Sunday, May 20, 2007

More fun with Mandarin

I'm coming to believe that the secret to learning Mandarin, for me, will be to give up on the prospect. Every time I start another language, return to one of my old languages like Spanish, or just plain declare that I'm not taking my Mandarin further for a while, I start running across resources and realia.

This weekend, I've done the first two chapters of Rhythmic Chants for Learning Spoken Chinese. I've also watched the first episode of a very strange television show where a girl can see ghosts, including a ghost who lives in the dating network where he met the online girlfriend who never showed up when they were supposed to meet face to face. I've been listening to Rapid Chinese. And I've downloaded the latest Yan Zi video from YouTube and ripped the audio for my MP3 player.

In another week or two, I'll probably be burned out on Chinese again, but for the moment I'm pushing forward. I'm still in a rough spot when it comes to producing the language. But watching television, shopping, etc, I'm starting to pick up more and more isolated phrases. I'm hopeful that the distance between the isolated phrases will gradually shrink, until I'm understanding most of what I hear!

Learning Mandarin is an odd experience because linguistically and culturally, it's so far from anything I've lived. I can catch the gist in Spanish and Italian with my French. I can even follow basic written stuff in German, Dutch and Danish. With Mandarin, there's nothing to go on. But that's alright. Sooner or later, it's going to sink in. In the meantime, I'm waiting for the Linguist's LingQ system to be available for new folks so I can see if it will help with my Mandarin.

Provided it's ready before the next time I burn out of course, in which case I'll be trying it for some other language.

What of Korean?
I'm declaring my place in the challenge done. I've learned to perform a few simple linguistic tasks, and I've learned a lot about how the language works. One day I'll come back to it, I suspect. I wouldn't be surprised if it eventually winds up haunting me, like Mandarin. But I'd like to stick with my Mandarin and maybe get back to Uzbek or Turkish before seriously taking on another exotic.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Full-stop from To be continued

For my reference:

孫燕姿 休止符

對我你只有一再的 約束
我的痛苦 你不清楚

我感受不到你愛的 溫度
如何相處 我不要束縛

我用我的角度 看這世界的庸庸碌碌
所得到的感觸 超乎你想像的程度
哀樂 喜怒 人生必經之路
不願 停駐 世界我要征服

回首你的付出 希望能得到你的寬恕
但感情的旅途 只是無意義的重複
讓我 寫下 愛的休止符
希望 能有 你的 祝福(希望 有你 祝福)

我用我的角度 看這世界的庸庸碌碌
所得到的感觸 超乎你想像的程度
讓我 寫下 愛的休止符
希望 能有 你的 祝福

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Synergy Spanish - Spanish Grammar without Grammar

At I stumbled upon the keyword, accelerated language learning, so I googled it. One of the entries that came up was The site's author claims to teach one of the best darn Spanish classes out there, so I tried the demo, which you get by supplying an e-mail address, after which they send a link.

The course feels familiar - there are elements resembling, Margarita Madrigal's Keys to Spanish, the grammar approach of Michel Thomas and more. And yet, taken together, it's unique. And it's useful. The core structures taught, the way they're put together, and the way you're challenged to make your 80,000 sentences with 138 words (properly combined, of course) really opens the doorway to using Spanish as a set of combinable elements for creating your own language, as opposed to regurgitating other people's phrases.

You can only demo the first four chapters, so I don't know how far you get. But I was impressed with what the first four chapters squeezed in. If you already speak quite a bit of Spanish, this might be below your level. But if you've got as far as Buenos días, ¿Cómo está? and not much further, this looks like a great resource to make your Spanish take off.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Progress in Korean

A few years ago, I found a deeply discounted Pimsleur Compact Korean and grabbed it. Then I listened to the first lesson (partway) and was totally lost. Now I'm fussing with Korean for the six-week challenge, but I've been unable to find the first cassette. I've been listening to the FSI course, and reading the dialogues in Teach Yourself Korean and the phrases in Survival Korean.

Two nights ago, I popped in lesson 3 in the Pimsleur program. It was easy. I started lesson 4 this morning, stopped at the part where they start with directions - had to go to work anyway. Anyway, while it's a little boost, it is a boost nonetheless. I can now mention that I am American, am not Korean, and understand and speak a little Korean. I can also ask how people are and confirm that I either am or am not doing well.

Onward and upward, ever so slowly.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Almost 4 weeks into the challenge...

... and records aren't being set.

That said, my Korean studies aren't completely in vain.

I can greet people and say goodbye.
I can introduce myself.
I can apologize.
I can say please and thank you.
I can say yes and no.
I can ask the taxi to take me to the airport or hotel.
I can order beverages.
I can request no octopus.

I can read and write the script.

Am I ready to become a Korea specialist? No. But I've learned a little bit about a language I once considered completely unlearnable.

When the 6 weeks are up, I don't expect to make learning more Korean a priority. But setting this time frame and seeing what I can do has been interesting, both for what I've learned about Korean and for what I've learned about my language learning patterns and approaches.

Next up, however, I've got Malay in 3 weeks sitting on the bookshelf, ready to go. I'll be curious to see how 3 weeks with Malay compares to six weeks with Korean.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mandarin, Russian and Korean - and Resolutions

Random notes:
* The Language Geek points out a lot of Russian material at the Princeton website. If you're learning Russian or plan to, check it out.

* I've found myself at the earworms site several times looking at Rapid Chinese. Last nitght, I bit the bullet and bought through Love the CD, hated the experience. First I made sure iTunes was working (I use MusicMatch Jukebox) so I wouldn't have to fuss with audible's downloader. Then it made me download it anyway. Then I had to use iTunes anyway to burn the CD, since I couldn't get the permissions to work anyplace else. Bottom line: in the future, it shouldn't be too difficult to get material through, burn it on CD, etc. But the process was another reminder of why folks doing the DRM content management thing are as much a bane for everyday users as they are a joke to those truly interested in pirating. earworms makes a nice product, and it's nice that audible makes it available, but the nonsense involved in getting these things set up suggests that they think of us as underpaid employees liable to raid the storehouse, not paying customers.

* On the upside, Rapid Chinese is a delightful product. I need to get a Rapid Program for a language I haven't studied, because I don't know if it works, or just does a nice job reinforcing. But I do wish there were a Rapid Korean right about now.

* Korean is a rough slog. As I look toward the end of the six-week challenge, there is no doubt that this is a language that has knocked me on my patootie like no other since Sanskrit. But I'm beginning to like it, and to see its reason.

* Resolutions: April was not a good month for the resolutions. Spanish and Italian slipped my attention for the most part. German slipped off my radar screen altogether. While I continued listening to Spanish, Italian, Turkish and Uzbek music, active study was nil. On the other hand, Mandarin keeps pulling me back, and the six-week challenge caused me to set my sights evermore to the East. I love the crack (which I first ran across in Rushdie's Ground Beneath Her Feet) about disorientation as the loss of the East - which it is, literally, for sailors who can't figure out which way precisely is east as they navigate by the stars. In my case, though, it's finding the East again which has thrown my studies off course.

Maybe May will be better. May-be.