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Russian and Greek, TAC2014

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Senior Member
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991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 1 of 99
11 December 2012 at 4:19pm | IP Logged 
Edit: For my 2014 entries please see page 10 onwards. I have decided to continue with my log from last year in 2014 as well.

So I have signed up to TAC 2013 on an individual basis, and although we are still in 2012 I have decided to create this log now and make a first brief outline of what my plans are for the challenge. As this is the first time I participate in TAC, I welcome any suggestions and advice. I will of course follow the logs of the two Russian teams as well, but decided against joining a team as I cannot promise to commit myself too much. Time will show if I succeed next year, and then I might join a team in 2014.

In addition to Russian, I also include Greek in this challenge. My main focus will be on Russian, but adding Greek will hopefully be an incentive for me to get serious about learning this language as well.
I will evaluate my progress on the basis of CEFR in the four basic skills: listening, reading, speaking and writing.

So what have I done and where am I with regard to Russian and Greek:

I decided to learn Russian (again, I did some Russian back in the 80’s) about a year ago, but did not really get serious about it until last summer. I blew the dust of my old Linguaphone course from the 70’s and bought Colloquial Russian and Assimil Le Russe. This has been my progress so far in 2012:
Linguaphone: Up to lesson 16. Unfortunately the cassette tape for lessons 1-10 had not survived, so could not use the audio for the first chapters. Focus on vocabulary and grammar.
Colloquial Russian: Been through the whole book, and worked a lot on vocabulary from this course.
Assimil: I use this mostly for listening and shadowing , and for vocabulary learning, as the approach is quite different to Colloquial and Linguaphone. Is about halfway through.
Other resources: Not much, and nothing organised. Youtube clips, some Russian radio and TV, and Russian internet sites.

Current level:
Reading – A2 more or less.
Listening – close to A2.
Speaking – A1.
Writing – A1+.

So my goal for next year is to improve all over. I aim at reaching B2 in the passive skills and B1 as regards speaking and writing skills.

Much less to say about Greek I’m afraid. I am at level A0 for the time being.

At university (way back) I did Classical Greek, and although modern Greek is a different story, at least I know the Greek alphabet. Early this autumn I got hold of Langenscheidt’s “Griechisch mit System”, and I have been through the first two lessons. However, due to lack of time I decided to put it on hold and work on securing a better base in Russian before getting really serious about Greek.

In 2013 my aim is at least to go through the Langenscheidt course, and then it will depend on my experience with this course (and time available) whether I add other resources to my learning Greek.

I guess the next post will have to wait until after 1.1.2013. In the meantime, I will have a week’s holiday in cold and dark Norway, where I should have plenty of time to dedicate to language studies.

Edit: I have modified the title, as I have joined the Sparta Team for Greek. Link to team thread.

Edited by Ogrim on 07 January 2014 at 4:15pm

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Senior Member
Joined 3486 days ago

991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 2 of 99
20 December 2012 at 5:37pm | IP Logged 
I know I said I would write the second post in 2013, but then I visited Iversen’s log today and got inspired by his end-of-the-year review of his languages, so I decided to copy his idea and make a summary as well. Main reason for doing so is to stop for a moment and take stock of where I am with my languages.

Norwegian: My mother tongue, although I use it much less than some of my other languages. I do speak it every day to my children (although they do not necessarily reply in Norwegian), I try to read Norwegian literature and Norwegian internet news regularly and I do phone family in Norway more or less every week. However, for the last 15 years or so I have written very little in Norwegian, been mostly e-mails and SMS messages. Goals for 2013: Nothing really, it is still there.

English: Without doubt my strongest language. I work mostly in English, I’d say up to 70% of everything I write is in English, I speak a lot of English at work and I read English all the time. No real need to study it, but there are always new words and expressions to learn. Goals for 2013: Keep it at its current level.

French: Has become a strong language since I now live in France. My second working language, I speak French a lot, both at work and outside of work. 20% to 30% of everything I write is in French. However, to write really well in French is complicated, the French are demanding when it comes to style, so I do have things to learn there. Goals for 2013: Get better at writing formal texts in French.

Spanish: My third really strong language (or fourth, if mother tongue is included). It was my main subject at university, my wife is Spanish and I have spent much time in Spain. I speak Spanish every day at home, I read a lot and I listen to Spanish TV and radio. I should probably practise writing it a bit more than I do, just to keep my fluency in writing up to speed. Goals for 2013: Keep it up at its current level.

German: Not at the same level as the previous ones. However, as I now live very close to the German-French border, I decided three years ago to do an effort to improve it. In 2012 I have done a lot of reading in German, novels, newspapers and magazines, I listen to German radio on a regular basis and I watch TV in German from time to time. As I visit the country almost every week, I also have had good opportunities to practise my speaking skills. Goals for 2013: Improve my speaking skills, try to find some time occasionally to practise writing. I will continue to read extensively in German, my Kindle is packed with unread German books I look forward to reading.

Italian: A language I have somewhat neglected the last few years. In 2012 I have not used it much. On occasions I read in Italian, but it has not been a regular activity, and my active skills have certainly suffered. Goals for 2013: Try to refresh it a bit, but I cannot find time in my schedule for actively studying it.

Catalan: I learnt Catalan in a passive way back at university, and thanks to my knowledge of other Romance languages I have a good passive knowledge of it. This year I have read two books in Catalan, I read news in Catalan on internet and I listen to radio (Catalunya Informaciò) from time to time. Goals for 2013: Continue as in 2012, reading it from time to time and listening to news.

Russian and Greek: I will not repeat what I already posted in the first thread, maybe just add that at the outset I wanted to spend a lot more time on Russian than on Greek, but having joined the enthusiastic people at Team Sparta, I am “afraid” that Greek might become a serious contender for my time. Oh well, just need to extend the day to 25 hours, problem solved...

Other languages: I do have some knowledge at different levels (from very basic knowledge to good passive skills) of Portuguese, Romansh, Romanian and Dutch. No plans right now to work on any of them. Of languages I do not know, but that are on my wish list, I should mention Serbian (or Croatian). However, I do not want to embark on another Slavic language before having a solid ground in Russian.

Overall goal for 2013: Find more time for language learning.

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Solfrid Cristin
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
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 Message 3 of 99
20 December 2012 at 6:43pm | IP Logged 
I am so with you on the extending the day to 25 hours. With the exception of Catalan we seem to share every other language - it is almost scary :-)You do have some competitive advantages between living in France and having a Spanish wife, but that's fine. I am very happy that I managed to convince you to become a part of Team Sparta which is really starting to look like a nifty little team, but since I am also on team MIR, I am like you, planning to spend most of my time on Russian. So needless to say - this is a log I intend to follow very closely.

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Senior Member
Joined 3486 days ago

991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 4 of 99
20 December 2012 at 7:27pm | IP Logged 
Hi Cristina. You may call it competitive advantages, but I am not a very competitive person. Life is full of conincidences and things happen by chance. When I was 20-something, I wanted to become a university professor of Spanish in Oslo, instead I've become a eurocrat in France. Guess I am just lucky to be in a truly multilingual environment.

I'll also follow your log closely, and I look forward to us working together in Team Sparta.
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Senior Member
United Kingdom
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 Message 5 of 99
01 January 2013 at 10:14am | IP Logged 
Hi Ogrim,

Happy New Year! It is time, then, to start our language studies in earnest! Good luck with the Challenge and I look forward to working with you this year over at Team Sparta! In terms of Modern Greek I am probably at about the same level as you according to your (somewhat amusing) self-evaluation of A0, but I have also studied Ancient Greek (Attic) so if you've got any questions about similarities between the two, I may be able to help, but no promises :)

Good luck!
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United States
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Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Russian, Greek, Latin, French

 Message 6 of 99
02 January 2013 at 3:17am | IP Logged 
Hi, Ogrim! I'm also on Team Sparta, and I'm working on learning Russian, so I look forward to seeing your progress!
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Senior Member
Joined 3486 days ago

991 posts - 1896 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, English, Spanish, French, Romansh, German, Italian
Studies: Russian, Catalan, Latin, Greek, Romanian

 Message 7 of 99
02 January 2013 at 3:06pm | IP Logged 
Hi LanguageSponge and ancpem, thanks for your greetings.

New year, new possibilities.

The Christmas holidays did not turn out exactly as I had hoped, and I was not able to study much over the last couple of weeks. However, now I am eager to get going.
In this post I’ll concentrate on Greek. I have been able to complete three lessons of Assimil Le Grec and started on the fourth. I have also repeated the first two lessons of Langenscheidt. I thought it might be useful to compare the two courses, as their approach is very different, but they still claim to take you to B1 level. Then I have a few observations on what I find easy/difficult so far.

Maybe I should say that I have never been a great fan of Assimil. I do not think it is bad, on the contrary, but the way my mind works, I prefer the more analytical, “classical” approach to learning. Also, I have never really got into the method of the passive/active wave. However, I did find Assimil quite useful as a supplement to my other Russian learning material, so I am hoping that this will be the case for Greek as well. Furthermore, in Team Sparta it was agreed to use Assimil as the common course. I totally agree with the approach, I think it is necessary to have a common reference, at least for those of us who are beginners.

So, here is a short evaluation of Assimil vs. Langenscheidt Greek courses as I see it so far:

ASSIMIL – Le nouveau Grec sans peine, 2nd edition, copyright 1996 (book, 4 audio CDs, 1 mp3 CD).

A detail perhaps, but the size is very handy. The book fits in the pocket of my coat, so I can easily carry it around (and get strange looks from people when I pick it up to read while queuing at the supermarket).

The content: As usual, Assimil lessons are relatively short, so it is easy to structure your learning and measure the time you need to master each lesson. I guess I spent around 20 minutes on the first lesson, 30 minutes on the second and a good 40 minutes on the third. Although texts are short, important vocabulary is frequently repeated, which is a good way of getting words to stick in the memory. There are a total of 92 lessons, so if I manage to do two lessons a week, I should be able to finish the course by the end of the year.

Now for the negative points: The texts seem rather dull (e.g. compared to the Russian Assimil course) and there is no “story line”. Maybe it is daft, but I kind of like courses where you follow one or more persons throughout the lessons.

Furthermore, at the end of each text, which usually is a dialogue, they list things I would have expected to find in a grammar table (like verb conjugations or personal pronouns). Admittedly there is a grammar appendix at the end of the book, but I do not find it very user-friendly. Finally, I have never felt truly comfortable with the “layout” of the Assimil texts, I find the pages a bit too cluttered, with the Greek text on the left page, right under it the “pronunciation” indicated in Latin script, the French translation on the right page and the notes running over both pages at the bottom.

The audio: Lot of listening material, which is a good thing, you can listen to all texts and dialogues, and there are lot of exercises as well. I do think that they speak waaaaaay too slow in the first couple of lessons, but that will probably get better as I move on.

LANGENSCHEIDT – Griechisch mit System, copyright 2012 (book, exercise book, 3 audio CDs)

The structure of this course is very different from Assimil. The book consists of 15 lessons, divided in different sections. Each lesson starts with some text – the first lesson for example starts with a few SMS messages in Greek, with translation into German on the same page. The next section sets out the most important grammar points. After that there is a dialogue, which is the main part of the lesson. (There is a translation into German of the dialogues at the end of the book.) Then there is a vocabulary list, and then a section which explains the grammar in detail. There is also a small part introducing expressions and useful phrases. The lesson closes with a number of exercises.

I guess the structure of this course can feel a bit overwhelming when you are a complete beginner learning on your own. A lot of new vocabulary is introduced in each lesson, and several points of grammar are also introduced fully from the start. On the other hand, everything is clearly spelt out, the vocabulary list in each chapter is handy, and if you work systematically, as the course title tells you to, you should not be left with unanswered questions once you have completed a lesson. I also find the layout quite nice. In addition, learning through German is not a bad thing, as there are at least some similarities between the two languages (like three genders, a case system etc).

The audio: Here they speak very fast! Actually, each dialogue is recorded twice, first at normal native speed, and then somewhat slower (but not very slow) with pauses between the sentences. The first time I listened to the normal-speed recording of the first lesson, I hardly got a word of what they said. This can be discouraging, you may think you will never be able to understand the real thing, but again, it forces you to concentrate and listen actively. I’ve been going back and forth between the fast and the slower versions of lesson one, and find that I am slowly getting used to the native speed.

If it takes between 30 minutes and an hour to complete a lesson in Assimil, I think you need several hours for one lesson in Langenscheidt, especially if you want to do all the exercises and be sure you master both grammar and vocabulary before moving on.
All in all, I have a slight preference for Langenscheidt, and can recommend it to those who read German, if they like a very structured and logical approach.

Finally, a few words on my experience with Greek so far. On a positive note, I realise that the phonetics has a lot in common with Spanish, which is an advantage for me. So far I also find that the structure of the language is not too complicated (I guess it will become more so later on), and a lot of the vocabulary is familiar thanks to Greek loan words in other languages and to what little is still left of the ancient Greek I learned a long time ago.

The difficult bits: I really must make an effort to pronounce μπ and ντ correctly. There are many Greek loan words in other languages with these combinations, but they have been taken over with the ancient pronunciation, thus sympathique in French and anti-whatever in English. Secondly, my brain is not yet used to the fact that yes in Greek is ναι. It is just too close to the no/non/nei-words. Thirdly, I sometimes slip into Classical Greek mode and pronounce υ, ι and η as different sounds – this has happened when reading out a new word for the first time.

I now need to sit down and work out my study plan for the next few weeks. I am discovering that I am doing less Russian than I had intially planned, Greek is becoming really interesting! However, I am determined to keep Russian a priority.

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 Message 8 of 99
02 January 2013 at 7:25pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for this review, Ogrim. Although I had never used Assimil before starting Greek my
feelings about this course are very similar to yours. It has very boring dialogues and
strange grammar notes. But it sounds like Langenscheidt might be a good compliment to the

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