This crazy new addiction

I continue to learn Esperanto. Esperanto is truly a ton of fun to learn and to speak. Learning Esperanto introduces you to language concepts such as cases in a structured and fun way. It also introduces you to suffixes and prefixes that may not be present in your native language.

So while I continue to improve Esperanto, I decided to begin learning German. Learning German now seems like a very doable thing. I joined Benny Lewis’ Speak in One Week project. I am amazed how much German one can learn in one week if one is motivated and one follows the advice generously given by Benny.

This is my fourth day in the project and I have successfully engaged a German native in a language exchange in iTalki.com. I hope to benefit from this exchange and to be able to help my partner with their Spanish.

In addition, I will seek German speakers locally, as there are many German speakers around here. In fact, last Saturday, I spoke a little German with the nice Mennonite ladies at the farmer’s market. While walking around the stalls, I heard at least two more people speaking German, so that could be a good place to find speaking partners as well.

Ich bin sehr aufgeregt!

 

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Talking to yourself: It’s not just for crazy people anymore.

I am now staring at the barrel of the 6 week Esperanto Challenge gun. I have only 3 weeks left. Yikes! So I have to find a way to improve my spoken Esperanto fast. The problem is, although Esperanto has up to two million speakers worldwide, there are none to be found in my area. So what is an aspiring Esperantista  to do? Talk to himself of course!

I know that what I should really do is get on Skype and find a willing victim…er…partner with whom to practice Esperanto. I just cannot seem to pull it off however. So the next best thing is to talk to myself. This is most efficient if you record yourself. Second to that is talking to yourself in the mirror. Take a subject. Any subject will do; lettuce, mice, red paint. It doesn’t matter. Chances are that whatever subject you choose will have you running to the dictionary to acquire the vocabulary necessary to talk about the subject. That is one part of the magic. The other of course, is to get your brain and your mouth to pronounce the words. I find that after repeating a paragraph ten to twenty times, my brain begins to get it.

So there you have it.Talking to yourself is a simple, always available technique to improve your foreign language skills.

Pli Esperanto

Karaj amikoj,

Mi estas tre feliĉa ĉar Esperanto estas pli facila ĉiu tago. Mi timis la akusativo sed nun, mi pensas mi ĝi lernos. Mi komencis explori informato pri la Gardanto De La Herbojo. La Gardanto De La Herbojo estas statuo en mia urbo. Ĝi estos la temo de mia prezento je kvar semajnoj. La tempon iras rapide kaj mi devas studi pli.

Ĝis!

Esperanto

Saluton!

On May the first, I began the 6 week Esperanto challenge. At the end of the six weeks, I must produce a five minute video presentation about any topic. The video will be judged and if I am found worthy, I win a paid one week vacation to any one of 4 or 5 places in the world where an Esperanto convention is being held.

Sweet!

I began this project with optimistic expectations. I began to accumulate vocab like crazy! This is easy because Esperanto is a constructed language and it was constructed from European languages two of which I speak  (Spanish and English if you must know).

Then I ran into the Akusativo or Accusative for those of you who ne parolas la lingvo internacia. It turns out that in Esperanto, there is the accusative case which requires you add a final ‘n’ to the direct object of a sentence. Whaaaaaaat??!! Darn it, grammar rears its ugly head!

So now I have to figure out the direct object in every sentence I utter. On the fly! Sigh! I suppose it is a small price to pay for learning a language with NO irregular verbs and with only 16 rules of grammar.

In spite of this, learning Esperanto has been a blast so far. Without having to worry about irregular verbs or any exceptions at all, I have been able to concentrate on actually speaking the darn thing. And although it is painful to hear me speak Esperanto right now, I can actually say quite a lot for having studied it only one week.

I am looking forward to a life-long affair with Esperanto.

On other matters, I really got to promote this blog. Right now, it’s relegated to the darkest corners of the Internet and no one is reading it. I haven’t promoted it because I felt I had nothing of interest to say yet since I haven’t really achieved fluency on any of the languages I’ve been studying. Maybe that’s just an excuse for my laziness.

Oh well. Ĝis!

From Cool to Clown in 60 seconds

I want to drop a note about a phenomenon that I have experienced recently that I don’t read about anywhere else in the language learning universe. This happens this way:

Somebody (upon seeing one of my language learning resources): “Oh, you’re learning X language! How cool!”

Same somebody, different day (upon seeing another of my language learning resources on a different language than the first time): “Wow, you are also studying X language??

Once again, same somebody noticing me studying yet a different language: “Oh, (eyes rolling) how many languages are you ‘studying’?”

For some reason, learning one foreign language at the time makes you cool but learning many at the same time, makes you a lamer. I don’t get it. It’s not like a go around flashing my references. I study in private as much as possible and I only speak of my hobby to like-minded people.

I know that it will take longer to learn those languages but as I said before, it makes it very interesting.

Thanks you for stopping by!

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!