feel comfortable, confident, relaxed and happy.

Appeal to all your senses.  
(Or the five most commonly mentioned... after all, people have all kinds of senses :-D It might be hard to please your sense of balance, for example, though you need to feel balanced and stable when you study, so it might be worth it to think about the lesser mentioned senses as well... I mean, if you believe in leylines and ghosts, you might want to... I don't know, draw a pentagram on the floor or something? Light candles? Burn incense? What ever rocks your boat. It's YOUR boat, not mine, so my opinion on things is totally irrelevant to you :-D I'm not judging. :-))
You can put on comfortable "language learning" clothes. 
You can put on background music, if that helps you. Or cut out most of the surround noise. 
Get yourself something delicious to drink or snack while you study. 
You can use aromatherapy and give yourself nicely smelling surroundings to study in. 
Have a specific spot for your studies and arrange it in a way you find pleasing. Make it the most comfortable place in your home. Decorate it with things that inspire you and make you feel good every time you see them. Make it beautiful (now, I am a woman, so I may use that word, but you might be a man and find it silly - so make it a man cave. Make it a librarian's study. Decorate it with dictionaries and maps and flags. Make it... aesthetically pleasing to you. That is what "beautiful" means, :-D). 
Keep it tidy and clean. Just 15 minutes in the end of a day is enough for you to be able to come to a clean and tidy study, and that makes a difference, even if you don't believe me. Try it a month, and see which way you prefer.

Collect positive experiences around the language learning.
There is this thing called "negativity bias", which means that we need about 5 positive experiences to outweigh one negative experience - so if you have a negative experience, you need to erase it immediately by five positive ones.You do this by
a) doing something you know is nice, positive experience
b) doing something you have been avoiding because of fear, because it's highly likely you have been afraid for nothing, and doing something you have been fearing is an amazing confidence boost, even if it doesn't go all well.
c) find some resources and opportunities you haven't been aware of. Find a new, interesting book or blog. Go talk to someone at a language learning community. Doing something new is a positive experience, even for introverts.
Now, what could be positive experiences? It depends on you. So, start collecting positive experiences.

Associate language learning with your favorite places and activities and other favorites 
❝Language is the blood of the soul 
into which thoughts run and out of which they grow.❞
‒Oliver Wendell Holmes

6) make language learning part of your daily routine.

You remember the guy who taped Chinese letters in his mirror every evening and practiced them when he shaved. You remember the guys who put post-its on everything in their home and learned the words just because they were repeated so often. It's not a wonder the first things in Finnish the Swedes learn are "Perkele!" (swearing in Finnish, literally the devil, meaningwise more like Fuck!), and "Ei saa peittää!" (May not be covered, is written on every radiator on the ferry between Finland and Sweden frequented by Swedes). 
Make a habit of going to Memrise or ANKI and drill some words for 15 minutes when you wake up.
Put on the radio when you wake up and let it play all day in the background. (Yes, it is surprisingly effective - it makes you used to the sounds and melody of the language, and that makes it easier for you to reproduce it. Also, you might hear some words you recognize and the more you learn, the more you recognize, and le jour arrivera, when you don't even realize you are listening a foreign language radio station - because it's not foreign anymore...

❝Language is the road map of a culture. 
It tells you where its people come from and where they are going.❞
‒Rita Mae Brown

7) Put it on paper
Write a language journal. 
Get a new notebook.
Write down why you want to learn the language.
Write down how you imagine using the language in the future.
Write down other's inspiring journeys, success and victories. If you read a language blog and see something that makes you think "I want that" or "I wish I was like e". write that down in your journal.

Record what you did. Which tools you used, for how long, how you felt, before and afterward.
This will help you know which methods work for you and which don't, and if you found some difficulties and solved some problems, adapted the system to you. Write it down.

Find a way to measure your steps so that you can track your progress. There are some language and vocabulary tests online.
Memrise gives you also the percentage of the words you "knew" and keeps track of your time.

Write down those Moments, you know, the first dream you had in the language, the first time you saw something written or heard someone say something and you understood it.

You could also keep a record of such things as *how you slept *what is the mood of the day *energy levels *motivation level *other things done during the day
to find out if there is any correlation between these things and your learning, so that if there is, you can improve the other things to improve your language learning experience. 

You might also find a monthly fluctuation of motivation, and prepare some "candy" for the bland days you KNOW will come.

If you Skype or iTalki or have a teacher of any kind, you also need to note the questions you want to ask e.

Reflections on what you’ve learned today:
* impressions
* insights
* further questions
* interesting things
* notes on techniques, systems, methodology, new ways of doing things you tried out

❝Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own.❞
‒Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

8) Do it together

You are not alone. You are not the only person on this planet studying a language or the language you are studying. Try to find that other person. Is there people among your friends who would be interested in studying the same language with you? You could drill each other, correct each other, help each other and reward yourself by traveling to a place where you can use the language together.

9) Reward yourself

Praise yourself for having studied yet another day.
Enjoy the feeling of understanding. Enjoy the benefits of what you have learned.
Reward yourself by giving yourself a new book, graphic novel, comic book, magazine, dvd or something like that.
Keep the rewards language orientated and remember that the primary reward is the language itself. 

10) Be nice to yourself. 

There are days when nothing can make you touch the language. It's OK. Take a day off. 
(But just a day. Every day off makes it exponentially harder to get back on saddle.)

❝To have another language is to possess a second soul.❞

11) Remind yourself of that you are going to be OK, just you continue the journey

Remind yourself that it's OK to make mistakes. You are LEARNING, it's obvious you don't know the language fluently yet! And native speakers make mistakes as well... Remember that!
Remind yourself of that you are just a baby when it comes to speaking the language.You wouldn't expect a three months old baby to speak fluently anything, why would you expect that of yourself after having studied the language for three months. ("Yes, but Benny!" I'm sure you are much more advanced than a three months' baby yourself if you think about it. Aren't you?)
Remind yourself that you probably will always have an accent, simply because you are not a native speaker of the language, AND YOU SHOULDN'T BE, EITHER. It's OK to have an accent. Be Arnold and make it "your thing" :-D
Remind yourself of that it's OK to forget a word. Native speakers do that also.
Remind yourself that it's OK to be "dummy". You are not as "smart" as so-and-so or whatsit, So what? Neither is ANY OTHER OF THE BILLIONS OF PEOPLE ON THIS PLANET. It's OK!

 ❝Learn everything you can, anytime you can, from anyone you can;
there will always come a time when you will be grateful you did.❞
‒Sarah Caldwell

Remind yourself of that the worst thing that could happen if you mess the whole thing up is that some people laugh at you. Some might correct your errors, and that might feel embarrassing also. Some might laugh at you, BUT also try to help you become better.
Try to get over the feeling of being embarrassed. It doesn't kill you. It doesn't really even harm you. It's just a bit uncomfortable. BUT IT IS SOMETHING EVERY HUMAN BEING ON THIS PLANET HAS EXPERIENCED. It makes you just another human among others. It's not dangerous, it's not catastrophic, it's not the end of the world. Get over it. Really.
If you find it "un-over-gettable", train yourself to brush of the feeling as if it didn't exist. It is just a feeling, it really hasn't any purpose. All it does is stop you, hinder you, try to get you to give up. It really is all happening in your head. Laugh it off and continue as if nothing important happened, because nothing important happened! Take it as a good story to create companionship with new acquaintances, something to make you more human, more approachable, more identifiable. Learn from Jennifer Lawrence. She tells pretty humiliating and embarrassing stories about herself and it doesn't make her the least ridiculous or laughable.
And accept the help, even when it comes wrapped in humiliation.

* "most of us probably wanted to learn a language because of the written information" - the most vocal polyglots probably wanted to learn a language to be able to interact with others, and this is, of course, the best reason and most effective way to learn languages; interacting with others from the first second of language learning.But I assume 90% of polyglots are that in their own little world, not interacting with many people at all, knowing all their languages for themselves, never revealing their knowledge and riches to others.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Project 52 in 52: Twi

I'm reading Paul Pimsleur's How To Learn a Foreign Language.

The first Pimsleur courses were in Greek, French, German, Spanish and Twi.


"Akan  is a Central Tano language that is the principal native language of the Akan people of Ghana, spoken over much of the southern half of that country, by about 58% of the population, and among 30% of the population of Ivory Coast.

Three dialects have been developed as literary standards with distinct orthographies: Asante, Akuapem (together called Twi), and Fante, which, despite being mutually intelligible, were inaccessible in written form to speakers of the other standards. In 1978 the Akan Orthography Committee (AOC) established a common orthography for all of Akan, which is used as the medium of instruction in primary school by speakers of several other Central Tano languages such as Anyi, Sehwi, Ahanta, and the Guang languages. The Akan Orthography Committee has compiled a unified orthography of 20,000 words. Notable as well are the adinkra symbols, which are old ideograms.

The language came to the Caribbean and South America, notably in Suriname spoken by the Ndyuka and in Jamaica by the Jamaican Maroons known as Coromantee, with enslaved people from the region. The descendants of escaped slaves in the interior of Suriname and the Maroons in Jamaica still use a form of this language, including Akan names: children are named after the day of the week on which they are born, e.g. Akwasi/Kwasi (for a boy) or Akosua (girl) born on a Sunday. In Jamaica and Suriname the Anansi spider stories are well known."

And here are the letters and some sample sentences...

Language Super Challenge?

"I signed up for an extensive reading & listening challenge. This involved 10,000 pages of reading and 150 hours of films/TV in 20 months."
- emk1024

What? Huh? Challenge? YES! I LOVE CHALLENGES!!!
What is it? How? TELL ME MORE!!!

Nope. That's it. So... tallyho! On with the hunt! Allons-y!

"extensive reading & listening challenge""10,000 pages of reading" "150 hours of films/TV" "in 20 months" didn't give anything.
"10,000 pages of reading" "in 20 months" gave this;

"Many people have had great impacts on their languages by doing the Super Challenge. The first challenge involved reading about 10000 pages of books and watching about 10000 minutes of movies. The second challenge reduced the number of pages, probably to make the "strain" even between movies and books, at my rate of reading Spanish 10000 pages would take 20000 minutes... I may have some of this wrong; please forgive me. Some people who reported the big improvement suggested their biggest burst in comprehension came around 7000 pages, and that the 5000 pages of the second challenge might not be enough to have the impact people were hoping for.

Anyway 10000 pages in 20 months is 500 pages a month, or very roughly, about 20 pages a day.
5000 pages is about 10 pages a day over 20 months.
10000 minutes of watching is about 20 minutes a day.

The output challenge includes 100 hours of (recorded) speech over 10 months, or about 20 minutes a day, if I do my arithmetic right."
- sfuqua
Language Super Challenge took me here: a language learners' forum; The Super Challenge rules and registration 2016-2017 

Oh no! I'm 1 1/2 months late!!!

Uh, who cares. I'll join anyway!

Language Super Challenge Twitter Bot 

P.S. "When you are at the bottom of the curve, recall what got you excited about learning your language in the first place. Then take one small and fun action/activity that will fuel your reason for learning."

What got me excited about learning French?

- Alexandre Dumas père
- Jules Verne

You remember that feeling... you have started to study a language. You have a couple of hours of study behind you, you feel like nothing is sticking, you are never going to learn this language, you must be doing something wrong... and then, totally unrelated to your studies, unexpectedly, you happen to see a word written in the foreign alphabet... and you can read it. Not only that, YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT IT SAYS! Or you hear a word, a phrase, a bit of a conversation, AND YOU UNDERSTAND IT. That amazing click... it's almost like there was a piece blocking the flow and it moved, clicked to its place, and the vessel gets filled with the liquid of understanding a language

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Deconstructing languages

 Ok, Tim :-)

How to Learn (But Not Master) Any Language in 1 Hour
(I would say "how to learn the basics of any language in less than an hour")

* Deconstructing a language is one fo the distinguishing habits of the fastest language learners

* to learn a language quickly:
- deconstruct it
- choose wisely
- focus

* picking a language:
- phonemes - choose a language with few phonemes
- writing system - choose one with the same or similar writing system
- grammatical structure - choose a language with the same structure as your native language
- language families - choose a language related to your native language

* how to deconstruct a langugage:
find out:
- word order
- verb conjugation
- pronouns
- cases
- negation
from sample sentences, for example the following:

The apple is red.
It is John’s apple.
I give John the apple.
We give him the apple.
He gives it to John.
She gives it to him.

Ask the teacher to write down the translations in their proper writing system, transcribe it yourself using IPA

In Korean it is as follows:

The apple is red.
그 사과는 빨간색입니다.
It is John's apple.
그것은 존의 사과입니다.
I give John the apple.
나는 존에게 그 사과는 줍니다.
We give him the apple.
우리는 그에게 그 사과를 줍니다.
He gives it to John.
그는 그것을 그에게 줍니다.
She gives it to him.
그녀는 그것을 그에게 줍니다.

Is the apple red?
그 사과가 빨간색입니까?
The apples are red.
그 사과들은 빨간색입니다.
I must give it to him.
나는 그것을 그에게 주어야 합니다.
I want to give it to her.
나는 그것을 그녀에게 주기를 원합니다.
I'm going to know tomorrow.
나는 내일 알게 됩니다.
I have eaten the apple.
나는 그 사과를 (먹어 버렸습니다/먹어본 적이 있습니다)
I can't eat the apple.
나는 그 사과를 먹을 수 없습니다.

So... what do we learn from this? :-D

Note the 니다 It's the polite, formal way of expressing things.
나는 is I
사과 is the apple. Or an apple, apples, the apples...)
를 is the object suffix.
In the first sentence, "red" is the last word - which is the verb... so red is a verb in Korean? Could be... "being red" is a verb. I mean... how do you get that from the sentence? You don't! A person could understand it to mean that you don't need to use the verb at all, and that would be totally wrong, because in Korean the verb is the queen and you can say thing by using the verb alone, but never without it.

빨간 입니다
red - color - is

Uh. Now I have been playing with Korean a little too long, I'm getting tired. :-) 

What do we learn about Korean language from the Wikipedia article?

It's a language isolate, but could be part of the Altaic language family... which consists (or not) of several Asian languages, from Turkey to Japan... But the relationships are not as clear as with Indo-European languages. I suppose we Europeans are really, really, really interested in classifying things, huh? :-D
There MIGHT be some relation between Japanese and Korean, but not even that is in any way certain. There's about 25% similarities between the languages, but that could just as easily be cultural connection and not language connection.

Korean is a SOV language.

Korean is an agglutinative language

There is no gender in Korean, BUT the women's language differ from the men's language in some points

There is formal and informal language

Verbs are the most complex part of speech, and a properly conjugated verb may stand on its own as a complete sentence.
A Korean verb root is bound, meaning that it never occurs without at least one suffix. These suffixes are numerous but regular and ordered. There are over 40 basic endings, but over 400 when the combinations of these endings are counted.
Grammatical categories of verb suffixes include voice (passive or causative), tense (past, present, or future), aspect (of an action - complete, experienced, repeated, or continuing), honorification (appropriate choice of suffix following language protocol), and clause-final conjunctives or sentence enders chosen from various speech styles and types of sentences such as interrogative, declarative, imperative, and suggestive.

Korean postpositions are also known as case markers. Postpositions come after substantives and are used to indicate the role (subject, object, complement, or topic) of a noun in a sentence or clause.

There are pronouns :-D Pronouns may be subclassified into personal, reflexive, reciprocal, interrogative- indefinite, and demonstrative pronouns. And then you need to know if it's plain, humble, polite, intimate, blunt, familiar, neutral, deferential, adult or child, about a person or a thing... 

Negation is pretty simple.

Asking questions is pretty simple.

so... English kind of doesn't cut it.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Learning many languages at the same time

Firstly, it's not a good idea, because "all the --- all the time" is the best way to learn a language. If you could, you could sit with one language for a year or so, and then take on the next one, otherwise you could get your "language core" muddled up.

But, in Finland, the kids are started off with their first second language on third grade (about 10 years old), the second comes on seventh grade (about 13) and the next on 8th grade, and then on 10th (gymnasium/high school 1st - about 16) some add one or  more new ones. As the education is now-a-days (or was when I was in school), in practice that is studying more than one language at a time. We went from the Swedish class to English to German to Russian to Latin to French to... some the same day, some different days. I don't feel I got them mixed up.

Another reason for focusing on one language at a time is that you learn faster the fewer things you try to learn at a time. Just imagine learning to type with your toes while learning to play piano with your fingers... no can do. :-D

Luca gives a great example of two students who get the challenge to learn 10 languages in 10 years.
Now... I am just a dabbler... I am not doing this seriously enough, so I haven't been doing what I tell people to do :-D So I do not speak all the languages I have ever studied. :-D But... I find the challenge very attractive. I would like to try, first try to learn 10 languages in 10 years all at the same time; give all the languages 15 minutes a day, every day... and have at least 1/2 hour between languages.
Then I would try Luca's way of doing it. After all, it takes just 20 years. I'm 46 now. I would be 66 with 20+ languages. :-D (According to Luca, though, I would be 66 with 13 good languages and 10 messy ones on top of the mess I have at the bottom :-D)

Luca gives the following guidelines:
(he explains more on his page. If you are interested, go read it there.)

1) Choose a maximum of TWO languages at any given time.

2) Choose two languages that are distinct from each other. (Preferably from two different families)

3) Try to choose an “easy” language and a relatively “difficult” one

4) give the difficult language 70-80%, and give the “easy” one 20-30%.

5) Study both languages every day.

Niels have a bit more to say about this, he has 9 rules

he adds to this:

6. learn a language you are more familiar with and a language that is totally new to you

7. treat them as the priority language and the side language

8. manage your study time!

9. give your languages clearly separate identities.
     From color coding and using different letters to dressing up to a different persona
     and have a beverage typical to the culture of your language at hand.
     Like, study English wearing a bowler and drinking tea from a teacup with saucer and spoon
     and Japanese wearing a kimono drinking green tea from a bowl.

10. Use your two languages as L1 and L2 - study Chinese in Spanish and Spanish in Chinese :-D

11. Shuffle your flashcards and study them together
     paradoxically enough this actually helps your brain to keep the languages separate!

12. Study the same theme in both languages at the same time

Lindsay reminds of a couple of important things here, that go for all language learning and not just learning more than one language at a time:
- be kind to yourself and be realistic. It's not bad to adjust your schedule or plan to match the reality when you notice you were a bit idealistic.
- have fun
- all the --- all the time. "Languagify" your everyday. Use the Hidden Moments. Find a way to add language to what you do every day any way.
- find a way of sneaking in languages to the things you do for fun and relaxing and rewarding yourself. Watch your movies and tv series in a language you know but with foreign subtitles. Listen to music in your goal language when you exercise. Try foreign candy. Cook something delicious after a foreign recipe. Watch foreign cooking shows. Go to a foreign restaurant. Change the default language at Facebook and Pinterest to your target language. Read comics in your target language. Learn to praise yourself in the target language. Read blogs written in your target language about your hobbies and interests.

But - bilingual kids learn both languages at the same time. Doesn't harm them in any way. So why wouldn't you?
I remember one little tidbit; there was a man who thought everyone has their own language when he was little, because he spoke one language with his father, another with his mother, the nanny had her own language, the gardener yet another and the cook spoke a fifth language... :-D

P.S. When I was researching to write this blog entry, I happened to see a Korean word... and usually I'll just jump over letters I don't know that well... but this time I tried to read it. And I did. And I understood what I read...
There are a few feelings that are as good as that *_*

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Learn ten times faster

So, how to apply this to languages?

1. make the milestones smaller

The final goal is to learn a language. Now, from not knowing a word to knowing some 10.000 words and sentences is a journey of 10.000 steps :-D
Make a list of those steps and take one step at a time.

For example.
1) learn to say the alphabet
2) learn to count
3) learn the common greetings and wishes
4) learn the 10 most common words of the language
5) learn a couple of sentences where these words are being used
6) learn how to tell the time
7) learn how to talk about the weather
8) learn to tell 10 things about yourself
9) learn to shop
10) learn the restaurant/café speech

2. Do one thing at a time

When you study a language, study A language.
Of course, as he says on the video, learning and producing are two different things, so using a language is not going to take time from learning another language, so you can upkeep your other languages by using the language; reading, speaking, writing, watching television and movies, listening to songs and radio.
Also, commit to your steps 100%. When you are studying the numbers, you study numbers and nothing else. Learn to count from 1 to 100, learn it backward, learn to count to hundred in fives and tens and from hundred to 1 in fives and tens... Move on only when you are totally confident with numbers.

3. Be constant.

it's better to use 5 minutes to study every day in a week than one hour once a week.

Richard Burton (and Paul Pimsleur) said that 15 minutes in a pass is the absolute maximum, the brain gets tired, bored and quits if you study longer times. You notice this in that when you are studying for hours at a time, you will spend a lot of time doing other things like thinking about something else when you are supposed to listen or read, or doodle something while you watch a movie etc. Your attention is not 100% for more than a couple of minutes.

4. Don't put all the eggs in the same basket

You don't know which "vehicle" will get you there. Try all the methods. Stop doing what doesn't work, do more of what works.

5. Debrief

When you make a mistake, ask what you did, and find out why you did it.
Ask opinions, ask people to critique you, ask people to suggest improvements, listen to people's explanations and practice the correct way of doing things.


It took me a lot of time to separate nous and vous. Because of "we", I thought of "vous" as we. I had to intentionally remind me of "notre dame", "our lady", "nous is we, we, nous, we, nous, we, nous..." to get my brain to change it.

Other things to mention here.

- practice all four parts of a language every day in all available ways. Make sure that every day you listen to the language, you write in the language, you read the language and you speak the language. Even if there is no-one to listen, speak it. Not just in your mind, not just whispering.
In the beginning, you can hide in a closet and repeat after some video online, but it would be better if you found a sparring partner from the first day and practiced.
If nothing else, you can film yourself with the computer camera and upload the video to YouTube. I bet there's plenty of people ready to correct your pronunciation, especially if you title your video challenging... like "a polyglot counts to 100 in ---sh" or "I bet you can't catch my error". :-D
A bit kinder way is to find a sentence or poem or so, written down and read out loud, and record yourself reading it and then compare your recording to the proper way of reading it. You could also do it with songs, but a couple of sentences from a book would be better. It's not possible with all the languages, but try to find something. If nothing else, maybe you can find a recording from the Bible. Or on Omniglot there might be a sample sentence.