Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Technology and Language in 2017

Now that it's no longer 2012, I think it would be weird to leave out the technological updates that exist when it comes to language learning. In 2012, when I first proposed this program, I was still stuck in the advice of the older generations. I have modified my understanding and have embraced the technological advancements of Youtube, Netflix, Smartphones and internet games and apps. The following are the technological items that I have found useful in my language learning.

  1. Youtube: Say what you will about Cat Videos and Epic Fails, but Youtube is an extremely good source for language learning. On top of being able to find pronunciation or common vocabulary videos, there are a whole lot of videos made by normal people like you and me in which they speak in their native language. Most of the time, they speak alot. There are political debates, news broadcasts, and even generic cooking or make-up videos. That's a whole lot of information.
  2. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, etc.: The user driven streaming video companies make a killing, but in order to do so, they have to provide content for their subscribers. What that means is that they have "foreign films" and shows. While someone suggested changing the language (this does help a little), the best way to get the most of your programs is to filter searches to only those with the "audio" for your target language. That will me that all the options for you will be in your target language. There's alot of science that suggests people choose options within restrictions with just as much thought and enjoyment as option without restrictions. This will be a good way to make sure that you immerse yourself in the language. (PS Subtitles are not as good as audio)
  3. Smartphone Apps and games: I like Duolingo and Memrise. I know there are many many others, but I like that Memrise turns vocab into a real game and Doulingo's requirement for you to form sentences. These are both very good apps when it comes to learning languages. They make it fun.
  4. Networking and Platforming apps: I recently learned about Lingbe and I have found it be awesome. It actually connects you to people randomly in the target language. The exchange is that you also have to spend time talking with people in your native language. Basically, it forces you to actually GIVE in order to receive as part of the language exchange. This means that there are always people willing to speak to you in their language because it means they can speak to someone else in the language they want. The biggest failing about language exchange companies and pages is that you have alot of people wanting to speak English and very few people willing to tutor other languages. I guess that's where the money is. And while I recognize that there is not real POLICING of the issue on Lingbe, people still have to open themselves up for people to talk to them in order to get what they want. It's good stuff.
Well, I hope you could get some advice. I didn't want to get into specifics on how to filter your searches for movies and TV because there are different for each service. I'm sure you can google how to do it if it's not very intuitive.

30 Day Language Challenge RENEWED (2017 Version)

As an American, I’m embarrassed by our serious inability to speak languages. It’s not our fault that the North American continent is a predominantly English language continent and Europe is a predominantly multi-lingual continent. But I’m embarrassed nonetheless whenever I hear people from a different country forgiving Americans for not understanding their language or stumbling through their customs like a rhino on a rampage. It’s sad that even with a bachelor’s degree in any language, we can hardly make claims to “know” a language other than English. That’s why, based on the teachings and concepts of Barry Farber and A.G. Hawke, I came up with this 30-day language challenge. I don’t think it’s impossible or improbably to assume that given the right motivation and right materials, one could, within 30 days, learn a new language. Obviously, no one can become a “Native” speaker of any language they aren’t a native speaker of, but I believe that within 30 days, any person with a sound mind and clear focus, could learn enough of any language to be beyond the help of any “100-level” or “First Year” college language course. I’m inspired by the amount of language advertisements I’ve seen on the internet these days to take on this challenge myself to prove it.

About Me

I speak Japanese and Korean, though the skills have atrophied in recent years because I haven’t been back to Japan or Korea since 2010. I have tried my hand at Mandarin, Indonesian and Russian. Russian was pretty hard, but I can still remember the basic greetings, “Sto” and a smattering of other vocabulary. Indonesian is worse, but when looking at it, it comes back to me quickly, only to leave quickly again. Mandarin is a bit better, but my tones still suck.

I just finished a Masters of Arts in International Conflict Management and I’m now 32 years old. It’s hard to believe that I came up with this challenge 5 years ago, but hey, time flies. I still agree with my perspective 5 years ago, so I left the intro above. But at 32, engaged, and an Advanced Degree Graduate, I’m a different person. I’m a Freemason and I do believe in charity. So I offer the world my thoughts on learning languages.

The program that I compiled works like this: Follow the rules, study often, overwhelm your brain, and become a speaker in 30 days. It requires a series of materials and a serious effort –no slackers accepted. Here’s what I (you) need for the program to work:
  • Notebook
  • Coursebook in the target language (“Teach yourself Chinese,” etc.)
  • Grammar book for the target language
  • Dictionary for the target language
  • Phrase book for the target language (Both Farber and Hawke recommend Berlitz)
  • Blank 3x5 cards
  • Language CD/MP3’s
  • A Quick Reference sheet
  • Newspaper or Magazine
  • Interactive Computer programs to do instead of computer games
  • Movies and music in the target language
  • Highlighter pens

Rules for learning the language
  1. Never take a day off
  2. Utilize all hidden moments to review 3x5 cards
  3. Set aside at least 30 clear minutes a day to update your 3x5 cards on the language or to read more lesson from your book
  4. Study a few vocabulary words from the previous day each morning when you wake
  5. Study a few vocabulary words from the day before going to sleep each night
  6. Use Harry Lorayne's magic memory aid - Tell a story to remember the words your studying. Ex. In Indonesia, my family all lives in one roomah. (Rumma=Family)
  7. Study words together with opposites, it's easy to remember (hot/cold, etc.)
  8. Pick conversations with other speakers of the language like drunks pick fights (with gusto) 
  9. Use Word-Denial games (Don't let yourself have dessert until you can remember a word, etc.)
  10. Don't study profanity, but do study idiomatic phrases
  11. Keep it simple at first, don't try to outpace yourself by knowing words like "megalomaniac."
  12. Try to find a community within your town that speaks the target language natively (or close) and find reasons to hang out with them (go to their restaurant, etc.)
  13. Choose to listen to the target language music instead of your own when listening to music. Better yet, choose to listen and interact with the language audio instead of music
  14. Remember to interact with language audio, none of them work without interaction
  15. Watch Target Language movies instead of American films when watching movies
  16. For the first 30 days, live, breath, and eat your target language

So, for the next 30 days, I’m going to blog a day at a time, just to show the progress someone who doesn’t know a language would go through. Check back daily to see the progress.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Day 8 - July 8th вы знаете русский?

Как вы поживаете? I'm am learning to say all kinds of stuff. Unfortunately, it's a whole lot of gibberish. I talked to a friend of mine today who cleared up some stuff about the русский язык, like the fact that you will never get used to the genders of words. He also pointed out that there are so many declination of words, that it's hard to pinpoint their root.

Awesome. Imagine me, like Garfield, looking at you right now. Actually, lets do grumpy cat. Let's do a Russian grumpy cat. Let's do an angry, Russian grumpy cat with tanks and planes.. Let's do an angry, grumpy Russian grumpy cat with tanks and planes and a flag. And maybe a huge "NYET". GOOGLE AWAY!
FOUND! I love the internet sometimes.

Anyway, I have a lot to study. And I tore my first vocab card on my makeshift card ring. Awesome. Well, I guess I have to remake it. Today has been a downward swing for the motivation. I know that I have to push through and get over it.

Maybe I should have listened to more Russian TV today. I did more hanging out with friends. Social life is a hindrance. Maybe I should start hanging out in places around Portland where the Russians hang out... like places that sell vodka.

Just kidding. Please don't kill me.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 7 - July 7th подскажите пожалуйста

Well, the schedule says "GRAMMAR, VOCAB, LISTENING." I listened to about 3 hours of Russian TV/Radio today, so I guess I got that down in spades. However, I didn't really sit down to study Russian today. I spent a large portion of the day hanging out with friends or taking a nap. That pretty much killed my chances to study Russian.

Anyway, I realize that I need to make it more of a priority. Sure, I listened to some Russian talk radio on the road, and sure I did Pimsleur's lessons 4 and 5 today, which puts me almost a week ahead of schedule, I still didn't do vocab and grammar.

As the saying goes, "you can't build a city without roads," so you can't build a language without a structure (grammar). You also can't build it without materials (vocab). So, I listen (and get very little out of it) and I speak, which is practicing the very few words I know. If I want to actually accomplish this thing, I must STUDY.

Good Luck everyone. Study Hard. Study Smart. Study S-MART.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Day 6 - July 6th. REVIEW

Well, today is my first review day. I discovered I'm about about 50 words behind, which is about what I thought earlier in the week. I have to make up for it by doing an extra 10 words a day throughout next week. It's a process, but I hope to get there by continuous effort.

I've found that I will listen Russian TV or radio shows whenever I just have some time, like in the car or at the gym. It's been pretty good. I also find myself doing the Pimsleur language lessons whenever I'm sitting around or walking places. I'm actually ahead on the speaking and listening portions of the study, which I hope will be a good thing for  me. I need more vocab and grammar though.

Grammar is getting me. The genders of words is the bane of my existence, which is pretty much what I thought it was going to be. No surprise there then. I'm actually surprised at some of the things that I do understand, but I'm having problems with a basic sentence. The Penguin books assume that I already know the base structure for a sentence in Russian, which the Pimsleur audio confuses every now and then. Sometimes "A little" comes before the verb, sometimes it comes after.

Well, that is all. Good luck with your studies.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 5 - July 5th Русский в доме

Okay, bad pun aside (see above) Russian has been going okay, but I have to critique the "NEW PENGUIN RUSSIAN COURSE," since I have completed 6 lessons so far. Of all the language courses I have worked with over the years, this is probably one of the hardest to use, in my humble opinion. It's very cold, very dry, and doesn't have a lot of explanation. One thing it does well though is give you alot of examples of the lesson it's trying to teach. For example, here's an excerpt from lesson 5:

'In' is B, 'on' is на, 'at' will be B with enclosed spaces or buildings and ('at school' в школе) and на with open spaces and activities/events ('at work'  на работe, 'at a concert' на концерTе). Note that English 'in' sometimes corresponds to Russian на when the place (e.g. street) is an open space or was originally an open space (e.g. вокзал 'station').
in the street            на улице
in the square          на площади
in/at the station      на вокзале

As you can see, it has clear examples, but doesn't have a whole lot of other types of exercises. Just a whole lot of that over and over again each lesson. Very dry. But clear. I guess it depends on your style. This one is very academic and I feel like it might be meant to be accompanied by a professor, someone to have you use the skills presented and be corrected on any issues as you go.

Otherwise, I would say that today was pretty weak. To be honest, this whole week has been pretty weak. There's something I learned from my personal trainer, however, and it's something that I'm trying to put into practice in more than just my food consumption: It's not what happens in one day that will get you, but over the course of a week. If you do bad on one day, you have to correct it a little on the remaining days.

I think the same goes for language study. If you have a weak week (this one was such for me) because you weren't prepared, didn't have the materials or go stuck, you just have to move along and increase your study on the following days or the following weeks to compensate until you reach the point where you've caught yourself and then you can equalize.

For example, according to the plan, I should be at 150 words by the end of the day. I'll likely be closer to 100. That means next week, I will have to increase my words by about 10 a day (over the 5 days of study) to catch up. Of course, I could utilize a review day to learn more and review the whole set to offset this, which is why I made the review days in the first place (tricky tricky, I know). I don't want to burn out, however.

Anyway, no soap box today. Good luck in your language studies.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Day 4 - July 4th С Днем независимости

Happy Independence Day USA!

I spent the day with family, playing in the backyard with my nephews, letting them break into the garage and open my books full of language and cultural materials, Barbequeing, etc.

I did take the time to do something entirely UN-American (though I feel like this is one of the greatest weaknesses of the United States) and did some language studies. I worked through Pimsleur Russian 1, Lesson 3 multiple times, stumbling over the combinations of consonants, like "Как вы поживаете?" For my study plan, I did 1.5 hours of speaking, and I listened to almost 2 hours of Russian talk radio. I have found that I'm getting alot more exposure to Russian than I ever did with Indonesian or even still have with Korean or Japanese.

As an interesting note, I have the picture of the 3rd most commonly spoke languages map, obviously focused on the West Coast for today's picture. I think this might be why I'm finding more exposure to Russian. Also, I think that it would be nice if schools would offer languages related to the most commonly spoken languages in their area. I know this means that my beloved High School Japanese classes would give way to Russian. There is another graphic that can be found out there that shows a census breakdown of the entire US that shows something interesting.

This graph shows that if we were to follow a standardized system for education ACROSS the board in the US, then schools would offer "foreign" languages in this order:

Now, if the idea was to go regional, than that would change very drastically. If each US State Education Board concerned themselves with making a unified people within their state, then breakdowns would be different. With the exception of North Dakota, Louisiana, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, most states would have Spanish, but then they would have different 3rd offers, like Russian for Oregon, Vietnamese for Washington, Tagalog for California and Nevada, German for pretty much everything from Idaho to Ohio, with the exceptions of Navajo in Arizona and New Mexico, Vietnamese in Nebraska, Texas and Oklahoma, and Arabic in Michigan, then it's pretty much French for the East Coast, except for New York which would have Chinese and Alabama which would have Korean. There's a little Italian and Portuguese snuck in their too, but those would probably fall into the 4th language option category on the East Coast.

An interesting thing would happen, I realized today, if schools were to change to match their areas. Sure, I wouldn't have started with Japanese in high school (I would have probably been in Russian or Chinese), but people would likely be a bit more regional, which wouldn't matter much, since most people in the US tend to stay within their regions anyway. But if people from other regions were to meet up, like say in DC or something, they would be able to more able to represent their region because they would be able to appropriately talk about the multiple cultures there. I mean, everyone knows that Spanish is the second language of the US, but how many people think that Chinese, German and French fight for third? of that Tagalog represents a larger portion of the US than Vietnamese or Italian. Or that in Oregon, the third most common language is Russia.

Anyway, enough of my soap box about education reform and foreign languages in school. Back on the topic of Russian, this app (pictured to the right) is probably one of the best apps I've ever come in contact with. Sure, it gets a little wonky sometimes (name me an app that doesn't get wonky sometimes), but it offers me the opportunity to listen to Russian News or Talk Radio pretty much 24/7. Sometimes, it has dramas, but I try to switch to something with more talking. I think one of the keys to my success, in the end, is going to be this app.

Hope your studies are going well. Until next time. Good Luck with your language studies, friends.