Saturday, November 27, 2010

Tomme Tønner, Linia Czasu and Pimsleur

I'm still having a hard time finding Norwegian ebooks, although I did manage to find a somewhat decent site for older, public domain works primarily in Nordic languages: Runeberg.

In the meantime, I'm still listening to a lot of radio and music. I also recently got the film "Tomme Tønner" (Empty Barrels) and am looking forward to watching that. It'll be the first full length comedy film I've seen in Norwegian.

On the Polish side, I've started reading "Linia Czasu" (Timeline), by Michael Crichton. I've already read the book in both English and Italian, and I've also seen the movie (horrible in comparison to the book, in my opinion). In any case, so far it's proven to be not so difficult, so I'm happy with that.

I'm extremely happy with the way my Turkish is progressing. I'm half way the Pimsleur course at lesson 15. I've also started listening to Turkish radio online, mostly Turkish pop, although I've stumbled upon some folk music. Pop music is much better for my needs at the moment, though. I've told myself that I won't attempt to read any news until I've completed the entire Pimsleur course, but I've cheated. I haven't tried to get through entire news stories, just glanced at them, checking the percentage of words I recognize.

Other than that, it was a fairly quiet week.

I spent Høsttakkefesten, Święto Dziękczynienia, Şükran Günü (one guess what those mean) with my sister and her family in the Twin Cities. I had a great time.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Maintaining my Norwegian

Since I'm currently trying this experiment of simultaneously studying three languages, I have to really make a conscious effort to put time aside for each one. I'm furthest along with Norwegian, so that tends to be the language that's put on the back burner and I tend to give more attention to my newest language - Turkish. In the beginning, I suppose, that's not entirely a bad thing, particularly since Turkish is a complete unknown to me. Although I'm making great strides with it, and quickly! Perhaps quicker than any other language I've studied. So I'm happy with that.

But I need to concentrate on Norwegian a bit more. I've been doing the usual movie-watching and listening to P4 Norsk, among other internet radio stations. I'd also like to augment that with some good reading, and there are some good contemporary Norwegian authors out there. I'm running into a problem with that though. I'm finding it REALLY hard to find books in any kind of electronic format, whether it's epub, mobi, whatever. Nobody sells Norwegian books in electronic format. I wonder. Is there that much apathy to digital reading in Norway?

I can find plenty of audio books in Norwegian, from the aforementioned Norwegian authors to most international bestsellers, translated into and read in Norwegian. Proof of this can be found here: and, among other shops. And I'll make sure to take advantage of that format too, although at this point I'd prefer to watch a movie in Norwegian rather than just listen to an audio book.

I can and do read the news in Norwegian too, mostly Aftenposten and Dagbladet, but I really want to read some good contemporary fiction.

And so my search continues.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Horses for courses.

I have two audio courses for Turkish available to me; the Pimsleur Complete Turkish course and the Linguaphone PDQ Turkish course. The Linguaphone course also includes a 68 page book of all the dialogs and some exercises.

I've quickly discovered just how much I dislike the Linguaphone audio. First off, there's WAY too much English nonsense going on with the narrators. When I say nonsense, I mean it's completely unnecessary. Second, I can't get past a mental image of John Cleese as the male narrator. Really. It's almost comical, but not quite. The female narrator isn't any better - "Reward yourself! Have a glass of champagne! Whatever you like!" - Seriously? Both announcers are trying to be funny for humor's sake and failing.

The other thing I dislike about the Linguaphone course is the pace. It's incredibly slow. I've gone through four lessons so far with the Linguaphone course, in contrast to eight lessons with the Pimsleur course. The Pimsleur course covers so much more. Not only that, it does a decent job of explaining why I"m saying what I'm saying, if not outright, then by repeated example. I'll give an admittedly rather simple example; the phrase
"Bir şey değil", meaning "it's nothing" after someone says "teşekkür ederim" (thank you). In roughly the same amount of time in both courses, the Pimsleur course has given me not only this vocabulary, but the mechanics of the phrase as well. With the Pimsleur course I've been given all three words in a variety of contexts, so I know that "Bir" means "one" and "şey" means "thing", and that by combining the two I get "something". By now I've also learned "değil" means "not" through a variety of other phrases. So, even though the Pimsleur course may not have already explicitly taught me "Bir şey değil", I would have heard it the first time and thought "Oh, it means 'it's nothing'". In comparison, the Linguaphone course has only taught me to say "Bir şey değil" after "teşekkür ederim" and only that. I wouldn't have gained the tools to deduce what it means. Pimsleur wins big on this for me. It's a much better use of my time.

So at this point I'll probably just drop the Linguaphone course and use Pimsleur for the audio portion of my learning. I have the old FSI course book which does an excellent job of doing the same explanation in written form. I think I'll be using that for my reading.

Learning has been somewhat light this week. I closed up the cabin for the season and am now in the Twin Cities through Thanksgiving, so all that activity sucked up a fair amount of time, outside my normal workload.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Iyi, iyi değil, vocal exercises and recall

Iyi. Iyi değil.

Every language has them when you're first learning. Difficult sound combinations. "Iyi/Iyi değil" is my current pronunciation hurdle to get over. I say it. I say it again. Over and over. Truth be told, it's not all that difficult. It's just not natural yet. And so I keep saying it. And it starts to get easier, so I stop for awhile. When I go back to it, it's unnatural again. I practice some more. And it starts to feel more natural again. Rinse, repeat.

I have no doubt that it'll become quite natural in the long run. I went through the same thing with Polish, but they were consonant groupings. Words like "przez", "chcesz" and "potrzybować" were all initially really hard for me, then gradually got easier with practice. Practice.

So I look at all this as a vocal exercise. I'm just warming up. I'm transported back to my 10th grade choir, sounding out ridiculous sounds and mouth formations, third riser up on the far right - I'm the short guy with the braces. And now I'm ready for the rest of the lesson.

Part of my lessons this week included talking about and/or asking for directions to specific tourist locations. One in particular, Sultanahmet Meydanı (Sultan Ahmet Square), was often used in two of the lessons. "Meydanı", had a peculiar, yet familiar tone to it. Having actually been in the old part of Marrakesh, and perhaps recognizing the historical importance of a central town square, I'm going to make a guess and say that this is an Arab loanword (from medina). Whether that's true or not, because of the association I've made between the two, I'll never forget the word for square in Turkish. It's stored in my brain with that association. I wish all recalls were this easy.

So, that's been my language-learning week, whittled down. Overall, I'm pretty pleased with how my Turkish learning is progressing.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A word a day

A couple months ago, I signed up to receive Transparent Language's Polish word of the day via email. What I liked about it wasn't that I was getting a single word to learn every day. I could do that with a dictionary. What their word of the day provides is not just a base word, but an example of how it's used, in all its aspective, cased-noun glory. And it includes an audio example of both the single word and the example phrase.

I'd drag the email onto my desktop and let it sit there throughout the day and glance at it when I got a chance. It's a nice small chunk of learning alongside other methods that I use.

When I first started out with Polish, these things in particular - noun case and verb aspects - were somewhat baffling to me, even though they exist to a lesser extent in other languages I speak. So the example phrases were very useful to me.

Over the last couple weeks, all the word of the day emails I've received have been examples of things I've learned outside of their emails. I've run into them either through reading Polish news, Polish blogs or just learning the lyrics to a few songs here and there.

I'm now considering unsubscribing from it because of this.

It's a nice feeling to "outgrow" one of my learning methods, for lack of a better word. I'm at the point where I can concentrate on increasing my vocabulary and not so much the grammar.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

A tragic Movie and a couple lessons.

I'm at a level in Norwegian where I don't really need to be studying lessons, at least consistently. Of course, I still need to use a dictionary at times, but all the grammar is there, at my disposal. And I do have my trusty Essential Norwegian Grammar book to consult when I need it.

So I'm mostly reading, writing and either listening to Norwegian radio (P4 is a favorite) or watching something.

I had recently read a good review of a movie titled "Sammen". It means "Together" in Norwegian. So I got the movie and watched it a couple nights ago. I should mention that I had no subtitles for the movie. It's a good story, but really pretty depressing. It's a story of a family (father, mother and son). The mother dies in a freak accident early on and is witnessed by both the father and son. They're then left to deal with their grief. I won't get into the details of each character's grief, but they deal with it in very different ways. The father becomes very self-destructive. And, possibly because of this, I found the language used by the father's character (played by Frithjof Såheim) the most difficult to understand. His character was alternatively emotional, drunk, etc. and because of this, his speech was slurred or mumbled through a good portion of the film. By far the easiest to understand was the son (played by Odin Waage). The mother's speech was also very clear and easy to understand, but her appearance was so brief that, aside from one scene where she was whispering to her son, I wasn't left with much else of an impression. I am going to watch the movie again in a couple days to see if I notice any improvement in understanding the father's character. But I think I'll also try and search for another film with Frithjof in it to see if there's a major difference in his speech.

As for Turkish, I've gone through two lessons of the Pimsleur course so far. Pimsleur gets a bad rap for spending too much time explaining things in English, but I've found the courses to be fairly good at getting me up and running with the mechanics of a language. I also have the Linguaphone PDQ Turkish course which I'll use to augment my early listening skills. I've gone through one lesson with this, and it was mind-numbingly simple. But just glancing at the course, it seems to progress quickly, so we'll see. Turkish is the first language to be of interest to me because of its grammar. The Pimsleur course immediately started me off with a couple key pieces of grammar, in addition to teaching me first and second person singular verbs in the present tense, yes/no word and verb formation, as well as asking a question. So I'm feeling pretty good about that. Remember, I'm starting at absolute zero with Turkish, so feeling like I've learned something useful early on is important.

I'll probably focus on Polish later in the week, mostly by listening and reading the news. Because I'm just starting with Turkish, I felt at this point trying to cram three languages in a day is a bit much. Maybe when I get further along with it, I'll do something with each language every day.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Start of a new blog to chronicle my language learning

So, today I decided to document my language learning progress (or lack thereof).

I'm attempting to learn three languages at one time, and plan on documenting the steps - whether tiny or big - that I take to accomplish this task.

I have a bit of a head start. I'm a translator and interpreter by trade, so these aren't the first, second or even third languages I've learned. What they are, however, are quite different from my working languages - all romance languages, as well as when compared side-by-side. And I've already put in a fair amount of time on two of the three languages I'll be documenting here - Norwegian, which I rank at Intermediate level, and Polish, which I would rank at Advanced Beginner. The third language I'm studying is Turkish. I am at Complete Beginner level with this language.

One purpose for the blog is to highlight, for myself, what methods and what media I use, and how I hopefully will vary things, so as not to get bored.


Here we go. Wish me luck!