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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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!

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!

Lately…

Lately, my Japanese has began to take shape. I have been acquiring vocabulary and I have found a set of graded readers that more accurately tell me where I am in the language. The books came from http://www.whiterabbitjapan.com, check them out.

Also, I began to tackle Russian. I have been curious about  Russian for a long time but I didn’t acquire the foolish notion that I could learn it until recently. I am glad I did. I’m using the Colloquial series, the Michel Thomas Total Russian method, and this:

Adventures

This book has gotten me further in the language than any course. I love learning with texts and the level of the book is well within my capabilities. I am super stoked because I have some direct experience with learning a language this way and I know where I will be with Russian once I finish this children’s book.

With Portuguese, I hit a small snag when my conversation partner moved back to Brazil. However, hope was renewed when I met an exchange student from Brazil the other night. He returns to Brazil in May so I better hurry.

I have audited Swahili and I think it is doable. Also, I began to look at Indonesian. In addition,I fully intend to tackle Turkish before January is over.

I began the Michel Thomas Total Arabic course again and I was surprised to see that I could still remember a lot. Since I want to start reading I began to practice the script. I should master it in a week. I have new books for Hindi, Punjabi, Romanian and Korean.

Finally, I have to get going with French. I want to be at a comfortable conversational level by the time the Polyglot Conference takes place in October. It will be held in Montreal and New York. I can’t wait!!

All in all, my confidence has increased. I now believe that Vietnamese, Mandarin, Cantonese and Thai are all doable.

Crazy!

Learning With Texts

Recently, Benny the Irish Polyglot moved his public installation of Learning With Texts (LWT) to a new server. LWT is an application that lets you copy text from a text file and then learn a foreign language using the application.

It may not be your cup of tea but this approach can be used in tandem with other methods or by itself. It certainly appeals to me.

Anyway, as I was reading Benny’s latest post on his blog, He said that LWT is an open source project that can be downloaded from Sourceforge. In other words, you can install your own version of LWT on your computer!

Benny explains the reasons why you may want to install LWT on your computer.

If you are not technically proficient, you can ask a techie friend to help you with the install but the instructions were relatively straightforward.

At any rate, I installed LWT on my computer and I am stoked! You can learn ANY language you want using this method, provided you can get your hands on some text written on your target language (and with the Internet, that is 99.99% possible). I’ll keep you posted on what I find out.

The power of persistence

When I began studying Japanese on my own, I found a number of resources that I knew were good at an instinctive level. They made no sense to me at the time but I made a note of them for future reference. Once in a while, I would revisit them and and they still didn’t make sense.

One of these resources is Kira Teachings. I found kira sensei on YouTube a while ago.  I just began reviewing his lessons again and wow! they are clear as a bell! I attribute this new found understanding to the fact that I stuck to the process. I’ve learned a lot since the first time I encountered kira sensei. Now his lessons are bearing fruit and expanding my knowledge of the Japanese language by leaps and bounds.

Kira sensei teaches in Spanish and Japanese so unless you speak Spanish, you won’t be able to benefit from the lessons. But if you do speak Spanish, I highly recommend this resource.

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!

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!

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.

JAPANESE

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!