Soffía's Icelandic and French log

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Soffía
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Soffía's Icelandic and French log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:06 pm

Books read in 2015
1. Jón Gnarr, "Indjáninn" (221 pages)
2. Karen Young, "Barn breytir öllu" (167 pages)
3. Jessica Matthews, "Hjartagosinn" (175 pages)
4. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, "Litli prinsinn" (91 pages)
5. Jón Gnarr, "Sjóræninginn" (266 pages)
6. Karen Templeton, "Læknir af lífi og sál" (175 pages)
7. Einar Már Guðmundsson, "Englar alheimsins" (224 pages)
8. Josie Metcalfe, "Allt fyrir börnin" (172 pages)
Total pages: 1491

Books read in 2016 (* = re-read)
1. Bryndís Björgvinsdóttir, "Hafnfirðingabrandarinn" (432 pages)
2. Kathryn Ross, "Himnasendingin" (164 pages)
3. Caroline Anderson, "Fullkomin gjöf" (175 pages)
4. JK Rowling, "Harry Potter og fanginn fra Azkaban" (301 pages)
5. Lewis Carroll, "Ævintýri Lísu í Undralandi" (128 pages)
6. Jón Gnarr, "Útlaginn" (384 pages)
7. Andri Snær Magnason, "Tímakistan" (300 pages)
8. Jón Gnarr, "Sjóræninginn" (266 pages) *
9. Andri Snær Magnason, "Draumalandið" (259 pages)
10. JRR Tolkien, "Hobbitinn" (327 pages)
11. Hlynur Níels Grímsson, "Krabbaveislan" (227 pages)
12. Einar Már Guðmundsson, "Bítlaávarpið" (254 pages)
13. Einar Már Guðmundsson, "Íslenskir kóngar" (252 pages)
Total pages: 3469
Last edited by Soffía on Sun Nov 13, 2016 6:30 pm, edited 29 times in total.
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Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:07 pm

June 2012

The story so far...

I'm a thirty-year-old monoglot, born and raised in the US but currently living and working in the UK. As a
teenager I wasn't really interested in learning another language, and subsequently it's always been a "maybe
someday" thing for me. Or it was until recently.

I've visited Iceland three times in the past two years, and fell in love with the landscape and the culture and the
sound of the language. I would love to be able to read the sagas and Halldór Laxness in the original, so... I
decided to learn Icelandic. I've had my moments of thinking that this is over-ambitious and (perhaps) under-
useful, but it seems to be the language that I'm excited about learning, so I've chosen to follow my passion.

I started doing a bit of casual studying last December, but although I was in Reykjavik for a short visit in January,
I didn't really have the courage to try out any words. (I was traveling with friends so I think this made a
difference.) My committed studying started at the end of this April, if I recall correctly.

I began with Alaric Hall's free mp3 course, which seems to me an extremely good introduction to the language.
(It might be too basic for experienced language learners, but given that I started with no knowledge of
grammatical terms, in English or otherwise, I needed a little handholding.) Since then I've been working on and
off with Icelandic Online, and have gone through the first two courses, but I don't get on with their approach very
well, so I've been doing more independent work. I have 900 words in my Anki deck so far.

My current medium-term goal is to prepare for the summer course that I'll be taking this August: "Icelandic in
One Week" with the University Centre of the Westfjords in Ísafjörður. It's a beginner's course but I'm sure that
knowing more will help me to get more out of it.

There's a lot to say, but I'll leave it here for now. Tomorrow I want to talk more about the texts/sources that I've
used and how it's all been going...
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Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:08 pm

June 2012

Difficulties:

1) It's starting to dawn on me that I've chosen a language where there really isn't much material available.
Dictionaries are certainly a bit scarce and I look with envy at specialised texts like "501 French Verbs." I've been
reading about the Listening-Reading technique but it's proving difficult for me to find suitable long texts. I have
a copy of Laxness's "Independent People" which I optimistically bought in Reykjavik in January, and you would
think that there would be audiobooks of Laxness available, but they're not so easy to track down.

hlusta.is looks very interesting (audiobooks by subscription) but you have to have a kennitala (national ID
number) to sign up. This seems to be the case for a lot of Icelandic websites and is deeply annoying.

Right now I'm thinking of getting Njal's Saga from Eymundsson, since it's available as mp3 audio, and the text is
easy to find. Modern spelling, modern pronunciation, no problem. But the language itself will be just a bit
archaic!!

2) Right now I have to trade off between immersion and comprehension. I don't seem to be able to study for just
ten minutes or half an hour: once I get started, I want to go on for hours. I want to stay in Icelandic; I want to do
everything that I can in Icelandic. It feels actively weird to go back to English But I can't do very much in Icelandic!
I can only write the simplest sentences and I can't read or listen to ordinary texts with anything in the way of
comprehension. So it's all a bit... bare. I'm listening to Icelandic radio as I'm writing this, and I think I'm getting
something from it, but at the same time I can't help but feel that I'm diluting the experience by functioning
primarily in English. Obviously this difficulty will lessen as time goes on... but it might take a while...

Joys:

1) Thanks to this forum I've discovered Viltu læra íslensku?. It's perfect! With the Icelandic subtitles it's just
about at the right level for me. (Without subtitles I'm not sure that I would be able to follow it, but that's something I can try once I've been through the course once.) It amazes me how involved I can get in the little stories of visiting the bank or buying bus tickets, even though I would be instantly bored if I were watching it in English. Maybe this is part of what "learning like a child" is about? There's something very pure about the joy of simple comprehension and communication.

2) For a while now I've been listening to Rás 2 online, but I've just switched over to Útvarp Saga (motto: "Þú verður
að hlusta"), which I'm finding much more suitable. It's almost all talk and they have lots of call-ins so that I get
the chance to hear lots of different people's speech patterns. I catch words here and there, and that's about it,
but the incomprehensible words are finally starting to separate themselves in my mind.

3) I do find nonsense-Icelandic running through my head when I go to sleep. I do find myself coming up with
short, descriptive sentences when I'm doing things around the house. I even had a dream where I was looking at
a list of Icelandic words, and I only realised when I woke up that they were in Icelandic. So I think something may
be sinking in. We'll see.
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Assimil French passive wave: 3 / 113

Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:09 pm

June 2012

My work has been slow today (I'm a semi-freelancer) so I've had plenty of time to devote to my studies. I'm
feeling a bit unfocused at the moment, possibly because this forum is giving me so many good ideas, but at this
stage I don't think there's anything wrong with trying out various approaches and seeing what seems to stick.

I felt like absorbing some actual content in Icelandic, so on the recommendation of the inestimable Alaric
Hall, I decided to watch "Astropia":

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j72vf3vK3Zc

As he admits, it's not a great movie, but it's 1) in Icelandic, 2) has English subtitles, 3) is on YouTube, and 4) is
entirely watchable and rather funny. That's all I ask! Having the English definitely helped me to listen better. I
hope to watch it a couple more times and then perhaps try arranging the window so that I can't see the subtitles.

(Interesting note: there are a *lot* of English phrases in the film. It's interesting to see just how easily the
characters switch back and forth. Entirely typical of Reykjavik, in my limited experience.)

Today's episode of "Viltu læra íslensku?" was about going ice skating. The last episode was (naturally!) about
visiting the swimming pool. You can definitely learn something about the culture and favorite pursuits of a nation
by how eager they are to teach immigrants the words for "sauna" and "jacuzzi." Not that I object to knowing
them!

Today I also tried recording myself reading a dialogue from "Colloquial Icelandic." Oh dear. Embarrassing. The
voices in my head are clearly much more fluent than my tongue is, though there were a couple of moments
where I think I managed that distinctively Icelandic lilt. There's definitely some shadowing in the future for me, as
well as more recording and listening, but I think gaining more verbal agility is just a matter of practice.

Finally, I've noticed that there's an Icelandic-and-Finnish Meetup group that has monthly events in London:

"We meet on the third Tuesday of each month to chat in English, Norwegian, Finnish, Icelandic or whatever
Scandinavian language we find easiest. We range in ability from complete beginner to native Scandinavian."

If I get up the courage I may go along!
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Assimil French passive wave: 3 / 113

Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:10 pm

June 2012

Not so much to report over the past few days. I've been keeping up with my Anki reviews and watching a bit of
"Viltu laera islensku?" The show is an odd mix in terms of subject matter, as it's obviously partly intended for the
practical concerns of immigrants to the country. I just watched an episode about seeking and finding
employment in a fishmongers'. There was a lot of vocabulary in there that I doubt I will ever use! But I suppose
it's all grist for the mill.

One difficulty that I've been facing is the need to divide my time between English and Icelandic. I know, English is
my native language and I'm not studying it in any sense. But I'm a keen writer and when I'm working on a short
story, as I am now, I find that I immerse myself in the rhythms and patterns of the language as much as I do
when I'm trying to study Icelandic. There is a tradeoff there. I feel that I go down to 98% of my usual English
fluency when I'm fully involved in my efforts to gain (say) a 2% fluency in Icelandic. You might say that this isn't
much of a sacrifice, and it's barely noticeable in my day-to-day life, but I can definitely notice it when I'm trying
to function at the very top of my English proficiency. Maybe once I finish this story I'll set my writing aside for a
while.

Oh, to be fluent enough to be able to write fiction in Icelandic!

Khazumoto at AJATT suggests putting sentences and phrases into your SRS as well as words, and this seems like a
great idea to me. Luckily my Icelandic dictionary offers all sorts of example phrases, many of which you would not
be able to understand purely from the words in them, so this seems like a good place to start. I'm attacking key
words like "setja" and "fara," the latter of which I got thirty phrases from!

I tried having a separate deck of phrases but I found it too complicated, so I'm just mixing them in with my words.
Hopefully this won't cause problems later on... I should probably be tagging them or something, so that I can
continue to say "I know X words" rather than "I know X small chunks of language." Or maybe it doesn't matter?
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Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:10 pm

June 2012

Negatives:

The short phrases didn't work so well. There are so many different ways of using "fara" in a sentence. Who would
guess that "fara með sig" means "do oneself in"? Perhaps it was an error adding all of those phrases to Anki at
once, but I found them even harder to remember than individual words. It was just frustrating me so I ended up
deleting most of them. Maybe I'll revisit this as a concept when I'm more advanced.

Positives:

I've been watching RÚV online! My mother pointed out that it's easier to follow television than radio and she was,
of course, absolutely right. There aren't as many programmes available as I would like but there's certainly
enough to get started with.

My favorite so far is "Gulli builds." It's fun to see inside Icelandic homes and so much of it is visual that you can
guess what they're discussing even if you can't follow the words. And it's helped me cement at least one word
firmly in my memory. For some reason I'd had a mental block about "framkvæma" (to carry out) and had actually
deleted it from Anki when suddenly there was a segment about Gulli having to get planning permission for a new
project! The caption was "umsókn um framkvæmdaleyfi" ("application for feasibility"? "application for
development"?) and the poor fellow had to go back about six times, so now whenever the word comes up in Anki
I'll be able to visualise Gulli standing unhappily outside an office in central Reykjavik.

I also watched a British documentary with Icelandic subtitles, which I found surprisingly helpful as a lesson in
how to go from English to Icelandic. I didn't have to concentrate on the English audio, but read the subtitles
carefully, pronouncing them in my head. I had lots of moments of "oh, that's how you phrase that in Icelandic!"
Plus it had the additional benefit of my actually being able to understand what was being said. I can imagine that
some people might just end up watching the show and not registering the subtitles much but I'm really a reader
so they were squarely in the centre of my attention.

My project right now is listening/watching for dative forms...
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4000 Icelandic pages in 2016: 3469 / 4000
Assimil French passive wave: 3 / 113

Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:11 pm

May 2015

Well, I'm still here and still studying Icelandic. By the standards of HTLAL I'm neither particularly diligent nor
particularly talented when it comes to language learning, I think, but everyone has to be mediocre at
something or other. I must be getting something out of it or I wouldn't be carrying on!

Back in the summer of 2012 I went to the Westfjords for the one-week class in beginning Icelandic. Thanks to
Alaric Hall's MP3 course, with a side of Icelandic Online, I was definitely not a true beginner. I found the
content of the class a bit basic - there were other non-beginners on it, but sadly it wasn't quite big enough to
make two groups. What really improved for me was my pronunciation. By the end of the week I could make
myself intelligible to Icelanders, whereas at the beginning I really hadn't been able to.

Last summer, 2014, I went back for the two-week intermediate course. At the beginning I was really afraid that
it would be way beyond me. There were people on the course who lived in Iceland, or were studying Icelandic
at university. My ability to *speak* Icelandic was near the bottom of the class, but my reading comprehension
was right on par, I think. There wasn't as much opportunity for conversational practice as I'd hoped but the
class was taught 80-90% in Icelandic, so what really improved for me this time was my comprehension.

Since the beginning of this year I've been trying to do more reading. The first book I finished in Icelandic is
"Indjáninn" by Jón Gnarr, which has fairly simple language and short sentences, but is nonetheless a good
read. After that I read the translation of a Harlequin romance that I picked up on a whim. Also a good choice -
the vocabulary is not that large and yet there's a fair amount of incident in the book. (It's also *awful* but
that's by the by.) I intend to pick up some more romances when next in the country.

At the moment I'm trying to read "The Little Prince" in Icelandic but it's actually *not* a particularly easy read,
despite being short and illustrated!

In August I'm going back to the Westfjords a third time to take a one-week course in Icelandic Reading and
Vocabulary. Seemed to make sense to focus on what I spend most of my time doing! I'll be happy with my
abilities in Icelandic if I can read proper novels, and it does seem as if this is an achievable goal.

My very rough assessment of my own abilities is that my reading level is a solid B1. Comprehension
somewhere between A2 and B1. My speaking ability is probably stuck at A1. Too much of a perfectionist; I
just freeze up. Ah well.

My most recent resource discovery is http://www.ordabok.is

It does require a subscription to make proper use of it, but the prices are very reasonable and it seems
extremely complete by Icelandic-English dictionary standards. I've found it really useful while reading.

Anyway, that's by way of a very brief update but I'm hoping that blogging about what I'm reading might help
to keep me honest. I was tempted to join the Super Challenge but I think I'm too late for that! I could probably
manage a quarter challenge by the end of the year. Something to aim for...
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4000 Icelandic pages in 2016: 3469 / 4000
Assimil French passive wave: 3 / 113

Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sat Aug 22, 2015 6:11 pm

August 2015

I'm back from Iceland with fresh motivation and enthusiasm. Somehow my listening comprehension
improved significantly over the past year despite the fact that I didn't do much listening. I don't know; I'm not
complaining.

I'm also back with fourteen new books and two audiobooks. To be fair, eight of the books are translated Mills
& Boon romances, but these are actually really good beginning readers - they're short, the plots are
predictable, the language is simple, they're full of incident... but they're light and cheap. I got them as library
discards at the grand price of 50 kronur each. I don't know why more people don't use romances as beginning
readers! It will have taken me just under a week to finish the first one.

The other buy I'm really excited about is "Englar Alheimsins," which I've already read in English. The language
is fairly simple and the chapters are short, but even I can tell that the style is much better than the romances! I
also have the audiobook, read by the author, and he reads very slowly and deliberately. Really looking forward
to this and I expect I'll get a lot out of it. (Having just glanced at the first chapter of the book, I listened to that
section of the audiobook hours later and found I could just about follow it - hurrah.)

In the course of my Icelandic studies to date I've read about 500 pages. (Not counting newspapers etc.) Now
that I have my stack of books I think I'll aim to hit 2500 pages by the end of the year, which seems eminently
achievable. I'm a voracious reader in English so why not play to my strengths? I feel like I've finally got a
foothold on Icelandic literacy and I'm eager to see where I can get with a bit of practice. Extensive reading,
here we come...
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby emk » Sun Aug 23, 2015 3:24 am

I'm really enjoying your log! I've always been secretly fond of Icelandic, but I don't visit Iceland nearly as often as I'd like, and the easily available resources do not play to my personal strengths.

Soffía wrote:The short phrases didn't work so well. There are so many different ways of using "fara" in a sentence. Who would
guess that "fara með sig" means "do oneself in"? Perhaps it was an error adding all of those phrases to Anki at
once, but I found them even harder to remember than individual words.

OK, let's see if we can make a ridiculously easy phrase card. :-) First rule: No typing! Only copy and paste allowed. Second rule: There's no such thing as too easy. (But there's still such as thing as too boring.)

Let's choose a bit from a saga (Icelandic and English from here). For the sake of argument, pretend this is at least semi-comprehensible modern Icelandic:

FRONT:

Mörður hét maður er kallaður var gígja. [...] var sonur Sighvats hins rauða. [...] bjó á Velli á Rangárvöllum. [...] var ríkur höfðingi og málafylgjumaður mikill og svo mikill lögmaður að engir þóttu löglegir dómar dæmdir nema [...] væri við. [...] átti dóttur eina er Unnur hét. Hún var væn kona og kurteis og vel að sér og þótti sá bestur kostur á Rangárvöllum.

There was a man named Mord whose surname was Fiddle; he was the son of Sigvat the Red, and he dwelt at the "Vale" in the Rangrivervales. He was a mighty chief, and a great taker up of suits, and so great a lawyer that no judgments were thought lawful unless he had a hand in them. He had an only daughter, named Unna. She was a fair, courteous and gifted woman, and that was thought the best match in all the Rangrivervales.

BACK:

Mörður hét maður er kallaður var gígja. Hann var sonur Sighvats hins rauða. Hann bjó á Velli á Rangárvöllum. Hann var ríkur höfðingi og málafylgjumaður mikill og svo mikill lögmaður að engir þóttu löglegir dómar dæmdir nema hann væri við. Hann átti dóttur eina er Unnur hét. Hún var væn kona og kurteis og vel að sér og þótti sá bestur kostur á Rangárvöllum.

There was a man named Mord whose surname was Fiddle; he was the son of Sigvat the Red, and he dwelt at the "Vale" in the Rangrivervales. He was a mighty chief, and a great taker up of suits, and so great a lawyer that no judgments were thought lawful unless he had a hand in them. He had an only daughter, named Unna. She was a fair, courteous and gifted woman, and that was thought the best match in all the Rangrivervales.

In other words, you only need to fill in one tiny fragment, the word for "he." If you get that one word right, pass the card, and you're done. Any further reading is an optional bonus. Notice how easy this card is: Both the Icelandic context and a full English translation appear on the front of the card, at least at the beginner level. And I didn't type anything.

Using Anki's cloze feature, you could make several cards from this same text, each hiding just a single word. If you wanted to learn a common three-word phrase, you might make three different cards, each clozing a single word.

For more about this card format, see the rather vague MCD articles on the AJATT site.

Soffía wrote: I catch words here and there, and that's about it,
but the incomprehensible words are finally starting to separate themselves in my mind.

Just a word of warning: I find that incomprehensible audio is great for familiarizing myself with sound and rhythm, but if I want to work on comprehension, I find it nearly useless. I've never found a magic way to turn a wall of incomprehensible babble into decent listening skills. :-( Krashen once wrote, "We acquire language when we understand messages," and at least for comprehension, I personally find this to be true. So if you can, it might be worth looking for easier sources of audio where you can puzzle a lot more out. At least for some people, that leads to much faster progress.

The rest of your progress sounds impressive!
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Soffía
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Re: Soffía's Icelandic log

Postby Soffía » Sun Aug 23, 2015 8:45 am

emk wrote:I'm really enjoying your log! I've always been secretly fond of Icelandic, but I don't visit Iceland nearly as often as I'd like, and the easily available resources do not play to my personal strengths.


Thanks! I've fallen in love with the language as well as the country. Glad to know you're finding it interesting even though you're not studying the language yourself. There aren't too many easily available resources in Icelandic, but I've found there are enough. Actually, knowing myself, the obscurity probably actually adds to the interest.

For the sake of argument, pretend this is at least semi-comprehensible modern Icelandic....


The beauty is - it is comprehensible! If you learn modern Icelandic you get Old Norse as a package deal, at least if you read it in modernised spelling, as the Icelanders do. I read a very short saga on my Icelandic course last summer (with a good deal of help with culture-specific glosses) and it was all so cool.

Using Anki's cloze feature, you could make several cards from this same text, each hiding just a single word. If you wanted to learn a common three-word phrase, you might make three different cards, each clozing a single word.


I think I hadn't heard of close deletion when I was starting out (I copied old posts from HTLAL, so you're getting the history of my progress all at once, as it were). That would have been a lot more useful than what I was doing! Having said that I don't seem to have much patience with flashcards generally. I did Anki for a while (I seem to have 1600 cards) and then I used a "First 10,000 Icelandic Words" deck from Memrise, but sticking with them hasn't been one of my strength. I do intend to go back to Memrise one of these days but numbers and points don't motivate me greatly, alas.

Just a word of warning: I find that incomprehensible audio is great for familiarizing myself with sound and rhythm, but if I want to work on comprehension, I find it nearly useless.


Very true. I think I needed a lot of familiarisation with the sound of Icelandic when I was starting out - compared to more commonly-heard languages like French or German (to say nothing of English), it sounded like so much babble. At the same time I was also listening to dialogues from Icelandic Online (with text) and watching Viltu læra íslensku with subtitles, so those probably helped me much more.

At this point, Icelandic news on the radio has finally reached that point of being useful i+1 input for me. But I must remember to make time for listening, and not lose the gains in comprehension that I made while in Iceland. Again, listening isn't really my thing: I never, never listen to podcasts or audiobooks in English, I just don't take in information that way. So listening regularly in Icelandic will be a bit of a task, but well worth doing alongside my reading.
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