Some thoughts

When I began learning Japanese my plan was to study Japanese and nothing else. In fact, I had very low expectations for my success. I thought I may be able to learn a few phrases and nothing else. Well, all that has changed in a big way. Now I am messing around with a bunch of languages at one time. They include:
Japanese
Portuguese
Russian
Egyptian Arabic
Indonesian
French
Swahili
Mandarin
Turkish
Romanian, etc

For a while I began to feel a bit like a fake because I wasn’t giving any one language all my time. But now, I’ve come to realize that studying all those languages at one time, make for a much richer language learning experience even if it completely slows down progress in all of them.
Actually, I would say that I give Japanese about 60% of my study time and the rest of the time is divided among the other languages.

Another thing I’ve come to realize lately is that I am settling into a method that works for me. I really like the Colloquial Language series. I also like Teach Yourself and I would really like to try an Assimil course. What I’ve found is that instead of going crazy collecting resources as I did with Japanese and Egyptian Arabic, I can simply go through the Colloquial (or TY) course and learn all that I can from it before bothering with any other resource.

Which brings me to YouTube. YouTube is hands down the best resource we have for language learning. Not only do we have a ton of experienced polyglots sharing their secrets on YouTube, but there are millions of videos in every imaginable language in YouTube as well. That’s what I use for the audio portion of my studies.

I am really excited for the future. I see many young people taking to learning a new language and I hope this trend continues to grow.

Thank you for stopping by!

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A very good reason to learn the Arabic script

Learning a language with a script other than the Latin alphabet can be a little scary. Many people opt to transliterate the language rather than take the time to learn the script. This approach works if you only want to learn to speak the language. If you want more however, you just got to put in the work and learn the script.

Scripts like Hangul (Korean) or Cyrillic (Russian) are very straightforward and relatively easy to learn. Others like the Thai abugida take a little more effort to learn and more complex scripts like the hanzi (kanji in Japan) of China can take a considerable amount of time to learn. I put the Arabic script with Hangul and Cyrillic. It looks daunting but once you get into it you see it’s quite manageable.

At any rate, when you begin to learn Arabic (I’m learning Egyptian Arabic) you encounter the root system right away. That is, in Arabic, you build vocabulary around root consonants. For example, the Arabic word for book is kataab. The root consonants are ktb now check this out:

ب (kataba) he wrote
كتاب (kataab) book
مكتب (maktab) office
يكتب (yaktub) he writes
كاتب (kaatib) writer

See how all the words related use the three consonants? Well, I found that it was hard for me to see the pattern using the transliterated version of the word BUT when one uses the Arabic script, the root letters jump right at you. BAM! This is because arabic script uses diacritic marks to mark the vowels u, i, and a and the lines you are writing are mostly consonants. This means that the vowels are sort of out of the way ; thus the root consonants become obvious.

This is a super simplified explanation of the subject of root consonants in Arabic but this makes my point: Learning the Arabic script actually makes it easier to learn the language.

Discuss among yourselves 🙂

Arabic script

I promised myself several times before that I would learn how to read and write the Arabic script. As you may or may not know, I began learning Egyptian Arabic (masry) a while back but stopped because I was drawn in by other languages. In fact, this whole ‘becoming a polyglot’ project has not gone at all like I planned. For one, it took a long time for me to learn how to learn. Once I began to relax and began to discover many different learning methods, I began to audit a number of languages. This took me off course and as a result, both my Japanese and Arabic suffered.

But I digress. I finally returned to my Arabic script book and I have resolved to learn the script once and for all.

Arabic

I think I will be reading the script by Friday.
I am very excited because a few months ago, I bought two books on Masry that are written entirely in Arabic. They were very highly recommended and they cover the language to an advanced intermediate level. Plus, learning the script, opens up Farsi for me.

Cool.

More on learning Japanese

When you start learning Japanese from an Indo-European language (English and Spanish in my case), you encounter a somewhat stiff language. We are assailed right away with the politeness issue. Yes, we have polite level language in both Spanish and English but the way they present Japanese in the books, you’d think you’d get beaten if you don’t use the masu form of the verb every time; and that’s just that. That’s all you get from Japanese learning books; the masu forms. Very little time is spent on the -te form of the verbs and no time at all is spent on using colloquial Japanese; the kind you are more like to encounter in real life.

If you stick with it however, little by little, the stiffness and formality begin to fade and you start to run into more advanced forms of the language and suddenly, Japanese becomes a rich and expressive language, capable of delivering beautiful stories, poems, and songs. It can be as full and complex as English and Spanish are to me now.

This doesn’t mean that I speak that level of Japanese. No, unfortunately I don’t. Yet, lately I’ve become more and more aware that this level of Japanese exists. I’ve always suspected that the Japanese novels I can’t make a lick of sense out of, are full of this elaborate, expressive Japanese.
One book in English that gives you an ample view of that level of Japanese is Making Sense of Japanese by Jay Rubin. Mr. Rubin is a 30+ veteran of the language and he is a professional translator as well. He is more than qualified to show us the Japanese that lies ahead of us and he does it with sense of humor to boot. I highly recommend it.

In other news, the Japanese graded readers are FANTASTIC! I so wish I had run into them when I began learning Japanese. I’d be way ahead by now!

Oh well. Thank you for looking!