Archive for the ‘Language Learning’ Category

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.

Election Day

November 7, 2006

 For the first time in my adult life (I’m 31), I voted today.  There’s really nothing special about it, other than that I’m proud of myself for doing it.  I almost chickened out, as I had to drive past the intersection where my fiance was killed in a car accident in January, but I didn’t.

On the language front, I’ve been continuing with MT Italian, and am working on CD 8 and LB1 right now.  I’ve been thinking that I’d like to run through MT Spanish, as a review, but I feel like I’m doing well with my Italian and I don’t want to spread myself too thin.    I have also been flirting with other languages, just to hear what they sound like – mostly listening to the first lesson or two of the Pimsleur series in a number of languages I’m interested in learning at some point like Chinese, Japanese and Swahili.

I’ve found a gentleman in Spain who collects  language learning books, and i s interested in trading for anything he does not have.  You can check out the thread at isohunt’s forum about trading language learning materials.

I will be adding a number of links to language blogs & other websites of interest for language learners in the next few weeks.

Slowly, oh so Slowly

October 31, 2006

I have been slowly working my way through the Michel Thomas Italian Basic course, and I find that I really like his way of teaching. Granted, you have to go through each CD multiple times, if you were not familiar with the information in the first place; but it gives a pretty thorough examination of basic grammar and gets you relatively comfortable speaking the language. It’s nice to be able to put phrases together to create lengthy sentences.

I am finding MT’s accent a little bit odd. I started out listening to Pimsleur, which gave me a good idea of how the language sounds; but I quickly got bored with it. Since I already know quite a bit of Spanish, the grammar concepts – and much of the vocabulary – are relatively familiar, which is why I am enjoying the MT course. But his French accent bothers me a little bit. How is one supposed to START learning a language with hearing French ‘r’s in Italian? I also find it interesting that he’s teaching an American with (at least some) Spanish background, and a British with (at least some) French background. I don’t know why I find it so interesting. Maybe I just have too much time on my hands, if I’m noticing these things. Maybe I need to get a life. =)

Anyways, I am plowing my way through the first 8 CDs of his program, working on 5 & 6 right now. I’m going through each one until I’m relatively comfortabl (read: bored) with the lessons. I don’t have alot of time to devote to my language learning, at least not as much as I’d like, but I always have MT on in the car. It amazes me that within the last two weeks, since I’ve started listening to his program, that I can understand and form 5 or 6 verb tenses. The vocabulary is still somewhat limited, but I will begin to supplement with those when I feel I have a decent grasp on the grammar.

Once I get through the MT Italian course (the first 8CDs), I will continue on to the Language Builder; but I am also thinking that MT Spanish would be a good review of an old language for me. I can flip through Spanish books, look at the papers online, or listen to the radio or the news, and understand most of the vocabulary – except the verb tenses, which I somehow always get lost on. So perhaps MT will bring those back into my head. I know that they are in there somewhere, but I must not have done enough drills on those in high school!

On another note, I’m anxiously awaiting some language programs I purchased on eBay from Teach Me Visually. They have home-made DVD programs, made by language teachers, which use songs and cartoons as a memory aid. I ordered products in Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese, German, and Russian. They should be here in a day or two, and I will be giving them a full review as time permits.

Hey, if anyone is actually reading this, say “hi” and intrduce yourself – I’d love to meet you!

Too Many Languages, Too Many Programs, Not Enough Time!

October 14, 2006

Hello, and welcome to my little language blog. I like languages, and I wish I could learn them all. Well, maybe not ALL of them, but at least 20-30 of them, to start out with! Let’s see – I know some Spanish, from long ago when I was in high school (and college). But it’s been 8-10 years since I’ve used it to any degree, so maybe I should start near the beginning to remember everything.

After I re-learn my Spanish, and get to a semi-proficient level, I’d like to learn Italian. And French and Portuguese. After that, I’d like to learn Swedish, Norwegian, Danish, and maybe German. (Actually, I have no real desire to learn German, other than it is the most spoken Germanic language (other than English). From the year in high school I spent learning it – of which I retained next to nothing – I got the impression it is NOT a language I would want to spend my time in. However, there would be many advantages to learning German, and it would probably be less difficult if I already had a handle on Swedish, Norwegian and Danish. We’ll see, if (no – WHEN) I get to that point.

I would also really like to learn Russian (which would be a good jumping point to learn any and all Slavic languages). Japanese, for sure, is in my top 5 (after Spanish and French, along with Russian and Mandarin Chinese. It would be nice to learn Hindustani, Bengali, and a half dozen dialects of Arabic. Then I’d be able to talk to just about anyone in the world.

Realistically, at this point, I don’t have the time or energy to focus on a dozen different languages. Right now, I want to focus on improving my Spanish, and getting a basic, working knowledge of Italian. There will probably be a point where I start blogging in Spanish, but not for awhile yet.

My goals for the time being are this: 25 Spanish words per day (which adds up to more than 9k words in a year’s time) and half an hour of Italian. Right now, I’m working through Pimsleur, but it is becoming boring pretty fast. I am looking at Michal Thomas, Linguaphone, and Learn in Your Car programs. I wish I could get my hands on Assimil, but my local library does not have those programs (bittorrents, anyone?).

As a single mom (my fiance passed away in January 2006), I cannot afford to purchase many of the pricey programs out there. I’d rather spend what little money I have to take care of my twin four-year old daughters. (Who, right now, are in desperate need of some socks and some warm shirts – none of which I can afford at the moment.)

My pitiful financial situation aside, my love of languages, and the goal of being fluent in a few of them within the next few years, gives me something to do with what little spare time that I can find. So off I go on my journey to become near-fluent in Spanish, and to gain a basic understand of the Italian language. I think within the next month or two, I will add some Japanese to my schedule. Perhaps, with my limited study time, I will just work on a katakana or hiragana every day, or work on a handful of them over the weekend. That way, when I am ready and able to put the time into it, there will be one less mystery.