Neurotip 2020: Greek, Icelandic, things like that

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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Wed Jul 31, 2019 3:55 pm

Log post 7

Greek
Very pleased that I managed to get through a seven-day family holiday in Italy while only missing two days of the 365-day challenge in Greek. This was mainly through reading, yes the same book as usual, which up to now has been going at a rate of about two months to a chapter. Half an hour's reading gets me a couple of pages. Still it's all grist to the mill.
On balance I think it was quite helpful to be learning Greek while dealing with a lot of Italian; the accent and 'mouthfeel' of the two languages is similar enough that it's tempting to piggyback Greek on my Italian accent, so having the two side by side helped to focus the differences.
Yesterday I upgraded my operating system and realised too late that I'd gone the wrong way about backing up Anki, so I've lost my Greek and Icelandic decks. It doesn't really matter though, the effort of putting the words in is helpful in itself and at least it means I won't keep getting sent back to the old boring words I'd prefer not to admit I've forgotten :)
For the record, I'm coming towards the end of the third Living Language book (listening at least, I haven't been working through the books themselves as religiously), and am on unit 24 of FSI Basic Greek. The analogy between FSI and a vigorous workout continues to feel apt - it tires your brain :)
Oh, and I've found a series of YouTube videos entitled 'In Simple Greek' (Με Απλά Ελληνικά, or since languages are plural in Greek, 'In Simples Greeks'), in which a guy explains stuff using Greek which is 'simples' from a native's point of view, i.e. lacking in technical jargon, but doesn't make any other concession to the non-native. Let's be clear, it is too hard for me, but I can pick out just enough phrases that I can get the gist of most of it. Greek is kind to the learner insofar as you can generally hear each syllable, even if they go past very fast sometimes; Icelandic (and English, I suspect) was very much a game of 'how many syllables can you bury in a single "euur"?'

Italian
So we were self-catering in Tuscany for a week. Apart from a lot of 'two adults and one child please', I had perhaps a dozen conversations of a few minutes each with various native speakers (largely in shops while Mrs Neurotip and/or Master Neurotip were poring over various buyables) adding up to perhaps 45 minutes in all, and it all went rather well.
We had the radio on in the car a lot, and all the stations seemed to have a lot of talking, so I probably listened to several hours of native content as well. I was definitely aware that my accent had improved by the end of the week, without having tried at all (all my actual trying was reserved for Greek). I also read a few dozen pages of the Scerbanenco book and am continuing with this on and off - I definitely want to finish it.
There's no doubt now that my Italian is better than my French, and I suppose I feel more ownership of it because it was the first language I learned entirely of my own volition, not just as a subject at school.

Others
Nothing really. Really starting to view Arabic as a possibility but I'm not too tempted to wander off into it just yet...
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sun Sep 08, 2019 9:17 am

Log post 8

Greek
I've more or less abandoned Living Language, somewhere near the end of the course. At some point I'll sweep the last few units for useful vocab. In retrospect I should have just cracked through this straight after Language Transfer, all the way through, and then moved on to FSI. Instead I got frustrated with the it's-all-about-the-vocab-forget-the-grammar approach and lost interest.
On the other hand, FSI has got considerably more challenging. Around unit 20 I was managing by listening and repeating alone, albeit several times; not any more (I'm on unit 28 now) but that's fine. Now I'll listen, read and then listen again the next day, and magically the words start to separate themselves out... they really do talk very fast, I may have mentioned that before. :) Hopefully I'll end up with reasonable listening skills this way, which is good as it's easy to neglect that aspect of things.
On non-work days I read instead of listening; sometimes plugging through Θανάσιμα περάσματα (still!), sometimes decoding online newspaper (kathimerini.gr) or Wikipedia articles. As I'm learning more vocabulary I'm starting to find that a lot of words sound quite similar; this isn't so much of a problem early on, but now many of the words I'm learning start with ap-, ep-, ex-, par-, kat-, etc. It sometimes helps to look up the etymology, but that makes it slow going. I guess Greek isn't unique in this respect. At least the orthography is much more transparent to me now, that's something that's become apparent only in the last few weeks.

Italian
I've been doing quite a lot of Italian lately, listening to podcasts and reading. I finished off Traditori di tutti in a few days in the end - it was just as exciting as its predecessor - and am now reading Testimone inconsapevole by Gianrico Carofiglio on the recommendation of an Italian friend, which is starting a bit slowly but promises to be interesting.

Wanderlust
What's really occupying my thoughts at the moment is what to do next year, if anything. I'm still very tempted by Arabic and am thinking about getting a grounding in MSA and then 'specialising' in Egyptian Arabic, on the principle that Egypt is the part of the Arabic-speaking world I'm most likely to want to visit, and I have a Egyptian close colleague at work who I'm sure would be sympathetic to my efforts. However in a way it would make more sense to learn Russian; again it's somewhere I'd like to visit, I can read the script and I have some vague idea of Slavic grammar, and it would probably be the more realistic option if I wanted to keep my Greek going a bit alongside it, plus I also have native-speaker access (my Italian friend's wife is Russian!)... it just doesn't feel as exciting as Arabic. Whether I'd feel that way after a few months of hard graft is another matter. :)
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sat Oct 05, 2019 9:43 pm

Log post 9

Greek
The thing about self-directed learning is that it can really become hard to know whether you're making any progress or not. At least 80% of my Greek activity in the last month has been FSI-related, and each unit is now taking me at least a week (unit 31 currently). As well as a lot of listening and repeating, I've done a bit of reading and a bit of Anki-ing and surely I must be moving forward in some way or other, but it's not noticeable at the moment.

I suppose I have noticed that my accent is improving, or at least my tongue does what it's supposed to with less coercion. For example, I can now more or less rely on the '-n p-' > '(m)b' thing between words (e.g. στην πόλη) happening without me paying direct attention to it.

Italian
I forgot to mention last month that I've been reading through the Divina Commedia -- OK I'm only on Inferno 26 at the moment but I'm really enjoying it and expect to continue. I'm using the Digital Dante online edition which has a parallel text format, an extensive commentary on each canto which takes as long to read as the poem itself, and is free. Don't get me wrong, I don't understand half the words (some of the archaic words are familiar to me from 18th and 19th-century opera, but not most), but with a parallel text and commentary you can easily fool yourself into thinking you're understanding it.

Apart from that, just a couple of podcasts. Oh, and I had an Italian-speaking patient in clinic last week, along with a translator. It was a really educational experience. For all that I go on about 'I can have an extended conversation with native speakers, yada yada', when it came to actually using the language while trying to concentrate on the job in hand, I was a stammering wreck. Also - whisper it in shame - I don't know how to give commands. Particularly in the lei form. Luckily I realised this in time to get the interpreter's help, before I started saying 'it holds out its hands and looks straight ahead' like something out of Silence of the Lambs.

Future plans
New month, new plans. I'm now thinking seriously about making 2020 a consolidation year for Greek and Icelandic. I'd like to keep going with Greek, it's a lovely language and I'm hoping to visit Greece in 2020 so it would be a shame to let this year's work slip. With Icelandic, Mrs N and I have just finished watching the second series of Trapped and every time I see images of Iceland I really, really want to go there again - and I don't want to throw away the work I did on the language a year or two ago. I've been toying with the idea of doing the two languages on alternate days, having a Greek day then an Icelandic day. Or maybe a week at a time would be better, what do you think?

On the other hand, I've also decided that Japanese remains on the bucket list. I'll have to leave this until I have a few years free, but the challenge of the alien language and alien writing system is so delicious I can't let go of all hope of learning it one day. Official bucket list, then: Russian, Arabic, Japanese. Probably in that order. Ten year plan?
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Fri Nov 15, 2019 7:40 pm

Log post 10

Greek
Well, time marches on and this is probably my penultimate log post of 2019. I've had a good couple of months with Greek and the 365-day challenge. Listening to the FSI course is still my single biggest activity, but I've branched out a bit. I wasn't very impressed with the early HAU units, but I'm finding the later units (30s-40s) are a bit more meaty. They certainly speak more self-consciously 'for the learner' than in FSI (though that isn't saying much!), and there's a fair amount of pointless bits of music between sections, but the language is more modern and the topics are more relevant everyday stuff, so it makes a good adjunct.

Just today I've bitten the bullet and started listening to some native podcasts. The more chatty ones are still beyond me, but I'm finding this one a bit more tractable. I'm approaching it in the way I've learned from FSI, that is to play short segments (a few seconds) repeatedly and do my best to repeat them - an intensive listening approach, in other words. Doing this, I can understand about half the words and get the gist of most of the sentences, but I'm not too bothered about following the discussion, I'm more interested in picking up turns of phrase, common collocations and ways of putting things. That way, when I learn vocabulary (from intensive reading, for example), I can slot it into the frames I've learned, and bingo, complete language mastery. Or something like that.

Although I've been speaking quite a lot by repeating, and I'm fairly happy with my pronunciation, it's occurred to me that I'm not really practising speaking in the sense of expressing myself in conversation. For that reason I've started turning my MP3 player off for the last five or ten minutes of my walk to work, and talking to myself in Greek instead, maybe imagining myself in a situation I might need to handle in real life, and trying to take both parts of the conversation. I'm not too bad at finding ways of saying things, but I'm very very slow; the words are not coming at anything like a normal conversational speed. More practice clearly required.

Sitting down with pen and paper is one thing that isn't in my daily routine, and I need to make more time for it. Once in the last few weeks I have studied a point of grammar in detail, and it felt really useful to have done it, but I still have to work out how I can make a habit of it.

Swedish (!)
Yesterday I was browsing Morgana's log. She linked to a YouTube video about Swedish-speaking Finns, a subject I'm interested in, and mentioned that the girl's Swedish was quite easy to understand, so I idly clicked on it and was astonished to find that I could understand maybe 80% of what she was saying. The only way Swedish has been on my radar recently has been as something I try to keep out of my head when I'm thinking about Icelandic – the last time I heard, read or said more than a few words of Swedish was twenty years ago – so it was quite a surreal feeling to hear comprehensible spoken Swedish, and now I'm starting to wonder if I should go back to it again. Swedish relationship status: it's complicated.

Plans
After reading this thread I watched a video by Stefano Suigo of him speaking nine languages one after another for a few minutes each and found it really exciting and inspiring. Obviously he's more proficient in several languages than I expect ever to be in any, but nonetheless I feel that I'd like to try making my own mini version of the video, just to see what happens. I haven't plucked up the courage yet though!

I mentioned last month that my plan for 2020 is to keep the daily routine going, but to alternate between Greek and Icelandic. This is still the plan, and I think one week ell / one week isl should be about right, or maybe two weeks / two weeks, hoping for a bow-wave effect to carry one language through while I'm concentrating on the other, and avoiding interference by studying the two too close together. I'd be interested to know if anyone else has tried this approach?

Next month: ήρθε η ώρα να προσπαθήσω Dialang Greek!
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sun Dec 15, 2019 12:24 am

Log post 11

Greek
Still bumping happily along, on weekdays mostly listening to FSI units or sometimes HAU dialogues, at weekends reading Θανάσιμα περάσματα, largely keeping up with the 365-day challenge. I reckon I've been notching up about 20 hours a month on average.
I'm just about at a level now where I can engage in some meaningful way with native materials in a natural way. For example, I've been doing some extensive listening to dialogue-based podcasts (including Giati Oxi, The Brain Hacking Academy, Apla kai Andrika) and finding myself able to broadly follow the topic of conversation - there are certainly sentences that I don't catch and plenty of unfamiliar words, but getting the gist without needing to stop continually is quite a milestone. These days I can also read fairly fluently if it doesn't depend on specialist vocabulary.
And I had a conversation in Greek last week! The exchange was fairly rudimentary but the Greek colleague who I talked to was impressed, indeed moved. Hopefully we'll have the odd chat again in future. I do know a couple of other Greeks at work, but mustering the courage to speak to them in Greek is something I find very hard.

Greek: goal for 2019 achieved?
So did I achieve my New Year ambitions?
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!

Well, I probably will have done 250 hours of Greek during 2019, one way or another. My background with Greek was about 24 hours of a beginner's course in 2010, plus a pretty wide vocabulary of Greek-in-English words. Over the last week I've done all the Dialang tests, with the following results:

reading B1
structures B1
vocabulary B1
listening B2
writing B2

In other words: woo-hoo! Objective achieved. I still think Dialang's estimates are overly generous, and my Greek conversation is extremely halting and basic. Still, there it is. I've done substantially better than I thought I would, and my Greek after a year is substantially better than my Icelandic was after 18 months. I think Greek is indeed easier than Icelandic, for me at least (though both are FSI category 3). Working nearly daily on the same language is also likely to have helped, which I did with Greek but not with Icelandic - many thanks to PeterMollenburg for running the 365-day challenge, it's worked wonders for me. And probably, hopefully, my language learning skills are somewhat better now than they were last year.

Plans for 2020
When I was learning Icelandic I spent too much time obsessing about details of inflection paradigms. With Greek I've probably spent too little time on this; you can get by for a long time without knowing the less common groups of nouns. With Icelandic I stayed largely with materials for learners and didn't plunge into native materials in the way I have with Greek, which was probably a mistake.
So for 2020 I plan to fill in the gaps, by reading and listening extensively in Icelandic and working in more detail on Greek grammar. I do however intend to follow one of the Icelandic Online courses; whether IOL 3 or IOL 4 I can't tell from the previews so I'll try one of them and switch if necessary. I've asked for an Icelandic crime novel and translation for Xmas, and I've dipped my toe into the murky world of Icelandic podcasts: Í ljósi sögunnar, Morðcastið, Þegar ég verð stór, for example. I listened through an Í ljósi sögunnar about Boris Johnson on a train ride home the other week and actually learned some stuff about him I didn't know, so my Isl hasn't completely gone thank goodness.
I've signed up for the 2020 366-day challenge, and I'll alternate a week of Greek with a week of Icelandic through the year. I don't really want to set specific goals for how far I want to get with the languages this time, I'm happy just to carry on enjoying learning and using them.

Other languages
I've branched out into a couple of new Italian podcasts, Scientificast and Radiografia Nera. A long-running French email conversation is still in full swing, and I still love listening to Portrait de famille when I have time.

Merry Christmas, καλά Χριστούγεννα and a productive and peaceful New Year to one and all!
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby hagestolz » Sun Dec 15, 2019 10:14 am

Many congratulations on reaching your goal in Greek, Neurotip - your sense of achievement shines through this last post! I started the year with grand intentions but unfortunately life threw up other obstacles which I needed to prioritise. This week I've finally picked up my Greek again and reading your story has certainly inspired me to aim for greater consistency in 2020, so many thanks for that.
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Sun Dec 15, 2019 11:13 am

hagestolz wrote:Many congratulations on reaching your goal in Greek, Neurotip - your sense of achievement shines through this last post! I started the year with grand intentions but unfortunately life threw up other obstacles which I needed to prioritise. This week I've finally picked up my Greek again and reading your story has certainly inspired me to aim for greater consistency in 2020, so many thanks for that.

Cheers hagestolz! I'd be very pleased if my enthusiasm for Greek was infectious. Don't forget the Modern Greek Study Group thread - I've been remiss in neglecting it this year so let's get some interesting chat going over there, ίσως στα ελληνικά! Compliments of the season to you :D
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Neurotip » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:42 pm

As a pendant to the last post, here are a couple of recordings of me reading Greek texts. Both are unprepared (as you'll probably notice) and not all the words were familiar to me.

Greek Wikipedia entry for 'language' -- link to the text
random horoscope -- link to the text

enjoy :?
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Re: Neurotip grapples with Greek

Postby Sunday » Sun Dec 29, 2019 8:55 am

I also want to congratulate Neurotip. Great work and surely your enthusiasm is contagious!
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Neurotip 2020: Greek, Icelandic, things like that

Postby Neurotip » Thu Jan 02, 2020 6:21 pm

Hello all and happy 2020! It seems like a good time to sketch out my plans for the year, so here goes...

Attentive readers will already know that, having got through the 365-day challenge and done at least half an hour of Greek most days in 2019, I'm planning to capitalise on the habit, consolidate Greek and get back into Icelandic, by doing a week of Greek and a week of Icelandic alternately through 2020. I'm hoping to find that there'll be a bow-wave effect for each language, or to use another metaphor I'm going to try and keep both balls in the air without actually holding more than one at a time to avoid interference. We'll see if it works.

What methods will I use? Quite similar for both languages, actually: some reading and some listening, with some intensive work on each and some extensive. Maybe the odd post here in one or other language would do me good too!

Greek reading: Θα γίνει κάτι, θα δείς by Christos Oikonomou, and its translation 'Something will happen, you'll see'. Technically this is still winging its way from Greece but I'm hopeful that it will arrive before the Greek equivalent of mañana (I don't know if αύριο has the same implication, but it should...). Not the sort of thing I'd usually read, but it seems to come well recommended and is said to give a good insight into certain aspects of Greek life, so hey ho.

Greek listening: crack on with FSI for intensive, and I've also downloaded the Easy Greek videos, intending to listen first then watch the video with subtitles later; various podcasts (see this log passim) for extensive.

Icelandic reading: Snjóblinda by Ragnar Ólafsson, and its translation 'Snowblind'. I really wanted to read a Icelandic Scandi-noir crime thing (well, I've enjoyed the Italian equivalents) so I asked for one as a Christmas present - unfortunately the giver, in a gallant attempt to navigate the forlagid.is website in Icelandic, failed to notice that she'd ordered the e-book by mistake (Icelandic, in typical fashion, calques it into the equivalent of 'amberbook' - exercise for the etymologically inclined reader to work out why) and when the mistake was uncovered we found that it costs about 25 quid to post a book from Iceland, apparently. Luckily the e-book download link still worked and I've managed to transfer it to my iPad for happy reading. It's also a 2020 goal, indeed almost one for the bucket list, to read Krabbaveislan (Hlynur Níels Grímsson) which has been on my shelf for a looooong time.

Icelandic listening: VLI for intensive, various podcasts (see last post) for extensive, though I'm not sure I'll get a great deal from these as I'm really not understanding much more than 10% at the moment.

Icelandic also: Icelandic Online 3 looks like it should be about my level at the moment, so time to bite the harðfiskur and get on with it. When I worked on Icelandic in 2017-18 I spent much too much time obsessing about the details of inflection and too little on how the language is used, so this time I want to focus on useful phrases and expose myself to as much material as possible. Obviously I'll have to study grammar too... this is Icelandic after all :)

Where do I want to get to? Well, I don't really mind as long as I'm getting somewhere and having fun doing it, but I would like to get Icelandic to a level where I can realistically have a brief conversation and read a novel at a bearable pace - so high B1 or low B2, round about my current level in Greek or German - and Greek to a solid B2, obviously C1 isn't realistic in the foreseeable future but if it can start to rival my French I'd be very happy. Will it happen? Stay tuned...
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