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Iversen

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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berejst.dk
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9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 65 of 107
14 November 2008 at 1:06pm | IP Logged 
Are you sitting comfortably? OK, then prepare for one more long post...

In Russian wordlists I write the accents (at least if they based on dictionaries) because this is one of the more troublesome aspects of that language for any foreigner. If I had to learn English from scratch I would probably also have to use some kind of simplified phonetic alphabet along with the normal spelling because the English spelling is so unpredictable. But apart from that my wordlists don't contain any indications about pronunciation. Pronunciation and oral understanding has to be learned in another way, and I'm going to waste some of your precious time on a description of my methods. NB: there are roughly two kinds of language learners: those that primarily learn through their ears and those who learn through their eyes. I belong in the latter category, and what I write now may not be relevant for those who belong to the first category.

My first objective isn't to learn to speak a certain language, but to be able to read it and think it, and after that to be able to write it. We have a thread somewhere about silent periods, and I wrote there that I don't want to speak a language before I can do so fairly fluently. However if I have to opportunity to visit a place where one of my target languages is spoken I will of course drop my all my principles and use every single opportunity to try to speak that language. In fact I visited Minsk, Moscow and Vladimir earlier this year, and even though my spoken Russian is nothing to write home about I tried my best to ask for sewing kits, prices, directions, tickets and everything else in Russian. But I still had to switch to English for more complicated matters.   

To be able to read and even more to think in a language you must of course study the pronunciation first. For some of my languages I have a solid foundation from my school years: English, German and (somewhat later) French and Latin. When I however started to learn Italian and Spanish through selfstudy as a schoolkid I didn't have any choice than to read about the pronunciation and then frantically try adjust my pronunciation whenever I had the chance to hear the real thing. This is essentially also what I do today, except that I now have the blessing of the internet where I can get radiotransmissions and podcast in just about any language I might ever wish to learn.

In the beginning you normally can't understand anything, but you may be able to distinguish certain words and use the pronunciation of these to catch the 'sound' of the language. After reading about the listening-reading method of Siomotteikiru I have become convinced that the ideal way to initiate this part of your study would be to listen to an audio source while trying to follow it first in a translation, then while reading a transcript. The problem of course is to find suitable parallel materials for this, so you may have to settle for less. The paradox of this phase is that you have to listen very carefully without understanding the meaning, but this shouldn't be seen as a problem - it is the pronunciation that is important at this stage, forget about the meaning.

To build my vocabulary and grammatical knowledge I copy original texts by hand and translate them, I read about grammar, I make word lists, I try to get some modicum of fluency in my reading and last, but not least: I start combining words in my head until they form nice, more or less correct, but at least complete sentences. At this point it is important not to be too fuzzy about errors in vocabulary, grammar or pronunciation, - I'm convinced that it is easier to correct those errors later when you have enough reserves of skill and confidence than it is to deal with them while you are still struggling.

As a result of this toil and labour I expect some day to wake up and suddenly be able to understand the target language in its spoken form (a socalled epiphany moment). This may may sound like a joke, but it isn't. The main reason that you don't understand ordinary clear speech at this stage normally isn't you can't follow the words (after all those listening sessions), but that you stumble over unknown words or constructions all the time and then start thinking or - even worse - translating in your head. And then you are stuck. Instead you should just try to follow the babble word for word, syllable after syllable, letting the meanings that pop up pass by without caring too much about them, otherwise you would miss the next sentences. Then some bright day you have in all silence passed the treshold where you know enough to push on with your listening in spite of unknown words and other petty hindrances, and then you suddenly understand just about everything without really making a coinscious effort, just as you do with your native language - at least I have experienced this with most of my languages, and it is pretty clear to you when it happens.

When you can understand genuine spoken stuff you finally have the ideal chance to focus on your pronunciation. True, there are too many sad cases where people have learnt a language just well enough to understand simple conversations and to say something that sometimes can be understood by natives, and then they never progress from that point. Instead this should be seen as the time where you finally can try to get rid of all the grammatical and lexical errors and bad pronunciation, and that can't happen without making too much of an effort.

This also the best time for immersion. I know from experience that my pronunciation and fluency gets much better after just a few days in a place where everybody speaks my target language and the streets are full of written messages in that language. Immersion at an earlier point is valuable, but not nearly as efficient.

My final remark in this post should be that I have stayed for weeks in suitable countries speaking only the local languages, and I have rarely had any indications that people me didn't understand me - on the contrary, they normally speak as fast to me as they speak to each other, which I have to take to be a good sign. I can also feel how the local dialect creeps into my language when I'm in an immersion situation, so after a week I normally feel quite at home and just babble away. On the contrary when I'm at home in Denmark I am acutely aware that speaking is my weakest skill (after reading, writing, listening and thinking), and I never quite trust my orals skills in any language after months of silence. But if I then accidentally meet some natives representing one of my rarer languages I normally find that I can discuss with them without big problems, so maybe I'm just too pessimistic. It is not something that can cause me sleepless nights.


Edited by Iversen on 18 May 2009 at 11:53am

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Iversen
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Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
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 Message 66 of 107
29 December 2008 at 6:27am | IP Logged 
Annual report for 2008 + plans for 2009

As far as I can see there isn't a separate thread for status reports and goals for 2008 and 2009 respectively, so I'll put the whole thing in my profile thread instead. And it is probably better like that, because it is going to be one more long spate of words.

In quite general terms I had expected 2008 to be the year where I became fluent in Russian and started learning some other Slavic languages. Well, it didn't happen, sorry. Instead I found myself engulfed in the study of the Ingväonian branch of the Germanic language family, my Greek became a breeze and I revitalized my Latin. So 2008 wasn't a bad year as such, but it left me with the task of doing something serious about the Slavic languages in 2009. I also missed the opportunity to learn Esperanto in 2008, but I hope that I can find a couple of weeks for that in 2009.

Germanic languages:

I knew Danish, English and German (in that order) fairly well before 2008, and I still do. But there has been a positive development in my knowledge of the rest of the group. I have started to think and to some extent write in Swedish, but not in Norwegian - paradoxically because I like Nynorsk writing so much that I don't want to deal with the more Danish-like Bokmål. My Icelandic studies have been running more smoothly after I have got some decent dictionaries, but I'm not fluent yet. I can read books now, but I hear too little Icelandic - my only source for spoken Icelandic is the homepage of the Icelandic TV company where the news broadcasts and a few other programs can be heard, and that is not very exciting (except when the Icelandic economy broke down almost overnight - that was dramatic!).

Some linguists speak about an Ingväonian language group within the Germanic family, consisting of Low German, Dutch/Flemish and Afrikaans PLUS Frisian - but I don't intend to learn Frisian (too many dialects, too few speakers and too little stuff to read and listen to). My Low German skills have suffered from the current neglect of Platt in NDR (the main television station of Northern Germany), but I have tried to remediate this by reading books in Platt. In contrast I have been able to find some excellent sources for non fiction in Dutch on the internet, and that has been an immense help for me. My progress in Dutch can be dated fairly precisely: I wrote about my Dutch epiphany moment here in October 2007, and since then I have written quite a lot in that language - though of course with a lot of errors. And starting from December 2008 I have even tried to learn a bit of Afrikaans.

Romance languages:

Well, not much to report. In 2006 I learnt Portuguese before travelling to Cape Verde, and in 2007 I visited both Moçambique and Portugal, where I refused to speak anything but Portuguese - I also visited the Açores, but in company with my mother so there I couldn't stay monolingual. I trained my Spanish during a monolingual trip to Venezuela and Colombia where I discussed with local people about just about everything in the universe, so I know that I can claim at least basic fluency in that language. I got a check of my French precisely one year ago during my New Year holiday 2006-07, and precisely one year earlier I checked my Italian during a trip to Italy, where I found myself in the centre of Napoli during the New Year celebrations (BOUUMM!). But that was before I started relearning my languages. In 2006 I also visited Romania and Moldova, but couldn't quite manage to stay monolingual in Romanian - however I have worked hard to learn more of that language afterwards, and I do feel fairly confident about it - the big problem of course is the lack of something relevant stuff to read and to listen to.

So for the Romance languages it has mostly been a question of keeping them alive. But I have added Latin to my list of active languages - though in a version peppered with neologisms, bad grammar and general irreverence towards my elders. But that is as it should be: in some of my earliest contributions to this forum I wrote that my Latin courses were flawed because their only purpose was to learn us to read the classical authours. Instead I wanted to learn Latin as a living language. It was the discovery of some material on the homepage of 3SAT (a German TV station) that gave me the impetus to do something about it, and since then my main - and indispensable - source for contemporary Latin has been the hilarious Ephimeris. Btw. I have also recognized that my Latin courses weren't a waste of time - they laid a solid foundation, but just never attempted to build a house on that foundation.

Hellenic languages:

My Dhimotiki has become something that maybe could be used in practice instead of just being an ominous unsolved problem. At the start of the year I had to look up every other word in the dictionary when I worked on my book about Rhodos. Now I have just finished a similar book about Delphi, and I just have to look up a word here and there to get the meaning. My main problem here is the usual one: to find something to listen to and read that isn't too boring. I certainly do want to learn Koine and Classical Greek too, but not now.

Slavic languages:

So far only Russian. As I have written earlier I have spent more time learning Germanic languages and Latin in 2008 than Russian. It did however start out well, culminating in my visit to Minsk, Moscow and Vladimir/Suzdalj where I could perform some menial tasks in Russian (asking for things in shops, reading printed explanations and things like that). But after that I felt somewhat disappointed with my performance and with my skills, and I invested my time in other projects where my progress was more evident. But right now I'm so to say restudying the language, using my old print-outs from GLOSS. And this time I can almost read them from sight. The same seems to be the case for my (few) Russian books, including a small travelguide to Denmark which I bought for my last roubles in Sheremetjevo Dva last spring - though here I haven't got the translation as a control. I still have to laboriously construct my Russian sentences instead of just thinking them and then correcting the errors afterwards, but I'll try to do some prolonged listening sessions to kickstart the Russian section of my brain, - that should solve the problem.

After Russian I'm going to learn at least three, maybe four Slavic languages. I have already bought a dictionary and a grammar for Bulgarian, and I like the language, but it may be a problem to find something suitable to read and (even more) to listen to. I have also bought a big fat two-way Polish-German dictionary and a little thin grammar during my recent buying spree in Flensburg, and Polish literature is fairly easy to find here in Denmark. Long time ago I bought some small Serbo-Croatian (!) textbooks, but I would prefer to find something newer, - including decent dictionaries and grammars for both Croatian AND Serbian. And finally I ought to learn Czech (and Slovakian), but I'm lucky if I can get started in 2010 or 2011. I distinctly remember from my last visit to the Czech Republic that it was difficult to recognize for instance place names when I heard them, so the pronunciation of those two languages is going to be a major problem. I have not had the same problems with place names in other Slavic languages. But who am I to quibble about pronunciation problems? I'm Danish!


Edited by Iversen on 10 March 2009 at 10:26am

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Fasulye
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 Message 67 of 107
29 December 2008 at 9:59am | IP Logged 
Thank you for writing your annual language report, which I have printed out to be able to read it more in detail.

I fully agree with you on the fact that the internet magazine "Ephemeris" written in modern Latin offers a very enjoyable source of reading language excercise.

In your report I stumbled about your expression "a Dutch Epiphany moment", I couldn't imagine what that could be. Then I looked the expression up in my English-German dictionary and read your link. So it's kind of "Aha-Effekt" as I call it in German of the language learning process.

I must say that within my long-lasting language learning experience I have never had any Epiphany moments and I don't expect any to come. Why so? Because my language learning process is a rather slow and regular one with no spectacular elements in it. I am working cm to cm ahead and I am so glad that I have learned to put the factor "discipline" into it, which was the "missing link" at my joung age between 20 and 30 years. I have experienced that any talent without adding the factor "discipline" to it is completely useless.

What I have to offer you is more language practise in your "Multiconfused Log" by using my own languages at basic level. My Esperanto is still waiting to get some extra practise as well, it has been a bit unused in this forum so far.

As I don't speak any Slavic languages at all, I have nothing to offer to you on this field. My grandfather emigrated from Silesia to Germany so parts of my family roots lie in Poland and because of my grandfather I have a Silesian family name. But besides this I have no language knowledge of my ancestors, because I belong to the third generation and my other 3 grandparents were from Germany.

Looking forward to lots of language practise for 2009!

Fasulye-Babylonia



Edited by Fasulye on 30 December 2008 at 6:25am

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Iversen
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 Message 68 of 107
29 December 2008 at 8:32pm | IP Logged 
As I have written in the thread about ephiphany moments I think that they mostly occur for people who mainly are global learners, as opposed to mainly sequential learners. A sequential learner starts in one corner of the language and then adds new elements until more or less the whole thing is covered. This is the way you work when you use a text book and goes from chapter one to the last chapter in the prescribed order. A global learner takes little pieces from all over tyhe language and tries to make them fit. In the beginning this isn't possible, but when you accumulate enough of those isolated pieces you pass a treshold somewhere where things suddenly seem to snap into place.

This reminds me of the two types of JPG-images: if you have a slow internet connection and a large image file of the 'normal' type the picture emerges from the top and downwards. But there are also 'interlaced' JPG's around where the whole picture is shown from the beginning, but in a very coarse version which however becomes clearer and clearer until a certain point. The language skills of a global learner are organized like an interlaced JPG image file.

For me learning - or rather conquering - the written version of a language is a slow and gradual process, and I typically don't care much about the spoken version of a language before I already can read most written sources more or less fluently. This means that the process of learning to understand the spoken language typically is a much more accelerated process, and therefore MY chance of experiencing an epiphany moment is much larger with audio sources. In the case of Dutch it was really a case of not understandign anything one day and then understanding more or less the whole thing the next. And the speed with which it happened proves that it wasn't a question of learning something more, but more about reorganizing the things I already had learn through my occupation with the written language.   


Edited by Iversen on 10 March 2009 at 10:29am

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Thuan
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 Message 69 of 107
08 March 2009 at 12:54pm | IP Logged 
This is a very fascinating method. I've read this thread a while ago and discarded the method because I don't like the idea of learning vocabulary. I've been studying Japanese for over three years (four?), and while I've made some progress (intermediate level) II can't say that I'm satisfied with my current level of Japanese. I acquired my basic Japanese level by shaadowing the two Assimil books extensively. This got me to the level to hold a conversation in Japanese. And my good Japanese accent (I neither sound like a tourist, nor do I sound like a girl). The problem is that I haven't a lot of progress since then. Through the use of an SRS (Supermemo and Anki) I've acquired a lot of vocabulary (around 5000 words) and due to constant exposure to spoken Japanese (Japanese girlfriend and Japanese media) my listening skills are excellent. Well, excellent is probably not the right word, I guess I often feel as if I understand more than I actually do.

The main problem for me is grammar and vocabulary. I don't make any serious grammar mistakes when I speak in Japanese. Reason is that I don't deviate from the patterns that I've acquired through countless hours of shadowing. But I haven't really learnt more grammar since then. A few things, but still below JLPT2 level. I never really studied grammar for English, but through constant exposure to the structure of the English language (I read more books in English than in German) English grammar feels natural to me (recognition, I probably make mistakes when producing English).
I haven't acquired the necessary level to read Japanese. Simple books like THE LITTLE PRINCE, yes. The thing is that I find reading children's books just boring. And "serious" novels are just too difficult. Mainly due to the lack of vocabulary. And grammar. Long sentences often throw me off.

I thought about using the L-R method to step into the world of Japanese literature, but I've changed my mind recently. I spent a lot of time at the hospital nowadays and that reminded me of Iversen's worldlist.
5000 words is not enough to read novels. At least to enjoy reading novels. I've made it through Heisig's RTK and learnt the readings for around 1100 Kanji. Enough to read 70-80% of most texts. At least in novels. Less so in scientific texts. If I know the words, I don't have a problem with reading simple novels. So, the idea of building vocabulary sounds like a sound plan to me.

I've tried the wordlist method for a week by now and got excellent results. Learnt around 400-500 words in one week. And that is a wonderful feeling, the world is opening up. The first 200 words are from the book "How to sound intelligent in Japanese", a vocabulary builder for Japanese. The remaining words are wordlists that I created with the help of peraperakun (popup dictionary) from several wikipedia articles. The entry on Kato Lomb, Language Acquisition and 2nd Language acquisition. I can now read and understand these articles in Japanese, something that I never thought I could do in such a short time. One thing I realized is that scientific texts use simple language (all those articles were written in the same style) and they're a great way to expand your vocabulary. I can now talk confidently about language learning and language acquisition in Japanese without limiting myself to simple vocabulary. And the words from these few articles made it possible for me to read similar articles in Japanese.

My question to you is, if you write in more detail about your progression from beginner to literacy in a language. First, because it might help me on my path to Japanese literacy, and second because I want to study Romanian, a language that I can't find any decent textbooks for.

You wrote that it took you five months to reach the passive knowledge of 8000-10000 words in Greek. And you were able to read in Greek at that time. Is there a certain system you use to progress to that level? What texts do you choose? How do you learn the grammar (you taught yourself Romanian without any textbooks)?

I feel a little lost at this point. I will probably get a decent book on Japanese grammar soon, and I will have to use more wordlists. How and when do you review your wordlists? 10000 words (20000 words in Italian) are quite a few wordlists. Do you just review it once and hope that this will do it? Your description makes it sound like that.

Lots of questions. Hope that these questions don't bother you too much. If you have already answered these questions in these thread, I will have to read more carefully. Thanks your detailed posts in here, they're an inspiration to people like me that are still at the beginning of the road to the world of polyglottery.

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Iversen
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 Message 70 of 107
08 March 2009 at 7:17pm | IP Logged 
I have had a few requests to explain more about how to learn grammar, both morphology and syntax. I'll do it soon, but right now I'm sitting at a hotel computer with a weird keyboard and my free time is running out. Besides I want to look up some of my older comments so that I can give your the references. In a couple of days I'm back home, and then I will make a summary.

One error: I did not learn Romanian without a text book, for the simple reason that I first learnt it in a course at the university 40 years ago, and teachers almost always use text books (probably it was Teach Yourself, because I have got an old edition of TY Romanian on ny shelf). But I have relearnt the language later without using a text book. Quite generally I would use textbooks only as a source for ultra easy texts, not for learning grammar or vocabulary. There are other more efficient methods for that - but I have to leave the computer now ... I'll be back

-----------

hehe; I have sneaked back to that hotel computer to get a few more free minutes. I am going to write about learning grammar. I haven't had timt to check out my old posts, so I may be repeating myself (or worse: repeating myself). Besides I have to warn you: some people can't get my methods to work for them. No problem, provided that that you have an alternative.

First, if you want to learn grammar you have to be able to make at least a rough analysis of a sentence in its main parts (subject, direct and indirect object, verb, etc) and you have to know what nouns (substantives), finite and infinite verbal forms, cases and such things are. If you already know one foreign language then you have probably learnt the correct terms and analysis techniques there, otherwise you you have to learn these things from scratch with your own language as an example. But you HAVE to know at least the basic grammatical wordstock before you set out to learn a new language with the help of grammars, otherwise it will be a complete waste of your time. When you open the grammars for your new language then be prepared to add some terms and even revise your conceptions about other terms to suit the new language, but you have to start somewhere.

Next: try to get more than one grammar. If you can't get more than one full size grammar then even the short sketchy grammatical sections of travellers' language guides will be better than nothing. Your first task will be to look through the morphological sections and compare them. Do they agree on the terminology? The order of cases? The number of declensions? Do the divide the verbs into corresponding groups, and do they list the same verbal forms? Probably not, which may come as a nasty surprise to many learners.

Now look at the adjectives and the substantives. Do their endings in the different cases - if there are cases at all - look almost similar or not? Are there articles? Look at the verbs in the same way, - try to get a comprehensive view of the whole morphology in this way. Then leave the morphology aside and read the syntactical sections with the same critical attitude. Which kinds of subordinate sentences are there, and which constructions with infinite verbal forms do you find, which may or may not correspond to subordinate constructions and vice versa in the languages you already know. Remember, you are not supposed to learn any of these things by heart yet, just find out what there is to learn later.

Next step, - you have to learn something by heart, sorry. But don't do it without also having some texts to use at the same time. I say texts because I find it easier to read than to understand spoken words in the beginning, - if you have a teacher then by all means listen to him/her, but find some things to read also, - preferably bilingual texts. The internet may be a good source for parallel texts, or you can get some from text books or touristical guidebooks, but DO try to use bilingual texts in the beginning, it will spare you a lot of misunderstandings and a lot of half-understood constructions along the way. And most translations aren't so precise that they will do all the work for you - you will still have to look things up. If you can find hyperliteral translations then just be happy, but they are rare.

Among the first things to learn by heart would be the main forms of the most common verbs til 'to be' and 'to have', the personal pronouns and things like that. You will have to learn them by heart eventually so you can just as well start now. Do what most people do: read them aloud many times, write them, find them in your texts and identify the forms, make associations (if you can) and so forth. Do the same kind of forced slave labour with some of the forms of articles and substantives (you don't have to learn everything by heart now, but you should be aware of which forms you have left for later - unlike the way most text books work!).

But do one thing more: get some coloured paper and write all the main forms down on such paper for reference. You are now entering the next phase.

As you probably have noted your grammars aren't in total agreement. Maybe you can even spot some inconsistencies. Now think hard about a way to organize the forms of articles and adjectives and nouns on one sheet (maybe two), and all the verbal forms on another - and do it in a logical fashion. For instance all Germanic languages have strong and weak verbs (the first group basically change the verb through the tenses), so your tables should show that in some way - use colors or special signs or different kinds of dividing lines for such things. Don't put irregular forms into your tables for the regular forms, - if a set of endings is used only by two or three verbs then leave them for a list over irregular nouns or verbs or whatever - these tables aren't meant to contain everything, but only the basic things which you must learn soon.

The idea is that you keep these colored sheets whithin in sight whenever you work with the language - personally I use a note stand. If you see a form that bothers you (or you need it while writing) then look at your collection of coloured sheets. Making these sheets yourself makes you think about each single form, and looking at them daily for maybe a month will make them into something like an extension of your brain. Therefore it is also extremely important that you settle for a specific way of presenting the facts, because you then have the added possibility of remembering for instance a certain verbal form as a specific spot on a specific sheet (but only until you can remember the form without help, of course).

When I first wrote about my 'green sheets' almost everybody criticised that I only wrote the endings. But this criticism was misguided: by using whole example words you tie the tables to some irrelevant example words. However in practice you will almost always have a specific word in mind when you use these tables, so it doesn't matter that they only contain the endings. And with only the endings you can make the tables much more compact so that you ideally can fit the whole regular part of the morphology of any (friendly) language into maybe 4 or 5 sheets. Plus a number of sheets for pronouns and other more or less irregular adjectives, nouns and verbs.   

To learn syntax you can to some degree make 'green sheets', for instance for the verbal forms used in different kinds of subordinates. But most of the syntax has to be learnt using other methods. One of these is to first compare a few descriptions of some problem to find out what the main issues are, and then make your own collection of examples, using some from your grammars, some from your own texts - though you probably won't be able to illustrate everything without perusing hundreds of pages - don't spend your time on that, but just go through for instance ten pages. If the thing you are looking for is common then it is there, and otherwise it isn't common and then it is less important to know about it (!) But even looking for something without finding it will help you to remember what it should look like.

One little, but important warning: don't waste time on writing down the examples in their full length, but cut them down to the important part - and don't try to remember the examples you find as as full sentences, but cut them down to short mnemonic formulas such as "to do something to somebody" (with suitable dummy words).

Later on you should keep a notebook for funny syntactical items, not least those that you have been looking in vain for. This will keep you alert, and being alert is one of the most efficient things when it comes to learning languages. This also applies to idiomatic expressions, which is in a sense the continuation of syntax when it has become too individualized to put into a fixed structure.

That should be enough for now...
   

Edited by Iversen on 18 May 2009 at 11:55am

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Chung
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 Message 71 of 107
08 March 2009 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Annual report for 2008 + plans for 2009

Slavic languages:

So far only Russian. As I have written earlier I have spent more time learning Germanic languages and Latin in 2008 than Russian. It did however start out well, culminating in my visit to Minsk, Moscow and Vladimir/Suzdalj where I could perform some menial tasks in Russian (asking for things in shops, reading printed explanations and things like that). But after that I felt somewhat disappointed with my performance and with my skills, and I invested my time in other projects where my progress was more evident. But right now I'm so to say restudying the language, using my old print-outs from GLOSS. And this time I can almost read them from sight. The same seems to be the case for my (few) Russian books, including a small travelguide to Denmark which I bought for my last roubles in Sheremetjevo Dva last spring - though here I haven't got the translation as a control. I still have to laboriously construct my Russian sentences instead of just thinking them and then correcting the errors afterwards, but I'll try to do some prolonged listening sessions to kickstart the Russian section of my brain, - that should solve the problem.

After Russian I'm going to learn at least three, maybe four Slavic languages. I have already bought a dictionary and a grammar for Bulgarian, and I like the language, but it may be a problem to find something suitable to read and (even more) to listen to. I have also bought a big fat two-way Polish-German dictionary and a little thin grammar during my recent buying spree in Flensburg, and Polish literature is fairly easy to find here in Denmark. Long time ago I bought some small Serbo-Croatian (!) textbooks, but I would prefer to find something newer, - including decent dictionaries and grammars for both Croatian AND Serbian. And finally I ought to learn Czech (and Slovakian), but I'm lucky if I can get started in 2010 or 2011. I distinctly remember from my last visit to the Czech Republic that it was difficult to recognize for instance place names when I heard them, so the pronunciation of those two languages is going to be a major problem. I have not had the same problems with place names in other Slavic languages. But who am I to quibble about pronunciation problems? I'm Danish!


Hi Iversen,

I have a few comments about your plans for learning Slavonic languages.

For Serbo-Croatian you can try the books and CDs for BCS by Alexander and Elias-Bursac. They were published in 2006 and you should have no trouble using them. You'll also find that the similarities between the variants still overwhelm the differences, and most of the dialogues on the CDs include a lot of duplicated or even triplicated lines so as to accommodate the sociolinguistic view that Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian are separate languages.

After having read your mention about marking stress in Russian words, you could consider the Croatian-German/German-Croatian dictionary by Langenscheidt. The copy that I have marks the stress and vowel length of the words (neither of these is marked in standard orthography) and also gives hints about conjugational patterns for verbs or declensional patterns for irregular nouns. Unfortunately, this dictionary isn't the largest (it's presented as a "Taschenwörterbuch" and contains only 75,000 entries in total). In my experience the only large dictionary that has the foreign learner in mind is Morton Benson's English-Serbo-Croatian/Serbo-Croatian-English dictionary (2 volumes). It was published before the breakup of Yugoslavia and leans heavily toward what would now be marked as Serbian. However the Serbo-Croatian-English section does indicate stress and vowel length of its entries and provides also some information about verbal aspect and conjugation for each entry as appropriate. They're also printed in the Latin alphabet instead of Cyrillic. These patterns in phonology and grammar still apply in the educated BCS of today so Benson's dictionaries shouldn't be dismissed despite being about 20 years old and disparaged by the vocal circles of nationalistic linguists/editors in the Balkans today.

The Croatian successor to Benson's old large dictionary is by Zeljko Bujas and also comes in two large volumes. Its only noteworthy feature is that it's "modern" by expunging "Serbianisms" from the Croatian lexicon. It does not show vowel length, stress placement or hints about conjugational or declensional patterns of the Croatian entries. It's meant more for Croatian native-speakers who are interested in finding English equivalents and so they can do without Croatian grammatical or phonological information which they largely know subconsciously.

If you would like to get entire on-line copies of some classics in Polish literature for free (or browse before buying a hard copy of something that you would like), check out the virtual library of Polish literature which is partially backed by UNESCO.

http://univ.gda.pl/~literat/books.htm

I know little about Bulgarian resources, unfortunately and I refrained from making comments about Czech and Slovak as these latter two seem to be a relatively low priority for you.

Regards,
Chung
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 Message 72 of 107
09 March 2009 at 3:08am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
As I have written in the thread about ephiphany moments I think that they mostly occur for people who mainly are global learners, as opposed to mainly sequential learners. A sequential learner starts in one corner of the language and then adds new elements until more or less the whole thing is covered. This is the way you work when you use a text book and goes from chapter one to the last chapter in the prescribed order. A global learner takes little pieces from all over tyhe language and tries to make them fit. In the beginning this isn't possible, but when you accumulate enough of those isolated pieces you pass a threshold somewhere where things suddenly seem to snap into place.


Iversen, I like your comments on global learning. I definitely come under that category and it makes sense to me.

I am very interested in your approach to learning Russian. I began with "My First Russian Book" and it did not mark the stress. You learnt the stress from the recordings. Although the stress is marked in the vocabulary for each lesson at the back of the book.

I find the stress comes naturally to me with words I don't know in most cases. I think you get used to it but it is easy to make mistakes.

My epiphany moments have come in Russian where I suddenly realise I can understand or can say much more than I thought. It seems like it suddenly comes together.

I think I have had these moments with Russian especially because Russian has given me more trouble than any other language.


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