Monday, February 27, 2012

In case you're wondering

This whole "language" thing is well on hold:  I'm having enough trouble remembering how to speak English the way things are going these days.  Someday I'll get back into it.  That and Sudoku and Crosswords.  I'll rock it old school.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Little Pim and Rosetta

I got a Groupon-style thing from Savvy Something and it was for a huge discount on Little Pim language DVDs. So I got both Spanish and Chinese in the hopes that my children will begin to show an interest in the world of foreign languages. So far we've done disc 1 Mandarin twice, and Bella has stared at the screen, unresponsive. She claims to like it, but seems shy about actually trying the words.

From my language loving perspective, the Little Pims seem very cool, and a nice gateway to a kids first 200 words and basic sentence structure. I'm going to keep trying a few times a week. I think we'll get somewhere.

In other news, I actually sprang for a legit copy of Rosetta Stone - I had been trying a library copy which was older. Having the full install and the latest version actually does make a difference. I'm creeping through Japanese, and I REFUSE to use Romaji, but alternate between Kana and Kanji. I just want a few of the key Kanjis, so I don't wind up like Mater in Cars2.

Ok a tiny update. Whatever.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Getting back on the horse...

Yes, it's been a year since my last updates, and frankly there was no room in my brain for language learning. But things are changing, and I have a new push to make this happen. I have a Chinese coworker who will speak with me, AND I have another coworker who is Liberian, and we've been tossing a little French back and forth... Though I may not have the energy to learn Mandinka, I think that having a multilingual office should be fun.

Earlier this summer, I did 5 lessons of Pimsleur Italian to drop some phrases to my Italian-speaking South Jersey clients, but I lost energy on that... I think that I may be burning out on the Pimsleur method and may want a new way of doing things. But I am going to keep Italian off the table for the moment. Chinese and French are my opportunities.

As I surfed the web looking for resources, I found "Rocket Languages" which seems to follow both the podcast model and the pimsleur model with a little "BYKI" thrown in - 31 lessons, each 20-30 minutes, with each focused on a subject area... I listened to parts of the sample podcasts and they sounded sort of Praxis-y (Chinesepod) with a lot of guiding english, plus some software downloads (which they didn't make clear if it ran on Mac).

It might be ok software, but when I did a search for reviews, there were no fewer than a dozen "zombie sites' out there that purported to be "review" sites, but that did nothing but talk about how great Rocket software is. Some had ridiculous names like "" - total astroturf. At that moment I decided that even if the lessons are ok, that marketing isn't. It feels dishonest, and I don't understand why they'd think it works.

In the meantime, for French I'm going back to my archive of Learn French by Podcast... and for Chinese I'm sticking with Pimsleur, and adding in a textbook "Integrated Chinese". After a few weeks of refresher, maybe I'll hit my other languages again...

Saturday, June 28, 2008


Oh, this is a total zombie blog allright. So sorry.

The new job does involve some travel, but for various reasons I haven't been hitting the lessons quite as hard during the travels as I thought I might be going into it: As most I'm doing 1 unit of Rosetta per flight, and 1 pimsleur per city. I can totally improve on that, I know.

Today I was talking with a cousin about Chinese and Japanese and I came up with a key distinction between languages: "Interruptible" versus "Uninterruptible". Languages where key verbs are at the END of the sentence are Uninterruptible.

In japanese, not only is the verb at the end, but whether it's positive or negative is at the END of the Verb. For instance: "As for me, very much cats I... [like not at all] [like] [eat] [desire]." So if you stop a Japanese person mid-sentence, you will never know if they do or don't like the cats, or indeed WHAT verb they'd attach to cats (Eat? Pet? Exercise?).

Similarly, in many of the tenses of German (past, conditional, and future) the action verb is at the end: "I will next year a fine film [make] [see] [purchase] [eat]". Stop them mid sentence and you'll never know.

Now, with these short sentences, you wonder "why would I interrupt?" Consider that all manner of modifiers and sub-clauses will also be loaded into these sentences before the verb: "I will [next year in May together with several friends with whom I had gone to school] a film make."

In contrast, in French, English, Chinese, and other Interruptibles, you can say "I'm going to make a movie [next year with som...]" and brother I'm going to cut you off right there. Because I know you're not going to make that movie. You're always saying you're going to, and it's just never going to happen.

I know it's a strange distinction, but it just might lead to greater understanding between the peoples of this Earth.

In English,

Monday, January 14, 2008

I'm still around!

I just need to remember that the Xmas season is always so busy, and more so with kids. It hasn't helped matters that work has been pretty evil too. But there's light at the end of the tunnel: My new gig starts next week, along with more airport and hotel time, which means more language study time!!!

I recently had an email exchange in mostly-Svenska, and learned just enough Nederlands to have a chat with a Dutch cousin. I'm catching up on my German and Spanish podcasts, and am enjoying a little French in there too. Right now, Mandarin, Korean, and Japanese are on the back burner... but they'll be back in the mix soon enough.

I'm just in a Germanic mood I guess - I have been doing comparisons between German, Dutch, Swedish, and English, and am finding it pretty easy and fun to switch between them. The Dutch sounds are just crazy - rolled R's and lots of "cch" gutteral rumbles. My favorite word is "Graag" which means gladly or please - you use it a lot when ordering food - and it starts with a throat clear, going right into a rolled R, then the aaaahh and ending with the throat clear again. It's tempting to roll all the way through, but no, the R is only at the beginning. The whole effect is so satisfying to say that it truly seems to convey a PRIMAL desire for what you're asking for: Who could deny the requester a coffee or pastry when accompanied by a miniature tiger growl?

Sunday, December 9, 2007

NHK Videos

The interweb has delivered to me a number of video learning courses in French and Japanese: The French are the Annenberg "French in Action" series of 52 30 minute shows... and the Japanese are 30 various episodes of NHK (Japanese national TV network) Japanese learning videos from the 1980s... The fashion alone is great viewing, as are the "futuristic" bluescreen sets.

But these things do require TIME to do, and unlike audio learning courses, you can't really watch one of these while driving to work or walking through the skyways. Believe me, I've tried. (ok, not really). But as an adult learner, there IS some advantage to hearing it, seeing lips speaking it, and seeing the word at the same time - the Japanese word for pencil (enpitsu) stuck after just 3 repeats in this method, as did eyeglasses (megane) and cigarette (tabako).

I'm at lesson 76 of Pimsleur Japanese now, so close to the end... But I'm still learning great stuff. We just had the illness section. I was watching the Japanese movie "Paprika" - a GREAT Anime about a detective who dives into people's dreams, and a villain who is taking control of dreams - and I was happy to discover that a lot of the dialogue was somewhat understandable to me: Not enough to really "get" the movie without subtitles... but phrases here and there! It was very cool to realize that.

With the stress of the holidays, Japanese is pretty much my one focus for now... But I'll need to get Mandarin going (and maybe some Cantonese) because in my new Job, I'm angling for a conference in Hong Kong in May. I really want to go!!!!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Good old number nine

As noted in an earlier post, the Pimsleur series has a "tradition" of presenting a comic interlude around lesson number 9. In Sept, I enjoyed the Swedish one. Today, I was treated to one in Korean.

These Pimsleur short courses (10 lessons) are under $20, and really do help train your ear to hear languages... But this Korean series has been pretty hard to listen to: The two speakers have very different voices and I wonder if I'm hearing things right: The male has a breathless style, as though he just ran around the block just before recording the phrase.

On the plus side, with two very different sounding voices, it's easy to place yourself somewhere between the two and be confident you'd be understood.

As a language, Korean is really sounding very much like Japanese - between the politeness levels, the verb a the end, frontloading the sentence, and some of the vocal sounds. A lot closer to Japanese than Chinese for sure. But that said, it has a sound all its own - no mistaking it for anything else!