[VIDEO] Interview with Sergiu from Simple Romanian

Today I have the honor of presenting an audio interview with Sergiu from Simple Romanian. His site is a full platform to learn Romanian in a different way, by short videos often shot in Cluj and actual conversations hold by native speakers. Besides running this site, he also works with a language he learned on his own and through conversation with native speakers, Swedish, being his favourite language. You can follow him on Youtube and Facebook as well.

[VIDEO] Interview with Antanas, teacher of Lithuanian for foreigners (IN SPANISH)

This time, I’m presenting an interview with Antanas Vinčiūnas, a physical trainer from Lithuania who is also working as a Lithuanian foreign language teacher, who is looking forward to teach his native language to Spanish speakers. Besides his native Lithuanian, he fluently speaks English, Russian and Spanish. The interview is in Spanish as a way of proving his excellent skills in my native language.

You can contact him on Facebook, YouTube and italki.

Hoy les presento una entrevista con Antanas Vinčiūnas, entrenador físico lituano y que también trabaja como profesor de lituano para extranjeros, dispuesto a enseñar su idioma a hispanohablantes. Además del lituano, habla muy bien inglés, ruso y castellano. Esta entrevista es en español como manera de mostrar sus excelentes habilidades en mi idioma materno.

Pueden contactarlo por Facebook, YouTube e italki.

5 myths about Polish… debunked!

I have been thinking about this issue for so long.

I often interact with other learners or people who are motivated with learning Polish. I sometimes see myself in some of them, while others… seem to have chosen another approach for the language which may affect their learning in the long term. As someone who wants to make language learning a joyful, yet realistic experience… It’s time to debunk some myths about Polish and Polish learning.

  1. Polish IS the hardest language in the world and it IS impossible to master it as even native speakers make mistakes in it. This is a common sentence found in so many websites and repeated ad nauseam by native Polish speakers and Polish learners alike (and usually with some nationalistic connotations). First of all, according to whom? Are all languages alike, first of all?
    Yes, it has cases, but they DO make sense once you study them throughly. Hard pronunciation? Ehm… no click sounds? And what about tenses? I think it is quite good to narrow down verb tenses into a few ones.
    You can find people making mistakes in their native languages everywhere. I even make mistakes in Spanish. The thing is by repeating this sentence you are giving the wrong signal about how languages work.
  2. If you are a foreigner, don’t worry about grammar… people will understand you anyways! I’ve heard this mainly from Poles. Yes, I’ll probably be understood if I am interacting with Poles as a 1-week tourist who is doing sightseeing and so. Of course, I won’t be expected to master that language for a short visit. However, grammar is fundamental in order to become an independent speaker, as in someone who can create their own sentences with no help and can be understood. Someone who is able to answer and ask back questions or giving opinions. Also, by having a good command of grammar, you’ll be able to be seen as an equal and not an outsider.
  3. POLISH PRONUNCIATION IS HARD! Again… it may be true if you only speak one language and if you’ve never heard or even been exposed to another language or even dialect. The thing is… you can probably have an accent and still not master certain sound clusters or so, but other than that, Polish has a decent and manageable sound repertoire. You might want to pay attention to your ś, ć, ż, ź, sz, cz and rz… but you can get there by paying attention to your tongue positions. You can practice those things by listening, reading aloud or even rehearsing small speeches.
  4. Hej przyjacielu! Many foreigners (including myself when I started) have made this mistake that Poles might not feel comfortable with. This sentence is often translated to “Hi, friend!” because przyjaciel gets translated to “friend” in most dictionaries. Yet, that’s not what it means. A “przyjaciel” is exactly a close friend. People might perceive it as pushy and not honest when you call “close friend” to people you’ve just met and you’ve thought they are cool. However, you can use two other words in Polish that can describe what other people might consider “friend”: znajomy and kolega. Znajomy literally means “acquaintance”, but it often carries a positive connotation. Even Facebook uses “znajomy” for a Facebook friend. It is totally acceptable and normal to use that word or even tell someone you are going out with “a couple of acquaintances”  without worrying you’ll be abducted. “Kolega” is often used as “buddy” or “colleague” (from work or classes) and it can also be used with a positive connotation (or you can use also the German loan word, kumpel). So, don’t feel offended if someone doesn’t use the p-word with you!
  5. Polish has irregular grammar and nonsense rules you’ll never understand! No, no and no! I have yet to see a language (except for conlangs) that has 100% regular grammar and consistent in its rules. Most, if not all, of them have certain exceptions that sometimes you probably learn them by heart or you need to work harder in order to understand their logic or how that verb or preposition works. Polish has plenty of those rules in which a certain preposition and case might screw up your sentence, but I have seen that happening in many languages, even Spanish. Or even you might not get a detailed and full explanation on why this and why no that, but that is not exclusive to Polish per se. Maybe a good and detailed Grammar guide is what you might need or an educated native speaker/advanced learner who might explain you rules in detail.

I hope you have enjoyed seeing those myths debunked!

Do you know more myths about Polish that need to be debunked? Have you heard similar things while learning other languages?  Please, share them in the comments!

[Video] #polyglotchallenge

One of the best things about updating this blog with videos is the amount of time it takes. It did not take plenty of my time!

Chris Huff from Language Fan did this challenge about 2 weeks ago and I found it quite interesting, so I joined it as well. Basically, he adapted this challenge from Instagram and took it to a YouTube format, which is the one I used as well. You can check out the questions here and many people who follow me on Facebook or Youtube may have seen my videos step by step, but for those who may have missed it, here are my 10 answers 🙂


Taking notes in Chile: a good way to speed up knowledge

It’s been about a month since I went back to University as a student. I haven’t been a regular student since I got my Bachelor’s degree in December 2011, so going back to a study rhythm in which I have to do projects, turn in papers or tasks and take notes (along with working fulltime)… hasn’t been easy (though I won’t deny that… I love being back at University! I like my classes and the environment over there).

Considering that most of my lectures last for more than 120 minutes, it can be tiresome to keep yourself focused and take notes of what my professors are saying. They often talk about so many topics in a short span of time that I don’t know what to write first or by the time I finished a sentence, my professor talks about something unrelated to the first point. In those moments, you have to be an efficient notetaker and luckily, I learned how to use abbreviations and symbols while taking notes.

Around 5th-6th grade my Spanish teacher taught me (and my class) how to be more efficient with note-taking for personal use (that is to say you cannot use them in any kind of formal document, essay, test or exam) through abbreviations. Most of those abbreviations are formed because of Logics, Maths, Science or even… how words sound. They are highly helpful while taking notes in a rush and from there, you can also create your own abbreviations or shortcuts, depending on your interests (for example, since I study humanities, Churches as institution have a small church drawing to save time).

In order to help you to be acquainted with symbols and abbreviations used for note-taking, I’ve made a short list that you can download and use it, in order to practice and take faster notes in Spanish (at least in Chile) or whenever your Chilean friend lends you his/her notes 😉

Download full size version HERE.

Do you use such abbreviations in your native or target language? Do they help you to take notes faster? Share your experience in the comments section!

[Update] The best, free and LEGAL materials to learn Polish, part 2

It’s been about a year since I wrote this post about materials to learn Polish and I am happy to mention that there are now more materials to start learning and practicing Polish the right way and suited to every need. As always, my goal is to show you the best, free and LEGAL materials to learn a language as there are plenty of better ones that are paid (and well worth paying for them).

  • Po polsku po Polsce: This site should be bookmarked and given to every person who wants to start to seriously learn Polish. It is a site that was developed by the prestigious Jagiellonian University in Kraków and financed by the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The structure is very similar to the textbook I used for my A1 level and I believe the lessons are well done, with a strong focus on language you will use and grammar rules. It is probably one of the most complete free basic courses in Polish out there.
  • U of Pittsburgh new site: I thought this site was gone, but it is now back under a different address.
  • BBC Polish: Do you want to drill your first contact words or polish your Polish pronunciation? This site makes great use of audio and drilling in order to nail the right sz and ś.
  • Polonus YouTube channel: Polonus is a Polish language school for foreigners located in Łódź that offers several YouTube videos in which they teach certain aspects of Polish language such as slang, verbs, cases and many other things. Explanations are in Polish, but the most basic ones are explained in very simple language, so you can gain more exposure.
  • Polski z Anią Youtube channel: Another YouTube channel, but this time from Professor Anna Rabczuk from the Polonicum Centre of Polish Language and Culture for Foreigners at the University of Warsaw. Videos have English subtitles.
  • Duolingo: Duolingo now has Polish courses that may help you practice what you’ve learned above. One of the biggest issues reported is the lack of grammar explanations, so you might want to complement your learning.
  • Habla Polaco: Do you speak Spanish? ¿Hablas castellano? This free course from the Polish Cultural Institute in Madrid offers you the very basics of Polish in Spanish. The course has PDF sheets and MP3 audios.
  • The languages Declension sheet for Polish: This should be printed or put in your mobiles for quick doubts.
  • Mówić po polsku: This site might be very helpful to clear out some doubts learners have. If you know German, this site is even better.
  • Learn Polish with Sam and Biluś: This blog has probably one of the best explanations on motion verbs I have seen.

Do you know more resources to learn Polish? Have you tried any of those listed? Share them in the comments!

[Video] Your own language learning method

I got inspired to make, yet another, video on YouTube about creating your own language learning method. These are guidelines you can use when you reach an intermediate level and take things to the next level.

Remember, learning on your own does not mean you are learning alone.

Share your experience and feedback on the comments

My life story as Polyglot: Guest post by Dimitris Polychronopoulos

Today I’m feauturing a guest post by Dimitris Polychronopoulos, a Greek man with an interesting life story regarding languages and his experiences with learning different ones, especially with French. I must say that Dimitris’s story is quite similar to mine, though there are some differences that you may see later.

If you would like to be a guest writer on Linguablog.org, please contact me.

My life story as a Polyglot

I’m Dimitris Polychronopoulos. I’m a citizen of both Greece and USA. My mother is a monolingual English-speaker and my father is bilingual Greek and English speaker. As a child growing up in the US, I had a basic knowledge of Greek and took Greek lessons at the Greek Orthodox church. I could read and write Greek at a basic level from an early age but I didn’t get the push to really move it along until later, even though deep inside I knew someday I would live in Greece. However it wasn’t until after my second visit to Greece in my 20’s that I became proficient in the Greek language and I became determined to live there, which I did from March 2000 until 2009. Getting better at my heritage language, Greek came as a roundabout way that I’ll explain here.

When I was a child, my favorite book was the World Atlas. I would look at the different maps and dream of traveling to the many different countries I saw as I looked through the pages. Then I started thinking about how it would be important to learn different languages in order to help communicate during the travels. I wrote a list of all the countries I wished to visit and all the languages I wanted to learn. My family thought I was crazy. That didn’t stop me from carrying out my plans though. Years have gone by and now I’ve visited more than 100 countries on all seven continents, have lived in seven different countries, have sojourned in an additional eight countries and have studied more than 15 languages — some of which I am proficient in and some of which I can survive in and some of which I’m somewhere in between.

The above example shows how at an early age, I showed curiosity and wasn’t deterred by any of the skepticism of those around me to carry through with my plans. As an adult, it happens that I took the ‘Big Five’ personality test, where I scored high on ‘Openness’, which means being intellectually curious, appreciating beauty and the arts, being in touch with ones’ feelings, and looking for adventure.

It wouldn’t surprise me if some people who do poorly at languages are dragged down by their lack of openness. The other parts of the ‘Big Five’ personality test are: agreeableness, conscientiousness, extraversion, and neuroticism.

Another factor I scored high in is conscientiousness. This seems to be an important factor as well because a person with a high level of conscientiousness will take the time to study grammar rules, focus on correct pronunciation, and build up a vocabulary.

There is more to being successful at language learning than just personality. Other things factor in as well, such as confidence, motivation, effective methods and the ability to overcome challenges.

Looking back at high school, the first two years of French were not successful. We had to take exams where we conjugated verbs and I even tried writing down verb endings on a tiny ‘cheat sheet’ for one of the exams. The teacher noticed the ‘cheat sheet’ during an exam and confiscated it.

However, by the third year of French, I was the only student in French class who could actually hold a conversation in French and the first one ever in my high school to pass the Advanced Placement French exam. What happened? Where did the change come from?

There were two things that really made a difference. First, my parents took me to French Polynesia and I was able to experience the language in a real environment rather than in just a classroom and from a text book. This visit made me interested in getting beyond the text book. Second, two French exchange students arrived at my high school and became my best friends. In both cases, getting the taste of the language as a living form rather than a classroom task really played the biggest role in changing my attitude about learning French. The language moved beyond just a text book and meant participating in real conversations about real things and events that concerned my life, with real people. That became my motivation to learn French.

Once I had motivation, my confidence was boosted from the French teachers in high school who were married to French spouses and they let me talk to their in-laws.  One of the teachers even invited me several times to their house to chat in French when the family would come over from France. It was completely unique for the French teachers at my high school to see a student actually becoming conversant in French so they boosted my confidence even more by showing so extra interest in me.

They say that once you feel success learning one foreign language, you build the confidence to know you can learn a second one, then a third one, and so forth. That’s how you become a polyglot and a hyperpolyglot. It seems natural that I developed my own path to learning languages despite the fact that nobody else around me was doing so. My success in French built up my confidence and I began self-study in Italian. I noted the similar structure of the language and the cognates and learned about ‘false friends’ as well. For example, Sciare is very different from Chier.  After I started to study Italian, the French joked with me about the Italian skier who was misunderstood and sent to the toilet because he used such a ‘false friend’.

Success didn’t come without sacrifices, however. I spent a lot of lunch breaks during my senior year of high school on my own studying vocabulary, grammar and reading for example. One of my favorite things was the simple versions of French literature Les Miserables that my teachers lent me.

The best news was that my friends invited me to France and that their families really appreciated my efforts in speaking French. From time to time, there were also strangers in France who also commented on it, for example one said that I spoke ‘lentement, mais correctement’. I ended up even getting a scholarship to study at the Université d’Angers for a semester. It was a great experience.

My biggest challenge in learning a language is listening. It’s my biggest weakness in all languages really. Sometimes I’m embarrassed to ask somebody to repeat something and I laugh nervously, say a non sequitur or change the subject. Sometimes I end up making a tangentially related response. I know that best thing to do is to ask the person to repeat it slowly or clearly. I have a fear that the person will switch to English or that I will lose face. This is something I always need to be aware of and need to try to improve. Self-awareness and humility are essential to overcome this problem. It is more commonly a problem around people who haven’t spent much time around me. After I get to know somebody, I’m more comfortable asking them to repeat and to let them be aware of the limitations I have in speaking their language. It’s always hardest when I’m not engaged in a one-on-one conversation with somebody. When I’m the only non-native speaker in a group of people speaking one of my target languages, the pace of speech along with any background noise can make it difficult to catch every word. In these circumstances, you just have to absorb the overall meaning and not obsess understanding with every single word or expression.

After all these years of language learning, my main advice to somebody getting started in a new language is listening to the language to learn the sound of the language. Try to determine when one word ends and another begins. Try to note different accents and tones. Get a variety of content. Sometimes you need content at your level. Go for cartoons with subtitles for example. Other times just listen to podcasts in subjects of interest to you. Check out YouTube for content.

Do not obsess about grammar. It will come through the later stages. The grammar was what was wrong with the high school French. We spent time on rote memory of conjugating verbs from the text book. Most people aren’t interested in this and they find it tedious and irrelevant. Understanding the grammar can come later. Even a little bit of exposure to the language (say 15 minutes a day) if it is done steadily, builds up and over time you make progress. For me what works best is diving right in with intensity. That’s what I did when I was first starting Mandarin as well. I was studying for four hours a day for the first four months.

Recently I’ve started a website, Yozzi.com, for advanced language learners who want to improve their writing skills. I welcome guest blogs in different languages and encourage guests not to write in their strongest language but in a different one and to also help others by posting corrections and feedback for those whose blogs are up on the site. There is also a Yozzi Language YouTube channel where I have short videos for advanced learners where I share new vocabulary words in different languages.

Wishing you the best of success with your language learning endeavours. Feel free to write comments and questions here for me to answer.

Thank you Dimitris for your time and dedication!