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!

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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!

Benny put’s it in perspective!

I just watched Benny the Irish Polyglot‘s latest video where he announces that his next language mission is Japanese. I already knew from his tweets that he was tackling Japanese next but in the video he said something that flipped something in my head; He said that he was not going to study Japanese to speak Japanese at some point in the future but that he was going to study Japanese to get what he needed on a daily basis to aid in his conversations in Japanese!

Wow.

That means that starting with the only three words he already knows in Japanese: ありがとう、さよなら、and 頑張って, (thank you, goodbye, and do your best, respectively) he will begin building his Japanese vocabulary but he intends to start speaking Japanese today!

Double Wow.

That’s an entirely different way of looking at this whole language learning gig! I have been studying Japanese on and off for a year now and I can speak very little. That’s because I have been doing exactly what Benny is not; that is, I am learning Japanese to speak it at some point in the future when I know enough Japanese.

Can you say “thesecretisoutandnowIcanlearnanylanguageIwantforrealthistimeandnotjustmessaround”?

And now that I think about it, that’s exactly how I learned to speak English! I started speaking the minute I landed here and all the learning I did in my English classes were to aid this speaking thing and not the other way around!

Elementary!

Just wanted to share with you!

行ってきます!!

Inspired

Yeah, it’s been over a year since I decided to learn Japanese. I give myself a break however, because I stopped learning Japanese 4 months into it and was distracted by other languages. Recently however, I decided to really get into the study of Japanese. To help keep me focused, I registered to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test on December Ist of this year.

So now it’s been 11 days since then and I am still flopping around like a fish on a dock. To be sure, I have learned quite a bit of Japanese. It’s just that I haven’t learned enough. I can communicate quite a bit but I am not fluent yet and more importantly, I don’t feel like I know Japanese. Obviously, I need to study harder.

I feel like I am about to go into overdrive though, because of newly found inspiration: Both Benny the Irish Polyglot and Alex Rawlings have decided this very week, to learn Japanese. Now, these two guys are legendary polyglots with well established methodologies for learning languages, so I am not going to try to compare myself with them but, it makes me giddy as a school girl to be learning the same language they are learning. I know that in 3 months, these two guys will be in Japan conversing like natives in Japanese. I hope that in 3 months, I can say I speak Japanese as well. Heck, I may even run into them at the Polyglot Conference in Montreal next year and speak Japanese with them.

Wouldn’t that be something!

Learn one, learn another!

It seems to me as I travel down the road to multilingualism, that it only makes sense to learn languages in groups.

Take Japanese for example. I am having such a struggle to make it my own. Once I get to fluency in Japanese, why waste all the effort I put into learning it by just learning Japanese? I hear Korean is very close in structure and tonality. I fully plan to tackle Korean once I feel at home with Japanese.

Same thing with the Romance languages. I speak Spanish already and Spanish feels like a second skin to me. Why waste this proficiency with Spanish? No way! I am learning Italian, Portuguese, French, and Romanian as well.

Egyptian Arabic? Again, once I feel I can construct sentences at will and with ease, I am learning Modern Standard Arabic and after that, I plan on learning Farsi and Hebrew. Maybe, after that, I will attempt another colloquial Arabic language; Moroccan perhaps.

It’s amazing that I am considering learning all these languages when a year ago I believed it was impossible to learn one more besides English and Spanish.

Crazy.

Thank you for looking!

Big Announcements

First, I decided to take the Japanese Language Proficiency Test or JLPT. It is offered in the U.S. only once a year in December. Registration begins on August 26. The closest place where I can drive to is Fayetteville, Arkansas. I am totally stoked about this!

I ordered what I thought was the preparation book for the N5 level test. The N5 level is the easiest level. N1 is the hardest. The book I got however, is for levels 1 and 2! The book has a total of 9 English words, all of them on the cover. No problem I say. I have until August 26 to decide if I can make N1. If I decide to go for it, I have until December to learn the material in the book. No sweat. LOL!

Second, I was speaking to a friend about my polyglot project and he told me that his church had attempted to set up a Spanish class but they had not been able to find a reliable teacher. The end result of the conversation is that we will organize a Spanish class, at his church, every Wednesday night. Cool eh?

Third, I bought the Total Russian course by the Michel Thomas folk. I previewed it the other day and it is as effective as I expected. In fact, I believe the Total Russian course takes you farther than the other language courses I have by them. I think that the MT courses get you to a low mid level of mastery. The Chinese course gets you to a mid to high beginner lever (in my opinion) but the Russian one seems to go pretty far. I would venture that you end up at a high mid level and that it wouldn’t take much more to get you to a high level of mastery of Russian.

I believe at this point I have all the languages I will work on for the foreseeable future: Japanese, Egyptian Arabic, Italian, French, German, Portuguese, Romanian, Mandarin, and Russian. Once I feel comfortable with Japanese, I will add Korean. Fun!

Thank you for stopping by!

Italiano

Ciao a tutti!

Questo è la prima cosa che io scrivo in italiano. Io imparare italiano lentamente e io sono male. Voglio parlare e voglio scrivire italiano poiché io penso che l’italiano è una lingua divertente.

Io ascoltate l’italiano e io potere capisce un poco poichè conoscevo lo spangolo e lo spagnolo e l’italiano sono simili.

Io riconosco che faccio molti errori ma con pratica io faré meglio. Vorrei parlare italiano corretamente , fluente detto un anno.

Grazzie per loro attenzione!

Ciao!

The Road To Multiple Languages

It has been almost a year since I decided to become a polyglot. In case you haven’t read my other posts, I am fully bilingual; I speak Spanish and English fluently and I can also write in those two languages at a college level.

A year ago, I decided to become a polyglot. The whole idea began because I wanted to learn some Japanese. Mostly, I wanted to learn some Japanese because of my karate teacher but also, because I have always wanted to watch and understand samurai movies in Japanese. I remember searching the Web and immediately coming to Benny’s website (www.fluentin3months.com). In his website, Benny claims that it is possible to speak a foreign language in three months of study! Preposterous!…or so I thought. From his website I linked to videos on YouTube and thus I discovered that there was a nascent polyglot community online. The one thing in common among all these polyglots was the assertion that learning a foreign language was all about sweat, blood, and tears and not about native talent.  Wow!

So after a year of striving to learn other languages, I have some insights to give you. As a disclaimer, I say that these are the insights of a new learner of languages and not the insights of a pro:

1. At the beginning, you will spend a lot of time gathering resources and very little time learning anything. I believe this has to do with not having a method you feel comfortable with.

2. At the beginning, you will be very insecure about your ability to learn the language. I highly recommend the Michel Thomas (MT) method to start to chip away at this insecurity. Although the list of languages in the MT methods is somewhat limited, I recommend you try one of them. It is almost magical how this method works. You will speak a foreign language in a week if you do what they instruct on the CDs, which is basically to sit, relax, don’t try to memorize anything (crazy!), and simply repeat the things they want you to repeat when they ask you to. The MT method will give you the confident to grow in the language you chose to learn.

3. There are many methods out there to learn another language. All of them, I am sure, work for some people. Try them all until you find one, or a combination of some, that works for you. After one year of experimenting with various methods, I have returned to the one I used to learn English: Learning with texts.
As of right now, my method is thus: Find various word frequency lists on the Web. Get an English/Other language dictionary and translate the first 500 words on the list(s). Find a book on the target language that is aimed at a general audience, such a romance novel or spy thriller. Memorize the 500 words I translated using mnemonics and begin to read the book. Doing this gives me a clear idea of usage and it teaches me a bunch of phrases that I can then replicate. Eventually, I plan to move on to the first 1000 words on the frequency list and if available, move beyond the 1000 until I can read any material on the target language. When I can read any material on the target language, I will then know the target language.

I cannot stress enough how important dedication is to learning anything, including learning a foreign language. I make great strides whenever I commit an hour to my target language. This hour needs to be an hour of hard work and concentration.

One thing is for sure, you will not succeed if you are only lukewarm to the process. You have to be passionate. You have to use the target language as much as you can in your everyday life. I talk to my children in Japanese. I talk to my dog in Japanese. I try to talk to myself in Japanese. Casual study will not yield success.

Recently, two things happened to forced me to refocus my energy and get busy learning: At a party, I saw a movie poster in Japanese and was able to work out what it said. Excitedly, I told a friend and he was very skeptical that I really read the line. This hurt my feelings and fired me up to be able to read Japanese 100% in a couple of weeks. The other incident, also involved a friend but this friend was excited to find out that I was learning Japanese and he has asked me to translate a pamphlet he brought from overseas that is written in Japanese. He has not brought the pamphlet to me yet but when he does, I intend to be ready.

I hope I have given prospective multi-linguists out there some useful information. I will be more active in this blog from now on.

Thank you for stopping by!

¿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.

Why do we polarize?

I just watched a video by this guy who seems to specialize on criticizing everyone else on YouTube who is into learning languages. He seems to be hung up on academic credentials and has a very pretentious attitude. I’ve yet to see a video of him trying to do anything with languages.

While watching his video, I was reminded of a similar situation that exists withing the world of my beloved hobby, metal detecting.

In metal detecting there are people who primarily search for personal relics and thus they claim that their motives for doing metal detecting are higher and more noble because they are ‘searching for history’ as opposed to those knuckle-dragging cave men who search for coins in the park. I’ve complained enough about them so I won’t do it for long here. The funny thing is that the arch-enemies of metal detecting, the professional Archaeologists  think ALL metal detecting fans are destructive cave men!

So in the polyglot world, there are people like this guy who have a HUGE issue with polyglots who haven’t lived in a foreign country, who don’t have academic credentials, and who dare, GASP! to attempt to learn a foreign language from books and videos and who have the nerve, DOUBLE GASP!, to talk to other people using the foreign language regardless of their mastery level.

I have been in the U.S. long enough to have met many, many newcomers who HAVE TO speak English regardless of how well they speak it in order to function in our society. I applaud them and I encourage them even if they NEVER acquire a good American accent so long as they achieve some degree of fluency and can get their point across and COMMUNICATE! So, I may never learn Proto-Arabic and be able to tell you the roots of any Arabic word. But I’ll consider myself satisfied when I can hold a conversation with a native Arabic-speaking person and can read an Arabic language newspaper or book. Linguistics be damned!

Now, I am not saying that those people who master a language to a high degree should be damned. No, no. All I am saying is that there is a place for those of us who learn the 3000 or so words needed to communicate in any given language and maybe learn enough syntax not to sound like Tarzan (As Benny the Irish Polyglot puts it) without necessarily achieving high Prosody or any such thing. Yes, Moses (laoshu) may not speak the 50 or so languages he practices like a native but man!, he sure is having fun and making tons of friends.

So, please, stop the hating! Can’t we all just get along?

Thank you for stopping by!