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emk
Diglot
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United States
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Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 889 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 5:22am | IP Logged 
I've been playing around with this lovely version of the Westcar Papyrus from the amazing St. Andrews corpus:



This is written in a slightly screwy dialect of Middle Egyptian, which features some weird things such as definite articles. But that's Egyptian for you: You're never sure exactly which language you're reading, given its 4,000-year history.

Anyway, working from this translation, I'm making my own word-by-word gloss:



I spent a couple of hours writing a script to convert these glosses to BBCode markup for use on forums (but not HTLAL, unfortunately):



This is pretty coolโ€”all the uncommon hieroglyphs are linked to an online dictionary, as are the transliterations, so it's easy for me to look up things I don't understand. And this exercise has taught me just enough narrative grammar to get into trouble.

This is about the closest that I can come to working productively with native textsโ€”picking apart existing translations and trying to make them word-for-word. Basically, my usual preference for extensive reading is being thoroughly thwarted when it comes to Egyptian, and I'm falling back to intensive reading in hopes of seeing enough pieces to get a sense for the language.

Thoughts on language learning

Every once in a while, I'm reminded how much some people believe in the importance of careful grammar study, scrupulously correct translations, and all the rest. My methods are rather grotesquely irresponsible in comparisonโ€”I was missing huge chunks of important French grammar until I was a solid B1, because I hadn't paid enough attention to even Assimil's minimal explanations, and I had forgotten quite a bit of what I had once learned while listening to my wife speak French for a couple of years. Oh, and there were multiple verb tenses that I just smooshed together at random.

I sort of study grammar after the fact, or in little chunks when I get bored, or when I run into a strange construction, or when somebody smacks my fingers on lang-8. I like grammar, as long as I don't actually have to sit down and memorize it.

The Westcar Papyrus

You know, my tastes in leisure reading are pretty predictable. In English and French, I read a fair bit of science fiction, with the occasional side order of something like Borges. In Egyptian, I'm currently reading a story in which a jealous husband creates a magical wax crocodile that devours his wife's lover.

That's one of the nice things about tales of the fantastic: They're pretty much the oldest and most popular genre of literature. I can find fun native materials even in the 17th century BC.
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sfuqua
Triglot
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United States
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Speaks: English*, Hawaiian, Tagalog
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 890 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 6:53am | IP Logged 
I had a funny moment today. I realized that I had forgotten the future
tense in Tagalog. I could use it in conversation easily, but I had
forgotten what the rule was. Weird, but it was a good example of the
difference between knowing how to describe a rule and knowing how
to use it.
I can't believe that studying grammar is completely useless, but my
brain seems to suggest that you can speak a second language well
without being able to describe how the grammar works.
Just saying... :)
4 persons have voted this message useful





emk
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 Message 891 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 4:00pm | IP Logged 
sfuqua wrote:
I had a funny moment today. I realized that I had forgotten the future
tense in Tagalog. I could use it in conversation easily, but I had
forgotten what the rule was. Weird, but it was a good example of the
difference between knowing how to describe a rule and knowing how
to use it.

Cool example! For me, grammar is merely one tool, and I only use it when it helps. I find grammar most useful as way to improve my understanding of weird things that I've noticed, or to sort out messy patterns after I've seen them a bunch.

The Wife of Ubainer, continued

And the plot thickens: The wife of Ubainer sends for the caretaker, and she asks him to prepare the garden pavilion. Then she spends the day there, drinking with her lover. But what's Ubainer going to do when he finds out?

Well, do you remember this story from the book of Exodus?

Quote:
And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying, When Pharaoh shall speak unto you, saying, Shew a miracle for you: then thou shalt say unto Aaron, Take thy rod, and cast it before Pharaoh, and it shall become a serpent. And Moses and Aaron went in unto Pharaoh, and they did so as the LORD had commanded: and Aaron cast down his rod before Pharaoh, and before his servants, and it became a serpent. Then Pharaoh also called the wise men and the sorcerers: now the magicians of Egypt, they also did in like manner with their enchantments. For they cast down every man his rod, and they became serpents: but Aaron's rod swallowed up their rods.

Ubainer is one of those dudes. Maybe his magic wouldn't have been powerful enough to overcome Aaron, but even so, his wife's lover will be in for one nasty surprise. As Gildor famously said to Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, "Do not meddle in the affairs of wizards, for they are subtle and quick to anger."

Anyway, here's another piece of my dubious translation. You'll probably want the the Gardiner.tff font.

Quote:
U: ๐“Šข๐“‚๐“ˆ– | ๐“‰”๐“„ฟ๐“ƒ€๐“‚ป๐“ˆ– | ๐“๐“„ฟ | ๐“ˆž๐“๐“ | ๐“๐“ƒ€๐“…ก๐“„ฟ๐“›๐“‡‹๐“ˆ–๐“‚‹๐“ŠŒ๏ปฟ๐“€€| ๐“ˆ– | ๐“ท๐“‚‹๐“ญ๐“‰๐“ค๏ปฟ๐“€€
L: aHa.n | hAb.n | tA | Hm.t | wbA-inr | n | Hry-pr
G: puis | envoyer-AORISTE | ART.FSG | femme | Oubaou-anir | pour | sur.NISBE-maison
T: Puis la femme d'Oubaou-anir a envoyรฉ pour le servant

U: ๐“ˆ–๐“๐“ญ | ๐“…“๐“Ÿ๐“ค | ๐“…ฏ๐“„ฟ | ๐“ˆ™๐“ˆ‡๐“ค | ๐“‚‹ | ๐“†“๐“‚ง
L: nti | m-sA | pA | S | r | Dd
G: REL.MSG | derriรจre | ART.MSG | jardin | pour | dire.INF
T: qui รฉtait chargรฉ du jardin pour dire

U: ๐“‡‹๐“…“๐“๐“‚ | ๐“‹ด๐“‹ด๐“Šช๐“‚ง๐“‡ฎ๐“›๐“๐“ฒ | ๐“๐“„ฟ | ๐“Š๐“Šช๐“๐“‰ | ๐“ˆ–๐“๐“ | ๐“…“| ๐“…ฏ๐“…“ | ๐“ˆ™๐“ˆ‡๐“ค...
L: im(i) | sspd.tw | tA | Ssp.t | ntt | m | pA | S...
G: fais.que.IMP | prรฉparer-PASS | ART.FSG | pavillon-F | REL.FSG | dans | ART.MSG | jardin...
T: ยซ Que le pavillon dans le jardin soit prรฉparรฉ...

U: ๐“…จ๐“‚‹๐“ˆ™๐“‡ณ๐“ˆ–๐“‹ด | ๐“‡‹๐“…“ | ๐“ท๐“ค | ๐“‹ด๐“…จ๐“‚‹๐“‡‹๏ปฟ๐“€ | ๐“Ž›๐“ˆ–๐“‚ | ๐“…ฏ๐“„ฟ | ๐“ˆ–๐“†“๐“‹ด๐“…ช๏ปฟ๐“€€...
L: wrS.n=s | im | Hr | swr | Hna | pA | nDs...
G: passer.la.journรฉe-AORISTE?=3FSG | lร  | sur | boire.INF | avec | ART.MSG | petit
T: Elle y a passรฉ la journรฉe en boivant avec le homme (du commun)...

Some things I've learned from this text:

aHa.n VERB.n: Some sort of past tense auxiliary construction.
nti and ntt: These introduce subclauses.
ist: Another subclause particle.
im(i) VERB.tw NOUN: Roughly, "Let NOUN be VERBedโ€ฆ", in the imperative sense. Or so I suspect.
xr-m-xt: Roughly, "after".
wn.in: A particular meaning "then". Optionally takes a clitic pronoun.
INFINITIVE pw ir.n SUBJECT: A verb cleft, past tense. In theory this carries emphasis, but maybe not so much in this textโ€”it's very common.
iwms: "Surely" (at the beginning of a sentence), but if you use it as a noun, it means "lie". Cynical folks, these Egyptians.

Oh, and I just want to say that Allen's Middle Egyptian: An introduction to the language and culture of hieroglyphs is an amazingly good book. It has entire sections, for example, that list nothing but the two dozen most common grammatical particles, with detailed explanations and examples.

My method, in a nutshell

I'm still thinking about iguanamon's advice to start using native materials as soon as possible. As I mentioned before, the central problem is that Egyptian is just opaque. So I need to cheat. In fact, this is pretty much my "method" in a nutshell, as least when it comes to passive skills:

1. Find an interesting text, video, whatever.
2. Cheat outrageously until I can more-or-less understand it.
3. Take the state of temporary illumination produced by cheating, and consume enough volume so that everything becomes familiar.

Or if you want it on a T-shirt: Cool stuff + cheat to understand + volume = easy familiarity.

Once upon a time, I used to think, "But if I cheat to understand, how am I ever going to learn the language?" Today, I believe that the more I cheat to understand, the faster I'll learn.
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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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 Message 892 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 4:40pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

Or if you want it on a T-shirt: Cool stuff + cheat to understand + volume = easy familiarity.


The holy trinity of language learning. ;)

Edited by patrickwilken on 18 January 2014 at 4:41pm

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Stelle
Bilingual Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
tobefluent.com
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949 posts - 1686 votes 
Speaks: French*, English*, Spanish
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 893 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 5:42pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
For me, grammar is merely one tool, and I only use it when it helps. I find grammar most useful
as way to improve my understanding of weird things that I've noticed, or to sort out messy patterns after I've
seen them a bunch.


I feel the same way about grammar - I either study it because I've noticed it, or (more likely) because I need it
when speaking it. I learned the past tense when I got tired of not being able to talk about past experiences. And I
learned the subjunctive when I started getting frustrated because I knew I needed a subjunctive verb but didn't
know how to conjugate it. And now I find myself needing other constructions (I would have gone, I'd already
gone, etc). I've known for the past few weeks that it's time to crack open the grammar book for another hour or
so, but I just keep putting it off. I'll get to it eventually.

So I completely agree with you. Grammar isn't a goal - it's a tool.

I'm enjoying your ancient Egyptian updates! When I was a kid I wanted to be an Egyptologist. And an astronaut.
Somehow I got distracted from both of those goals. Ha!
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iguanamon
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Virgin Islands
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 Message 894 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 5:47pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
My method, in a nutshell

I'm still thinking about iguanamon's advice to start using native materials as soon as possible. As I mentioned before, the central problem is that Egyptian is just opaque. So I need to cheat. In fact, this is pretty much my "method" in a nutshell, as least when it comes to passive skills:

1. Find an interesting text, video, whatever.
2. Cheat outrageously until I can more-or-less understand it.
3. Take the state of temporary illumination produced by cheating, and consume enough volume so that everything becomes familiar.

Or if you want it on a T-shirt: Cool stuff + cheat to understand + volume = easy familiarity.

Once upon a time, I used to think, "But if I cheat to understand, how am I ever going to learn the language?" Today, I believe that the more I cheat to understand, the faster I'll learn.


My point exactly, it looks like you're having fun too! That's right, CHEAT! Definitely cheat! Cheat as much as you want! What you are describing as "cheating" is actually making and seeing connections for yourself, albeit slowly. It's one thing to have your course do that for you and quite another to do it for yourself. I think one reinforces the other. I'm not anti-course or anti-Assimil, I'm anti "course-only".

I don't know if this works with a language like Egyptian, but it gave me rapid progress in Haitian Creole, and I feel certain it would give varying but similar results for any IE language with a Roman script, faster than by just using courses alone.

I will be writing more about this soon (though with some trepidation) in a post where I expect to see a lot of push back from course-only advocates, based on what happened to me the last time. This time, I will try to write without frustration and arrogance and with sufficient caveats- but not to the point of weaseling. The forum is also for debate on techniques. I don't expect to win the debate. My win will come if what I write can help some people to learn a language faster, more efficiently and better than if they just used a course alone.
   


Edited by iguanamon on 18 January 2014 at 6:39pm

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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3578 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 895 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 8:39pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
The holy trinity of language learning. ;)

Well, Krashen said it long before I ever did. :-)

Stelle wrote:
I learned the past tense when I got tired of not being able to talk about past experiences.

I learned the past tense because I could sort of vaguely approximate it, but it was taking me too long to work out the finer details, and I was sick of red ink over on lang-8. :-) My usual approach for something like that is to (a) skim through the rules in a grammar book and (b) go looking for lots of examples in the real world.

iguanamon wrote:
My point exactly, it looks like you're having fun too! That's right, CHEAT! Definitely cheat! Cheat as much as you want! What you are describing as "cheating" is actually making and seeing connections for yourself, albeit slowly.

We agree completely. :-) When I "cheat", my goal is to understand as much of something as possible with as little work as possible, preferably all while goofing off. Examples include:

1. Graphic novels: They have pictures!
2. TV series: They have pictures and massive repetition!
3. Assimil courses: They have word for word translations and notes!
4. Bilingual texts: Anything is easier to understand if I just read it.
5. Ebooks: They have popup dictionaries! And I can export highlights to SRS Collector.
6. Translations of my favorite books: I know I love 'em, and I know the stories by heart.

But after careful consideration, I would only recommend this technique if:

A. You can successfully cheat enough to understand much of the material without a Herculean effort. Peter Rabbit in raw hieroglyphs: Not actually effective. The Westcar papyrus with an interlinear transcription and translation: actually kind of fun.

B. You can actually enjoy the process. If you're on Assimil lesson 15, and you can't find any pleasant way to cheat with native materials, you know what? Have fun with your course and keep your eyes open. You'll eventually find some way to get started. Frustration and pain are almost always a bad sign, especially for comprehension tasks. (Speaking can occasionally hurt, no doubt about it, if you actually need to communicate.)

Native materials are usually much more interesting than courses, and they encourage you to understand a lot of stuff vaguely, rather than just a few topics in detail. It was pointed out to me this week that I'm supposed to have years of study under my belt before tackling the Westcar papyrus, and that's true in a certain sense: I'm fudging my verb forms horribly and I'm butchering the grammar. But you know? I'm totally OK with saying, "Eh, that's probably one of the 7 different sDm=f forms," or "Ah, an infinitive thingy." This drives some very smart and capable people completely nuts. :-) But if my experience with French is any indicator, many things will become much clearer with time, and there's nothing wrong with a half-baked approximation in the meantime.
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sctroyenne
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 896 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 8:49pm | IP Logged 
Going through some of these Irish lessons has been mindbendingly painful but then, like last night, I put on
an episode of Aifric and just listening to it makes the ridiculously hard grammar just seem like a (very
complicated) system of liaison in French. It really helps to step away from the lessons to put it all back into
perspective.


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