Thursday, April 14, 2011

Using what I can get my hands on

This week, the Norwegian movie of choice was Varg Veum, Bitre Blomster (Bitter Flowers). It's based on a series of detective novels by author Gunnar Staalesen. It was an excellent movie. I like crime stories and the Bergen scenery was stunning. I'd not heard of the author before, but because of this movie I'll now be on the lookout for his novels. And I guess there are plans for more movie adaptations of the Varg Veum series, too.

Being in Northwestern Wisconsin for the last couple months has also given me the opportunity to actually speak Norwegian to a couple people in the area. That's been an unexpected bonus that I'm glad presented itself.

I'm continuing with Czarne Oceany. And I've been listening to Polish radio online, as well as my Polish music collection. Right now I have no local opportunity to speak Polish. I could go the Skype route, but I'm already doing that with Turkish. I generally don't like doing the same thing for more than one language, so I won't be doing Skype for a while for Polish. It is about time I start writing entries in Polish on Lang-8 though. So that's next on my list.

I've now started with the 4th Türkçe Öğreniyoruz course. It's the last in the series that I have, although the series runs through 6 courses. The last two courses are readers, from what I understand, so I'm not sure I'll even bother to hunt those down. I have plenty of other reading material available to me. As a matter of fact, I'm now able to get through a lot of the daily news. I've been using Hürriyet. My vocabulary is increasing fairly rapidly with it and I don't have many problems with grammar. This is helping with my Turkish Skype conversations. We now have a much broader assortment of things to talk about. And speaking of Skype, we've upped the amount of time for each conversation (still twice a week) to 20 minutes.

All in all, I'm much farther along with Turkish than I had planned to be by this time in the year and less than where I had planned to be with Polish. I'm about where I want to be with Norwegian - that is, able to communicate on most any subject that comes up, even if my vocabulary isn't the most elegant.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

April Diversion

I'm still doing my regular routine with Norwegian, Polish and Turkish, with the exception of no Norwegian movie this week.

But, like last month's little detour to take a look at Anishinaabemowin, I've decided to take a couple days this last week and look at something completely foreign to me. This was really fueled by my interest in Turkish. I started looking at Turkey's surrounding countries and their languages.

So, this week's post is going to be all about Georgian!

Georgian, or Kartuli, is a South Caucasian language spoken by about 4.5 million people, mostly within Georgia. It's writing system is unique and has changed significantly over the centuries. The name of the modern alphabet in use is called mkhedruli, meaning cavalry or military. It's phonetic and has 33 characters consisting of 5 vowels and 28 consonants. I took some time to learn the alphabet. It was much easier that I thought it would be. Total time to actually learn the alphabet was probably two hours or so, drilling included. For kicks, I left it for a couple days, then came back to it to see how much I had retained. I'd remembered all of it. This gives me hope for learning any other different written system in the future - something I'd feared before.

Here is the complete mkhedruli alphabet:

The vowels: ა ე ი ო უ

The consonants: ბ გ დ ვ ზ თ კ ლ მ ნ პ ჟ რ ს ტ ფ ქ ღ ყ შ ჩ ც ძ წ ჭ ხ ჯ ჰ

Consonants are often clustered, with seemingly difficult pronunciation, but with very little practice I was able to reproduce all sounds with ease with the exception of one: , which is a q sound with a very sharp glottal stop. There are a few of these sharp glottal stopped consonants, which almost give the language a click-like characteristic to it. It's very interesting to listen to.

Georgian has remained stable grammatically for centuries. It's not unusual for a middle school-aged child to be able to read 12th century literature.

It is an agglutinative language. Like many agglutinative languages, it has post-positions instead of prepositions. It's syntax is largely Subject-Verb-Object, but it's not strict. Subject-Object-Verb syntax is also used. It has vowel syncope, much like I discovered in certain dialects of Anishinaabemowin. Stress is very light and usually on the first syllable.

There is little in the way of Georgian self-study material. There is a decent course with audio called "Beginner's Georgian", written by Dodona Kiziria. There are two decent grammar-based courses, one by Hewitt and another by Aronson. There also appears to be a "TalkNow" computer-based course. Aside from that, there really isn't much else out there. There seems to be a couple of in-country study programs in Tbilisi too.

It's been an interesting couple of days looking at the language. Would I take the time to study it in depth? Probably not. But it's opened up a path to learning a language with another writing system - something I'd considered too difficult before.

I'm kind of liking the idea of taking these short language excursions every now and then. I don't know that I'll do it monthly, but it's something that I'll at least occasionally do. It helps keep my sanity in check with my current language goals.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Same old, same old...

Really nothing new this week. Just a continuation of what I normally do every week.

This week's Norwegian movie was "Sønner" (Sons). It's a really disturbing movie about pedophilia. But it won all sorts of awards, so I had to see it. I swear I'm going to be an expert on Norwegian cinema by the year's end.

I'm continuing on with Czarne Oceany. I'm absolutely digging the novel. I'm only averaging about a chapter a week right now, but that's OK. There's really no rush. If I have any regrets about my progress with Polish, it's that I'm not speaking it. It's purely passive right now. Again, that's OK. When it comes time to use the language, I'll be ready enough. Really, I can already have conversations in Polish, but outside of Skype or Lang-8, there just isn't much (read "any") in-person opportunity here in Northern Wisconsin (where I currently am).

I'm back on my regular schedule with my Skype partner. He's returned from his vacation. I've been at Turkish now for about four months, and I really believe that I've advanced quickly. These Skype sessions have helped immensely. But the self-teaching courses I've completed leading up to Skype use really prepared me, from Pimsleur to Teach Yourself (really a very complete course, considering the series) to Türkçe Öğreniyoruz. They've all provided a very solid foundation on which to grow. Overall, I'm quite proud of my progress. I don't plan on going to Turkey until the beginning of 2012, but I truly believe that if I were plopped down somewhere in Istanbul today, I'd have no trouble surviving and I'd even be able to make some friends.

One other thing I want to mention, again not directly related to my goals, but it makes me happy: My other blog Indoojibwem! is getting hits from Indian reservations in both Minnesota and Wisconsin according to my logs. I'm glad that it's of some use to other people besides me.