Three romances, one germanic and one slavic language?

Sup all?

There was a brief interlude of blue sky this morning which coincided in a lifting of my mood – also brief. Confidence or causally related? I tend towards the latter.

So, that’s me, but how are you? I’ve been busy on other projects recently, and far away (metaphorically) speaking from Surface Languages apart from adding common words in German, which is a work in progress. There is no audio currently.

Even though French is my main focus this year, I’m also hooked on German which is ironic really, as after years of not learning any languages at all, I’m now trying to learn two.

I have an admission to make. On several of my various posts about using Assimil German,  I have sworn that I would not spend more than thirty minutes a day on the language, in part to see how far I can get with using the Assimil recommended time period.

Today I will do lesson 40 of Assimil German. The increase of new words and grammatical constructions is threatening to overwhelm me. I’m not retaining the new information. It is too much for me to do in thirty minutes!

And my admission?

In addition to Assimil I’m watching episodes of the Easy German series (great fun and subtitled) when I have a spare moment.

I only understand about one word in ten, but I’m fairly sure that reading the subtitles in conjunction with the German is re-inforcing some of the new words/constructions in Assimil.

So, I am in fact, according to my rules … cheating 🙁

Three romances etc

I gave this post the title of the three romances, a germanic and one slavic language because some time back, I wondered how many languages that I could learn to speak to a reasonable standard.

My somewhat arbitrary number was five including French, Spanish, Italian, German and an as yet undecided fifth language.

I can only learn languages that I use or have opportunities to use for some reason, otherwise the motivation isn’t there for me (no matter how cool the language may be).  I have opportunities to use French, Spanish, Italian and  sometimes German.

My fifth is likely to be Russian, although I’m not entirely sure as yet.

I have no need to speak (or am ever likely to need to speak) Russian, but what I am interested in doing is reading.In particular, I’m interested in reading Russian media, especially with the political changes currently underway in both America and Europe.

I would therefore learn only to read, rather than speak and understand Russian.

We shall see.

I haven’t actually given this much thought as yet. And Romanian still appeals …

Baci,

MF

 

Assimil German. Lesson 34

Sup?

The icy blast of winter is apparently about to hit the UK.  In the West Country (my part of the world), it is five degrees and raining heavily, so it is totally miserable with no redeeming features whatsoever.

Grump. Grump. Grump.

I’m now on Assimil German Lesson 34, and since my previous post on the subject have done a lesson day, regular as clockwork for thirty minutes.

In my rules for using Assimil German, my first rule was that I was going to study German for thirty minutes a day.

No more than thirty minutes. No less than thirty minutes. This wasn’t an arbitrary time period,  and is as I understand it  the length of daily study recommended for the Assimil courses.

I have stuck to this, and it is hard, hard, hard.

It is hard because each lesson is detailed. There is new vocabulary, a dialog to be studied, grammar notes to be pored over and exercises to be done.

Thirty minutes is it must be said, a bit of a rush. I remember this as being a problem with Assimil Polish.

But, I’m sticking to the thirty minute rule for these reasons:

Lack of time. I live my life, see friends, have a family, job and so on. In short, I am quite busy.

I am establishing a habit. I am establishing the habit of learning German, and I can always find thirty minutes a day to study the language.

My style of language learning is slow and steady, and I’ll tell you why this matters with German below.

My primary focus (this year) is French. My primary focus is French at least until the end of the year, so German can’t encroach too much onto the time I’ve put aside for French.

Curiosity. Assimil courses indicate that you can reach a B2 level (see below) once you have completed the course. I don’t believe this for a minute, but  am intrigued to see how much I can learn using the Assimil method properly.

How long does it take to learn German?

On the cover of Assimil German, there is a little sticker with a B2 on it. The B2 refers to a level within the Common European Framework of Languages (CEFR), and for all intents and purposes means conversationally fluent.

Assimil German with Ease is designed to be completed in one hundred and fifty days.

So, in approximately one hundred and fifteen days, I will be  conversationally fluent in German.

Really?

REALLY?

There is NO WAY IS THAT POSSIBLE with half and hour of studying a day.

I really don’t want to sound negative about Assimil German as I love it. I love the book. I love the audio. I like the explanations. Yadder.  Yadder. Yadder.

I don’t know why language courses feel the need to inflate the level of competence that you will have reached after completion.

My current guess, is that after finishing the course, and having had some conversation practice, that I might be able to have reached a high A1 or low A2 on the CEFR framework.

I would consider A2 a great achievement after six months of half an hour a day studying.

We shall see.

Slow and steady

As promised a few lines ago, I’ll tell you why slow and steady matters for me with German, and that is because …

German is going to be one of my languages.

I want to reach a B2 level in five languages.

German is a good choice for me, as apart from the inherent coolness of a language with insanely long compound words, and a great literature, I have the opportunity to hear and probably practice on a semi-regular basis.

I have discovered before (with Polish), that if a language doesn’t feature in my life in some way, I can only dabble, which is often ultimately unsatisfactory.

I’d thought that Afrikaans would be my fourth language, but that is not to be as  German (my latest flirt)  Ich liebe dich 🙂

In case you are wondering:

I’ll update you on my progress in two weeks, shortly before the dreaded Assimil active phase!

And I know what my fifth and final language is going to be.  I’ll tell you next time, but I’ll give you a clue, it is romantic …

Besos and baci,

MF

I’m in a quandary with my Afrikaans

I’ve just been to the Balearics (and I visit frequently-ish) and the languages I heard were Spanish, Romanian, French, Catalan, Dutch, German, Italian and Polish.

The languages that I could have used in various situations if I had spoken them were Romanian, Polish, Dutch and German.

The only language I used (Spanish speaking country so not all bad) was Spanish.

And here I am learning Afrikaans.

I am in a quandary because although I’m keep talking about access to culture through reading, and that speaking isn’t always important, at the same time, there comes a point when I want to actually use a language.

The top eight most widely spoken languages (as native speakers) within the EU are more or less follow the demographics:-

Germany. 65 million

France. 60 million

UK. 60 million.

Italy. 55 million

Spain. 47 million.

Poland. 46 million

Romania. 16 million

Greece. 15 million

Netherlands. 13 million

And so what do I do? Shall I continue with Afrikaans or flit like I normally do?

My language journey (on the right) indicates a startling lack of staying power, and one of my reasons for logging it was for precisely this reason. It would or should make me think about what I’m doing – or not doing. Admittedly I’ve not up until now spent a huge amount of time on this, but I would like to make some progress.

I need to prove to myself that I can learn another language … and the two which really jump out from this list are German and Polish.

What shall I do??????

Baci,

Moonface

How to learn a language?

Sup doods?

I’ve finally got serious about learning to read/understand Afrikaans, and this is the language learning method which I am trying.

There are only three requisites:

Firstly: that you know a few hundred words of the language.

Secondly: you have a vague idea of the grammar or how the language hangs together.

Thirdly: you have a high tolerance of uncertainty.

Assuming you satisfy these  somewhat arbitrary requisites then you are ready to start.

Find a book that you want to read (in your target language), and its associated audiobook. I chose Kobra by Deon Meyer because I’ve enjoyed some of his other books in English.

Each day you listen to and read a set number of pages. The audio book that I bought is split into about sixty sections, and each day I listen to one and at the same time read the associated pages.

Naturally, I don’t understand much at the moment, and obviously if I look every word up in a dictionary the process would take forever.

So what do I do?

I’m only allowed (I treat this like a game) to look up words that I have learnt previously and then forgotten. This isn’t as stupid as it sounds.

I’m using memrise to learn words, and each day learn or begin to learn around twenty new Afrikaans words. Some of these words I remember immediately, and others not at all, but later when I see them in the book, I tend to know that I have tried to learn them previously, and then (and only then) I allow myself to look them up.

This is a surprisingly effective process. It is only when I see a word being used in a phrase that it starts to sink in, regardless as to the strength of my memory according to Memrise.

I am using the Memrise App constantly in spare moments, for example I learnt seven new words (which I have now forgotten) when eating toast (with marmalade) this morning. It is probable that I will remember one or two of them when I read tonight, and recognise one or two others.

Grammar. If you want to learn a language when reading, it is helpful  to try to recognise patterns within the language, and without a basic knowledge or outline of the grammar this is difficult. Afrikaans grammar is in general not complicated for English speakers, and understanding the structure of  Afrikaans sentences has in the main been straight-forward.

I’m just playing around with this, but if it works, and once I can read Afrikaans, I’ll return to Polish (which is unfinished business for me)  with vigour sometime later in the year.

Baci,

MoOnFaCe

 

 

Learning language takes me forever.

It does. I’m not complaining, as learning languages is a fun hobby but it does.

Anyway, I stumbled across the start of a blog where Nic Elliott is going to learn 23 languages in 12 years to a B1 or B2 level which equates to a language every six months (more or less). He already knows some of the languages to varying degrees so he is not quite starting from scratch but …

… I couldn’t do it.

I’m pretty sure that there is no way that I could learn a language to B2 level (or even B1) in six months, no matter how much time I devoted to the task.

I know nothing about neurology and how new patterns are established in the brain, but have discovered from my own experience that I need time to internalise ideas and (language) structures.

An example for me is Polish, which I stopped attempting to learn a year ago, but now is finally starting to make sense to me. (I was again looking at Assimil Polish). When I return to the language, I’m convinced that my progress will be rapid(ish) as the language is now familiar, but (for me) this familiarity takes and requires time (even away from the language).

The number of words you know (and can use) is a reasonable indicator of your progress and progression through a language. Additionally and among other things, I am a programmer, and so I tend to break down tasks into chunks (and never complete them according to some), but to reach B1 level you need to know (and be able to use) around 2000 words and for B2 4000 words. This equates to learning either ten or twenty words per day.

This doesn’t sound like much, but is surprisingly difficult, for me anyway.

I’m learning Afrikaans and as part of this am using Memrise to learn 20 words of Afrikaans a day.

Now Afrikaans vocabulary is (for English speakers) relatively easy to learn as there are many similarities between the languages, but even so, I’m struggling with 20 words a day, and think that ten might be more realistic.

This would take me down to a B1 type level in terms of vocabulary over six months.

Sigh.

Anyway, good luck to him. I’m going to follow along – intrigued and slightly envious.

Baci,

MoOnFaCe

Afrikaans sentences

As I’ve become more interested in Afrikaans (comprehension mainly), I thought that it would also make sense to learn the Afrikaans sentences on SL.

In starting to do so, I discovered the sentence page didn’t work as well as I wanted on phones. Well, that is now fixed. Yippee.

I learnt Sentences 1-10 yesterday and Sentences 11-20 today. So far, so good.

But what if I now want to test myself on all the sentences that I have learnt so far?

I can’t 🙁

Rats.

I’m going to fix this over the following week(s).

Baci,

MF

I’m not learning Polish

I’m not really learning Polish. I don’t need to speak it, am not moving to Poland and so on. I have discovered that I can’t learn a language without a practical use for it, and I don’t have this with Polish.

But I do find the Polish  language interesting, and don’t want to stop learning the language entirely.

I have decided on a compromise.

And so I’m using Duolingo as an experiment. Each day I do one new Polish lesson, and revise one old one (or two maximum) using the ‘Practice Weak Skills’ button. I’m only learning one a day as I don’t have much time and I’m interested to see how much I can learn in this slow but steady manner.

The time commitment is minimal (ten minutes a day at the maximum) and I am intrigued to see how much Polish I will be able to read at the end of the course.

If this works for me, I can gradually work my way through the languages offered, as a way of satisfying my language wanderlust.

Besos and baci,

MF

Improving my Italian with Alice nel paese delle meraviglie

Sup?

I’m listening to Alice nel paese delle meraviglie ‘Alice in Wonderland’ while I walk my dog – who incidentally has just undergone the yearly nasal spray experience. (For those who don’t have a dog, yearly vaccinations include one which is sprayed down the snout of said animal. It is not an enjoyable experience)

So why, you may ask yourself is the famous Moonface, purveyor of fine software,  listening to Alice nel paese delle meraviglie. Isn’t it a story for children? Well, apparently, it is. It is also brilliant, funny, easy to listen to and I’m learning useful words like bruco, giro, riccio and so on.

And full of useful insights:

Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” (said Alice)

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

“I don’t much care where-” said Alice.

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.

“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

Besos and baci,

MF

 

French progress. Feb 2016

Sup?

Well one of my goals was to improve my (rubbish) French and reach a B1 level by the end of the year. The year hasn’t started particularly encouragingly, mainly because I’ve been very busy with work and you know stuff.

But, but, but it is very important to learn something new every day and maintain some sort of momentum. I haven’t done so as yet, but yesterday in a bid to do so, I bought a book for my kindle called:

365 days of French expressions 

(There  is a related website by the author  Talk in French which seems filled with all sorts of useful material).

There is a new expression for you to learn each day for … 365 days, and this really appeals to me. So for the days when I don’t do any other French related activity (most of them so far), I can learn a new expression.

I started today :-

The expression is de cochon and there is a sentence illustrating its use (as there is for each phrase or expression).

Il avait une haleine de cochon. ‘He had smelly breath’ or ‘the breath of a pig’.

Besos and baci,

MF

 

My Polish and Italian (after another year)

It’s been some considerable time since I treated the internet to an update on my progress with these two languages.

I think in some ways, this blog is an antidote to the current meme sweeping the internet about how skills in general (and languages in particular) can be learnt at great speed. I’m not bitter or anything – OK!?

You might be able to guess that my progress has not been rapid.

Keep in mind that I’ve been learning Italian & Polish quite part-time and some might say perhaps uncharitably sporadically, while working, being a dad, husband, cleaning paws and so on and so forth.

Italian

I’ve been spending more time learning Italian than Polish. Considerably more, and I’ve been reading a lot.

I aimed to reach B2 on the CEFR by the end of this year.

My Italian oral and written comprehension is at B2 level or above (woop woop) – which is partly to do with the fact that I understand Spanish well and also because I’ve listened to a fair amount of Italian. I walk SWP every day, and normally listen to Italian or Spanish audiobooks. So I listen a lot.

Now speaking,  well my spoken Italian is still at a B1 level although I’ve spoken a lot over the year. I have fun speaking (mangling) Italian and can more or less talk about anything,  but still the fact remains that my spoken level is still assessed at B1. I make mistakes, and at times I  struggle for words. But still, I can more or less talk about anything.

Italian (and Spanish) are frequently described as ‘easy’ languages which I always find amusing. Easy to speak badly perhaps. Do these people who describe these languages as easy actually speak them well? Who knows. But being able to introduce yourself,  say a few basic sentences and not much else does not qualify in my view as speaking a language.  I like to talk about anything,  politics, day to day life, cost of living, going to the pub, literature (books to you and me), feelings, weather, climate change … In fact, I talk too much according to the boss.

It can be discouraging to hear people describe a language as easy and quick to learn when your personal experience shows the opposite. There are a lot of polyglot videos on the internet where some so and so states that they speak X languages, and then you hear a monolog roughly the same in each language. Normally it will be something like ‘My name is Z. I speak N languages. I’ve been learning Italian (substitute whatever language you want here) and I think it is a beautiful language’ and so on. This doesn’t demonstrate much, and I wonder how many of these ‘polyglots’ can have free flowing conversations about a wide range of topics.

How many people who describe Italian as an easy language do you hear actually conversing at any reasonable level?  You need a lot of words to discuss a wide range of subjects and it takes time to acquire these words. It takes even more time being able to use them in context. It might be different for you (and you), but this is how it is for me.  And this, my babbers is my blog and how it is for me. If you find Italian easy and have learnt fast (and are a native English speaker), then you are a shining star. Or deluded. Look into your heart and take your pick.

Polish

There is no doubt about it, I’m finding Polish difficult. There are reasons for this.

I’m disorganised. Who isn’t? Maybe I need to read ‘ten ways to be more effective in life’ or ‘five strategies for learning faster’? There is more chance of hell freezing over. But I digress.

Polish is difficult. There is no doubt about it. In relative terms it is considerably more difficult than Italian. Italian is described (not by me) as an easy language, but it is definitely more accessible (for English speakers) than the slavic languages. Anyone who describes Polish as easy has a screw loose. It is interesting, fun and has lots of consonants but it is not easy.

Polish is not particularly accessible. Once you move beyond basic sentences mam na imię … (My name is …), you have no choice but to understand the grammar or you will sound like a complete numpty. Slavic grammar is complicated, and it takes time to understand and internalise.

I don’t have a pressing need to learn Polish. I have a reason to continue it that I won’t go into here, but it is not pressing. I’ve reached the level where I could learn much faster, but I don’t have enough of an incentive and this is what is slowing me down. The language is difficult but my slow rate of progress is now down to lack of time spent with the language.

So what is my level? Low. Pretty low. Less low than twelve months, but still low. I know a lot of (unimportant) nouns and some bits and pieces but am far, far, far away from being able to impress with my Polish.

Where do I go from here?

I’m carrying on with my Italian and hope to reach B2 at some point next year. Fingers crossed.

Ditto with Polish. Really I should find a conversation partner, but I am (at the moment) too *ahem* lazy or perhaps inept.

It is lucky I’m a competent programmer.

Besos,

MF