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Thread: Learning Languages

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    Veteran Member Sarpedon's Avatar
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    Learning Languages

    An unusual hobby, but does anyone else do it?

    I have been rather bored and not intellectually challenged lately, and I also decided to give up (or strictly curtail) video game playing, so I found myself needing a hobby. I tried taking up leatherworking, but, alas, like all handcrafts, I have no particular talent, nor can I muster the patience to master the skills in the absence of talent.

    So, I decided to do something more purely intellectual, which is my forte. And 3 months or so ago, I saw an ad that said that a popular free language learning app (Duolingo) had recently added Chinese! So I thought to myself, I had wanted to learn for a long time, and even had plans on learning it together with my ex (relationship came to an end before much progress was made), so I decided to go ahead on my own.

    First off, the app is great, but not enough, so I got a great little book focusing entirely on learning the characters. (it includes pronunciation for each one, but that's hard to learn from a book). Between the two, I've been working hard for 90 days and I couldn't be more pleased with my progress. I've been concentrating on learning to read, which in Chinese you can totally learn independently from the spoken language. I have been using the app (which includes spoken portions) and chinese movies for help with the spoken part. I've learned at least 600 characters (minimum literacy is considered to be around 800 of the most common, with upwards of a thousand being required for true literacy) I still have a long way to go...there are zillions of compound words I have not delved into yet, still focusing on the monosyllabic foundational characters.

    Anyhow, does anyone else do this sort of thing as a hobby? What sort of experiences have you had? The weirdest thing for me is that I've been around chinese characters my whole life...and suddenly they are starting to mean things. I ordered a chinese book a while back (entirely in chinese) and couldn't make head or tails of it for the longest time, and just last week, all of the sudden I opened it up and was able to read the first line. A magical experience. I don't remember what it was like to read for the first time, but I just this month experienced something very much like it.

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    That is very cool... the bit about experiencing "reading for the first time"... I get it... the feeling, that is.... that click where something abstract becomes "real". That, "holy shit it works" moment.

    I like to think I have a strong command of the English language.. my first and only. I have no competency to learn new languages. Maybe it was how I learned my native language. Maybe it takes a certain type of mind. Whatever it is, I don't have it. I tried Babble recently... and then some other one (that duo thing sounds familiar - maybe it was that). I am incapable of progressing beyond lesson 1. Really. It was like 3 Spanish words.. Man, Woman, and baby. No ability to retain even that. Like right now I am trying to remember any of those three words and the word "Garcon" keeps jumping into my head... which is fucking French for boy, I think... so I am basically retarded in that area.

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    I toyed with the idea of learning French a while back but when the hard realisation that it had no real ROI settled in the idea fizzled out.

    I have, however, gotten in the habit of occasionally buying books in other languages and attempting to read them, from history, to poetry, and whatever else I can get my hands on that looks interesting. If I'm familiar with the subject matter reading text in French isn't too bad, given it's proximity to English and Canadians learning it in school until we're 14. I miss a lot but can usually get the general gist. Whenever I've tried to read Spanish it got impossibly harder, and Italian even more so. Haven't even bothered with Dutch, German or anything more exotic.

    As far as I can tell from the above (and some reading), the Roman empire led to the separation of populations East and West of the line extending up from Italy, which meant that anything to the West is somewhat familiar to a native English speaker, and anything to the East much less so.

    In any case, if anything's come out of this it's that I love the French language. Which English terms it uses for different things is fascinating to me.. like 'essence'. The french world for 'fuel' is 'essence'. When I was working for 3M Canada pasting French copy into websites I'd make connections like this all the time.

    So anyway, I have an interest in languages and how they're used, but haven't gone the full mile to actually learn one outside of English.

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    Member Iznomneak's Avatar
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    I've been trying to learn Spanish with Duolingo for about 400 days in a row (at least one lesson per day). It's actually quite fun when you are out somewhere and want to do something constructive.

    Duolingo is good for expanding your vocabulary, but it won't made me fluent. Practice/Immersion is really the only way to do that.

    It has exposed me to 2800 words so far. I'd be lucky if I remember half. I can usually figure out something written in Spanish. Most Spanish speakers talk too fast for me to parse.

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    Veteran Member Sarpedon's Avatar
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    Yeah, Duolingo is a good tool, but I decided early that I had to do more. I started making character flashcards. Almost up to 900, with a few hundred non-character conventional signs, but I haven't learned them all.

    One nice thing about Chinese TV and movies is that it seems to be a convention for actors to speak slowly and clearly, so I often can pick out words. When I overhear actual Chinese people, they speak a bit faster, but not so much.

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    Quantum Hot Dog Kharakov's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Iznomneak View Post
    Most Spanish speakers talk too fast for me to parse.
    The most fluent of the immigrants I've worked with learned English by listening to the radio and singing songs. They recommended doing the same thing, the only problem is, I don't listen to the radio.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iznomneak View Post
    I've been trying to learn Spanish with Duolingo for about 400 days in a row (at least one lesson per day). It's actually quite fun when you are out somewhere and want to do something constructive.

    Duolingo is good for expanding your vocabulary, but it won't made me fluent. Practice/Immersion is really the only way to do that.

    It has exposed me to 2800 words so far. I'd be lucky if I remember half. I can usually figure out something written in Spanish. Most Spanish speakers talk too fast for me to parse.
    I think the verb forms in Spanish are difficult for English speakers. Like me, anyhoo.

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    Veteran Member Sarpedon's Avatar
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    In Chinese, the writing system is crazy, the pronunciation is crazy...but there's no conjugation.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Iznomneak View Post
    I've been trying to learn Spanish with Duolingo for about 400 days in a row (at least one lesson per day). It's actually quite fun when you are out somewhere and want to do something constructive.

    Duolingo is good for expanding your vocabulary, but it won't made me fluent. Practice/Immersion is really the only way to do that.

    It has exposed me to 2800 words so far. I'd be lucky if I remember half. I can usually figure out something written in Spanish. Most Spanish speakers talk too fast for me to parse.
    google "slow news"... it is audio of current events reporting in foreign languages, spoken slowly and clearly... it is specifically for novice / intermediate language students that need that kind of immersion.

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    Member Iznomneak's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Malintent View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Iznomneak View Post
    I've been trying to learn Spanish with Duolingo for about 400 days in a row (at least one lesson per day). It's actually quite fun when you are out somewhere and want to do something constructive.

    Duolingo is good for expanding your vocabulary, but it won't made me fluent. Practice/Immersion is really the only way to do that.

    It has exposed me to 2800 words so far. I'd be lucky if I remember half. I can usually figure out something written in Spanish. Most Spanish speakers talk too fast for me to parse.
    google "slow news"... it is audio of current events reporting in foreign languages, spoken slowly and clearly... it is specifically for novice / intermediate language students that need that kind of immersion.
    Thanks, I'll give it a try.

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