Ha ha ha plans

I see at the end of December, I wrote about this being the year I’d hit French. We all know how that goes…

I have now finished 39 lessons of Pimsleur Dari – the whole first phase and the first 9 of the second phase. I expect I’ll finish phase 2, but I know better than to make predictions by now.

I did run across one exceptionally useful idea though: The emotions of motivation don’t last, so if you want to do something, you need a plan beyond staying motivated. Doing the Dari course, there have been some moments when things clicked, especially around lesson 20 of the first phase and lesson 4 of the second phase. But what has mostly kept me going is routine: I do a lesson after eating dinner and then I can consider myself done for the day. There are days I look forward to the lesson, and days I groan, but the good thing is I’m not counting on motivation, just going through the motions. There’s an inspirational thought!

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A New Year, An Old Language

After years and years of knowing French, this year I’m relearning it to get my speaking back up to a halfway decent level again. I’ll be working with the beginning Assimil book, just for content to read, and Using French. I’m also working through Teach Yourself’s Perfecting French and making an effort to speak more.

On a slightly different note, if you are wanting to learn Sanskrit, I would check out Sanskrit by the Fireside, a beginners’ book for self-study. It’s a bit pedantic, but provides really simple content to get started. Here’s your link at archive.org.

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The Indo-Iranians

Recently, my language learning efforts have been divided between Python and Elixir on the computer side, and the Indo-Iranian languages on the human language side. The Indo-Iranians provide the basis for getting pretty close to the Indo-Europeans – the Rg Veda is the oldest lengthy religious text in an Indo-European language and it seems to feature some of the same gods as the older portions of the Avesta. Likewise, there’s a lot in common between the two languages. In a way, then, reading the Avesta and the Rg Veda and imagining the language and thoughts that would have been shared in common before the two split apart takes you way back into the past, into a time where the gods were everywhere and involved in everything, though not quite in the way of pantheism or animism.

While I’ve been looking back to Avestan and Sanskrit, I’ve also started taking a look at Dari, the variant of Persian spoken in Afghanistan. I’ve done a bit of Farsi, and there’s a lot in common, though some forms are slightly different. That said, Dari As A Second Langauge: Your First Dari Words, Conversation, Reading and Writing, Grammar, and Vocabulary makes for a thorough introduction, taking you through reading and writing as well as speaking. There’s no audio, so for self-study you’d need to supplement with something like Pimsleur Dari Persian, Basic. If you’re interested in this variant of Persian, this is a great way to start.

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The First 20 Hours

I recently ran across The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything . . . Fast!
. In the last few years, with books like Outliers: The Story of Success
, we’ve gotten fixated on things like 10,000 hours to perfection. But what if you just want to be good enough? If you have a job and have a life, the odds of scratching up 10,000 hours to become a virtuoso is problematic, especially if your area to perfect and your career aren’t in perfect alignment. Kauffman points to research that’s a little more hopeful: If you want to get started speaking a language, playing an instrument, programming computers or whatever, 20 hours is enough of an investment to start to know your way around and decide how much more deeply you want to go and whether you want to keep at the whole field of endeavor or just work on areas of particular import to you. If you’re learning guitar, you might want to learn (the inevitable) Stairway to Heaven, or maybe Rodrigo’s Concierto de Aranjuez. But nobody would plan to play both after six months, at least not outside the basement rec room. That said, you might learn enough to make a fool of yourself at a party in fairly short order. Likewise, 20 hours of sketching won’t make you Picasso, but you may well learn enough to do a respectable portrait.

With respect to language learning, the 20 hour time line strikes me as interesting. It is said that they did about 20 hours of recording over two days to create the 8 hour Michel Thomas courses (closer to 15 if you actually use the pause button per the instructions). A level of Pimsleur is also 15 hours. Assuming half an hour a day, you’re up to lesson 40 (one week from the end of the passive phase in many courses) with Assimil. In other words, if you want to learn your language with Pimsleur or Michel Thomas, you’re going to need to invest another 5 hours in something else to put together and activate what you’ve learned. With Assimil, you need to stick with it to the end of the passive phase. After that, you can decide, but before then, if you’re not convinced this new learning project is going to work out for you, don’t worry about wasting your time because you’ll never find 10,000 hours to learn anyway. Find yourself another five to ten hours and that language might start to make sense after all.

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Learning Like a Child – Japanese

I’ve written in the past about learning like a child and the problems that exist with taking this approach with adults. That said, I recently discovered upon something novel and worth having a look at if you’re learning Japanese. The book in question is Real Japanese: Learn to speak the same way Japanese kids do! (Japanese Edition)
. What it offers, in a nutshell, is everything the author’s daughter said between the ages of 2 1/2 and 3 1/2 with explanations of the grammar or how the structure used foreshadows grammar yet to be learned. As a result, you can make sense of the Japanese language in the same way as a child, but using your adult brain to take things in more quickly and systematically. If you’re interested in how Japanese works or how children make sense of language, this is a fun book to look through.

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Learning to Read Chinese Characters – Another Resource

This weekend, browsing in Barnes and Noble, I ran across Traditional Chinese Characters: Learn & Remember 2,193 Character Meanings by Alan Hoenig. There’s a simplified version as well. In both cases, the introduction acknowledges a debt to Heisig’s Learning the Kanji, and the debt is pretty profound. That means if you like Heisig’s approach, these make for excellent books. The thing I like about Hoenig is that he feels a little more streamlined than Heisig. You spend less time memorizing stories and the focus is more on how the elements of the character fit together. If you want to start knocking off characters for reading recognition quickly, this is great as long as you start putting it to use before you start forgetting the associations (as they aren’t as strong as Heisig’s, but also might not take as long to assimilate).

One really nice thing about these books, a production of EZChinesey.com, is that you can find out if they’re right for you before you buy. Go to the website and you can download a PDF of the pages covering the first 100 characters or so. If you find it working for you, buy the book from Amazon. If you don’t, all you’ve invested is a little of your time. I ordered my copy today.

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Saving Aramaic

Recently, a friend forwarded this article on efforts to save Aramaic. Now I see that NPR has done a story too (mentioned on this HTLAL thread). However, if you want to learn a little Aramaic yourself, it’s not too late. There’s a blog which teach snippets in short posts. Just keep going through the archives and you’ll find everything from how to make short sentences to key Biblical quotes: LearnAramaic.blogspot.com.

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