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.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Project 52 in 52: Cambodian

"I have seen other incorrigible cases, like the Army sergeant who was sent back to school at age fifty to learn Cambodian. He did miserably and soon decided to retire from the Army rather than stay in the language school. This was too bad. The sergeant, like many supposed "no language talent" people, was probably as capable as most of learning a language if the circumstances had been right. If he had parachuted into a Cambodian village, he might have learned the language very quickly."
- Paul Pimsleur

Cambodian, huh... Interesting.

Khmer or Cambodian is the language of the Khmer people and the official language of Cambodia. With approximately 16 million speakers, it is the second most widely spoken Austroasiatic language (after Vietnamese). Khmer has been influenced considerably by Sanskrit and Pali, especially in the royal and religious registers, through Hinduism and Buddhism. The more colloquial registers have influenced, and have been influenced by, Thai, Lao, Vietnamese, and Cham, all of which, due to geographical proximity and long-term cultural contact, form a sprachbund in peninsular Southeast Asia. It is also the earliest recorded and earliest written language of the Mon–Khmer family, predating Mon and by a significant margin Vietnamese, due to Old Khmer being the language of the historical empires of Chenla, Angkor and, presumably, their earlier predecessor state, Funan.

The vast majority of Khmer speakers speak Central Khmer, the dialect of the central plain where the Khmer are most heavily concentrated. Within Cambodia, regional accents exist in remote areas but these are regarded as varieties of Central Khmer. Two exceptions are the speech of the capital, Phnom Penh, and that of the Khmer Khe in Stung Treng province, both of which differ sufficiently enough from Central Khmer to be considered separate dialects of Khmer. Outside of Cambodia, three distinct dialects are spoken by ethnic Khmers native to areas that were historically part of the Khmer Empire. The Northern Khmer dialect is spoken by over a million Khmers in the southern regions of Northeast Thailand and is treated by some linguists as a separate language. Khmer Krom, or Southern Khmer, is the first language of the Khmer of Vietnam while the Khmer living in the remote Cardamom mountains speak a very conservative dialect that still displays features of the Middle Khmer language.

Khmer is primarily an analytic, isolating language. There are no inflections, conjugations or case endings. Instead, particles and auxiliary words are used to indicate grammatical relationships. General word order is subject–verb–object, and modifiers follow the word they modify. Classifiers appear after numbers when used to count nouns, though not always so consistently as in languages like Chinese. In spoken Khmer, the topic-comment structure is common and the perceived social relation between participants determines which sets of vocabulary, such as pronouns and honorifics, are proper.

Khmer differs from neighboring languages such as Thai, Burmese, Lao and Vietnamese in that it is not a tonal language. Words are stressed on the final syllable, hence many words conform to the typical Mon–Khmer pattern of a stressed syllable preceded by a minor syllable. The language has been written in the Khmer script, an abugida descended from the Brahmi script via the southern Indian Pallava script, since at least the seventh century. The script's form and use have evolved over the centuries; its modern features include subscripted versions of consonants used to write clusters and a division of consonants into two series with different inherent vowels. Approximately 79% of Cambodians are able to read Khmer.

The letters and writing in Khmer are very interesting and beautiful.

All in all, it sounds like an easy, nice language to learn :-)

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

How can you start speaking a new language quickly?

Really easy, open your mouth and speak. I mean, you don't need to care about understanding the language or even correct pronunciation, to "speak a language"... now, people don't usually mean that.

If you want people to actually understand you, you need to practice a little in the "repeat after me"way. There's plenty of places where native language speakers say words and sentences for you to parrot.

If you want to be a bit more than a parrot - or an actor who learned e's lines by heart - it is necessary to actually also learn what it means that comes from your mouth.

If you want to be able to express your thoughts, ideas and feelings in another language than your mothertongue... it won't happen quickly.

There is no magic pill that makes you go from "I no spiik inglis" to advanced fluency in a week or so.
It is actually possible... to some extend ;-)

No, you won't master a language in a week or a month.
If you never sleep, it takes about a year.
If you sleep, it takes two years.
If you study about 8 hours every day, weekends included, it will take about 3 years
If you study 4 hours every day, it will take about 6 years.

The good news are that you don't need that kind of mastery of a language to be able to "manage" using the language.  :-D
Just look at Benny Lewis. One can disagree about what is "fluent", but the thing is that he can manage. One can question his vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, width, but what cannot be questioned is that he is actually speaking the language. He has a good base to build on, if he wants to improve his language skills.

This is actually important. YOU DON'T NEED TO BE FLUENT.

I mean... I can walk. I wouldn't win any prizes for my speed or style or anything, but I can walk.
I can sing. I wouldn't sell any records or break any records either, I wouldn't be able to teach anyone to sing,or so, but I can sing.
I can ride a bicycle. I wouldn't manage to mountainbike a steep hill, probably not even ride down a hill on good road without breaking or falling, my balance is awful. But I know how to ride a bicycle.
So - languages... can anyone really claim mastery in second and third language or are all of us "just learning"?
I know a lot Finnish, Swedish and English, and a little Danish, Norwegian, French, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Hebrew, German, Italian, Spanish, Maltese, Albanian...:-D

How much is "a little"?

There is a Finnish song in which the lyrics are:
Osaan sanoa kymmenellä kielellä kiitos,
osaan hyvää uutta vuotta toivottaa
Mutta aamuöisin loistavaa tähteä en kiinni saa."

I know how to say thank you in 10 languages,
I know how to wish happy new year,
but I can't catch  the star shining in the "morning night" (the hours when it's no longer night but not yet morning. I don't know if that time has a name in English.)

I do know. I can also count to ten in several languages :-D I can wish not only happy new year, but good morning, good day and good night as well.

You know, my definition of "knowing a language" is being able to do what one wants to do with the language. If one wants to read books in original language, that has one set of skills and requirements. If one wants to sosialize and make friends all over the planet, that's another set of skills. That is why it is so important to DEFINE YOUR GOALS FIRST. You could easily ignore whole parts of a language if it isn't that essential for your goal. People who just read and write, don't need to be that particular about pronunciation, people who just talk everyday stuff with friends don't need to know much grammar, and so on.

Things I find fascinating might not be that to others. I love grammar and parsing languages, I love etymology and the little whys behind idioms. I like writing paper flashcards and using them. I like color co-ordinating things :-D So that's what I do.

Bah. Now I'm just babbling. I'll go and watch some Kdrama :-D

Monday, July 4, 2016

Kató Lomb's Polyglot: How I Learn Languages - Excerpt

I have removed quite a lot, and it is interesting, so get your hands on this book and read it. It is full of anecdotes of Kató's life as a language lover and interpreter/translator.

Excerpt from Chapter 20: How I Learn Languages from Kató Lomb's Polyglot: How I Learn Languages


Let’s say that I wish to learn Azilian. There is no such language, of course. I have made it up to emphasize the general approach I use to learn any language.

First of all, I try to get my hands on a thick Azilian dictionary. Owing to my optimistic outlook I never buy small dictionaries; I go on the assumption that they are a waste of money because I would fathom them too quickly.

If an Azilian-Hungarian dictionary is not available, then I try to get hold of an Azilian-English, Azilian-Russian, etc., dictionary.

In the beginning, I use this dictionary as my textbook.

I learn the rules of reading from it. Every language — and consequently every dictionary — contains a lot of international expressions. The bigger the dictionary, the more such expressions there are in it.

The words for nations and cities (that is, places that do not have language-dependent names) and scientific terms that transcend specific languages reveal to me the relationships between letter-characters and phonemes in Azilian. I remember that the first thing I looked up in the Russian - English dictionary I bought in 1941 was my own name: Eкатерина.

I do not memorize words from the dictionary; I just scan and study them as though they were some crossword puzzle to be solved. By the time I glean the rules of reading from the above-cited international words, the dictionary will have revealed a lot of other things about Azilian. For example, I can see how it morphs the parts of speech: how it nominalizes verbs, how it forms adjectives from nouns, and how it forms adverbs from adjectives.

This is just a first taste of the language. I am sampling it, making friends with it.

Following this first assay, I buy a textbook and some works of Azilian literature. Regarding textbooks, I always buy one with the answers provided for the exercises, as I am an average language learner: i.e., I mostly have to teach myself.

I go through the lessons and complete all the exercises in sequence, as they come in the book. I write breezily, leaving ample room for corrections. Then I look up the answers in the key and write them beside/above my own incorrect responses. In this way I get a visual representation of “the history of my folly.”

I scold myself for the errors made and then promptly forgive myself. (This is very important; see the 10th Commandment on page 160.)

I always leave enough space in my notebook to write five–six correct words or sentences for the ones I got wrong. This is very helpful in imprinting the correct formulas.

As all this is a bit tedious, right from the outset I start reading Azilian plays or short stories. If I get lucky, there will be adapted texts available. If not, I just start on any literature published before 1950. (I can have trouble understanding the style of modern novels, even in Hungarian.) I always buy books in pairs: this increases the chance that at least one will be comprehensible. I start on the comprehensible novel immediately.

To go from incomprehension to half-understanding to complete understanding is an exciting and inspiring journey of discovery worthy of the spirit of a mature person. By the time I finish the journey, I part with the book feeling that this has been a profitable and fun enterprise.

On my first reading of the book, I write words I understand into my notebook, that is, words whose meaning I have been able to figure out from the context. Naturally,
I do not write them out in isolation, but in sentences. It is only after a second or third reading that I look up words I don’t know. Even then, I do not look up each and every one.

For those that I record in my notebook, I include the context from the book or from a contemporary dictionary worthy of the name.

All this, however, does not teach one of the most important of the four aspects of language learning: verbal comprehension.
What’s more, I have not gotten an accurate picture of Azilian pronunciation, because the phonetic transcriptions of the textbook are always of somewhat dubious value.

For this reason, at the very beginning of my language study I set aside some time for scanning the Azilian airwaves. I figure out when and at what frequency I can hear Azilian speech on the radio. Somewhere, sometime, I am sure to catch it from the ether.

News bulletins generally present the most important international events of the day. Therefore, even if the news items are selected according to the probable interests of Azilians, they will likely be the same on different stations, in different languages. So I always listen to the news in some other, familiar language as well. Thus I am given a key — almost a dictionary — to what I can expect, in advance.

If an unknown word crops up along the way, I write it down. After the broadcast, I look it up immediately in my big dictionary. The reason for this is that right after the broadcast, the word is still resounding in my ear with its entire context. If I misheard it (which happens many times), the context, still fresh in my memory, helps me correct the error.

If I find the word in the dictionary, a little self-congratulation is in order again, and this makes learning a pleasant pastime instead of a burdensome task.

Then, not immediately, but after a day or two, I record in my glossary the knowledge acquired off the air. I recommend this temporally staggered approach because one is forced to revisit fading memories—unfortunately, quite often not for the last time.

Once a week, I tape the broadcast. I keep the recording for a while and play it back several times. On these occasions, I always concentrate on pronunciation. Alas, I must admit that based on the announcer’s native pronunciation, sometimes I have to reacquaint myself with words that I thought I already knew from books.

Of course, I try to find a teacher who speaks Azilian.
If I find a professional educator, I’ve got it made.
If there isn’t a bona fide teacher available, I try to at least find an Azilian who is in Hungary on a scholarship. Gender I confess that I prefer being taught by a woman. Perhaps this is because it is easier to chat with women.


Filler expressions, such as “well,” “of course,” “still,” “yet,” “only,” “also,” “on the contrary,” or “I tell you” get greater play. I cannot recommend learning these so-called diluting agents too highly to students of any language. These are “non-negligible negligibles” because they provide a little space to catch one’s breath and to recall the more important elements in the sentence. My recommendation applies not only to filler words but also to frame expressions: collect them and use them!


To return to my method of language study, what I expect from my Azilian teacher is what I cannot get from either books or the radio. Firstly, I ask the teacher to speak at a slower than average speed so that I can catch as many words as possible from the context; secondly, I expect him or her to correct my Azilian, mainly on the basis of written assignments that I diligently prepare for each class.

At first, I write free compositions because it’s easier. Often these are disjointed texts, made up of elements not connected with each other, just loose sentences that I use to hang new, just seen/just heard words and grammatical phrases on. From the teacher’s corrections I verify whether I grasped their meanings and functions properly.
When I reach a higher level of knowledge I begin to translate. At this stage, an already given text compels me to give up using well-practiced formulas and rely on my translator’s discipline, which involves strategies I am not so certain of.

Uncorrected mistakes are very perilous! If one keeps repeating wrong formulas, they take root in the mind and one will be inclined to accept them as authentic. Written translations pinpoint one’s errors ruthlessly, while a listening ear might be prone to just glossing over them. I know this from my own translations being “corrected.”


If I succeed in getting permission to travel to Azilville, then the trip’s effect on my Azilian may depend on two factors. One is the extent to which I am able to observe and record the natives’ speech. The other factor is the extent of my knowledge of Azilian prior to my journey.

It is a grave delusion that merely staying in a foreign country will allow you to absorb its language. I think people have been misled by the Latin proverb Saxa loquuntur, or “Stones talk.” Houses, walls, and buildings do not undertake the task of teaching. It may be that they talk, but their speech, alas, is in stone language.
It is quite possible to pick up a few colloquial, idiomatic expressions or clever turns of phrase from the locals, but these generally do not amount to any more than what one would have acquired anyway by diligently studying at home during the same time period.
Neither reminiscing in your native tongue with your émigré compatriots who may now live in Azilia (“Do you remember Alex from sixth grade?”), nor comparative window shopping (or Schaufensterlecken in German, meaning “shop window licking”) will do anything for your Azilian.

Frequent listening to spoken Azilian, however, will.

Local papers usually publish information on what museums or galleries offer guided tours.
Also, there should be an Azilian branch of the Society for Popular Science Education (or whatever organization you’re interested in); they usually offer free lectures to educate the public. Whenever I am abroad, I frequent all these types of events and take copious notes every time.
Going to the movies can help you learn a language.
The ideal solution, of course, is to maintain active relationships with native speakers of one’s ilk and interests, with lots of shared activities—especially if these natives are willing to correct your mistakes, and if one is resolved not to get mad at them when they do.

The other factor that decides the impact of a trip on one’s knowledge of a language is one’s level of mastery at the time of departure. “A” and “F” students will benefit the least from trips. Those who know nothing at the outset will probably return with virgin minds. For those at a very advanced level, improvement will be difficult to detect. The best results will show - given the ideal conditions listed above — at the intermediate level.

* * *

My thoughts on language learning are organized into the little compendium below.

Spend time tinkering with the language every day. If time is short, try at least to produce a 10-minute monologue. Morning hours are especially valuable in this respect: the early bird catches the word!

If your enthusiasm for studying flags too quickly, don’t force the issue but don’t stop altogether either. Move to some other form of studying, e.g., instead of reading, listen to the radio; instead of writing a composition, poke aboutin the dictionary, etc.

Never learn isolated units of speech; rather, learn them in context.

Write phrases in the margins of your text and use them as “prefabricated elements” in your conversations. Even a tired brain finds rest and relaxation in quick,
impromptu translations of billboard advertisements flashing by, of numbers over doorways, of snippets of overheard conversations, etc., just for its own amusement.

Memorize only that which has been corrected by a teacher. Do not keep studying sentences you have written that have not been proofread and corrected so mistakes
don’t take root in your mind. If you study on your own, each sentence you memorize should be kept to a size that precludes the possibility of errors.

Always memorize idiomatic expressions in the first person singular. For example, “I am only pulling your leg.”

A foreign language is a castle. It is advisable to besiege it from all directions: newspapers, radio, movies that are not dubbed, technical or scientific papers, textbooks, and the visitor at your neighbor’s.

Do not let the fear of making mistakes keep you from speaking, but do ask your conversation partner to correct you. Most importantly, don’t get peeved if he or she actually obliges you—a remote possibility, anyway.

Be firmly convinced that you are a linguistic genius. If the facts demonstrate otherwise, heap blame on the pesky language you aim to master, your dictionaries, or this book — but not on yourself.

As seven of the biblical Ten Commandments are in the negative, let me now list what not to do if you aim to achieve an acceptable level of linguistic mastery within an acceptable time frame.

Do not postpone embarking on learning a new language — or restarting such a study — until the time of a prospective trip abroad. Rather, try to gain access to native speakers of your target language who are on a visit to your country and who do not speak your language. They could be relatives or friends. If you accompany them and show them around, they will help you solidify your knowledge of their language out of gratitude; they will enrich your vocabulary and excuse the mistakes you make.

Do not expect the same behavior from your compatriots. Do not practice with them because they will be prone to giving prime time to your errors — or at the very least, they will be inclined to employ meaningful facial gesturens— to demonstrate how much better they are at the language than you.

Do not believe that a teacher’s instruction, no matter how intense and in-depth it may be, gives you an excuse not to delve into the language on your own. For this reason you should, from the outset, start browsing through illustrated magazines, listening to radio programs and/or prerecorded cassettes, watching movies, etc.

In your browsing, do not get obsessed with words you don’t know or structures you don’t understand. Build comprehension on what you already know. Do not automatically reach for the dictionary if you encounter a word or two you don’t recognize. If the expression is important, it will reappear and explain itself; if it is not so important, it is no big loss to gloss over it.

Do not miss writing down your thoughts in the foreign language. Write in simple sentences. For foreign words you can’t think of, use one from your own language for the time being.

Do not be deterred from speaking by the fear of making mistakes. The flow of speech creates a chain reaction: the context will lead you to the correct forms.

Do not forget a large number of filler expressions and sentence-launching phrases. It is great when you can break the ice with a few formulas that are always on hand and can help you over the initial embarrassment of beginning a conversation, for example “My French is kind of shaky” or “It’s been a while since I spoke Russian,” etc.

Do not memorize any linguistic element (expression) outside of its context, partly because a word may have several different meanings: e.g., the English word comforter may refer to someone who is consoling another, or it can mean a knitted shawl, a quilt or eiderdown, or yet again a baby’s pacifier. In addition, it is good, right off the bat, to get used to the practice of leaving the vortex of meanings around the word in your own language alone and reaching out to its kin words in the new language (or to the context you have most frequently encountered it in).

Do not leave newly learned structures or expressions hanging in the air. Fix them in your memory by fitting them into different, new settings: into your sphere of interest, into the reality of your own life.

Do not be shy of learning poems or songs by heart. Good diction is more than the mere articulation of individual sounds. Verses and melodies impose certain constraints; they set which sounds must be long and which must be short. The rhythm inherent in them helps the learner avoid the intonation traps of his native language.

Kató Lomb (Pécs, February 8, 1909 – Budapest, June 9, 2003) was a Hungarian interpreter, translator and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world. Originally she graduated in physics and chemistry, but her interest soon led her to languages. Native in Hungarian, she was able to interpret fluently in nine or ten languages (in four of them even without preparation), and she translated technical literature and read belles-lettres in six languages. She was able to understand journalism in further eleven languages. As she put it, altogether she earned money with sixteen languages (Bulgarian, Chinese, Danish, English, French, German, Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Ukrainian). She learned these languages mostly by self-effort, as an autodidact. Her aims to acquire these languages were most of all practical, to satisfy her interest.