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Teango
Triglot
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 Message 217 of 1317
27 August 2012 at 9:48pm | IP Logged 
Très romantique! :)
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
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Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 218 of 1317
28 August 2012 at 6:24pm | IP Logged 
30 Days of Egyptian: A Retrospective

First, here's what I've been up to:

- I spent 40 days using Anki to learn 200 basic signs suggested by Akkadboy. This
involved about 1,200 reps over the course of 8 total hours, according to Anki's charts.

- I've spent 29 days doing one lesson a day from Assimil's L'Égyptien
hiéroglyphique
. Along the way, I entered 95% of the lessons and exercises into
Assimil.

So the official experiment actually finishes tomorrow, but I'm going to write it up one
day early. There's a lot of stuff here about Assimil, Anki and ideographic/dead/non-
Indo-European languages. Feel free to skim for the section headings which interest you—
this is a long post. But there will be hieroglyphs!

Learning the characters first. Khatzumoto, the author of the "All Japanese All
The Time" site, has always recommended leaning the kanji before using Anki to
study and review sentences. While I was waiting for my Assimil book to arrive from
France (and waiting, and waiting…), I decided to give his advice a try. With help from
Akkadboy, I built a list of basic signs, and I learned them in Anki at the rate of 3 to
10 per day.

- Uniliterals. Each of these signs represents a single consonant or semi-consonant.
These make up well over half the signs in most texts. I learned these at a rate of 3
per day, taking time to get the pronunciation right.

- Bi- and triliterals. These signs represent 2 or 3 consonants. They're genuinely
obnoxious to memorize, because they consist of nothing but bare consonants, many of
which are hard pronounce. But fortunately, there's maybe 100 important ones, so if you
just plow through, you'll be done in no time. I made heavy use of mnemonics, half of
which were based on the sound, and the other half of which were based on breaking the
characters down into single consonants, and making up weird stories involving the
single-consonant signs.

*** Lesson 1: When all else fails, mnemonics work. ****

- Determinatives. These are the truly "ideographic" signs. They aren't pronounced, but
they help distinguish between homonyms. For example, the words "scribe" and "write"
have the same consonants, but their determininatives are a seated man and a roll of
papyrus, respectively. Determinitives are much easier to learn than biliterals.



Verdict: I'm not sure if was necessary to learn the characters first, but it has
been amazingly helpful. In particular, I immediately recognize all but 2 or 3
characters per Assimil lesson, and critically, I can actually type hieroglyphics
semi-efficiently.

*** Lesson 2: If you're planning to learn sentences in Anki, learn the important
characters first, and learn how to type them efficiently. ***


Assimil's L'Égyptien hiéroglyphique. This is a genuinely fun course. I
own both the book and the CD, and I recommend buying the CD if you can afford it.
Hearing the words spoken makes it much easier to retain the vocabulary long enough for
Anki to work its usual magic. The audio also helps bind the signs and the
transliteration together in my head.

The course spends the entire first week on the writing system. This is done by
presenting and explaining 10–16 isolated vocabulary words per lesson. Weeks 2 through 4
describe the gardens and estate of an Egyptian nobleman, and start
to discuss the lives of Egyptian scribes. These topics may sound "boring" or
"irrelevant", but really, if you want practical vocabulary and modern slang, why would
you be studying a 4,000-year-old language? Of course, what most people really want to
do is read hieroglyphic inscriptions about kings and mummies, which Assimil (in its
typical fashion) delays until well into the course.

But things really start to come together at the beginning of week 5, and lessons 29 and
30 have a something for people who like conversations and cartouches. This is a
conversation between the son of a royal scribe and an older scribe who knows his
father:

Quote:
— Hello, Thoutmôsis !
I have come
to sit with you.
— What is your name ?
— I am Pépy, son of Chéty.

— Come to me, Pépy, and sit.
I know the name of your father.
He is a scribe of His Majesty,
the King of Upper and Lower Egypt Djéserkarê,
Son of Ra, Amenhotep, who is gifted with life for eternity.




In the course, the hieroglyphics are accompanied by a transliteration, a highly-literal
translation preserving the Egyptian word order, and a loose French translation.

As of lesson 30, I can actually read parts of these lessons by sight, and hear the
words in my head. But remember, I've done a lot of extra Anki work in addition to the
course. And even so, reading more than a few sentences is still physically and mentally
exhausting.

In the first 30 lessons of Assimil, there's a lot of grammar: at least 4
sentence types (which are important because Egyptian loves sentences without verbs, or
where the verbs are doing strange things), several verb forms, two full series of
pronouns, possessives and relative clauses. This is by no means a slow course,
especially if you pay close attention to the grammar! I'd say that it covers less of
the language than New French with Ease, but that it does so at an aggressive
pace.

Using Assimil with a French base. My French is currently around B2, and using an
Assimil course written for French speakers is pretty much painless, to the point I
barely notice it's in French.

There's one important wrinkle, however: perhaps because Egyptian grammar is very
different from Indo-European grammar, or perhaps because French is my L2, I can't "link
up" the French and the Egyptian the same way I once "linked up" English and French.
Instead, I need to internalize the Egyptian directly, and avoid translating it to
French. This is sometimes hit or miss, especially when Assimil introduces too much new
vocabulary in the space of 3 sentences.

Overlearning Assimil using Anki. When I learned French using Assimil's New
French with Ease
, I spent about 20 minutes on each passive wave lesson, and the
same (on average) for each active wave lesson. I didn't do all the fill-in-the-blank
exercises. And when I hit the active wave, I struggled. But after ~180 days, I could
actually carry on conversations in French and read the newspaper with a dictionary! So
I've always believed that a quick-and-dirty pass through Assimil works fine.

*** Lesson 3: You don't have to overlearn Assimil to succeed. ***

But for Egyptian, I decided to go to the other extreme. Everything has been going into
Anki, including the lessons, the translation exercises, the fill-in-the-blank
exercises, and all the grammar tables from the review lessons. This means an extra 15
to 40 minutes of Anki review time each day (and some grueling data entry sessions), but
it means that I learn almost everything within a few days of its first
appearance. And that, in turn, means that I assimilate stuff faster and I activate it
sooner. The total price: About 10 hours and 1,700 Anki reps, not counting the (larger)
chunk of time I spent making the cards.

*** Lesson 4: If you do overlearn Assimil, you'll master vocabulary and grammar much
more quickly (and probably save yourself grief at the intermediate level). But you
increase your risk of giving up completely. I encourage first-time learners to forget
overlearning and finish the course. ***


*** Lesson 5: If at all possible, get somebody else to type Assimil into Anki. ***




Learning an ideographic, non-Indo-European language. Vocabulary definitely takes
more work when your only cognates are the names of kings and gods! But grammar is
delightfully fun:

Quote:
s.t nfr.t
woman(fem) / beautiful(fem)
"beatiful woman"

nfr s.t
beautiful(masc) / woman(fem)
"the woman is beautiful"

s pw nfr
man(masc) / this / beautiful(masc)
"He's a handsome man."

ink aSA rn.w
I / numerous-in(masc) / names(masc-pl)
"I am a man of many names."


If you (a) want to learn some delightfully exotic grammar, but you (b) don't
particularly care to memorize huge tables of case endings, then you might want to
consider Egyptian.

And as far as writing systems go, Egyptian has been a delight. I can't deny that it
looks cool. But there's a surprisingly reasonable number of signs to learn and they
tend to be visually distinct. The whole system is extremely logical and at least 70%
phonetic. Compared to Japanese, it's a very accessible writing system. Seriously, 8
hours and 1200 Anki reps is nothing to be able to say that you know the basic
hieroglyphs.

But when you add up the lack of cognate vocabulary, the non-IE grammar, and the
ideographic writing system, it's definitely a harder language than French. I gotta go
with the FSI here, and not Benny Lewis: Not all languages are equally challenging.

What I can do after 30 days. Actually, I'm pleasantly amazed at how much
progress I've made. Three weeks ago, the grammar examples in Lorprieno's amazing
Ancient Egyptian: A Linguistic Introduction were a mess of incomprehensible
consonants. Today, I can actually read and understand about 20% of them without looking
up any vocabulary, and another 50% are clear after reading his notes.

But for a more critical test of my abilities, here's a funeral inscription from Assimil
lesson 30:



Before looking at the lesson, I could read this as:

Quote:
The perfect god, master of the two lands (some name involving "Ra" and "ka"),
Son of Ra, master of (something plural), Imenhotep (something something).


Sure, Assimil's been feeding me some key vocabulary for a couple of lessons now. But if
I pick up a nice big picture book about Egypt and flip through a few pages, I can
sometimes do almost as well.

*** Lesson 6: 30 days of Assimil and 20 extra hours of Anki reviews will give you a
surprisingly good base in a non-Indo-European language, even one with a moderately
complicated writing system. ***


After tomorrow, I plan to slow down, and let my recent Anki cards mature a bit. This
will give me a chance to put my French back on center stage. But I hope to continue
doing Assimil lessons at a more relaxed rate. Egyptian is an awesome language, and
L'Égyptien hiéroglyphique is an excellent—but challenging—Assimil course. You
should consider it the next time you're feeling the language wanderlust and want to try
something really different.

Edited by emk on 28 August 2012 at 7:09pm

8 persons have voted this message useful



iguanamon
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 3422 days ago

2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole

 
 Message 219 of 1317
28 August 2012 at 6:56pm | IP Logged 
Thanks, @emk, for a well written and well documented review of your methods, Assimil and Ancient Egyptian. Looks like your "over-learning" of the lessons has paid off handsomely in such a short amount of time. I am very impressed with how far you've progressed in just a month's time. You may even have changed my mind on using Anki in future, especially if I ever go for a non-Indoeuropean language with a radically different script. Congratulations on another job well done on what looks to be a really fun side project.

It'd be off the scale cool to be able to go into a museum and read some of the hieroglyphs and get the gist. So, if you watch Stargate now, I wonder how much of Go'a'uld you can understand as a bonus?

Edited by iguanamon on 28 August 2012 at 6:57pm

1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 220 of 1317
28 August 2012 at 7:54pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
You may even have changed my mind on using Anki in future, especially
if I ever go for a non-Indoeuropean language with a radically different script.
Congratulations on another job well done on what looks to be a really fun side project.


Thank you for your kind words!

Anki is a very powerful and flexible tool for pounding stuff into aging brains. But
you're limited to an average of 10–30 new cards per day if you want to stay sane, and
it's vitally important to remember that Anki works for you, and not the other way
round. And you've got to review existing cards daily, or you'll get buried.

Anki cards should be as easy as humanly possible: short sentences, optionally with
cloze deletions, are just about right. The exercises in Assimil make nearly ideal
cards. But the Assimil lessons themselves sometimes make painful cards, because the
sentences are too long to hold in my head all at once, and they involve too much new
stuff at once.

(Of course, the definition of "short" sentences varies tremendously according to
context. In Egyptian, it's about 4 words. In French, a paragraph is no problem at all.)

Quote:
It'd be off the scale cool to be able to go into a museum and read some of the
hieroglyphs and get the gist. So, if you watch Stargate now, I wonder how much
of Go'a'uld you can understand as a bonus?


Well, do you remember the scene where Daniel is correcting the translation on the
blackboard in the military base? When he says the first word should be "year", I can
glance at the hieroglyphs and confirm that he's perfectly correct, it's rnp.t.
And when he gripes about Budge's translations still being in print, I know what books
he's complaining about. So that's some nice language geekery right there.

As for the actual Egyptian dialog in the movie, I don't stand a chance, because I've
never learned the reconstructed vowels. Only specialists know the vowels, and they're
still arguing over the details. Like Arabic and Hebrew, Egyptian is normally legible
with just the consonants—and you get determinatives, which are way more awesome than
vowel dots.
3 persons have voted this message useful



luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5365 days ago

3133 posts - 4350 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 221 of 1317
30 August 2012 at 6:45am | IP Logged 
Your documented experiences with French and Egyptian are both interesting reads. You've got a very compelling and engaging writing style.

I was happy to read that you had some experience with Using French and the Assimil Business French courses. I take it that you used them as supplementary material to everything else you were doing in preparation for the DELF, not exactly following the Assimil method per se, but listening and reading and assimilating. Does the Business French course cover a lot of grammatical points or are they more cultural or related to usage? I'm just wondering if it's something you recommend adding to one's repertoire, or is it less engaging than New French With Ease?
1 person has voted this message useful



Crush
Diglot
Senior Member
ChinaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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1622 posts - 2296 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Mandarin, Esperanto, Basque

 
 Message 222 of 1317
30 August 2012 at 7:33am | IP Logged 
Btw, do you have plans to release your Ancient Egyptian Anki deck?
1 person has voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 223 of 1317
04 September 2012 at 2:38pm | IP Logged 
luke wrote:
Does the Business French course cover a lot of grammatical points or are
they more cultural or related to usage? I'm just wondering if it's something you
recommend adding to one's repertoire, or is it less engaging than New French With
Ease
?


Thank you for your kind words!

I used about a dozen lessons of Assimil Business French for listening
comprehension while I was driving, and I really liked the course. Overall, I think it's
a more advanced course than Assimil's Using French. Or at least it seems that
way if you only do the first quarter of each course.

There's some fun stuff in the business course, although like most Assimil humor, the
jokes are pretty dry. There's a very stereotypical salesman in the first couple of
lessons, a young business grad whose dad pulls wires for him, and even some union
members who lock their boss in an office.

The business course doesn't really spend any time on grammar. It focuses on listening
comprehension (especially casual conversations between natives) and business
vocabulary. There are also some very solid writing exercises which would be great for
use on lang-8.

This is also the only Assimil course that really prepares you for a DELF exam—
specifically, the DELF B2 Pro, which is the the version of DELF B2 that focuses
exclusively on business subjects.

If you need to use your French in professional contexts, then Business French is
an excellent course.

Crush wrote:
Btw, do you have plans to release your Ancient Egyptian Anki deck?


I have two decks:

1. Le Moyen Égyptien : Signes de base. This contains 204 hieroglyphs. This is
currently available via PM to anybody who wants it, but I plan to upload it to AnkiWeb
soon.

2. Le Moyen Égyptien : Assimil. This contains the first 30 lessons of the
Assimil course. For now, this is only available via PM, and it's only available to
people who've bought the Assimil course. Because I trust the HTLAL community, we'll use
the honor system—just send me a PM saying you've bought the course or otherwise
obtained a legal copy, and I'll send you a link.

2 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3692 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 224 of 1317
04 September 2012 at 3:08pm | IP Logged 
Here's my update for this week.

Egyptian. I'm still reviewing about 30 Anki cards per day, but they're
"maturing" nicely. This means that I can answer them quicker, with a lot less mental
effort, despite the growing intervals. For me, this is extremely typical—there comes a
time when my knowledge of a card consolidates, usually around the 20-day mark.
Sometimes I wonder if this isn't the rationale behind Assimil's passive and active
waves, and the reason why 30-day-old lessons tend to be ridiculously easy. Simply put,
once you've been able to kick something around for several weeks, it eventually
transforms into a solid building block that you can use for other stuff.

When I was preparing for the DELF, I had a lot of unconsolidated knowledge. This
is probably one reason why immersion is so exhausting—you're stacking unconsolidated
knowledge several layers deep, which is a recipe for fast progress at the cost of
feeling overwhelmed.

French. Back when I was working on French full time, I also mentioned that the
day-to-day variation in my skills was about as large as the month-to-month improvement.
This meant that a bad day one month was equivalent to a good day from the month before.

Now that I'm learning at a much more relaxed pace, this variation is about as
depressing as you'd expect. Last Saturday, for example, my wife and I had a long
conversation in the car about all sorts of abstract stuff (books, life, the universe
and everything). My vocabulary was bigger than when I took the DELF B2, but I was
tired, and I stammered a lot trying to discuss the abstract subjects. Sunday, I could
deal with day-to-day conversation without any trouble at all. Monday, my listening
comprehension was dodgy.

Even though I speak French at home, it's not easy to move from B2 to C1 in an English-
speaking country with an English-speaking job. It's a constant fight to keep my various
skills activated. My biggest allies are books and movies, so it feels really good to be
getting back to the Super Challenge.

And there's the usual parenting dilemma: The only way to watch an extra episode of
Buffy is to sacrifice an hour of sleep. And lack of sleep hurts all my skills. But
there is one upside: My "parenting" French is solid, fluent, and sometimes almost as
natural as speaking English. It's merely everything else that suffers.

So my plan is several two-fold:

1) Tighten up my time-management a bit, but not so much that I burn out.
2) Focus heavily on the Super Challenge.

During this time, I'm also hoping to bump my business and consulting revenues up to the
next level. So that's a big background task that you won't been seeing here, but it's
another reason to get better at juggling multiple obsessions effectively.


2 persons have voted this message useful



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