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Neurotip 2020: Greek, Icelandic, things like that

Posted: Tue Feb 11, 2020 6:49 pm
by Neurotip
Whoops, another month has gone by and time for a log post. tl;dr: so far so good.

As per plan, I'm taking a more relaxed approach to both Icelandic and Greek than previously. I'm dividing my time about 50/50 between listening and reading. Listening is some didactic (VLI for Icelandic, again, and FSI and HAU for Greek) and some native podcast material (see last few log posts for links). Reading is almost exclusively Snjóblinda and Κάτι θα γίνει, θα δεις; I'm relying mostly on dictionaries (paperback Oxford for Greek, UWDC for Icelandic) - I have the English translation of Snowblind, but not only is it not literal enough to be very useful, the translator has also taken considerable liberties with the text, changing the order of lines and adding entire paragraphs at some points. I wonder if the Icelandic author has read it? :) (cf. the Icelandic Dracula...)

Anyway, whether listening or reading, I'll take in a sentence or two, then speak or write-and-speak it out from memory, then check against the original and analyse errors (in writing, this is in effect scriptorium); except with the podcasts which I just listen to without stopping, even if I'm only understanding 20%. I fondly imagine my speaking skills are improving through all this, but I'm also trying to get in a few minutes of talking to myself most days.

In actual fact I understand substantially more in Greek than Icelandic, probably a combination of the amount of listening I've done so far and the smooshed-together-yness of spoken Icelandic. I was musing earlier today on the sentence 'Hvað ertu búinn að vera lengi hér á landi?', which the dictionary says ought to have fourteen syllables but I reckon would normally consist of about nine. Greek sort of does this too, but in much more tractable ways (basically it just elides vowel-vowel sequences between words, not unlike Italian).

I am not doing Anki or Icelandic Online (sorry IOL) - I just can't get them to fit into my daily routine. Listening is for the morning walk to work, reading is for bedtime; screen/keyboard stuff just doesn't have a place in the day.

As per plan, I'm alternating seven days Greek with seven days Icelandic. As far as I can tell this is going fine. I'm certainly not getting bored with either language, they're not interfering with each other significantly, and I'm not feeling any problem coming back to one after a week with the other. Whether I'm making as much progress per day of study as I would be if I was concentrating on one language, that's hard to know, but since this year's goal is really to have fun rather than to reach any particular level, so far so good!

Re: Neurotip 2020: Greek, Icelandic, things like that

Posted: Mon Mar 09, 2020 10:42 pm
by Neurotip
The plan of one week Greek / one week Icelandic is still going, well, to plan. I've pretty much come to a halt with FSI around unit 50, since it's become impractical to listen without spending time with the written text as well. For my listening at the moment I've gravitated towards Easy Greek, which is at a good level for me - I can understand about 50% first time, and about 80% with repeated listening. It also lends itself to a listen-repeat format, like the FSI method, and has the advantage of representing 'ordinary' modern Greek and having a wide range of speakers of various ages. I think, I think, I can feel a slight improvement in fluency when I'm doing this, but it's hard to be sure. Reading is still Κάτι θα γίνει, θα δεις, either using the paper Pocket Oxford dictionary or just ploughing on and trying to get the gist. There are quite a few words that aren't in the dictionary anyway!

Listening is still VLI - up to number 15 now so not long to go before I have to find some alternative suitable material. Any ideas? Snjóblinda now on chapter 10; my ebook reader doesn't provide an accurate word count, but I think I'm about 7k-8k words in. I'm feeling that very common words and turns of phrase are becoming familiar to me without entering the sphere of what I can actually produce, which is frustrating but normal I suppose. Maybe it would make a difference if I actually practised speaking sometimes. :) Oh, and while at home with a cold last week (yes, a cold...) I learned 'Viltu koma að gera snjókarl?', because I'm sentimental and I like learning song lyrics, and anyway why not. Mrs Neurotip did give me a slightly funny look when she saw 'Icelandic DisneyPrincess' [spacing and capitalisation sic] among my YouTube subscriptions, but I think she knows me well enough by now...

Egyptian Arabic
Regular readers will know that I've been toying with the idea of Arabic for a while, and in mid-Feb I suddenly lost control, downloaded a load of materials, ordered a book and started doing Language Transfer. What draws me to Arabic in particular? The sheer different-ness of it, of course; the fact that I know several native speakers and come into contact with new ones fairly often; the writing system and calligraphy (always loved that), which I also come across fairly often here and there; the culture, to a degree, or at least I'm curious to hear and read what Arabs say to each other; the maddeningly weird sociolinguistic situation with the 'dialects'; and hey I don't have an FSI category 4 language under my belt yet. From a phonetic point of view it doesn't appeal hugely, but I've always enjoyed a phonetic challenge. So why Egyptian Arabic rather than Levantine or MSA? Fundamentally because Egypt is the main Arabic-speaking country I'd like to visit (and I suspect/hope a bit of Arabic would come in pretty handy as a tourist in Egypt), and also the native speaker I know best is Egyptian.
I've got as far as track 20 of LT. I don't know if I'll continue with it but starting a new language is always super fun and this is no exception. Also I'm very pleased with myself (and kudos to Mihalis too) that I correctly identified which Arabic was Egyptian in this video, and I'm starting to pick up the odd word and even phrase in our current weekend viewing Fauda.

It is possible that I might have two big deadlines at work coming up and am desperately trying to come up with things to distract myself. If you think this is the case, don't tell me. 8-)

Re: Neurotip 2020: Greek, Icelandic, things like that

Posted: Tue May 26, 2020 10:33 pm
by Neurotip
Hello! Long time no post - indeed not since the madness descended...

Greek & Icelandic
My strategy of alternating these week by week seems to be working reasonably well. I'm using similar methods for the two languages, and they're more or less keeping pace with each other.

When I read I sometimes do some scriptorium, sometimes simply read intensively, sometimes just see how far I can get trying to read fluently for the gist. In both I can sometimes get a few sentences before a crucial unknown word comes up that I can't ignore - in the fiction books (same as previous posts), that is. In newspaper articles (I typically use and fully half of the content words are unfamiliar and I can rarely keep going with this for more than a few minutes before losing the will.

Particularly in Icelandic, I'm starting to feel that there's a lot of basic vocabulary that I'm just not picking up - I keep running across the same words time after time, I know I've seen them before but I can't remember what they mean. Sometimes this is because two words are similar and I need to see them both 'in the same room' before I can get them straight (that happened recently with καταπληκτικός and εκπληκτικός for example). Sometimes though I've noticed that when I look up a word, I say to myself 'OK now I understand what that sentence means' and carry on; I need to pay attention to actually learning the word. Quite a lot of grammar in both languages is just happening now, even in speaking, but still I'm definitely benefiting from taking the time to really work out what's going on in a sentence when it isn't immediately obvious. It's really nice now that Icelandic is starting to feel more like a language and less like some weird hermetic code!

Listening is the same podcasts as before; I'm finding the best ones are Í ljósi sögunnar and The Brain Hacking Academy (title in English, pronounced 'Brine Khackeeng') insofar as they don't speak too fast. Well, they do speak too fast but I can make out a word or two in most sentences and the odd complete sentence. In Greek there's also the Easy Greek YouTube channel, HAU and so on which fill the gap between course material and native content, but there isn't much at all in Icelandic apart from VLI. I also watch a bit of TV in Icelandic (; about a quarter or so of the programmes are available in the UK and have Icelandic subtitles, but there's usually something interesting enough to watch.

Writing and speaking, pretty much not. I am trying to pay particular attention to phrases like 'entirely', 'without doubt', 'in my opinion', and to make sure I can come up with them at suitable moments. This is one issue with learning two languages at once, I don't have a default language for mumbling to myself as I potter around the house and I seem to do it a lot less (not necessarily a bad thing, you may say).

Egyptian Arabic
So I finished Language Transfer which was great and I definitely recommend it. Actually, all three of my actively-learning languages I started with this sort of course, Greek and Arabic with LT and Icelandic with Alaric. I'll really miss it if I ever learn a language where this sort of thing isn't available.

I must say though, I'm finding some things about learning Arabic challenging which are trivial in the other languages I know. For example, what exactly is the phoneme inventory? In particular, how many vowels are there? I think I've got my head round this with the help of the Wikipedia page but it took weeks. Obviously there's also the small matter of needing to learn how to do several new and exciting things with your pharynx, and to learn to hear something which is clearly a gargly 'ah' as a consonant (still working on this one - my best 'ayins happen when I stub my toe).

I've invested in quite the bookshelf, as follows:
Colloquial Arabic of Egypt
Mastering Arabic Script
The Big Fat Book of Egyptian Arabic Verbs
Shuwayya 'An Nafsi
Egyptian Colloquial Arabic Vocabulary
Usborne First Thousand Words in Arabic [this is MSA rather than Egyptian, but I couldn't resist]

Actually I've put the language itself on pause for a couple of weeks while I work on the script. I started using Mastering Arabic Script which teaches ruq'a, but after a week or two of this a work colleague advised me strongly to learn naskh first (which looks like printed Arabic) and it was good advice, if only because naskh looks so gorgeous and is just amazing to see it coming out of my pen -- it might even get me going on serious calligraphy, a hobby which has been on my bucket list for many years. See below (Nemosine Singularity with stub nib, Diamine Oxford Blue on Rhodia dotpad, since you ask).