The Point of Self Sufficiency

Sometime during my life in the United States, a very important event quietly took place in my quest to learn English; self sufficiency.

At first, I relied on my Spanish to learn English. I translated everything in my head and if I wanted to learn new words, the language I used in my head was Spanish. I formed the concepts in Spanish and then I learned how to say that in English. At some point however, and without me noticing it, I stopped using Spanish to construct ideas and thus from then on, everything that happened inside my head was in English.

I suppose that this happened once I had acquired enough vocabulary in English but I have the nagging feeling that there’s more to it than that.

This time around, I am paying attention.

Thank you for looking!


A New Resource For Language Learners

Today I received my invitation to join a brand new web site for learning languages. The site is called Bliu Bliu and it uses an interesting approach to learning languages.

There are 12 languages listed as available at this time but you can ask to learn new ones from a long list. As more people show interest on these other languages, I believe they will be added to the active list of languages.

You are given text in your chosen language with all the words highlighted. You un-highlight the words you know and the next text you get comes with those words not highlighted.

You press a button and new text is served. As you move along, less and less words are highlighted as your increase your vocabulary.

You also have the choice of selecting music videos that have been transcribed so that you may follow along with the singer in the language you are learning.

The site is on Beta testing and I believe you can only join by invitation at this time but I bet soon, it will be open to the public. I could be wrong about this however and you definitely should try to join.

Thank you for looking!

¿Quien Habla Castellano? – Who Speaks Castilian?

Hoy quiero hablar acerca de algo que siempre me ha molestado. Desde que me vine a los Estados Unidos, vengo oyendo a gente que dice que ellos no hablan Español sino que ellos hablan Castellano.

Cuando yo era niño en mi país natal, se usaba decirle Castellano al lenguaje Español. Lo hacíamos con plena conciencia de que nos referíamos al Español hablado hoy. Nos referíamos al Español moderno; al Español de la Real Academia Española.

No tarda uno mucho en aprender que hay regionalismos en el mundo hispanohablante. Las diferencias  regionales que existen en América Latina por ejemplo, se exhiben en pleno aquí en los Estados Unidos. Mis vecinos son Puerto Riqueños. Ellos igual que yo, aprendieron Español en la escuela. El Español que ellos aprendieron es exactamente el mismo Español que yo aprendí aunque ellos lo aprendieron en Puerto Rico y yo lo aprendí en México  Sin embargo, al hablar, nos encontramos usando regionalismos en el lenguaje. Es así la cosa y las diferencias en nomenclatura no son tan grandes que nos impiden la comunicación.

Y a pesar de eso, el Español sigue siendo Español. ¿Y por que me quejo entonces? Porque siempre me encuentro con algún ignorante por allí que dice con la nariz muy bien levantada, que el o ella no hablan Español, hablan Castellano. La sugerencia aquí es que ellos hablan un Español mas puro. Que idiotez! El Español que mis vecinos y yo aprendimos en la escuela es el Español mas puro. Es el Español vigente. Es el Español oficial. Yo no se que es el Castellano y no se quien lo habla pero si se esto: Si quieres que la gente te entienda en el mundo de habla hispana, habla Español.

Y eso es todo.


Today I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for a long time. Since I moved to the United States, I have been hearing some people say that they don’t speak Spanish, they speak Castilian.

As a child in my native country, we routinely referred to our language as Castilian. We did this knowing very well that we were speaking about Spanish as it is spoken today. We were referring to modern Spanish; the Spanish of the Spanish Royal Academy.

Soon one learns that there are colloquialisms in the hispanophone world. Those colloquialisms are shown brightly here in the United States, where people from all over Latin America congregate. My neighbors for example, are Puerto Ricans. Like me, they learned Spanish at school. They learned the exact same Spanish I did. They learned it in Puerto Rico whereas I learned it in Mexico. Yet when we speak to each other, que both use the Spanish spoken in the regions where we were born and raised. That’s just the way it is. The differences in our spoken Spanish does not prevent us one bit from communicating.

And still, Spanish is Spanish. So what’s my problem then? My problem is those uppity ignoramuses who with their nose up in the air tell people they don’t speak Spanish, they speak Castilian. The implication is that they speak a more pure Spanish. What a bunch of bull! The Spanish my Puerto Rican neighbors and I learned in school is the pure Spanish. It is the Spanish of today and it is the official Spanish language. I don’t know what Castilian is like and I don’t know who speaks it but I do know this: if you want to be understood in the Spanish-speaking world today, you better speak Spanish.

And that’s all.

Having a blast with Arabic

Although my progress has been way slower than I anticipated, I have been having a great time learning Egyptian Arabic.

In case you don’t know, Arabic is not the language you thought it was. At least it is not the language I thought it was. There is a standard version of the language, Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) that is used in official documents and other formal settings. That is the Arabic thought in most books and courses out there. Then there are the many variants of the language actually used by people in the Arab world.

As far as I can tell, Arabic is like a huge tree that begins at the root with Classical Arabic, which is the Arabic of the Koran. Then the main trunk of this tree corresponds to MSA which is very close to Classical Arabic. Two large branches diverge from the trunk; one being the Oriental Arabic branch and the other being the Occidental Arabic branch.

From my very limited experience, it appears that people in the Oriental Arab world can understand each other somewhat and the same situation exists in the Occidental Arab world. By the way, Orient = East, Occident = West. Egypt is in the Eastern Arab world and Morocco is in the Western Arab world.
When an Easter Arab speaks with a Western Arab then things get complicated. Some people out there claim that MSA is the universal language that brings it all together but from what I’ve heard, this isn’t so.

Now, who is claiming that MSA is the language spoken in the whole Arab world? Academics mostly and college-educated professionals. Thus the situation exists whereas these particular demographics in the Arab world can speak with each other no matter where in the Arab world they find themselves in but the other 99% in the Arab world speak their regional versions of the Arabic language and cannot communicate as easily as the college crowd.

Phew! So why is this important to you and me? For one, you are likely to waste a lot of money and time collecting resources to learn Arabic because 99% (I like to use this percentage a lot) of the resources out there are for MSA! So if you are planning to go to Lybia and learn MSA you will find yourself being able to speak only to academics and some professionals and you will then have to learn the Lybian Arabic to get along with the other 99% of the population.

I was lucky to have found the Michel Thomas method when I did, before I spent 100’s of dollars buying more MSA material. As it is, I am learning Egyptian Arabic. Egyptian Arabic is on the way to becoming the defacto standard in the Arab world by virtue of being the Arabic spoken in most Arabic movies and songs. I hear that there are Nobel prize winning novels written in Egyptian Arabic now. Since Egypt exports all this popular culture across the Arab world, many Arabs understand Egyptian Arabic or Musry (Musr = Egypt). Unfortunately, there is little in the way of books to learn Musry. I found a couple of books on Musry verbs and a few web sites where Musr vocabulary is collected. Now I am in the process of watching Egyptian movies on YouTube.

Now I would like to remind you that I am an absolute noob here. Some of what I said above may be incorrect but I bet I am close to being on target. Oh! and I finally found my video camera so soon I will start uploading videos.


My Japanese has taken a back seat to Arabic for now but not for long. I expect to advance in Japanese quite quickly once I take it up again since I already have tons of resources at hand. Also, I did spend a lot of time last year learning this language so a lot of it will be review.

Thank you for looking!