Monday, September 24, 2007


1) To follow up on the "lack of question particles in Russian" being fundamentally different from English, I offer up that so far in Korean, I have not found a negative particle (like "not")... instead in the 2 main verbs "To Be" and "to Have", they have matching negative verbs "To Not Be" and "To Not Have". So if someone asks "do you not-have any money?", you would say "Yes, I not-have.", or "No, I Do-Have". So that's pretty different.

I'm glad that KoreanClass101 is just starting up: I feel good to be "keeping up" on the lessons, and working on my Hangul reading skillz. The glyphs are getting a lot more familiar to me.

2) On the Pimsleur Tip: I am flat out amazed at how well the Russian Lessons are structured. I'm at lesson 53 right now, and I'm positive we're doing constructions that I do not know how to do in Spanish or German after 90 lessons... and Russian is so complex! The dialog from Lesson 53:

"I invited you to my house last night, but you didn't come... why?"
"I couldn't find your address, and it was late, so I went home"
"Yes, and I couldn't find a working telephone, so I couldn't call!"
"I was talking to Marina, and she said you were at a restaurant with her last night."
"Well... Yes. But after that, it was too late to come over."

I can only think that they're trying to prepare you for the sorts of guilt-laden conversations you may have with those stormy Soviets. It's remarkable.

In addition, given that there are around 6 different cases of personal pronouns, when you learn a new thing to say, they do coach you with another phrase that uses the correct pronoun case, so for as much as they try not to weigh you down with "grammar", they are doing a good job of teaching the "rules" of the language.

Yes, this is a very good set of lessons.

3) That's it for now.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

A possible source of misunderstanding

In Russian, there are few interrogative constructions - where, who, how, why... sure, the language covers that. But almost all yes/no questions are exactly the same as statements, only with different stress.

вы сиберайетес вместе с нами
(and again, sorry about the phonetic spelling - this is all audio work right now)
Vooy see-ber-aye-e-tye vmye-stee suh na-may.

If spoken in a level, steadily declining tone, it means "You are coming with us."
But if you stress the first word, it means "Are YOU coming with us?
If you stress the second word, it means "Are you coming with us?"
If you stress the last word, it asks "Are you coming with US?"

In all cases, even when asking a question, you never raise your tone at the end, like an English question. The tone always falls at the end.

So you see that the exact same sentence can be one statement and three questions, with no indicator words that it's a question, and no English friendly rising intonation at the end. You can see why perhaps there have been some misunderstandings with the Russian people: How many times do you suppose people may have thought they were demanding something when in fact they were asking a question...?

Очень интересно... Very interesting.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Where have I been?

Alas, if there is anyone who actually reads this that is not a regular reader of my "rest of the life blog" JimVentions, I must sadly report that a good friend of mine was murdered 6 days ago, and today we laid him to rest.

As a result, blogging about language has been far from my mind... but I will likely be updating again in a few days, because I have been doing work - I need to do things to keep my mind busy in these sad days.

So that's the update - sorry!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Una historia

Otro día, cuando estaba en el trabajo (en un hospital), vi a una vieja mujer. Ella tenía un papel en su mano, y se parecía ser perdida. Le acerqué et pedí: "can I help you?". Ella contestó "no habla ingles...", y me parecía que ella necesitó ayuda. Entonces, le dijé "Señora, puedo ayudarle."

Ella me dio el papel, y vi que tuvimos que ir cuatro sueles abajo y dos pasillos a través. Era demaciado difícil, com mi Español si limitado, para dirigirla allí. Recorrí con ella a su cita... y la introduje a su enfermera.

En verdad, no hablé mucho español en todos... pero creo que entender la idoma era provechoso.

Bueno. Ésta es mi primera historia en español en este blog. Si Ud tiene comentario para mi, lo quero. Gracias!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

The Vibe

안녕핫서요! 젼는 지미 임니다!

Folks, that's Hangul (Korean) for Hello! I'm Jimmy! Yes, I'm keeping to the program, learning this fine language... I'm pretty good with basic intros - who I am, I'm American, I'm an office worker... Fortunately, at my level, KoreanClass101 has just 2 lessons a week for me, so I can keep up along with all of my other language fascinations.

Russian continues - I'm at lesson 45 of 90, and I swear there is stuff in there I never ever learned in college. "if you want, you can have more coffee" езли ты хочешь, ты можешь быпить ешо кофе. Also, can you tell I'm loving learning how to type in other languages? The Mac... so brilliant. I'm also using the Penguin Guide to Russian to help with the "rules" and the spelling (My apologies for the above... there's probably a typo in the Russian).

My neighbor, a Fed, was lamenting that I'm 2 years too old to be useful to the FBI - they only hire up to age 37, so that people have a chance to get 20 years in the service prior to mandatory retirement. He said Russian skills are VERY in demand these days, what with the Russian mafia so prevalent. Perhaps I could consult for them... ;)

My sister issued a challenge: If I'm going to be such a language nut, why not learn Hmong and Somali, which are very in-use in the Twin Cities? Well, one reason is that there are few resources for learning these languages available to me... but as an alternative, I've started a little Vietnamese (and there are TONS of Vietnamese here):

The JapanesePod/KoreanClass people have truly been busy, and created a site called - where you can sign up for 50+ 4-7 minute classes in one of 6 (soon 7) languages, with Vietnamese being one of them. So I'm learning the very basics... Not any rush here, but I'd like to show up my sister at a Phô joint in town by greeting, ordering, thanking, and paying in Vietnamese.

Well, that's the basic update: I do want to say that I feel like I'm in a crazy groove with language right now, where every new thing I add in one language cascades across to my other ones, and I'm feeling truly polyglottish... I'll be ready to start paying attention to Japanese and Mandarin again... though maybe I'll wait until the end of September when I'll have this Russian thing behind me (meaning just that I'll have it "refreshed" and ready to use... not that I'll be fluent or anything!)