Page 1 of 6

Learning by reading

Posted: Sun Sep 20, 2020 8:08 pm
by Nogon
Last Sunday, I decided to cancel my upcoming monthlong trip to Germany, and found myself heading towards 5 weeks free from work and without any travelling plans. So what to do with all that free time? I decided to dedicate it to languages, what else?

So early on Monday morning, before breakfast, I re-started Assimils "Polnisch ohne Mühe". I had tried to learn Polish a year and a half ago, but gave up about 4 weeks later, frustrated by my disability to learn the Polish vocabulary. Later that year I did some Clozemaster, but put no serious effort in that. So that morning, I did lesson one, and liked it (again).

After breakfast, I wondered what to do. Another lesson of Polish? No, one lesson per day is enough, I decided, while looking at Assimils "Yiddish with ease" which had been tempting me far too long, and now I couldn't resist any longer.
Yeah, I know that it's not a good idea to start two new (more or less new) languages simultanously! It won't be effective, wouldn't it? But why should I care about efficiency regarding my hobby? I want to enjoy my free time, not win a medal! So Yiddish it is. I actually dabbled a bit in Yiddish these last 5 years or so. From time to time I borrowed a Yiddish children's book and slowly made my way through it, with the help of my native language (German) and a dictionary. I very much like the sound of it, and I'd love to be able to fluently read books and listen to audiobooks in Yiddish.

Next stop French. Seven or eight years ago I took some classes, loved them, as the teacher was great, and reached about A2. Unfortunately, the classes didn't continue, and I slowly forgot my French. Last year, after the Polish debacle, I went to the Children's Library in Stockholm and borrowed a few books in French. To my great surprise, I discovered that I understood much more French than I had expected. I started with some books written for children which just had learned to read; they were the perfect level for me. Then I chose books which were more and more complicated, and step by step I worked my French up to my first novel written for adults, a crime novel by Georges Simenon. (In fact it was easier to read than some of the books aimed for 12-years-old kids.) Just now I'm listening/reading a crime novel by Fred Vargas (Pars vite et reviens tard). I listen to every chapter twice - first time, I read the English translation, second time around the French text.

Then a trip to town for a walk in one of the parks, and an hour or so at a café, reading my current book. I am an avid reader - have been so for the last 50+ years - and read fluently in German, Swedish and English. I always have (at least) one book in progress. Just now I'm in the middle of a Pratchett-spree, re-reading some of his fantastic Discworld novels. (The Shepherd's Crown, The Truth, Carpe Jugulum, and now The Monstrous Regiment.)

Back home, I had another look at my (far too small) collection of Assimils. Bad mistake! "Griechisch ohne Mühe" almost by itself jumped onto my desk and didn't let me put it back without at least opening the book and putting the first CD into the player. Again I couldn't resist a new language's temptation, so all this week it has been Greek as well. Three new languages! I'm crazy, I know... (I think, I might soon abandon Greek, as the lessons are very long, and take at least two days each. But it's a fascinating language and I love the script.) We'll see.

On Tuesday the September Esperanto-Sumoo started. While I forgot to sign in this month, I nevertheless decided to read a few pages in Esperanto each day. I borrowed Erich Maria Remarque's "En okcidento nenio nova" from the library. As it's too difficult to read with just a dictionary, I first read some pages in the German original (Im Westen nichts Neues), and then in Esperanto. I had read the book once (must have been in the early 80's) and had wanted to re-read it ever since then.

Yesterday I started to read a book in Afrikaans (Deon Meyer - Kobra). Another book from the library. I have some unread Afrikaans books in my bookshelves, but they are a bit too difficult to read, while Meyer's crime novel's language is not too complicated.

All in all a really good language week. I'm enjoying all these languages, but won't be too sad if I shouldn't continue one (or two, or all) of them next week or the following weeks. My aim is having fun, and should something more tempting turn up, or should I get bored by the languages, that's okay, too.

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 2:23 pm
by Gordafarin2
Wow, you've got a lot on your plate but it sounds really fun! It's a shame putting off traveling, but still nice to have the freedom to spend so much time on whatever you please at home.

What a coincidence - I recently found my own copy of En Okcidento Nenio Nova on eBay. It's pretty rare, so lucky that your library has it! I haven't started reading it yet, though I am participating in my first Sumoo this month with Edmont Privat's Vivo de Zamenhof.

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 2:58 pm
by golyplot
Nogon wrote:I had tried to learn Polish a year and a half ago, but gave up about 4 weeks later, frustrated by my disability to learn the Polish vocabulary.


I'm not sure if you're interested in English corrections, but this should be "inability", not "disability".

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 5:21 pm
by Nogon
Gordafarin2 wrote:What a coincidence - I recently found my own copy of En Okcidento Nenio Nova on eBay. It's pretty rare, so lucky that your library has it! I haven't started reading it yet, though I am participating in my first Sumoo this month with Edmont Privat's Vivo de Zamenhof.

Wonderful coincidence! Do you already know the novel? Or maybe the movie? It's the best German anti-war novel, I've ever read. Highly recommend it!
Luckily, the Municipal Library here in Stockholm has a few books in Esperanto. Most of them are quite old though, printed before World War II, so no modern literature. But that's okay for me - among them there are several books I'm looking forward to read.

golyplot wrote:I'm not sure if you're interested in English corrections, but this should be "inability", not "disability".

Thank you! I actually wondered which of those words might be correct, but was too lazy to check. :oops:

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 21, 2020 5:34 pm
by PfifltriggPi
Nogon wrote:Yeah, I know that it's not a good idea to start two new (more or less new) languages simultaneously! It won't be effective, wouldn't it? But why should I care about efficiency regarding my hobby? I want to enjoy my free time, not win a medal!


I actually find it more efficient to study two languages at once. I find that I can make overall faster progress that way, as I at least seem to have a limit to how much "new content" of one language I can absorb in one day. In other words, I seem to find it easier to learn and remember the same amount of new vocabulary, grammar etc spread across two languages than in one, and, as a result, I have found I learn faster if I study two languages in parallel than if I were to devote the same amount of time each day to language learning and attempt to learn both those two languages in sequence. It is also more interesting, in my opinion to learn two at once.

My two warnings are that sometimes very similar languages can get confused and that if one starts two languages at the same time and thus has them both at the same level they also seem to be confused more easily. I know that I went through a phase when that would happen with my Ukrainian and Greek, and every now and then a word from one language does end up in a sentence in another but that happens with most of my languages. I suppose that the similar phonology between the two also probably did not help.

That said, given you are a native German speaker and know multiple other Germanic languages to a high level I cannot imagine Yiddish will give you much trouble.

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Sun Sep 27, 2020 8:45 pm
by Nogon
Second week:

This week, I changed my approach to language learning, and decided to (more or less) focus on Polish, inspired by a post by rdearman, which reminded me of the Listening-reading system. I had read about that last spring and got interested in it, but hadn't then had time to try it.

So this week I gave it a try with Polish. I started with a visit at the library, where I borrowed several Polish audio- and print books, as well as translations, in case I didn't own one. Unfortunately, it wasn't that easy to find good material. Either the translation was shortenend (two books by Sienkiewicz), or the I couldn't imagine to read the book several times (Stieg Larsson), or not even once (Sapkowski's "Witcher"; I nevertheless borrowed it and found out that the reader/speaker reads unbearably slow plus there was music or other sounds in the background), or the audiobook had been borrowed by someone else (Tokarczuk), or the speaker's voice increasingly grated my nerves, so I couldn't stand it any more after several hours of listening (Hanna Krall), or the tracks were very long (Alexijevitch), or the library didn't own the printed version (Stasiuk).
Nevertheless I gave it a honest try, only to find out that I just can't listen-read for hours on end. I managed 4-5 hours for three days, and another 2,5 hour another day, so far from the 10-12 hours per day, which the author recommends. On day 4 I was utterly fed up, and decided not to continue with that hard-core listening-reading.
I don't count the time as lost though, as I am sure that my ability to hear Polish sounds has increased.
So now I'm back to Assimil (lesson 9), and I decided to do some light and short listening-reading each day, maybe half an hour or so.

I continued with Yiddish, now I'm at Assimil's lesson 12. I've learned all letters, both the printed and handwritten forms, and work on learning the alphabet. From the library I borrowed a picture book (Nikolay Olniansky - Di anatomye mit Alef un Beys), to train my reading ability. Oof, it's hard work to decipher words in a foreign script! I have to concentrate very hard and am exhausted after a couple of pages. Will take some effort to reach a good reading speed. Grammarwise Yiddish indeed is very easy for a German native speaker, but the words of Hebrew origin are a challenge. Nevertheless it's much easier than Polish.

My Esperanto reading of Remarque's "En okcidento nenio nova" progresses well. I'm now on page 113 of 250.

I put my French listening-reading of Vargas "Pars vite et reviens tard" on hold while battling with Polish, but resumed it on Friday, and have now reached page 237 of 346. Will probably finish it next week, and then continue with her "L' armée furieuse".

Having finished Pratchett's "Monstrous Regiment", I replaced it with Deon Meyer's "Kobra" as my main book. I have read 2 or 3 of Meyer's crime novels in Swedish or English translations, but this is my first one in Afrikaans. While I didn't like the other books much, I quite enjoy this one. Not for the story or the characters (which aren't better than in the other books), but for the language, or better, languages. The Afrikaans is quite easy to read, not many unguessable words, which of course is nice. However it's the frequent code switching between Afrikaans and English, which I find truely fascinating. While the plot is narrated in Afrikaans, some of the interrogations are entirely in English, or in Afrikaans, and some conversations are in a wild mixture of both.
For example (page 133):
Nee, Benna. Here's an academic wat skielik 'n false passport het. How? I don't buy it. Here's dié innocent professor wat 'n hele ander Morris identity het, en hy maak sy Gmail skoner as 'n virgin se gewete? I mean, come on. Hier's en ou wat maande lank kwaai protest oor terrorists and organised crime, and than he goes suspiciously quiet? Hier's 'n middle-aged bok met 'n mooi jong blaartjie, but what can he offer her?

Fascinating, isn't it? This language switching is unfortunately lost in translations. I have read several books in Afrikaans, but not encountered such an amount of English in any of them. There there were some English phrases, exclamations or swearing, but no whole sentences and definitely not entire conversations.

No Greek this week. Maybe next?

Book to fall asleep with: Terry Pratchett's "Jingo".

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:24 am
by Gordafarin2
Nogon wrote:
Gordafarin2 wrote:What a coincidence - I recently found my own copy of En Okcidento Nenio Nova on eBay. It's pretty rare, so lucky that your library has it! I haven't started reading it yet, though I am participating in my first Sumoo this month with Edmont Privat's Vivo de Zamenhof.

Wonderful coincidence! Do you already know the novel? Or maybe the movie? It's the best German anti-war novel, I've ever read. Highly recommend it!


I have read it, but many years ago and only in English. Yes, absolutely a classic, which is why I hunted down an Esperanto copy.

Did you succeed on reading every day during the Sumoo? I did, and I'm pleased at how effective it was to help me build up a daily reading habit. I only committed to 2 pages per day, but once I had the book in my hand, it was easier to read a bit more. I used to have a 40-minute bus commute where I could read every day, so my reading time has gone down quite a bit since March :?

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 8:57 am
by Nogon
Gordafarin2 wrote:Did you succeed on reading every day during the Sumoo? I did, and I'm pleased at how effective it was to help me build up a daily reading habit. I only committed to 2 pages per day, but once I had the book in my hand, it was easier to read a bit more. I used to have a 40-minute bus commute where I could read every day, so my reading time has gone down quite a bit since March :?

Yes, I managed to read at least 5 pages each day, often more, as I didn't want to stop in the middle of a "chapter". I plan to continue reading a few pages daily, until I've read the entire book.
Commute is a good opportunity to get some time for reading. Only the book mustn't be too enthralling - from time to time I miss the stop where I should have left the bus or metro. :D

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 5:26 pm
by jeff_lindqvist
Nogon wrote:The Afrikaans is quite easy to read, not many unguessable words, which of course is nice. However it's the frequent code switching between Afrikaans and English, which I find truely fascinating. While the plot is narrated in Afrikaans, some of the interrogations are entirely in English, or in Afrikaans, and some conversations are in a wild mixture of both.
/.../
Fascinating, isn't it? This language switching is unfortunately lost in translations. I have read several books in Afrikaans, but not encountered such an amount of English in any of them. There there were some English phrases, exclamations or swearing, but no whole sentences and definitely not entire conversations.


Are Deon Meyer's books usually like that? (I think I've seen something similar in Swedish novels which have a number of Norwegian or Danish characters. Maybe not to that extent, but a sentence or two to establish the language of the non-Swede, and that the conversation is going to take place in a mix of languages - like we do IRL.)

Re: 5 weeks with languages

Posted: Mon Sep 28, 2020 9:14 pm
by Nogon
jeff_lindqvist wrote:Are Deon Meyer's books usually like that?

I don't know, as I've read the other books in translation. One in English, where naturally all dialogues were in English, and one or two in Swedish. There might have been some English phrases among the Swedish text - I can't say for sure, as I read them several years ago. Surely an interrogation solely in English would have been translated to Swedish.
Would be interesting to compare different translations to which extant they keep the English.