Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

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Ogrim
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Fri Sep 13, 2019 3:28 pm

I am back after a longish break in August. I spent almost three weeks in Valencia and although we stayed by the beach most of the time I found I had less time to dedicate to language study than I did in Sardinia, probably because we were with my wife's family and also met up with a lot of friends, so I often got distracted from my pursuits in Arabic. Still I managed to work quite regularly on it, so now I need to integrate it as well as I can into my everyday life. Unfortunately now the biggest distraction is my day job :( .

I've also been a few days to London to help my daughter move there. She is starting university this autumn in the big city, so it is exciting for her and as well as for the rest of the family. It was also a stroll down memory lane, because we lived five years in London when my kids were still very young. The fact that my daughter now lives there means that we will visit more frequently over the next few years, provided Brexit doesn't create too many difficulties for us. (I won't say more about that...)

When we were at our flat in Valencia I went through a few boxes of books I have stored there, and came across the course books I used at uinversity many years ago when I did a six-months intensive course in Classical Greek. It is called Reading Greek, by the Joint Association of Classical Teachers and published by Cambridge University Press. I see they are still on sale, and although I have the first edition, it looks like this current edition is not very different. I remember enjoying this course, and although I am not going to take up Classical Greek seriously, I am afraid I will spend some time browsing through the old course books and see what I remember, because I've always regretted not maintaining the little knowledge of Classical Greek that I gained those many years ago. Although it is a book meant for classroom study, I think it can be quite beneficial for self-stuidy as well.

My Russian course starts up again next week, so this weekend I will prepare for that by reading, watching and listening to Russian news and other stuff on Youtube. During the month of August Russian was neglected way too much, as I focused on Arabic and spent much of the other spare time I had reading a Wagner biography in German - it is a huge book, some 800 pages, and i still have at least 300 pages to go before I finish, but it is well written, entertaining and it gives an interesting insight into the times of Wagner and the political and cultural situation in 19th century Germany.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby MamaPata » Sat Sep 14, 2019 11:19 am

Exciting - good luck to your daughter! I hope she has a fantastic time. Sounds like you are all well settled, but if you need anything, feel free to give me a shout.
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Ogrim
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Fri Sep 20, 2019 3:51 pm

MamaPata wrote:Exciting - good luck to your daughter! I hope she has a fantastic time. Sounds like you are all well settled, but if you need anything, feel free to give me a shout.


Thanks, MamaPata. My daughter is already enjoying London a lot, and excited about starting her studies on Monday next week. I expect her to come back speaking Estuary English.

Yesterday I had my first Russian class after the summer. We are supposed to be a group of five students, but only I turned up for the first lesson. I normally enjoy that situation, but yesterday it was actually stressful, because I've neglected Russian somewhat during the summer break and had a hard time getting my brain "tuned" to hearing and speaking Russian again. Still, it was a useful hour - I talked about my summer vacations, the trip to London and the books I've been reading lately. We then read an article about the new language law under preparation in Ukraine and discussed that, we touched on geopolitics and did some grammar exercises with short and long forms of adjectives. I'll certainly try to gear up my studies of Russian again this autumn.

My issue now, as always, is how to find time for a good routine in both Arabic and Russian, while at the same time dabbling further in Romanian and keeping up with other languages. I haven't read anything in Catalan or Romansh for a good while, so I really want to get back to them, and I do have books in my Kindle in both languages. The same goes for Dutch, which I dabbled in last year but not so much in 2019.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby lichtrausch » Fri Sep 20, 2019 8:12 pm

Ogrim wrote:I remember enjoying this course, and although I am not going to take up Classical Greek seriously, I am afraid I will spend some time browsing through the old course books and see what I remember, because I've always regretted not maintaining the little knowledge of Classical Greek that I gained those many years ago.

Has your foray into Modern Greek been any help at anchoring your knowledge of Ancient Greek?
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Wed Oct 09, 2019 2:22 pm

lichtrausch wrote:
Ogrim wrote:I remember enjoying this course, and although I am not going to take up Classical Greek seriously, I am afraid I will spend some time browsing through the old course books and see what I remember, because I've always regretted not maintaining the little knowledge of Classical Greek that I gained those many years ago.

Has your foray into Modern Greek been any help at anchoring your knowledge of Ancient Greek?


Thanks for the question. I think the answer is mostly no, but then I never got very far with Modern Greek. Of course I do recognise certain words, and e.g. verb conjugations are similar, but overall I think the differences between Classical and Modern Greek are too important to make one a great help for the other, at least when you are still at a beginner/low intermediate level.

To turn the question around: when I started learning Modern Greek, the fact that I had done Classical Greek in the past did not really help a lot, except for the fact that I already knew the alphabet. Of course, many years had gone by and as I said, I forgot most of the CG I learnt at university.

I have spent a little bit of time with Reading Greek, but the last few weeks have been very hectic, and I also have some problems with my back which means that I should not spend all my spare time sitting down - I spend far too much time sitting at work. This has meant less time studying in general, as I have to do exercise and take long frisky walks every evening.

So to the sad news: my Russian classes will most likely be cancelled. There were to be four of us this year, but so far I have been the only one to appear three weeks in a row, and the teacher says she cannot continue with only one student, that is unless I am willing to pay private lesson fees, which basically means paying four times more than I'm paying right now. Although I enjoy the classes and the teacher does a good job, I don't find it worthwhile at this stage to spend this money. What I mostly need is speaking practice, as I can always work on vocabulary and grammar on my own, so I will probably look for a language exchange partner or take a few lessons on iTalki.
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Ogrim
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Mon Nov 25, 2019 3:02 pm

Another lengthy absence, I almost feel like I must apologise for not having been more active here the last few weeks. The thing is that this autumn turned out to be very complicated on more than one front, and all my good intentions of working with and improving my languages were impossible to make real.

Firstly my back problem is back :( . It seems to be of a chronic nature, and although I will try some kiné (physiotherapy in French) I may need surgery in the future. Unfortunately the pain makes it hard for me to spend any extended period sitting at a desk studying. I already spend more time than I should in front of the computer at work. Just standing still on my feet is no good either. So trying to keep the pain away without recurring to tons of medicine has been a main preoccupation these last weeks. Quick walks and some soft gymnastic exercises have helped, but it has not been enough.

On a happier note, my son got the lead role in the musical Grease this year. He had never shown much interest in acting and singing before, but last spring he did the audition for the American company for young actors that some enthusiasts here in my part of the world have created, and was chosen to play Danny Zuco. As a good parent I got somewhat engaged with the production as well, and that also took a lot of my spare time. The show was a great success and lots of fun to get involved with.

Another piece of good news is that my Russian classes are back! A colleague signed up, and the teacher decided that with two participants she would go ahead with it, if we were willing to pay a little bit more. We did, and I am really happy because that weekly class is a great motivator for me. At least I have been able to work on my Russian more or less regularly since the summer.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about Arabic, but now I am kickstarting it again for the umpteenth time, as in December my wife and I will have a long weekend in Marrakesh. Of course I don't have any pretensions of being able to speak Arabic, and most likely I will not understand very much spoken Arabic there either, as the Morrocan dialect seems to be very different to MSA. Still, at least I want to be able to read signs in Arabic and maybe use a few polite phrases here and there. I guess it can't hurt.

My lack of time for serious language learning does not mean that I don't continue to use most of my languages regularly. I still read as much as I can, right now I am reading books in German, Russian, English and French, and I have books in Swedish, Romansh and Catalan waiting for me.

I've decided to try Youtube Premium, and I will probably keep the subscription when the trial period is over. It is 12 euros per month, but I think it is worth it as I spend a lot of time watching things on Youtube, both language-learning related videos and other stuff, and it is so nice not to have to endure all those ads, especially those which interrupt a video you are watching. Besides I can easily save those 12 euros a month by reducing other expenditure on things I don't really need, like takeaway coffee.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Tue Dec 10, 2019 10:24 am

I am back from four days in Marrakesh, Morocco, and it was a great experience. It was my first trip to an Arab country since starting learning Arabic seriously, and it certainly motivated me even more to continue the long and winding road towards proficiency in this beautiful but complicated language.

As expected I did not understand much of the spoken Arabic there. Moroccan is very different from fusha (MSA), although I did notice some basic words and expressions that are the same in MSA, and at least I made a good impression (I think) by saying assalam 'aleikum, shukran and a few other polite words and expressions.

Marrakesh is a very touristy place, especially there were loads of Spanish people there (there was a puente in Spain last weekend), and many of the Moroccans working in the tourist industry speak Spanish as well as French and English. The Berber influence is also very noticeable in the city, and the traditional music and dances we experienced seem to be of Berber rather than Arabic origin. On Saturday night in the main square, Jemmaa el-Fna, small groups of (male) musicians would sit down and play and sing while the women would dance around them.

In spite of the tourism I found that the old town, al-medina, has kept its charm, and it is quite an experience to stroll through the souk. I say stroll, but you actually get lost. At least my wife and I managed to lose our way thinking we were heading back in the same direction we had come from. Of course they sell a lot of "trash" aimed at the tourists, but you also find genuine handicraft of great quality and at good prices, if you are into those things and are willing to haggle with the sellers. I am not good at haggling, so prefer to buy at fixed prices, even if I know that they probably overcharge.

We did not buy much though, as we preferred to just enjoy the atmosphere of the city and visit the different monuments and attractions. Our visit coincided with the Marrakesh international film festival, and we did see a couple of movie stars, although I would not have known if I hadn't been told as I am not into cinema at all. I was more interested in the mosques (which we could not enter as they are for Muslims only), the palaces and the parks. Marrakesh is surprisingly green, but that is thanks to the water coming down from the Atlas mountains, because it hardly ever rains there.

The modern part of the city is very different from the old town and was mostly developed by the French during the time of the French protectorate at the beginning of the 20th century. The French influence is still noticeable in the number of French businesses present in the city. A curiosity there is the Jardin Majorelle and the Yves Saint Laurent museum. Majorelle is a villa with a park that was the private property of the French painter Jacques Majorelle. It was later bought by the designer Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé who turned it into a foundation and opened it to the public. Inside the park there is a Berber Museum, and just outside the park complex you find the museum dedicated to the life and work of YSL. You have to buy a ticket to visit, but I found it was worth it. The park has an interesting collection of plants and trees from around the world, the Berber museum gives you an insight into the life and culture of the Berber, and the YSL Museum is nice if you want to learn a little bit about fashion.

Finally, in Marrakesh I discovered a couple of modern Moroccan artists who are very much in vogue and well known in the Arab world. I'll share a couple of videos here, one by Sa'ad Lamjarred (سعد لمجرد) and another by Asmaa Lmnawar (أسماء لمنور).



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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Thu Dec 19, 2019 3:26 pm

Today I had my last Russian class for the year and soon I will be heading to Spain for the festive season. In class we talked about Christmas and New Year traditions in our respective countries, we read about how Moscow has been utterly transformed during the last twenty years and we did a couple of exercises with prepositions, where the point was to get the noun in the right case. I still find it very useful to do such grammar exercises, it reinforces my knowledge in an efficient way and I also discover new constructions and idiomatic ways of expressing things. The explanations given by the teacher also make things clearer than what I get simply from reading a grammar book.

I am moving along with Arabic slowly but surely. I aim at finally getting through the last couple of lessons of the Langenscheidt course during the holidays, and then I need to think about what strategy I follow after that. I have been doing part of Al-Hakkak's Manuel d'arabe as well, and may consider finishing it, but I don't just want to go through another course book for beginners, so I need some new material in addition. I do have Arabic Voices, which is OK for listening and reading practice, but it does not go much into grammar, so I need to fill that gap somehow. I'll also consider finding a tutor, and as it is not at all certain that my Russian classes will continue after next summer, I'll find some classes in Arabic instead. Time will show.

The last week I have spent some time with Romanian again. I've read a couple of articles remembering the uprising against the regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu 30 years ago, and watched a programme on Romanian TV about it. I really would like to spend more time improving my Romanian, but right now priority is given to Arabic.

I've also tried to find time for Romansh, which I have somewhat neglected the last six months, although I do read at least a couple of articles in the Romansh daily "La Quotidiana" every day. In general I find that I have had less time for reading this year compared to other years. Either my life has become more busy or I have become more lazy. Also it doesn't help that I choose very long books, sometimes on difficult subjects. Hopefully I will have a bit more time for reading during the holidays.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby Ogrim » Fri Feb 07, 2020 5:18 pm

I can't believe it is almost two months since I last wrote something here, but time flies and January was a very hectic month, and I had very little time for language learning, let alone for spending time on the forum. Now I finally found a moment to check in, and I guess I have missed a lot of interesting stuff in the meantime, so slowly but surely I will have to read up on what you all have been up to lately.

Reading the latest posts of Iguanamon over on his log, I found this part interesting and worth quoting:

iguanamon wrote:We are a forum composed of many levels of language-learners. We have new members, old members, members who post a lot, members who post sparingly, members who don't post at all, members "emeritus", members who have graduated and "moved on", members who are in between what they were and what they may be.

Sometimes, I feel like I have "graduated" but I haven't moved on quite yet. I am probably in between where I've been and where I will be. For me, this means I get to enjoy what I've worked on so hard to achieve by indulging in the languages I've learned so far.


I guess I qualify as an old member, and lately I've been posting sparingly. I don't think I've graduated yet, though, because I still have this (foolish) ambition of learning Arabic to a high degree as well as taking my Russian to C-level, so I am still a language learner, although I do "indulge" more in languages I already know well than studying actively those I do not know so well. I know where I've been, but I am not so sure where I will be ;) .

So where have I been lately? Well, geographically two weeks in Spain over Christmas and New Year, where I had far less time to study and read than I had hoped for. When we go to Norway for Christmas, I always get a lot more reading done, but that probably has something to do with the daily rythm of life, which is slower in Norway. I go out less when I am there - in Spain we spend very little time indoors comparatively speaking. And since New Year, there have been many long hours in the office, so spare time has to be shared out between my wife, my son, my hobbies and my languages (which are part of my hobbies). And also with doctors who try to sort out my back issues.

I am continuing with Arabic, but as always it is a bit up and down, back and forth. Due to other factors in my life it is challenging to find a regular daily routine, although I do my best. It is sometimes frustrating, i wish I could work part-time to have more hours for studies, but life is what it is.

I have spent more time on Russian, mainly because I read extensively every day, both news articles on the web and e-books. I do think I spend too much time reading though, and too little time listening to Russian. Thanks to IronMike I learnt about Kartina TV, and I think I will give it a try. The monthly fee is not exorbitant, about the cost of Netflix here in France, and as I just cancelled another subscription service which I hardly ever used I have some spare cash to spend.

I've also spent some time on Youtube watching videos about English. Yes, English, more specifically British English. I came across this channel called Eat Sleep Dream English, and I find many of the videos quite entertaining. I also learn new stuff, even if I consider my English to be quite advanced, not least has it made me more aware of some of the specifities of British English, in particular the London/Cockeny or Estuary accent, and of the differences between Britsh and American English.

Here is a short sample which explains some important difference in American vs. British pronunciation:

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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh, Romanian, Arabic and more

Postby lichtrausch » Fri Feb 07, 2020 7:02 pm

Ogrim wrote:I guess I qualify as an old member, and lately I've been posting sparingly. I don't think I've graduated yet, though, because I still have this (foolish) ambition of learning Arabic to a high degree as well as taking my Russian to C-level, so I am still a language learner, although I do "indulge" more in languages I already know well than studying actively those I do not know so well. I know where I've been, but I am not so sure where I will be ;) .

Do you see yourself giving up serious language study once you reach a high level in Arabic and Russian? I find the idea of "graduating" appealing, but I think something would be missing in my life if I wasn't at least semi-seriously studying some language or another.
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