jonm's occasional log: Spanish, French, German, Latin, Sanskrit

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jonm
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jonm's occasional log: Spanish, French, German, Latin, Sanskrit

Postby jonm » Mon Nov 05, 2018 8:09 am

Hey everyone,

I'm Jon. I've been posting under the username trippingly, but I'm just gonna go with my given name.

Before I get this log going, let me just say how happy I am to have joined this great community. I've learned a lot and gotten a lot of inspiration and enjoyment from hanging out with you all.

It probably makes sense to start by talking about a technique that I use for all of my languages. It involves Anki and, often, Assimil.

Basically, I like working with what you could call dictation cards. I hear a sentence and type what I hear. Then I flip to the back of the card, compare what I’ve typed against the original, and listen to the sentence a couple more times and practice saying it.

The dictation, I find, is good for listening and spelling, and the repetition is good for pronunciation. But above all, what I like about these cards is that I spend a little time with each sentence and notice things about how it's put together.

Here's an example of what the back side looks like when I've gotten something wrong. (Happy to share the CSS if anyone's interested. Nothing fancy, but I prefer it to Anki's default styling for typed answers and corrections.)

anki.png
anki.png (15.99 KiB) Viewed 618 times

My number one source for sentences is Assimil. I'm a big fan of their courses (but no connection to the company). I like the overall design, the notes, the voice acting, the sense of humor... And for each sentence, they provide a separate mp3 with the corresponding text in the tags, which makes it fairly easy to batch import an entire course into Anki.

So for each Assimil dialogue, first I listen, read, and check out the notes in the usual way, and then I also add the cards for that dialogue to my Anki rotation.

I've also made cards out of sentences from other sources—podcasts, audiobooks, films, shows—but cutting up the audio myself takes more time, so I often don't bother and just enjoy that material in a more extensive way.

OK, that's probably a good place to break. In my next post I'll talk about specific languages.
Last edited by jonm on Mon Apr 22, 2019 3:45 am, edited 4 times in total.
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Mon Nov 05, 2018 10:33 am

So for each language, I'll just say a few words about why it interests me and my favorite materials, and I can always say more later.

Spanish

The experience that sparked my interest in learning languages (and in traveling) was a summer program in Spain when I was twenty. I had never traveled abroad before, and it was mind-blowing, exhilarating, liberating. When I finished school, I moved to Madrid and lived there for a few years teaching English. I feel a lot of nostalgia for that time in my life, and that can be a motivation for studying Spanish, or it can get in the way.

I've been watching Cuéntame cómo pasó, which is a great fit for me, since it's a nostalgic show. I'm watching without subtitles, and I definitely don't get everything, but it's good practice. I'm 9 episodes in, so only... 339 to go, with more being made. :)

I also like the podcast Notes in Spanish, and AuronPlay cracks me up (thanks to Jaleel10 for mentioning him in the Spanish group).

So I'm pretty well covered for listening, but I should probably find something to read.

French

I think my main motivation for learning French is just to be able to dig into French film and literature. And of course I'd also love to be able to converse with French speakers I might meet when traveling.

I did the first several lessons of Assimil Using French, and it's right about at my level, but then I decided I didn't want to miss New French with Ease, so I'm doing that first. At this point, I'm mainly reinforcing things I already know, but even in the early lessons, I'm finding things here and there that are new.

I'm a regular listener of innerFrench and highly recommend it to anyone around A2/B1 in French. Interesting content, warm tone, and a real confidence boost. I'm getting to the point now where I find the discussions as interesting and enjoyable as ever but not as challenging as they once seemed, so I would love to find something just one notch harder. I've tried listening to podcasts intended for native speakers, and they still seem a bit out of reach, so it would be great to find something in between.

I'll wait to talk about reading material till I'm close to finishing something. :)

OK, that's it for now, hope to get to the other languages before long.
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Tue Nov 06, 2018 7:21 am

Moving on to beginner languages...

German

I'm surprised to find myself enjoying learning German. When I was young, I went to German school every Saturday morning. My dad was passionate about the language (his father had come from Germany to the US as a young man in the 1910s), and he was eager for the whole family to learn it. But I hated being torn away from sleepovers and Saturday morning cartoons to sit in school an extra day. I dragged my feet for years until finally I didn't have to go anymore. I forgot what little German had gotten through, and I concluded that I didn't like learning languages (and believed that right up until the Spain trip I talked about in my last post).

What led me to take a fresh look at German is that some close friends are spending a year in Berlin, and I'm planning to visit for a few days next spring. And now that I'm free to choose, I really enjoy it. I find it amusing and ironic that I put so much energy into not doing something that's turned out to be a pleasure. It's also a little bittersweet, because my dad passed away about ten years ago, and I wish we could have conversations in German. Still, it feels like a bit of a tribute and a way to remember him.

One reason I'm finding German so fun is that I've got great beginner materials. I'm doing the most recent edition of Assimil, and forty lessons in, it's one of my favorite Assimil courses. It's got that Assimil sense of humor, with funny and appealing voice acting. It doesn't have the single continuing storyline that I normally like, but I don't really miss it, and some of the dialogues do connect up. Good pacing and organization, good explanations...

I know some folks here have chosen to go with earlier editions of Assimil German. I haven't done them, so I can't compare, but I'd say there's definitely no reason to be wary of this course. I would guess that even folks who generally prefer vintage Assimil might still enjoy it. In any case, it seems like German is a language where all the different Assimil editions are pretty well regarded, so we're kind of spoiled for choice.

And then I'm really enjoying a series of beginner short story collections called Dino lernt Deutsch. The protagonist is a young man from Sicily who kind of improvises his way around Germany. The series is lighthearted and entertaining and full of quirky details that feel authentic. For example, when you first meet Dino, he's in Berlin, sharing a flat with fellow international students. Everyone gets along well, but the place is a mess. No one cooks, but the sink is somehow always full of dirty dishes, and people swipe from each other's shelves in the fridge rather than go grocery shopping. I feel like I've lived in that flat.

I find the stories so much more interesting than the usual beginner reader fare. And there are audiobook versions, well narrated by the author at what for me is a good speed. The production quality is good, and there are even sound effects.

It really makes a difference to have this whole series of (audio)books with engaging characters and storylines that's accessible almost as soon as you pick up the language. I would love to find the equivalent for Italian, Catalan, Hindi, and Persian.
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby zjones » Wed Nov 07, 2018 1:58 pm

jonm wrote:I'm a regular listener of innerFrench and highly recommend it to anyone around A2/B1 in French. Interesting content, warm tone, and a real confidence boost. I'm getting to the point now where I find the discussions as interesting and enjoyable as ever but not as challenging as they once seemed, so I would love to find something just one notch harder. I've tried listening to podcasts intended for native speakers, and they still seem a bit out of reach, so it would be great to find something in between.


I love Hugo too! You might like the Balades podcast. It says it's for level A2/B1 but I found that it was more difficult than innerFrench, because the vocabulary is more specific. (Hm, the podclub.ch website doesn't seem to be working right now, if the link doesn't work for you then try it again in a little bit!)
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby Jaleel10 » Wed Nov 07, 2018 2:19 pm

jonm wrote: AuronPlay cracks me up (thanks to Jaleel10 for mentioning him in the Spanish group).



3 months, 3 long months I've spent recommending Auronplay to people and I think you are one of the few people I've managed to convert hehe.

Have you watched the broken radio one?

Auron: Tráeme esta tarde el coche, que le meto así BAM, un golpe seco a la radio - que vas a coger hasta psicofonías, vas a hablar con mi abuelo muerto (risas)
Federico: ¿PERO QUÉ GOLPE SECO? Que te desnuco de un guantazo
Auron: Ven esta tarde si eres tan valiente, Federico, VEN!
Federico: Por supuesto que voy a ir, por supuesto que voy a ir. Te voy a dar una somanta de palos que no te va a reconocer ni tu padre.
Auron: FEDERICO! Si vienes que sepas que vienes dispuesto a morir (risas)
Federico: ¿pero que dispuesto a morir, que dispuesto a morir??

:lol:

I'll often just transcribe random bits of his videos to annoy my friends :P Are there any videos of his in particular that you really like?
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Thu Nov 08, 2018 3:14 am

zjones wrote:You might like the Balades podcast. It says it's for level A2/B1 but I found that it was more difficult than innerFrench, because the vocabulary is more specific. (Hm, the podclub.ch website doesn't seem to be working right now, if the link doesn't work for you then try it again in a little bit!)

Thanks, Zelda, this is perfect! I had come across Balades and L'avis de Marie but for some reason never gave them a real listen, maybe because I still had episodes of innerFrench waiting for me. I just listened to the first episode of Balades (was able to get them here, they may have changed the address), and it's right at my level. Yeah, it does seem to have a good amount of new vocabulary, but still at a speed I can keep up with. Looks like just what I need!

Incidentally, Migros, the Swiss company that hosts these podcasts, is kind of interesting. It's this coop that I gather has mostly stuck to its principles, but it's also this huge company that does all kinds of different things. I spent a couple months in Geneva and did my grocery shopping at Migros supermarkets, and I almost took French classes there too. I had never heard of being able to do those two things in the same place. And now here I am listening to podcasts under the same umbrella.

Anyway, thanks so much for recommending! I think this'll be great for bridging the gap between innerFrench and podcasts for native speakers.
Last edited by jonm on Thu Nov 08, 2018 9:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Thu Nov 08, 2018 4:48 am

Jaleel10 wrote:I'll often just transcribe random bits of his videos to annoy my friends :P Are there any videos of his in particular that you really like?

Hahaha, just watched the broken radio, so good! I think my favorite of the ones I've seen is El azafato molesto, with the guy who, with a raspy voice from a party the night before, has to navigate the voice recognition program from hell, which keeps buying him unwanted plane tickets.

AuronPlay: Para acceder al sistema, por favor pulse la tecla uno, dos, catorze.
Guy: Uno [pulsa uno], dos [pulsa dos]... Catorze no hay, supongo... ¡Catorze no hay! Será el uno y cuatro, ¿no?
...
AuronPlay: Para comprar más billetes, por favor espere.
Guy: ¿Cómo que espere? Cancelar es el uno... [pulsa uno]
AuronPlay: Billetes comprados con éxito.

And then a close second is El vuelo anulado. Guy's flight from Madrid to Buenos Aires was canceled, so AuronPlay, representing the airline, offers him this itinerary: Madrid > Ankara > Madrid > Buenos Aires. When the guy understandably refuses, Auronplay offers him a new itenerary "un poquito más directo" that includes a leg between two islands in the Atlantic in a canoe.

Guy: No voy a ir en canoa, ¿cuántas horas son eso, loco?
AuronPlay: Depende de lo rápido que remes. :lol:
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby Jaleel10 » Thu Nov 08, 2018 6:29 am

:lol:

This warms my heart so much. I have probably watched each prank call video 10 times at least ¡y nunca me canso de ellas! It's great practice and they're very entertaining. I'm glad you like them :D
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Thu Nov 08, 2018 7:13 am

Jaleel10 wrote:This warms my heart so much. I have probably watched each prank call video 10 times at least ¡y nunca me canso de ellas! It's great practice and they're very entertaining. I'm glad you like them :D

Thanks so much for recommending them! I watch them for pleasure, putting them on whenever I could use a laugh, but it's also great listening practice, and I'm picking up some very colorful vocabulary... :lol:
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jonm
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Re: jonm's log: FIGS, Catalan, Hindi, Persian

Postby jonm » Tue Dec 18, 2018 4:53 am

Didn't mean to go so long between posts!

I've talked about Spanish, French, and German, the languages I'm most committed to. In this post, I'll jump to the other end of my lineup and talk about two languages I'm only dabbling in...

Hindi and Persian

Motivation

I think for me, the main difference between dabbling in a language and being a beginner in a language is that my motivation is short-term curiosity rather than long-term aspiration. I would of course love to speak these languages at a high level, but I don't feel any urgency to get there. I'm content for now to learn the script, the sound system, and some basic patterns and vocabulary. I'm interested in what I'll learn in the next lesson, whereas with beginner languages, my interest kind of leaps ahead.

Persian in particular is a language I'm learning "just because." I was reading old HTLAL posts where Professor Arguelles talked about his fondness for the language, and I was inspired to give it a try, and so far it's held my interest. I like the sound of spoken Persian and the look of the Arabic script. Both seem very graceful to me. And I like what I've seen of Iranian cinema, especially the films of Abbas Kiarostami. That's about it. I've only met a few Persian speakers, and I'm curious about Iran and would love to travel there someday, but it probably won't happen anytime soon.

With Hindi, one difference is that I've done a fair amount of traveling in India. It's pretty easy to get around with English, but I'm curious how the experience would be different if I spoke Hindi. Other than that, I'm interested in Hindi for similar reasons. I find the Devanagari script beautiful and beguiling, and I like that it's organized in a way that makes sense phonetically. And the sound system of Hindi is a total feast. The vowel system is reminiscent of Latin's, but with nasal vowels as well. And there are so many consonants. Stops can be voiceless or voiced, unaspirated or aspirated. So whereas English has /p b/, Hindi has /p pʰ b bʱ/. And whereas English has alveolar /t d/, Hindi has dental and retroflex /t̪ t̪ʰ d̪ d̪ʱ ʈ ʈʰ ɖ ɖʱ/. I like training my ear and mouth to make all those distinctions.

One last motivation is that I get a kick out of etymological connections between languages. It's fun learning Hindi and Persian together, because there are Indo-Iranian cognates and loanwords from Persian into Hindi, and they're similar enough to spot but not so similar that I mix them up. And I also like learning a new Hindi or Persian word and looking up its more distant relatives in my other Indo-European languages. For example, the Persian word تخت /taxt/ "bed, throne" comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *(s)teg- "to cover," whose English descendants include: protect, detect, toga, tile, thatch, Stegosaurus ("roofed lizard" in Greek), and thug (from Hindi, the semantic development being roughly "to cover" > "to conceal" > "thief").

I'll talk about materials in my next post, hopefully before too long.
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