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 and others

Postby Ogrim » Fri Jan 15, 2016 4:56 pm

I don’t normally write much in or about my native language, but today I will make an exception to mention a book I am currently reading called En av oss – en fortelling om Norge (One of us - a story about Norway), by Åsne Seierstad. This is what I would call a “docu-novel” about the terrorist and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in Oslo and at a political summer camp on an island in Norway in 2011. The author has done very thorough and excellent research, not only into the past of the terrorist and the events of that fatal day, but also into the life of some of his victims, who we meet throughout the book. The result is a very well written, thorough book of over 500 pages that gives, as far as I can tell, a very accurate account of the terrorist’s life, his surroundings and the horrible crimes committed. The part where she describes the killings can be very disturbing at times, but I think it is important to read about it not to forget the victims and the suffering caused by this person. I think such a book can help to understand, at least in some small part, what can lead some persons to think that it is right to kill for an idea.

Åsne Seierstad is an investigative journalist who has won several prices for her accounts of daily life in war zones. She has written books about Kabul, Baghdad and Grozny, and this is her first book about Norway. It has already been translated into several languages, including English, and you can find a list of at least some of the translations here on Goodreads. There you will also see that it has received excellent reviews.

Català
El Parlament de Catalunya va investir el nou President de la Generalitat, el alcalde de Girona Carles Puigdemont. Fins ara era un home poc conegut en Espanya, però és home de confiança d’Artur Mas, el ex-President que va retirar la seva candidatura a la Presidència per a aconseguir un acord de majoria entre Junts Pel Sí i CUP. Menciono això no per a discutir de la política catalana, sinó per el fet que Puigdemont és gairebé un poliglota. Segons “El Periódico de Catalunya” parla amb facilitat català, castellà, francès, anglès i romanès. Em sembla bé que hi ha polítics que dominen vàries llengües, sigui d’acord o no amb la seva política.

(The Catalan Parliament has voted in the new President of the regional government, the former mayor of Girona, Carles Puigdemont. Until now he was not very known in Spain, but he is a man trusted by Artur Mas, the former President of Catalonia who withdrew his bid to be re-elected in order to ensure a majority deal between the two parties Junts Pel Sí and CUP. I mention this not to discuss Catalan politics, but for the fact that Puigdemont can be described as a polyglot. According to the journal “El Periódico de Catalunya”, he speaks with ease Catalan, Spanish, French, English and Romanian. I think it is nice that there are politicians who can speak various languages, whether you agree with them or not.)
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Ogrim
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Ogrim » Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:26 pm

A big day yesterday: I managed to finish my first book in Russian, Как жить с французом (How to live with a Frenchman).

(Waiting for round of applause :D )

OK, I started to read it before last summer, and even though it is about 360 pages long, it probably is not that impressive, but then I have been reading quite a few other books in parallel, both in Russian and other languages, during those 6-7 months. I guess one reason it has taken so long is that the book, although sometimes funny, is not the most exciting I have read, so that combined with my still huge lack of vocabulary in Russian meant that I only advanced a few pages every time I picked it up. Now that it is done and dusted, I can concentrate on the other Russian book I am currently reading, И снег приносит чудеса: Рождественская история. As the title indicates it is a Christmas story, and of course I started reading it during the Christmas holiday. As it is only 137 pages I should be able to finish it by Easter :)

I've noticed the discussion about extensive vs. intensive reading on the forum. With this book, it has been a combination of both. At the beginning I took a "very intensive" approach, looking up a lot of words. I felt I just had to in order to get into the story. Then little by little I could understand more and consult the dictionary less frequently, and by making some wild guesses here and there I advanced in the story. The best thing about forcing myself to get through the whole book (I was tempted at times to just let it go) is that it has boosted my confidence in reading in Russian, and now I feel much less intimidated by the thought of one day attacking one of literature's greatest works in my view, Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. However, I'll get through a few more contemporary works before diving into the classical stuff.

I am less happy with my output this month, but that is mostly due to lack of time. Pressure at work built up very quickly after the holidays and that has kept me busy during the day and made me tired in the evening, prefering the more relaxing activities of reading or watching TV than writing. I am working on a few texts in Russian, but I don't feel like putting them up on Lang-8 or here on this forum before I feel they are coherent and make sense.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Elenia » Fri Jan 29, 2016 3:46 pm

Well done on finishing your first book! It's always a great achievement, no matter how long it has taken. I finished my first Swedish book this month, after however many years of Swedish - and I'd been reading from the very start! The book I finished isn't even the one I've been reading for those past few years. All this to say that an achievement is always an achievement :)
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby iguanamon » Fri Jan 29, 2016 4:50 pm

Ogrim wrote:...I've noticed the discussion about extensive vs. intensive reading on the forum. With this book, it has been a combination of both. At the beginning I took a "very intensive" approach, looking up a lot of words. I felt I just had to in order to get into the story. Then little by little I could understand more and consult the dictionary less frequently, and by making some wild guesses here and there I advanced in the story. The best thing about forcing myself to get through the whole book (I was tempted at times to just let it go) is that it has boosted my confidence in reading in Russian, and now I feel much less intimidated by the thought of one day attacking one of literature's greatest works in my view, Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. ...

That's exactly the process I used in beginning reading my first book without a translation. The problem I think with some learners with this type of reading is they never get to the stage where they can make "wild guesses here and there". They get discouraged by the amount of look-ups and give up reading. Maybe they didn't try parallel texts first and maybe they haven't built up enough of a base. It's hard. No one ever said it wouldn't be. Experienced learners know that if they persevere, the vocabulary will be built up and it will get easier.The sense of satisfaction one gets from completing the first book in a language read on it's own without a translation is nothing short of exhilarating! Congratulations, Ogrim!
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Josquin » Sun Jan 31, 2016 1:04 pm

Ogrim wrote:A big day yesterday: I managed to finish my first book in Russian, Как жить с французом (How to live with a Frenchman).

(Waiting for round of applause :D )

Молодец! Я поздравляю тебя, Огрим! :D
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Ogrim » Wed Feb 17, 2016 4:34 pm

I have had been absent from the forum for a few weeks, due to a holiday abroad and then a very busy time at work. It seems work will still be busy for the next few days, but I was missing the forum too much to stay away any longer ;) .

I have been bitten by the wanderlust virus (do virus bite?) again, and this time it seems to be serious. I have tried to resist, but it is stronger than me, so I've finally given in, and I've started to learn Arabic :shock: . In fact, Arabic is one of my long-time linguistic frustrations. I got interested in the language when I was studying the history of Spanish at university. Starting to identify all the traces Arabic has left in Spanish language and culture, particularly in vocabulary, in food, certain customs etc. I got interested in the history of Arab presence in Spain in the Middle Ages. I did a small effort back then (in the 1990s) to learn some Arabic, but I had too much on my plate at the time.

I made a second attempt at Arabic back in 2007-2008, and advanced a little bit more - I managed to learn the script (al-abjadīyah al-ʻarabīyah) and got through a couple of lessons of a Linguaphone course, but then for various reasons, moving to France and starting in a new job being the most important, I gave it up. However, the thought of learning it has been lurking in the back of my head since then, and what triggered my decision to make a third attempt was that I have spent a week in Dubai visiting some friends, and hearing this beautiful language spoken around me, not being able to understand a word, brought the frustration back. Seeing that my Russian is progressing nicely, I will therefore try to find some time on a regular basis to work on Arabic. I know it will be tough, and difficult, and take a lot of time to get to a level where I can do anything "meaningful" with the language, like reading a newspaper in Arabic or understanding the news on Al-Jazeera, but I do not mind. The learning process itself should give me a lot of satisfaction.

My resources so far are limited. I've dug up my old Linguaphone course and will stick to that for the time being. I do need some more good audio though, especially as the Linguaphone course has old-fashioned cassettes, and I would like something in mp3 that I can listen to while walking to work or taking public transport. I had a look at the Langenscheidt course and it seems quite good, so I might get that one as well. That should be plenty to start with. I am also checking out tips on good old HTLAL to add other resources in due course.

Time will tell if I finally succeed, but the motivation and aspiration is there, now I just have to put in the transpiration :) .
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Expugnator » Wed Feb 17, 2016 8:19 pm

Je suis toujours heureux lorsqu'un polyglotte que j'admire sort du lieu commun des langues de l'Europe Ocidentale, Ogrim. Bonne chance avec l'arabe! J'avoue que çes meilleurs livres d'apprentissage pour l'arabe sont en français: il y a deux édition de la méthode Assimil, deux éditions de la méthode Assimil niveau perfectionnement et aussi le Méthode 90.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Ogrim » Thu Feb 18, 2016 7:31 am

Expugnator wrote:Je suis toujours heureux lorsqu'un polyglotte que j'admire sort du lieu commun des langues de l'Europe Ocidentale, Ogrim. Bonne chance avec l'arabe! J'avoue que çes meilleurs livres d'apprentissage pour l'arabe sont en français: il y a deux édition de la méthode Assimil, deux éditions de la méthode Assimil niveau perfectionnement et aussi le Méthode 90.


Merci, Expugnator, mais c'est toi le polyglotte digne d'admiration.

It is true that there is a lot of learning material in French for Arabic, but for the moment I will just stick to Linguaphone as I said, and then supplement with another course. I'll certainly have a look at Assimil, but I prefer the more traditional approach of the German Langenscheidt courses, and I think especially when embarking on a language like Arabic which is not at all transparent, I need a course which gives clear and logical grammar explanations. Langenscheidt is very good at that, at least that was my experience with their Greek course. Anyway, I am lucky to live in a town with a very good bookstore called "La librairie du monde entier" - they have language courses and learning material for at least 100 different languages, and the Arabic section is quite impressive, so once I feel comfortable with reading Arabic script I will certainly have a look at what they offer.
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Ogrim » Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:21 pm

Italiano
È morto Umberto Eco, ed è una grande perdita per il mondo. Secondo me, Eco è il più grande intellettuale italiano del secolo scorso, e non principalmente perché ha scritto qualche grandi romanzi, ma soprattutto per la sua contribuzione alla semiotica e anche allo studio del Medioevo et la filosofia.

La prima volta che udì parlare di Eco fu quando pubblicò “Il nome della rosa”, il suo primo romanzo. Avevo cominciato a imparare l’italiano allora, ma furono molti anni dopo che lessi questo libro in italiano, e mi piacque molto più l’originale che la traduzione in norvegese. Poi ho letto altri dei suoi libri, come i romanzi “Baudolino” e “Il cimitero di Praga”, o opere saggistiche, per esempio “Come si fa una tesi di laurea”, “Semiotica e filosofia del linguaggio” e “Non sperate di liberarvi dei libri”.

Oggi ho acquistato per il mio Kindle “Il pendolo di Foucault”. Lo lessi in norvegese molti anni fa, ed adesso voglio leggerlo in italiano. Sarà il mio omaggio a questo grande scrittore e intellettuale.
Raccomando anche questo “dossier” nel giornale La Repubblica.

(The greatest Italian intellectual of the 20th century (my personal view) has passed away. Umberto Eco’s death is a great loss to the world. He should be remembered not only for his literary works, but even more so for his great contribution to the study of semiotics, Medieval history and philosophy.

I first heard about Umberto Eco when “The Name of the Rose” was published, his first novel. I had just started to learn Italian back then, so only many years later did I read this book in the original language, and I liked it a lot more than when I first read it in Norwegian translation. Since then I have read many of his books, not only the novels, but also some of his essays and treaties on semiotics. Today I bought “Foucault’s pendulum” in Italian as an e-book, which I will read as a tribute to this great writer and academic.)
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Re: Ogrim's language experiences - Russian, Romansh and others

Postby Ogrim » Tue Feb 23, 2016 2:11 pm

I have now spent some 15-20 hours on Arabic. Most of the time has been dedicated to relearning the alphabet, and I am now able to recognise most of the letters, although I still rely on my course's transliteration texts to some extent when working with the Arabic texts. The fact that Arabic letters change depending on their position in the word (initial, middle, final or isolated) makes it somewhat harder than learning e.g. the Greek or Cyrillic alphabets. Also, some letters are only distinguished by dots, such as e.g. b = ب and t = ت. A rather practical problem is that my course book has a rather small font for my ageing eyes, so I sometimes have difficulties distinguishing these dots as well as e.g. the short vowel signs. I should probably get a magnifying glass ;) .

Learning the alphabet is a question of practice though, and probably the easiest part of learning Arabic. From the little I have seen so far, it is certainly a challenging language for someone who has not left the Indo-European sphere and mostly learnt Germanic and Romance languages.

As regards vocabulary, I certainly start from scratch, and my knowledge of IE languages doesn't give any advantage in the form of recognisable words. Having been through the first two chapters of the Linguaphone course, the only words I aleady sort of knew were 'arabiy=Arab, shukran=thank you, faransiy=French, laa=no and salaam 'alaykum=peace on you.

Modern standard Arabic has dual, but fortunately there is only one ending to learn. However, the plural of nouns is not that straightforward, as many nouns have so-called "broken" plural, which means that plural is formed by internal changes and possibly adding prefixes or suffixes. For example, "a man" is "rajul" but "men" is "rijaal", "a friend" is "Sadiiq" but "friends" is "aSdiqaa'", "name" is "ism" and "names" is "asmaa'". So basically for each and every noun one should memorise both the singular and plural form.

I only just been introduced to the basic form of the imperfect of the verb, and the only thing that strikes me is that the person is indicated with prefixes rather than suffixes as I am used to in IE languages. I am sure there are other surprises awaiting me with regard to verbs, but I'll deal with them when I get there.

So far I don't pay too much attention to the finer details of pronunciation, but I try to get it more or less right. My main priority is not to be able to speak Arabic well, first and foremost I want to be able to read and possibly understand news presenters on Al Jazeera or Dubai TV (two of the many Arabic TV stations I get from my cable provider).
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