An opera fan's log - Learning Italian, polishing German & French, reading anglophone lit

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Deinonysus
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   Esperanto
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   Japanese, Spanish,
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Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7581
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An opera fan's log - Learning Italian, polishing German & French, reading anglophone lit

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:42 am

Background

My initial reason for getting into languages was that I love opera and classical songs (mainly Lieder and mélodies). I'm a classically trained singer and I've sung in German, Italian, French, and Latin, and also a little bit in other languages. When I was in college studying music over a decade ago, I couldn't understand much of what I was singing. In 2014, I finally did something about it: I started learning German, and then French as well. I'm now conversational in both. I've also dabbled in other languages but haven't reached a very high level.

My main impetus was to learn the languages of opera. I would classify these as:

Major languages: Italian, French, German
Secondary languages: English, Russian
Minor languages: Czech, Latin, Hungarian, Spanish, with obscure works by major composers in others such as Danish and Polish.

Not all of these languages are high up on my priority list, but I definitely want to "finish off" the major languages soon (within the next few years). As for secondary languages, I've barely touched Russian so far, but I'm lucky enough that I got English for free! And I have only looked at a couple of the "Minor languages".

These aren't the only languages I'm interested in. Some other languages I have studied at a basic level:

Esperanto: This is the language that jump-started my language learning before I took on German and French. This was before the Duolingo course was created; I used "bildoj kaj demandoj" on Lernu.net followed by the book Esperanto: Learning and Using the International Language, and studying Esperanto taught me how to learn a language. Because the rules of Esperanto are so simple and consistent, I got instant gratification and was quickly able to start thinking in Esperanto, not just translating from English. I can never seem to stick to Esperanto for more than a month, but one of these days I'll "finish it off" and get fluent!

Hebrew: This is a heritage language for me. Both of my parents are fluent and while I was surrounded by it growing up, I never got past the beginner level. I worked on it a bit a year or two ago and it came back very quickly, and I want to get conversational while I can still speak with my parents in it!

Japanese: I'm a fan of anime, and there's also great film, literature, and food from Japan, and I'd love to visit some day! I took a year of Japanese in college but only know some very basic grammar and vocabulary. I know the kana but need to refresh it every once in a while, and know a hundred and some odd Kanji from Heisig's "Remembering the Kanji".

Icelandic: I learned some basic Icelandic for a trip last year and fell in love with the language! I had started a log for it but dropped off of the forums before finishing it. Even though it's no longer fresh in my mind, I do want to finish the story of my trip! Icelandic is tabled for now but I'll definitely be back. It might be my favorite language!

Spanish: I rated this low as a language of classical music, but as a world language it's anything but! I studied it for three years in high school, but I was a poor student and never got to a conversational level. As an American, I constantly hear Spanish spoken around me and want to be able to eavesdrop! I also am fascinated with the Aztecs and Maya and want access to some better materials about them. And even though there are relatively few classical works in Spanish outside of zarzuela (Spanish operetta), a lot of the best opera singers of all time have been Spanish speakers, so there are plenty of great recordings of opera singers singing in Spanish (and often Catalan too; I wonder how much I'll be able to understand once I have a good grasp of Spanish on top of my French!)
Last edited by Deinonysus on Tue Jul 09, 2019 3:43 pm, edited 11 times in total.
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Deinonysus
Blue Belt
Posts: 553
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Boston
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Advanced: French,
   German
• Intermediate:
   Esperanto
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Hebrew,
   Japanese, Spanish,
   Danish, Indonesian
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7581
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:42 am

A trip to France

I am lucky to have a French teacher as a wife! She is often mistaken for a native speaker. We drive up to French Canada at least once a year and I always try to use as much French as possible there. We are leaving on a trip to France in about three months and I am going all-in to get to an advanced level by the time we leave. My speaking and reading abilities are very good for my level, but my listening comprehension is poor and needs a lot of work.

By the time I leave, I want to:

  1. Be finished with Duolingo. I previously got to within 5 skills from the end but needed a breather to let the differences between the different tenses and moods sink in. I've gone back and refreshed 6.5 out of the 8 screens of skills, so I should be done within about a month.
  2. Finish Assimil "with ease" ("sans peine", the basic level that claims to get you to B2) and be nearly finished with "using ("perfectionnement", the advanced level that claims to get you to C1, but I'm skeptical). Right now I'm on lesson 85/113 on "with ease", so I'm getting there.
  3. Finish Pimsleur French V - I'm lucky enough to have a short commute but that means I only have time to finish about 3 lessons a week in the car. That should still be enough to finish all 30 lessons within 3 months.
  4. Watch TV5MONDE's "7 jours sur la planète" every week and do the exercises.
  5. Watch at least a little bit of French news every day on France24.
  6. Watch every single French language DVD we own with French subtitles or without subtitles. This consists of my wife's movies and my opera videos.
    Des Films
    • Amélie
    • Le Petit Nicholas
    • Les Visiteurs
    • Pierrot le Fou
    • Caché
    • À la folie… pas du tout
    Télévision
    • Chef's Table France
    • Les Revenants
    Des opéras (Composer - Title - my favorite singers who are in it)
    • Débussy - Pélleas et Mélisande - Natalie Dessay
    • Donizetti - La fille du régiment - Natalie Dessay & Juan Diego Flórez
    • Offenbach - Les comtes d'Hoffman - Natalie Dessay
    • Thomas - Hamlet - Natalie Dessay & Simon Keenleyside
    • Bizet - Carmen - Jon Vickers, Grace Bumbry, & Mirella Freni
    • Saint-Saëns - Samson et Dalila - Jon Vickers & Shirley Verrett
  7. Finish reading all of our French language comics and children's books, and some of our shorter novels, time permitting. For the novels I'll be going more for brute force exposure than complete understanding.
    • Hergé - Tintin 1-7 ✓ (1-2)
    • de Brunhoff - Babar 1-3 ✓ (1-2)
    • Goscinny - Astérix 1 ✓
    • Gutman - Chien Pourri 1 ✓
    • Goscinny - Le petit Nicholas 1
    • Saint-Exupéry - Le petit prince
    • Malle - Au revoir les enfants
    • de Maupassant - Mademoiselle Fifi
    • Delerm - La première gorgée de bière
    • Camus - L'étranger
    • Sagan - Bonjour tristesse
    • Verne - Voyage au centre de la terre
    • Verne - De la terre à la lune

It will take a lot more time than my usual 1 hour a day to get through this 3-month sprint, but if it gives me the skills to really immerse myself in France and even possibly do some of our tours in French, it will be worth it!
Last edited by Deinonysus on Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Deinonysus
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Posts: 553
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Boston
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Advanced: French,
   German
• Intermediate:
   Esperanto
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Hebrew,
   Japanese, Spanish,
   Danish, Indonesian
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7581
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Deinonysus » Sat Jan 20, 2018 3:57 am

After that (window shopping)

After my trip, I'll probably stay on my French kick for a month or two, and then my plan is to move on to Spanish, using Assimil in French. Pimsleur is usually one of my main resources, but I want to stick to the Old World Spanish that Assimil teaches, and Pimsleur only has one level of that, so I'll need to find a replacement audio course for the car. I'll probably stick with Duolingo even though they teach New World Spanish, since it's mostly focused on the written language. And I'm very excited to rewatch Destinos and see if Don Fernando finally finds Rosario!

With my knowledge of French and previous study of Spanish in school, I should be able to make swift progress. I'm also hoping that combined with my French, it gives me a good passive understanding of Italian and Catalan. I'll probably take a Romance break after that and try to get Hebrew from Beginner to Intermediate or German from Intermediate to Advanced. But I'll have my eye on Italian before long!

That's the plan for now, but who knows what it will be in a few months or beyond? For now, I need to focus on cramming as much French exposure as I can to try and get to an advanced level for my trip. Anything beyond that is just window shopping.

Edit: As of 1/27, my plan was:
  • 2nd half of 2018: Learn Italian through French, beginner -> advanced
  • 1st half of 2019: Get German from intermediate -> advanced
  • 2nd half of 2019: Learn Spanish though French, beginner -> advanced
  • 1st half of 2020: Get Hebrew from beginner -> intermediate

And that plan lasted almost a whole two weeks! But honestly, German is my favorite language and I have already let it rust for too long. If I'm able to succeed in my goal of getting French up to an advanced level within the next few months, I want to apply those new learning skills to German. I'm sure I would get to an intermediate level in Italian pretty quickly, but I don't know if I can slog through the intermediate -> advanced barrier while German languishes.

I saw that the next Super Challenge will be starting around May. So as of now (2/9), my current plan is to start the new Super Challenge in German this year in hopes of getting to an advanced level, and then start picking up a third foreign language (probably Italian) around early 2019, all while maintaining my level of French.

I think that plan sounds good. Let's see how long it lasts!
Last edited by Deinonysus on Fri Feb 09, 2018 2:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Neurotip
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Neurotip » Sun Jan 21, 2018 6:27 pm

Hi Deinonysus - by a strange coincidence I happened to read this while writing the first post of my own log. If you have a moment to read it you'll see why I say it was a coincidence :)

Anyway, looking forward to hearing more...
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Elenia » Sun Jan 21, 2018 7:45 pm

Good luck with your goals, I'll be following your log!
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Deinonysus
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Languages:  
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   German
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   Esperanto
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   Italian, Hebrew,
   Japanese, Spanish,
   Danish, Indonesian
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Deinonysus » Mon Jan 22, 2018 2:04 am

Thank you Elenia and Neurotip!

Reading

I found a great way to motivate myself to read some tougher material in French! I'm lucky enough to have a terrific brewery down the street; I walked over with my copy of Voyage au centre de la terre ("Journey to the Center of the Earth" en anglais) and sat down with a large Stein of beer. By the time I was finished, I had gotten through two chapters. It's a bit above my reading level but it's very engaging and funny. I think anyone on this forum could appreciate it, no matter what language you read it in. The narrator's uncle, a geology professor, is an insufferable polyglot who explodes at his nephew for daring to suggest that his copy of a 12th century Icelandic story by Snorri Sturluson was translated into his native German; he proceeds to rant about grammar for a couple of paragraphs. In fact, he's so hardcore that he was reading it in runes.

Vocabulary

In addition to the resources I mentioned in my second post, I've started using a Memrise course, "5000 Most Common French Words". I'm only 200 words in so it's all review so far, but it seems pretty solid. It seems to be in frequency order and it makes you indicate the gender for all nouns with «un» or «une». I've previously used a similar course for German and gotten 1500 words in; by that point in such a large course, more time is spent maintaining known words than learning new words. I'll see how far I can go here. It will be great to improve my vocabulary, because even though my main goal is to improve my listening comprehension, it won't do me any good if I just don't know enough words.

Material maintenance

Die Liebe liebt das Wandern —
Gott hat sie so gemacht —
Von einem zu dem andern.


("Love loves to wander — God has made it so — from one to the other")

- Wilhelm Müller, "Die Winterreise" ("The Winter's Journey")

We all fall prey to Wanderlust, and I'm especially susceptible to it. This goes for reading and viewing materials too. I keep starting one and then moving on to another, but I really ought to finish one thing before moving on to the next, and that's what I'll aim to do.

I have started:
  1. Amélie
  2. Chef's Table France
  3. Pélleas et Mélisande
  4. Carmen
  5. Tintin en Amerique (№ 3)
  6. Le petit Nicholas (№ 1)
  7. Voyage au centre de la terre

That's a long list of works in progress! I really need to start clearing these out before I can start moving on to the others. And then I need to work on just a couple at a time.
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Deinonysus
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Posts: 553
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Boston
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Advanced: French,
   German
• Intermediate:
   Esperanto
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Hebrew,
   Japanese, Spanish,
   Danish, Indonesian
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7581
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Deinonysus » Wed Jan 24, 2018 4:59 pm

Using French at work

I'm going over a lot of training materials at work; they try to keep it readable and insert some humor, but my eyes glaze over, and I can't help myself from skimming too fast and missing the meaning, and then I need to go back and read the paragraph over and over. So I thought I might kill two birds with one stone and read the materials in French. That way I'll be reading every word, it will be more fun, I'll be practicing my French, and I'll learn a lot of tech and business vocabulary. It's a win-win!

Material progress

Have not made much progress in French books and films because I was binge-watching a favorite English language cartoon. I was in the middle of a rewatch before I started focusing on French in earnest, and didn't want to drop it halfway through the last season. The original voice acting is fantastic and I couldn't bear to watch it dubbed into French. But with that out of the way, I should be able to start clearing out my French backlog. I'm close to halfway through Tintin en Amérique (album № 3). I don't think it could possibly be more racist than Tintin au Congo, but Tintin just got to an Indian reservation so we'll see.

At my current pace, I should be able to finish Pimsleur by mid-March, maybe earlier. After that, I want to find something to shadow in the car, maybe a Harry Potter audiobook, or perhaps French news, or a podcast. I never have much of a problem saying whatever I need to say in French (despite some errors) as long as I have a moment to prepare, but my wife has said that while my accent is quite good, my speech is a bit slow and very deliberate. Hopefully some shadowing will get me speaking faster and with less effort.

I've been keeping up with my goal of watching at least some French news every day. I have noticed having an easier time understanding the Assimil audio without looking at the text first, but other than that it's hard to notice much change. I need to remember that at the intermediate level, I won't get the same sort of instant gratification that I would have gotten when I was first starting to learn the language. I will probably not notice discrete improvements; I just need to trust that if I keep doing the work, I'll get there.
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Mohave » Wed Jan 24, 2018 11:31 pm

I love your plan and enthusiasm! I look forward to following your journey!
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Spanish Motivation: Dec 2018 - Costa Rica
Spanish Pimsleur 3: 6 / 30 Assimil: 56 / 100
Spanish Super Challenge Books: 2 / 50 Movies: 0 / 100
French Super Challenge Books: 24 / 100 Movies: 22 / 100

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Deinonysus
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Posts: 553
Joined: Tue Sep 13, 2016 6:06 pm
Location: Boston
Languages:  
• Native: English
• Advanced: French,
   German
• Intermediate:
   Esperanto
• Beginner: Icelandic,
   Italian, Hebrew,
   Japanese, Spanish,
   Danish, Indonesian
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... =15&t=7581
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Deinonysus » Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:00 am

Mohave wrote:I love your plan and enthusiasm! I look forward to following your journey!

Thanks! I'm hoping the wave of enthusiasm lasts! It's much easier than discipline!
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Re: An opera fan's language log - working on French

Postby Cavesa » Thu Jan 25, 2018 12:02 pm

Hi,

I love your log. I am a beginning amateur singer, I've been taking lessons for one year now and it has been one of the best decisions of my life. One of the many benefits: it has been helping me with some aspects of the Italian and German pronunciation, despite the fact that the spoken and sung pronunciation differ in certain aspects (for example, I've finally learnt the doppio consonants). Understanding the lyrics is very important to me. It also helps me memorise the aria or song. But I must admit I sometimes have too much to focus on at once, so I sing blablabla for the few notes in question even with the part in my hand. :-D

What do you like to sing the most in each of the languages, if I may ask? I am curious.

I've noticed there is little classical music in Spanish, that is true. But would you still happen to know about something good? It may be a very interesting experience. Even if it is not something I could sing, I'd love to listen.
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