Neurotip grapples with Greek

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Neurotip
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Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Mon Dec 31, 2018 5:05 pm

Welcome to my new log! (link to the old one for reference...)

Log post 1: Plans

Greek - where I am now
I'm definitely a false beginner with Greek, in two distinct ways. Firstly, I can read Greek aloud reasonably accurately - I'm comfortable with the alphabet and I know something about the pronunciation. Secondly, as an etymologically-inclined medical doctor, I have a decent vocabulary of Greek roots in technical English. Just for fun I took the Dialang placement test (a brief vocabulary test based on classifying items into real words vs nonwords) and scored 386 with the comment: 'People who score at this level have a limited vocabulary which may be sufficient for ordinary day-to-day purposes' - which is amusing as my productive vocabulary probably doesn't top 20 words. Let's just say I have a significant discount on the vocab.

Funnily enough Icelandic gives me a bit of a pronunciation discount on Greek too; both languages have voiced and unvoiced fricatives (and stops) at both velar and palatal places, even with some parallels in spelling.

Greek - goal for 2019
I'd like to get my Greek to the same level as my Icelandic (is now, i.e. solid A2, nosing into B1) by the end of 2019 - this is more ambitious than my goal for Isl was, as I was significantly further ahead with Isl this time last year than I am now with Greek, but I was working on Italian as well in 2018. In total I think I managed 250 hours or so during 2018, and if I can keep this up then it should be achievable. Indeed who knows, Greek may turn out to be easier than Icelandic!

My plan to start with is to use Language Transfer for grammar and vocab, FSI for pronunciation. These should fit in with my routine of listening to podcasts and mumbling to myself while walking to and from work. I've warmed up by re-reading Horrocks which I read about ten years ago (just because). I might well get through Language Transfer in a few weeks though, at which stage I'll need something else - possibly Living Language, or more FSI if I get on well with it.

Last year's languages
Italian - I bought La verità dell'Alligatore a couple of months ago and have just started reading it, and don't intend to stop just because it's no longer a TL. I never really left Italian and may well continue reading and having the occasional conversation when the opportunity presents itself.

Icelandic - keeping the possibility open that I may continue to read odd bits - hearing of the British people involved in the recent road accident in Iceland, I was able to read an Icelandic news article on the subject and establish from it one or two facts missing from the UK news. Having got this far I'm not going to feel guilty about doing the odd bit of reading, on the contrary.

Happy New Year to all!
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby avalon » Tue Jan 01, 2019 1:47 am

Returning the favor and visiting your new log. I'll be following! :)
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sun Jan 06, 2019 11:20 pm

Sitrep: end of week 1, no problems devoting the 30 minutes a day to Greek that I've pledged in the 365-day challenge. Indeed I've probably done a good four hours this week and loving it - even Anki-ing daily.

But is this 'too hot not to cool down', as the old song has it? Time will tell :)
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sun Jan 13, 2019 3:56 pm

I intend to continue with monthly posts as per my 2018 log, but...

365-day challenge status: day 13, going really well (from the point of view of the challenge; maybe not so well vis-a-vis the other real-life things that I should perhaps be paying more attention to), at least an hour a day for the last seven days. Mostly Language Transfer, some Anki, a bit of FSI. My word FSI is a bit of a boot camp, rapid-fire and relentless, but by the end of half an hour I can feel myself getting more fluent.
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:20 am

Log post 2: A few weeks in

Greek
Greek and me, sitting in a tree, phi iota... lambda... Anyway the honeymoon period is still in full swing and I'm possibly even more excited than I was before, which was a lot.

I munched through the whole of Language Transfer between just before New Year and the end of last week, so five weeks or so of about 30-60 minutes a day. I know what people mean about it being heavier going towards the end; I found the same with Alaric's similar Icelandic course, perhaps it's endemic to the Michel Thomas style. Not too bad though, I just ended up running through the last few lessons a couple of times. I didn't do much else during this, though I've dipped my toes into Super Easy Greek which promises to be a great resource. Right at the end I did a random Google for some native Greek online just for laughs, and was absolutely thrilled to find a post on a psychology forum which I could understand from start to finish bar about 10% of the words.

I've invested in Living Language Greek, but haven't done much of it yet. The thing is that audio-only courses fit much better into my day - I walk half an hour to and from work (and have no compunction about chattering away to myself as I do so) so audio is time-neutral for me. Having finished LT, therefore, I've fallen back on FSI; it's pretty old-fashioned, and they talk frighteningly fast from the get-go (I understand that's a deliberate feature), but the way they get you practising the same sentence frames over and over with different words, and blend listening, repeating and understanding, really gets the structures ingrained. I've also entered a 'most common 500 Greek words' list into Anki and have managed to do my quota on at least half of the days.

It's just a shame that Italian and Greek didn't compare notes when they decided to make the words for 'yours, his' respectively 'tuo, suo' and 'σου, του' (sou, tou)...

Non-target (but still super cool) languages
A friend and I have struck up an email conversation in French which is fun. I'd love to know whether I could already have done this when I left school, or else how I've picked it up since, as I certainly haven't studied it consciously since then. I guess it gets a fair amount of osmosis from Italian. Oh, also I'm taking Mrs Neurotip for a surprise weekend in Geneva in April so the practice should come in handy.

I'm not really doing much Italian at the moment - maybe once a week I'm reading another few pages of L'Alligatore but not much else. Again on a holiday theme we're having a week in Tuscany in July so plenty of opportunity to show off there I hope :)

Icelandic similarly little, though I did read my horoscope recently. Just to be clear, I am by no means a believer in the magical potency of the Steingeitin, but hey, because it's there. Also the word 'spá' appeals to me as one of those very old Icelandic words which they've repurposed (it's not just for horoscopes, if you want to know whether to take an umbrella out or not you can consult the weather spá...).

More next month!
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Mon Mar 04, 2019 6:07 pm

Log post 3: Two months in

Greek
This month I've managed to make a proper start on the Living Language course, indeed it's been my main resource. There are three books with ten units in each, and after a month I'm 95% of the way through the first book.

It isn't perfect - some of the exercises are a bit naff (I'm looking at you, wordsearches), there are occasional typos in both Greek and English, and it does follow the usual pattern of starting as a glorified phrasebook. Presumably this is intended to give an easily discouraged learner a sense that they're learning 'useful' language from the get-go, but if I'd started with this then I'd be getting puzzled and annoyed.

For example, Greek verbs come in imperfective-perfective pairs; in previous units each verb has been introduced in one or other form but not both, and in this unit they've introduced the sentences θέλω να βγω με τους φίλους μου and θέλω να βγαίνω έξω, in which βγαίνω and βγω are forms of the same word, but without even flagging this up, much less explaining it. Had I not done Language Transfer beforehand, this would have sent me running for the grammar books. I imagine they'll say 'did you notice...?' in a future unit, but grrr.

That said, having done Language Transfer, I'm finding Living Language an easily digestible follow-on, and I'd certainly recommend doing both in that order. In particular, the Living Language audio is excellent and copious and, rather neatly, is integrated with the book but is also fully usable without it. So for example if I'm up to date with the audio but I'm in a situation where I can't use the book (walking, ironing...), I can listen to the next unit's audio without compromising on flow. Indeed I'm finding this is quite a good way to do it: the vocab is easier to learn when presented aurally, and it feels like better exercise to do the output tasks speaking than writing.

I'm pleased to report that the 365-day challenge has resulted in good habits: Greek now has a regular slot on my commute. Weekends are more of a challenge, ironically; although I have more free time, my time is less regimented and there are more distractions. Still I've only missed one day and I'm very pleased with that.

Semi-active languages
My email conversation in French continues apace and is very good fun. My go-to online dictionary for all languages now is WordReference, but I've just discovered Linguee which looks awesome for translating small chunks idiomatically in context.

I've been missing listening to Italian podcasts that I did so much of last year, so I've just downloaded a dozen episodes from various RAI radio programmes and will use them for walking-listening when I'm not doing Greek. After two or three months of minimal Italian input, I've already lost fluency in understanding, but I imagine it'll come back quickly.

About once a week or so I put an Icelandic webpage into Google Translate for a parallel text reading exercise - the translation is usually a bit rubbish but I can normally work it out. I'm still at the stage with Icelandic where being able to read the most fatuous cliché gives me a little woop of pleasure (wow, look everyone, this means 'Ten things you'll never believe about eating couscous, click here', isn't that cool).
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Mon Apr 22, 2019 9:28 am

Log post 4: A bit late

Back by popular demand!

Greek
Ironically, the lateness of this log entry has been due in large part to the effort of keeping up the 365-day challenge, i.e. half an hour a day of Greek learning without fail - well, not 'effort' exactly, more the quantity of my spare time that it's taken up. I didn't realise I was taking a couple of days off language-learning to write a log post, but that appears to have been the case :) I have however managed to keep up with the challenge, give or take three days.

Attentive readers will recall that I'm working through the three-book Living Language course. It's still one of my main resources, but I'm slowing down - currently on unit 4 of 5 in the second book. Although I'm making a point of going through all the audio and text at least once, I'm concentrating on the conversations, listening to each one a few times without looking at the text, then going through the audio again sentence by sentence to see how much I can decode or at least repeat. After that the course does the same thing, but translating each sentence, so I go through that a few times; and finally I look at the text and try to memorise at least some of the vocabulary. Doing this, I feel as if I'm coming to understand the text gradually but continuously improving, while keeping the process effortful all the time, which seems like a good approach to me.

On days when I'm not doing this - either because I'm not walking to work, or because I'm doing a bit of FSI or something else with my commuting audio time - I read instead. Sometimes this is the Living Language course book, but at the moment I'm mostly working through a crime novel that I've been given as a present, in the original English and in Greek translation (The Crossing Places / Θανάσιμα περάσματα by Elly Griffiths, since you ask). I'm seeing how much I can grasp (from context if necessary) from a few Greek sentences at a time, then checking against the English version. I try to make sure I've understood the structure of each sentence, and look up the unfamiliar words, but I'm not deliberately memorising words as I go along (although I do put the more important ones into Anki for later chomping). It's still slow going but it is at least holding my interest and introducing 'native' material at an early stage, which is supposed to be a good thing!

Final thought: last night I fancied a change and looked up what's available on Netflix in Greek. This seemingly harmless train of thought ended up with me attempting to transcribe an episode of My Little Pony. How we suffer for our art. Still at least I know the words for 'princess' and 'unicorn' now.

Semi-active languages
Not much to report. French email conversation continues - I've given up pretending (to myself) not to look up half the words now though :) Trip to Geneva is next week though. Italian is largely in cold storage, Icelandic entirely so. In quiet moments I'm still considering whether my next TL should be Russian or Persian, but really the question is whether I'd be able to keep up the language-learning thing for a third year, which is not at all certain. Things are going fine for now.
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Fri Jun 07, 2019 5:57 pm

Log post 5: hovering

Greek
Still just about keeping up with my half an hour a day, more or less. The last few weeks I've done a lot more listening than reading; I'm more than three-quarters of the way through the Living Language course now, based on the audio, but I'm really not following the books very diligently. When I do pick up the book, since most of the exercises are Greek-into-English, I tend to go through them backwards, covering up the question and trying to translate the answer into Greek - it feels like much better practice. The audio doesn't give you any Eng-to-Gre practice at all, and for that matter FSI doesn't either.

Five months in, and for a while now things have got to that stage where you lose the feeling of ongoing progress. Mind you I have noticed that when a phrase pops into my mind fully formed, it's more likely to be grammatically correct than it used to be (gender/number agreement, verb form, that sort of thing).

Ποτέ δεν έγραψα εδώ στα ελληνικά... πρέπει να το κάνω τώρα. Είμαι ευτυχησμένος πως μπορώ να πώ λίγο, αν και δεν θα είναι σωστό. Και όταν ακούω την μουσική ελληνική, μπορώ να καταλάβω μερικές λέξεις (πολλές λέξεις είναι το ίδιο σε κάθε τραγούδι - η καρδιά, τα χέρια, τα μάτια, τα χρόνια κτλ.) Αναρωτιέμαι πως θα μπορέσω να καταλάβω αν μιλήσω με κάποιο απ' την Ελλάδα. Δεν θα ταξιδέψουμε στην Ελλάδα φέτος, αλλά ελπίζω να πάμε σύντομα.

You'll have to excuse my spelling, which is probably woeful, having done very little writing. I'm constantly getting η and υ mixed up, never mind ο and ω.

In any case Greek is still super fun. And a great deal easier than Icelandic, in case that fact should ever be of use to anyone :)

Semi-active languages
Geneva went well enough - I managed several brief conversations in French, taxi drivers, ticket booths, that sort of thing. There was a fine moment when I bought entrance tickets for myself and Mrs Neurotip and accepted the offer of an audioguide, and the young chap behind the counter hesitated and said 'En français pour tous les deux?' I'm quite sure he was just being polite, but hey, even that doesn't happen very often ;)

In preparation for a family week in Tuscany next month, I've been listening to some some Italian podcasts again (Lezioni di musica and La lingua batte - it's very easy to download them from the RAI website). The latter is largely in the form of interviews, or dialogues between the presenter and a guest, sometimes with slightly odd accents (or lisps!), sometimes on the phone, on subjects I'm not especially familiar with, which adds a few layers of trickiness. It's surprising how a small increase in difficulty can make the difference between following the train of thought and getting completely lost - I guess that's what an intermediate level is all about. I've also bought the second book in Scerbanenco's Duca Lamberti series, Traditori di tutti, as holiday reading. It's burning a hole in my bedside table though...
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby eido » Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:54 pm

Neurotip wrote:Final thought: last night I fancied a change and looked up what's available on Netflix in Greek. This seemingly harmless train of thought ended up with me attempting to transcribe an episode of My Little Pony. How we suffer for our art. Still at least I know the words for 'princess' and 'unicorn' now.

I think those are very useful words. ;) I really do.

Look at our realistic dialogues!

A: Your project turned out like unicorn poop.
B: Well, Princess Prissy Pants, at least I did the work.

Anything can be made relevant with the right context.
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Neurotip
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Wed Jul 03, 2019 4:13 pm

Log post 6

Greek
I was very pleased with myself last week for getting through the whole of June without a single missed day on the 365-day challenge. The key has been to have enough different resources that I can fit at least one of them into my routine, whatever I happen to be doing - basically if I don't have the opportunity to listen, I make sure I have a book to read, and if I don't feel like doing reading exercises I can read some of Θανάσιμα περάσματα (which has been a bit neglected recently but is still fun and getting easier).

While the days of immediate return on investment are behind me now, some things are definitely getting easier, especially grammar - it's pretty much effortless now to find the past tense of an active verb (passive still takes a few moments but I feel a lot more confident with that now), and small sentence chunks like 'there aren't any...', 'do you know where...', 'and that's why...' just come out without any conscious effort. Sometimes!

For the first time I've found a good level with vocab learning - with a quota of seven new words a day (don't laugh) on Anki, I've managed to complete the daily total almost every day for the last three weeks. Yes, I know it's a fairly puny rate, but if I keep that up for six months I'll have added an extra thousand words, which is certainly better than nothing.

Italian
Since the last post I've listened to about four hours of various Italian RAI radio programmes, fitting it in around Greek listening. I'd have liked to do some more detailed preparation before the holiday (ten days now!) but I have to devote all my vocab and grammar learning energy to Greek really. I have started the Scerbanenco book, and am enjoying it every bit as much as the last one; I can read it without looking anything up and get the gist, but there are enough unfamiliar words that it's definitely a good source of new vocabulary. Trip report to follow!

Other languages
Nothing really to report, except that in the last few days my thoughts on the next language (if I get that far) have turned to Arabic... I think my attraction to Persian was that I was seeing it as Arabic-lite, but I'm starting to see Arabic as a realistic challenge rather than an unattainable peak. We'll see.
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