Saturday, August 5, 2017

6 weeks' challenge: Russian

Ok... so I'm back. For now.
I don't think I'll ever become a "superpolyglot", because I just lack the tenacity. Whatever. :-D

Anyway, Russian...
I'm trying on a new concept.

On my "6 weeks from zero to C2" plan, day one goes:
learn the alphabet
learn the numbers
deconstruct the language (apple is red)
thank you
good morning
100 most used words on flashcards
put the Omniglot phrases + vocabulary on flashcards
find a radio station of everyday music and talk and listen for 30 minutes of radio

The alphabet. Pretty straightforward. Except for и краткое, твёрдый знак and мягкий знак - short i, hard sign and soft sign. I mean, I know how they work, but remembering the names when reading out the alphabet... eh.
And the fracking esses. I have made cards to try to remember them, you know, like the classic children's alphabet pictures. Zebra, journal, Chekhov, tzar, chess and "shchuka" - the pike.
Why the pike, you might ask. Well... in my mind, the Russians used planes called "pike" during WWII against Finland. Firstly, it wasn't Russians, it was the Germans, and the planes weren't called "pike", but Stukas. The thing is that it's not even pronounced the same way,  Щ is more just another "shsh" sound, but it's SUPPOSED to be "shch" instead of "shsh". And why would the Russians - or anyone - name an airplane after a fish? Doesn't even make any sense! :-D But - mnemonic devices don't need to make any sense, they just need to work :-D I suppose flying fish fighters is a memorable picture.

The numbers are very straightforward as well.
Except for the number 40... :-D
I really like numbers. Oh, and the pronunciation... not so self-evident.

Deconstructing the language

The apple is red. => Яблоко красное.
It is John's apple. => Это яблоко Джона.
I give John the apple. => Я даю Джону яблоко.
We give him the apple. => Мы даём ему яблоко.

He gives it to John => Он даёт это Джону.
She gives it to him. => Она даёт это ему.

Is the apple red? => Яблоко красное?
The apples are red. => Яблоки красные.

I must give it to him. => Я обязан ему это дать.
I want to give it to her. => Я хочу ей это дать.
I'm going to know tomorrow. => Я узнаю завтра.
I have eaten the apple. => Я съел яблоко.
I can't eat the apple. => Я не могу есть яблоко.

useful phrases
Good morning - Доброе утро!
Thank you - Спасибо!

Top 100 Russian words
And here we went haywire... :-D

I love learning words. I love my flashcards. I love the parrot style. Yes, it works. You know, all these people who will tell you that you should absolutely not learn words because they are useless.

Sorry, bullshit.
They are not useless.
I agree in that if you ONLY have words and grammatical rules in your head, you wouldn't be able to use the language very much. The grammatical rules would be pretty... meaningless, the words... very... not fluid. :-D One would be able to make oneself understood, to some extent, get one's basic needs fulfilled, perhaps. "I thirsty".
Now, the pronunciation... with IPA it's possible one would have a pronunciation that's understandable, even when it would not be good. (Well... I actually managed to learn French pronunciation OK - some sounds are even "good". But it's just words.)
So, yes, one cannot learn a language by learning words like a parrot. BUT learning words like a parrot is not useless. That's about the way children learn languages.
All these "learn sentences, learn the words in sentences, not in itself" people forget the very important step of how kids learn languages.
How to Learn Any Language in Two Months, Part 2: SENTENCE MINING
"I put a little food on the table"
"I squeezed a little lemon on my avocado toast"
"I pooped a little on the carpet"
I need to know what is "food" and "table". I need to know what is "lemon" and "avocado toast". I need to know what is "poop" and "carpet". To be able to deduce the grammar "a little" and "on", I need to have the building blocks in between. I mean, how many kids say things like "little mouses" or "little sheeps"? If they had learned the word in context, they would use the correct plural form automatically... but they are deducting. One toy, many toys, one spoon, many spoons, one mouse, many mouses, one sheep, many sheeps...
I could be staring at a sentence in hours without it opening to me if I have NOTHING to go after. There is this story of this man who took a Portuguese book with him to a vacation, and he had basically nothing else to do but try to figure out the book. He had no dictionaries or anything else, just the text in Portuguese, a language he didn't know anything about. He managed to figure out the language well enough to be able to actually read and understand the book during his month-long vacation. Now, I believe he knew some language that is related to Portuguese, or at least some words,  to have SOMETHING to go by.
I mean, look at this and tell me what it is:

 So if you have the 1000 most common words of a language in your vocabulary, in their basic forms, suddenly the sentences make sense and it is possible for you to start deducting and associating and experimenting with sheeps and mouses, and realize that that's not right, and correct your sheep and mice, and the more you see the correct forms, the less you remember the wrong ones. You have to have SOMETHING to be able to USE the sentences.
I mean, you COULD learn to say "Как тебя зовут?" with perfect pronunciation, but if you don't know what you are saying... There is this story of a Swedish guy asking his Finnish friends how to say "I love you" in Finnish so that he can say that to girls on the ferry to Finland, and his friends tell him "minä olen hirvi". Which means "I am a moose". (Я лось in Russian, compared to я люблю тебя.)

This also goes for "don't translate" rule. A lot of people are getting their knickers in a twist because "they can't stop translating!!!". It's not a problem. You stop it when you know the language well enough. 
It's like learning to read. In the beginning we name each letter. We say it out loud. We follow the letters with our finger. Then you start reading the words as pictographs. Then you stop talking. You still say the word in your mind, but you don't say it out loud. Then you stop following the text with your finger. Then you stop voicing the text. Though I still do that. :-D Some people don't "read out loud" in their heads, I've heard. It makes them read faster. I'm OK with my reading speed :-D You start reading whole sentences instead of words, then whole pages instead of sentences, and at that point you are speed-reading. :-D 
The same thing happens with languages. In the beginning you are thinking in your mother tongue, about what you want to say. You don't do that with languages you are fluent in. You don't think what you are saying, you just say it, because you are so used to say it. Most of us aren't even aware of most of what we say. So go ahead and translate as much as you feel like. You will stop it when you are ready.

Anyway, I find SOME basic vocabulary VERY HELPFUL in learning languages, which, of course, happens in context, by using it. By memorizing words you are collecting bricks, not building houses, but you can't build houses without the bricks.

As you see they give sample sentences where the word is being used... and as so many people are talking about "don't learn words, learn sentences", I'm going to try that this time. It shouldn't take that much longer to learn sentences instead of words.
But I suspect it makes my understanding of the language worse, or slower, but, whatever. We'll get there, sooner or later.

So - putting words on flashcards and memorizing them... not going to happen. Putting sentences on flashcards and memorizing them instead. And, yes, with translation.

Finding a radio station: Russian radio stations streaming
I think Russian Hit is a good choice. Good contemporary pop music and ads and a lot of Russian.

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