My New Interests

July 8, 2007

Okay, every other day, I get into something different.  Oh well.  It’s Polyglot DREAMS, remember?  LOL

Anyways, I have somehow gotten myself interested in the Assimil programs.  I am working semi-actively on French and Spanish.  I have decided I want to work with Platiquemos for Spanish, and Assimil for French.  I am borrowing the Assimil French from the local library.  Platiquemos is compliments (or is it complements? – whatever) of my donkey friends.

Tonight, I did Platiquemos Unit 2.  (I’m planning to do a Unit a day, at least until I decide it’s too much.  My Spanish is relatively solid in alot of areas (and relatively weak in others).  I certainly don’t want to go to slow, or I will get bored and drop it.  (Like everything else I do!  LOL)   If I keep up with that schedule, I’ll be done in 7 weeks.  If it gets harder and becomes more of a challenge at some point, I’ll slow down to a comfortable pace.

I did the first four lessons of Assimil French today.  Passive.  I am going to follow the idea of the book, and work on the passive first, then add the active phase later.  I will do a few lessons a day until I start working on new material, at which point I will slow down.  I expect the first 20-30 lessons will go quickly after that, but then I will need to slow down.  We’ll see.

I have been throwing the idea of a Germanic language around for a long time, and German would be the obvious choice.  But for some reason, I have NO linguistic interest in German.  I’m not sure why, but I feel like it’s “necessary” if I want to be multi-lingual.  French, German, and Spanish – those are the ones I would have to do first.  But German holds little appeal for me.  I got ahold of the Assimil Dutch program (thanks again to my donkey friends), and I went through the first lesson of that tonight as well.

I doubt the Dutch thing will last, at least at the moment.  Maybe in the future, once I reach a decent level in Spanish and French, I can study it more seriously.  It’s kind of funny.  For the longest time, I had no interest in learning French.  Most French-speakers look down on Americans butchering their language, and I wanted NO part of that.  At the time, I was looking at resources for the Kazakh language, and a friend of mine has an audio/book program for it, but its in French.  So I decided to learn French.  Now, my reasons for learning French are much more than that, but I thought it was funny that’s where my original inspiration came from.

I am just ITCHING to learn Russian.  I got ahold of Harry Potter in Russian, both the books and the audiobooks, and I want to learn it so badly.  I am waiting to get ahold of the Assimil Russian – the OLD version, not the new.  I’ve got the audio, but I’m still looking for the book.   I’ve studied Russian a little in the past, so going into it won’t be as scary as if I’ve never looked at the language.

We’ll see.  Hopefully I can at least half-way keep up with my Spanish and French studies.  I have a load of eBay stuff to do, which I hope to have done this week, but after that I’m allowing myself at least 90 minutes a day to study.  (If my kids will go to bed by midnight, anyways!)

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French Might ACTUALLY Last !

June 4, 2007

I’ve gotten through Pimsleur I (30 lessons) and am up to lesson 10 on Pimsleur II.  I’m starting to get bored with the program itself, though, so I’m looking into other possibilities.  FSI, perhaps, or Assimil.  French in Action, maybe?  I like the Living Language Ultimate French set from the library, but I’m not sure it has enough repetition and drills in it to make anything stick.  I feel like I’m gaining a good passive knowledge of the language, but not so much an active learning process.

French This Week

May 8, 2007

About two weeks ago, I decided I wanted to learn French. I have been going steadily with the Pimsleur program, a lesson a day, and I am focusing exclusively on pronunciation. Absolutely no books, nothing visual. I want to learn the sounds correctly, and hope that I can learn to speak it without a horrible accent!

Reinvigorated

April 18, 2007

Wow, it’s been awhile.  My interest has not really waned much, but my motivation and attention span have been horrible the past few months, mostly due to personal issues I won’t get into.

Last week, Simon (over on the omniglot blog) mentioned something about the “six week challenge” over at how-to-learn-any-language(dot)com.  I often read over on that forum, although my time spent varies greatly, depending on what else is going on in life.

So, I went to check it out.  The idea, I believe, was to have a whole bunch of people working on new-to-them,  “simple” languages – a number of people doing the same language, for six weeks, with different methods, to see what methods are better than others.    [Of course, the fact that we all learn differently, at different speeds, and have different language backgrounds would interfere with that being a legitimate & accurate results.

However, it seems to have turned into a free-for-all, “how much can I learn of a new language in six weeks” challenge.   I think it’s a great idea, and I jumped right in.  Something fairly simple, I was thinking.  Something I don’t know much about.  Something Germanic (as English is my native language), other than German – which I took in high school a LONG time ago, and have played around with a little bit recently.  So I grabbed Danish, and ran with it.

My plan was to do the first ten lessons of Pimsleur, to get a decent handle on the pronunciation, then work my way through Colloquial Danish.  And perhaps using VocabuLearn as an additional tool, since I know that vocabulary is my weakest point (at least in Spanish).  I got through the first 2-3  lessons of Pimsleur, and poked my nose around the Teach Yourself Danish (which I had borrowed from the library, while waiting for my Colloquial Danish to show up in my mailbox).

Then I started looking at what I was doing.  I don’t want to start a new language.  I want to work on the ones I already know.  I want to get my ass back on track with Spanish, first of all.  As much as I talk about doing it, and think about it, I am not DOing it.  So how about let’s switch tracks, and get back on the RIGHT track.   So tonight, I am going to work out a plan to work on my Spanish vocabulary.

First of all, I have two books, plus the three sets of VocabuLearn.  Alot of them I know, or did know at one point.  I am going to work out a flash card system, and decide how many words I can realistically re/learn each day.  This is going to be MY six-week challenge.

So, thank you to Simon and Sprachprofi for getting me going again.  I’m guess I’m officially “out” of the challenge, but now I have my own.  Six weeks of nothing but vocabulary focus.  The rest of April, and May.

Perhaps, I will start doing a different “focus” each month.  I’d like to work on my German and Russian, and get my feet wet with French and Japanese.  Maybe I will pick one of those for my “June” focus.  Right now, it is Spanish vocabulary.

Lithuanian Dipthongs

February 3, 2007

I came across something very peculiar in Colloquial Lithuanian the other day.   In  the book’s pronunciation section,  while discussing dipthongs, they included “al el il ul ar er ir ur am em im um an en in un” as dipthongs.

I’ve never seen this phenomenon before, and it really puzzles me.  I know that many languages look at nasal sounds in different ways (different from what a native English speaker, for example, would look at).    And I know that “l” and “r” are not phonemic (ie, they are interchangable) in some languages.  But I can’t figure out why they would be considered part of a dipthong.  The book says “Dipthongs are sequences of two vowels which function as if they were one.”  Fair enough a definition, I suppose.  But it appears that the Lithuanian language considers l, r, m, and n to be consonants, with their sound similar to corresponding English sounds.

In addition to being puzzled over the l, r, m, and n included here . . .  I am also curious about the choice of vowels which are included.  Lithuanian has 12 vowels, four of them which are nasal.   Wouldn’t any vowel placed before “n” or “m” become nasal?   Why these four and none of the others?  And what about “o” – there is only one “o” – when there are two “a”s and two “i”s, and three “e”s and three “u”s?

Maybe I will figure these out as  I continue flirting with this strange language.  I poked around a little on google trying to find something, but I did not find anywhere else that addressed the issue.  If anyone has any answers on this, I’d love to hear them!

Quick Update

January 21, 2007

For those of you who occasionally check in to see what’s going on in my wonderful world of languages, I wanted to give a short update.   I have been dealing with alot of things (mostly grief issues, as the first “anniversary” of my beloved Chris’s death is next week 1/28), and have not had as much time to blog.

However, I am continuing with my Spanish in full force, and dabbling with German.  Adding a little of everything else was way too much for me, and I think I was manic when I wrote my previous “goals for 2007” speech a few weeks ago!  I picked a more reasonable book to read – Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” (or “Forastera” in Spanish), and am working through it as my study time permits.  There are tons of vocabulary that I can understand because of the context (and knowing the storyline), which I am adding to my to-learn list.  I am finding that I have a huge passive vocabulary, and I am working towards transferring much of that to my active vocabulary.

I am also dabbling a little bit with German, with the intention of that being my secondary language.  I find that I don’t have that much time for it, and so it gets left by the wayside.  I usually put one lesson of German in with my Spanish (3-s, 1-G)  on my mp3 player for the time when I’m at work, so I still am getting a taste for it, but it’s not a priority in any way.

I’ve also gotten in the habit of watching Stargate SG-1 in Spanish.  It’s one of my favorite TV shows, and when I want to escape or relax, I usually will put those DVDs on before anything else.  The only problem is that only the first season has a Spanish language track, so I will have to break out some other DVDs soon!  The more I watch it in Spanish, the more I understand.

Language Weekends

January 5, 2007

I was contemplating how much I could get done in the span of a weekend, with no distractions and a lot of hard study. If I spent Friday after work until Sunday evening with no obligations other than improving my target language, I feel like I could get alot accomplished.

I was thinking about this, largely in response to listening to German Pimsleur lessons at work today. (I work in a factory, and I have a lot of time where my hands are working but my mind is free – which is why I often have time to listen/think at work.) I took a year of German when I was in high school (12 or 13 years ago), and although I remember a few things, most of it is gone. I think I would be able to pick it up very easily if I had the time to spend on it – alot of the vocabulary and basic grammar is somewhere in the back of my head, and it’s just a matter of getting back into it. If I had a weekend that I could completely devote to it, I think I would be beginner-intermediate level very quickly.

I think I might be able to get rid of my kids next weekend. (I use that term lovingly – my babysitter would love to keep them over the weekend, and the kids would have a lot of fun, too.) I may decide to try it out. If I make 20-30 hours of hard study throughout the weekend, I could get a lot accomplished.

If this works as well as I think it could, I might make a habit of doing it once a month (if my babysitter is willing, anyways!), and change up the language each time. It would also be a good way to get better acquainted with Lithuanian, and get alot further with Spanish. Has anyone tried anything like this, kind of a mini-immersion program with self-teaching? I’d be curious to see what kind of results others would have with a similar plan, and how specifically you would go about doing something like this.

The Eye of the World

January 2, 2007

I’ve decided to make the Spanish part of my New Year’s Resolution (learning 15 new words per day) a little more interesting.  One of my favorite authors is Robert Jordan, and the first book in his LOOONG series is called The Eye of the World.  El Ojo del Mundo.  Thanks to a friend of mine for getting an e-copy of this book for me, so I can start reading it in Spanish.

“La Rueda del Tiempo gira, y las eras llegan y pasan y dejan de si recuerdos que se convierten en leyenda.  La leyenda se difumina, deviene mito, e incluso el mito se ha olvidado mucho antes de que la era que lo vio nacer retorne de nuevo.  En una era llamada la tercera era por algunos, una era que ha de venir, una era transcurrida hace mucho, comenzo’ a soplar un viento en las Montan~as de la Niebla.  El viento no fue el inicio, pues no existen comienzos ni finales en el eterno girar de la Rueda del Tiempo.  Pero aquel fue un inicio.”

And so it begins, the epic adventures of my dear friends.  Robert Jordan has a way with prose, that by the time I get through this book, I will probably have a vocabulary larger than many Spanish speakers.  But I’ll be reading one of my favorites along the way, so hopefully the vocabulary and size of the book will not be too daunting!

By the way – if anyone can get me an e-copy of this in any other language, I will learn that language just to be able to read this book in more than one tongue!

Thoughts on Lithuanian and Japanese

January 2, 2007

After some thought, and alot of playing around with languages and setting myself up for success yesterday, I have decided to put my “vocabulary list” with Lithuanian on hold for the time being.

I was getting materials set up yesterday so I would not have to actively look for vocabulary lists in my target languages (textbooks, vocabulary list books, websites, etc), and it dawned on me that I do not know enough about the Lithuanian language – more specifically about the alphabet and how the writing is pronounced – that I should be learning words yet.  (Kind of the “doh” factor, you know?)

In any case, I’ve decided to put the Lithuanian list on hold for now, until I have time to work my way through the pronunciation section of my “Colloquial Lithuanian” book and the corresponding audio, and I have a firmer grasp on the sound of the language.  I will probably make audio files of the material I have from Transparant Language (101 World Languages), and listen to those, and Pimsleur, when I’m at work.  This will enable me to get more comfortable with the sounds of the language.

I also am thinking it would be wiser not to set myself up the same way with Japanese.  I am currently working with the hiragana and katakana syllabaries, and I think my Japanese time will be focused more on that.  I will continue with Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone, however, and I’m sure I’ll be picking up limited vocabulary from those.

New Year’s Language Resolutions

December 30, 2006

I hadn’t realized it’s been so long since I’ve posted.    Life has been busy, the Christmas season is finally over, and the New Year is nearly upon us.

I recently decided that it was a mistake trying to learn Italian, before I had mastered Spanish.  I was having a lot of trouble remembering Italian vocabulary without constantly comparing to Spanish, and the Spanish would continually pop into my head before the Italian would.  It’s been about 10 years since I’ve studied my Spanish in any depth, and it has fallen into disuse.  I had thought it would be smarter to gear away from the Spanish because of how much I did not remember, but I realized awhile ago that this is not really the case.

So I have decided to go back to my Spanish, to review and improve that before I move onto any other languages.  That being said, I also do not want to get bored with it (and I know I will), so I have decided on Japanese as a secondary language.  I spent alot of time debating between Chinese and Japanese, but I think Japanese is more doable at this point.    Perhaps choosing to spread myself between two languages is a mistake, but I think it will help fill those points where you don’t feel like you’re advancing in the language you are focusing on.

I don’t like making specific goals, since I have no idea how much time I will have to devote to my language learning, nor how quickly I will progress with what time I do have.  So to make it simple:

1.  Spanish:  My goal will be to learn 15 new words per day.  That should give me a (new) vocabulary of about 5500 words at the end of the year.  I will continue to listen to radio, podcasts, watch movies, and work through grammar and reading books, but those are things that are much harder to quantify.  I’d like to be back to intermediate/advanced speaking proficiency by the end of 2007.

2.  Japanese:  My reading/writing goal will be to learn the 2 kana syllabaries, and begin learning the kanji, well enough to read through some basic Japanese texts.  Three words per day for vocabulary, and working through grammar as time permits.

3.  Other:  I’ve kind of become fascinated with Lithuanian, and have a few books (with audio) on it.  I also feel that I could learn a fair amount of another language or two (I’m thinking Russian and German, two languages completely different from the others I am focusing on) over time, if I commit myself to learning 3 words a day in each of them.

I think the important thing, dealing with the “other” languages, that if I decide to do that, I’m ONLY learning vocabulary.    The only reason I would do this would be so that when I decide to focus on these languages, I will already have amassed a decent amount of vocabulary and it will (hopefully) be quite a bit easier to get further faster.

It seems like alot of words, all in all, but if I decide it’s too much, I may decide to forgo the German and Russian.  With Spanish, that is my primary learning objective, to gain vocabulary. so I don’t think it’s really that big of a task.  We shall see.