[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!

My future with Polish: hard decisions

I have not updated in a while as I have dealing with a hard decision involving my future. As of August 2016, I will be starting my Master’s in Cultural Heritage. It will be 3 semesters long, yet it will require for me to focus mostly on my studies and sadly, I will be leaving my Polish lessons behind.

my future with

One of the reasons I decided to take Polish lessons in a class setting was that I believed what people would say about Polish. That it was a hard and impossible language to master. I do think it is hard, but I refuse to believe that it is impossible to master it. I refuse to believe that it is hard and impossible because “even native speakers make mistakes” or “I have never seen a foreign person being fluent in Polish”. Also, I do have problems with keeping myself focused and a classroom setting with a private instructor would give me the enough discipline and learning certain habits that boosted my language learning (e.g., being in contact with Polish media on a daily basis, using the language outside the classroom and more). In fact, my instructor did that and more.

Now, I have a level that allows me to run simple errands with no further issues, talk about most issues and that I can manage most tenses that exist in Polish. If I were in a lower level, it would have been a real loss to stop studying Polish, but thanks to the Internet and my acquired habits, I think I can work a learning method that would allow me to keep working, studying for my master’s *and* have a life besides studies and work. Now that is the biggest challenge: How to keep up with a language you love when you have bigger responsibilities?

What I am thinking about doing is incorporate more Polish to my daily routine: more Polish media (e.g. listening to Polish radio at work or whenever I have spare time; getting a good self-teaching material and do exercises for 45 mins during the weekends/days off from work; buying 301 Polish verbs and finally, start using virtual Flashcards. Good thing that Duolingo started recently with their new project, Tinycards (as the price for the official Anki app on my mobile OS is way out of my budget), so it’d be a good idea to try it out and see how can it works for me.

I am aware that my learning process will slow down for a while. Yet, it would be a perfect opportunity to start exploring, trying and making a better use of self-teaching methods. My core knowledge of Polish is already there and it is completely up to me to strengthen it.

Have you been in a similar situation in your language learning process?

Interview with Salvatore from Nzignàmunni ‘u sicilianu (and learn Sicilian)

After my vacation in the US which was fantastic in many ways, it’s time to get back to regular posting. Today I’m honored to present an interview I had with Salvatore from the Facebook page Nzignàmunni ‘u sicilianu, a site meant to teach and revitalize the Sicilian language and consider it as a language of its own, and not a mere Italian dialect. I’m really excited to feature a piece with him and of course, feel free to be in contact with his FB page to see if you can join his Sicilian classes through the Scola Siciliana.

Salvatore

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?

My name is Salvatore Matteo Baiamonte, I’m 20 years old and I was born in Palermo, Sicily, Italy, but I live in Northern Italy, in the area of Parma. I studied at the Liceo Linguistico Gabriele D’Annunzio in Fidenza, Italy (a liceo linguistico is a high school with a five-year course in which you focus on languages). At the moment, I study Modern Civilizations and Foreign Languages at the University of Parma, Italy (the languages I’m focusing on are English and German). So, I’m a student.

How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?

Nobody did, to be quite honest. It’s something that has always been typical of me: in Italy public schools focus a lot on teaching grammar at a good level. When I was 7, I started studying English, and I remember I always liked it. I never found any difficulty in it. When I was 11, I started studying French, and I fell in love with that too. And when I was 14, I started studying German: one more language to love. When I was even younger, I started feeling interest in one of my two first languages: Sicilian, a language that is not recognized in Italy even though it was the first language in the area of Italy that developed a literature and is currently spoken by about 5-7 million people.

Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?

I wouldn’t say supportive, I’d prefer to say that they simply agreed with my choice. When it was time for me to choose the high school I thought that could be good for me, I changed my mind. In the beginning I had the intention to attempt a liceo artistico, but thinking back on that particular historical moment: it was the worst part of the economic crisis in which we’re still going through. I thought that if the situation would worsen, I could always drop the card of foreign languages and go abroad. My parents were surprised at the beginning, but it was basically OK for them.

How have your life experiences shaped your relationship with languages?

I have always liked being connected with other cultures. The real, free and total access to a foreign culture is allowed only to a few chosen people. I have always been thirsty for knowledge, so I have always seen in language the key to open the door that leads to the understanding of a different culture. Languages have become like real friends for me, friends who have wonderful secrets and can lead me into something new and enriching.

Can you tell me more about the status of Sicilian in Italy and your personal opinion about it?

Well, as I said before, Sicilian is spoken by about 5-7 million people in Italy (but it’s also spoken all over the world, in places where huge Sicilian communities exist, i.e. in the USA). But it’s as though it doesn’t exist. In 2015 I started a petition to change one of the Italian laws: there’s an Italian law that recognizes certain minority languages, but those languages were not chosen according to linguistic criteria but according to political criteria. So Sicilian, the first language that developed a literature in the Italian area, does not officially exist. Historically speaking, Italy has always denigrated any languages other than “Standard Italian” (at least since 1861), and designated them “dialects” as a means of making one feel sub-standard for speaking them. They tried to convince people that they were wrong ways of speaking Italian, and made it very difficult for people to realize the importance of keeping ones own language alive.  About two or three years ago, I created an educational Sicilian page on Facebook, with grammar rules and so on.  I began making contacts in America with Sicilian-American communities. For these communities, keeping the language alive is sometimes very difficult. Last year I started the Scola Siciliana project, the first school that teaches Sicilian. This is my effort to help them reclaim the language of their ancestors who left Italy in route to America about a century ago.

Did you ever face a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?

When you want to study a language in a serious way, you generally go through a lot of hard moments, me too. You just have to try to do your best, and try to build some kind of relationship with it.

What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your tricks for that language?

At the moment, I’m not interested in any particular language because I am preparing for an exam I’ll have to take at the university in the coming days – the sad life of university students haha!

Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?

There isn’t any language I can’t learn properly – I’m always positive about languages!

Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?

I could tell you about a funny thing that happened to me and a friend of mine. We were studying German together, in particular we were reading some exercises, and in one sentence there was the word Bedeutung (that means ‘meaning’). While he was reading I stopped him to check whether he knew the meaning of that word (so to check if he had studied) and told him: “What does Bedeutung mean?”. He answered: “I don’t know”, and I told him “Meaning”. He replied again, “I told you I don’t know”.  “No! Haha! Bedeutung means meaning”, was my answer. That was fun haha!

Thank you for your time!

1 curious thing that called my attention in Hungary (and somehow related to language)

I had fun writing my observations about Poland and relating it to language (especially when I mentioned about German cleaning products), so I believe Hungary should get its own post about something that called my attention while being there. By the way, due to the greater amount of work and responsibilities I’ve got this year, I haven’t been to continue with Hungarian as fast as I can, but I’m determined to reach a basic conversational level soon and simply, enjoy learning.

Hungary

If you’d ever ask me if there’s something that quickly caught my attention in Hungary… it was this:

TABLÓ

Despite that the word looks similar to table, it is a word also used for a picture a graduating high school class takes, and here comes the fun and interesting part: they are usually hanged in shops, shopping centres, supermarkets, local stores and high schools as well. I am not 100% sure why they are located there. I’ve heard that long time ago, being able to graduate from high school was a big step and something worth being proud of, thus everyone had to know about it. Locating these graduation pictures next to a local shop or important meeting poing was a way to let know that Sándor passed his exams and he can either look for a grown-up job or start further studies.

In any way, these recent years have become very important for these pictures. If before they were mostly traditional graduation photos, with the graduates in formal dress and their school teachers and staff… advanced photo editing skills and worldwide trends to personalize everything have turned a regular tabló into… TABLÓVERSENY (verseny = competition, race… so it is a competition about tabló!). What class will use the most pop culture reference or the best photo editing skills? People there are yet to know, but you can use Instagram to vote for your favourite ones (yes, there is a contest to vote on your favourite ones, so the graduating class can win a big prize). One of the thing that surprises me for the best is how teachers are willing to join their students in these pictures. I bet only 2-3 of the teachers I’ve ever had in High School would have joined us if we wanted such photos.

Naturally, like any photo competition, you may find excellent ones like a version of The Last Supper, one related to World of Warcraft or… Game of Thrones (I’m not fan of the latter, but if it were like that picture… I’d totally watch it).

Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016 .
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016 .
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016.
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016.

And naturally… there are some of them who… might need to think it twice, because I’m not sure I’d love a Math teacher gulyás, read the magazine from that classmate I didn’t like or… that photo that tells you who are close to each other and who aren’t.

Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016
Source Instagram.com/tabloverseny_2016

In any way, I’m not here to judge (I mean, there are customs over here that may shock anyone), yet I have yet to see such things over here. Plus, I really wanted to talk about something original about Hungary (there are plenty of blogposts about Túró, gulyás and other yummy things or good inventions from Hungarian origin).

Are there any interesting things that remember you of Hungary? Or any interesting customs for your country or place where your target language is spoken? Share them on the comments!

Lira Popular or learning languages and cultures through poetry and art

pring

As someone who believes that history, culture, society go quite along with language and language learning, it is interesting to always be in the lookout for things people might not know and that might be interesting, not only to other learners, but natives as well.

Up until the 19th century, Chile was probably one of the most underdeveloped regions of the Spanish Empire. This meant that certain things were more relaxed, there were other influences that in other regions weren’t as strong or that news took their time to spread over there. Also, there was a high number of people who couldn’t read or write and access to education or high culture was limited. In fact, the first printing machine arrived to Santiago around the early 19th century. Before, most books were shipped from Spain, Peru (since it was the wealthiest and most important region of the Spanish Empire in South America), the US, the UK or France (carried by the elite who got their education or there or sold by pirates).

After its independence, Chile quickly caught up and print machines became more known. Still, there was a high number of illiterate people who couldn’t read or write. Their source of education was mostly informal: they would watch religious images in Church, they would watch religious plays during certain holidays or inform themselves of what happened in their country and the world by hearing people reading newspapers or so. One of the most popular sources of information for them was the Lira Popular: a simple newspaper that carried certain illustrations done in woodcarving and sensationalist news written in poem format. They were somehow like the tabloids of our time: supernatural news, crime news, religious celebrations or national holidays were their main topics. This style of making and printing news were inspired by Italy, Spain, Portugal or Brazil where they are known as “Cordel literature”.

This genre of poetry/art/journalism became popular in Chile by the last decades of the 19th century. The news followed a certain metric and rhyme that reminded people of Chilean folk music, they were easy to read and were often followed by illustrations. These newspapers were done by people who lived around the most rural/working class neighborhoods of Santiago and Valparaiso. This style of journalism waned by 1920, as people were starting to have more access to elementary education. From 2010, there has been great interest by scholars and the local academic community of preserving what’s left of Lira popular and many people have tried to retake the habit of woodcarving and use it for art or souvenirs, or for scholars, to analyze how the society saw things or what the perception was about women (since many of the verses talk about gender violence), religion, the Army, among other topics. Since 2013, the UNESCO recognized this genre as cultural heritage of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Personally, I think it is a wonderful opportunity to be exposed to these things as they can teach us more about language, culture or even art techniques that people thought they were lost, but they are aesthetically so pleasant. It is a great opportunity for people interested in history, sociology, gender studies, literature or visual arts to come together and compare their analyses regarding one thing. Curiously, I have a particular piece of news that I like, which is about protest regarding the price hike of tram tickets in Santiago, and inviting people to boycott the company. Considering the time it was written, it reminded me of Anarchism and how their thoughts lead, somehow, to creating tango music out of it. You can see how their rhymes work and the use of Bello’s spelling reform, which was widely used in Chile during that time.

You can read more about Lira Popular and check full files about it in these sites (in Spanish): Memoria Chilena, Archivo Bello from the University of Chile.
Do you know similar experiences to Lira Popular in the cultures you are interested? What did you think about it? Do you like reading about history of your target language through alternative sources? Please, let me know in the comments!

Interview with Artem Nazarov from Yaziky.com

Today I am proud to feature an interview with one of my first followers of this blog. Artem is from Novosibirsk, Russia and runs the blog Yaziky.com. I have followed his learning process closely and I have been amazed by how far he has gone. I am quite confident he is doing a great work with a learning process he has adapted to his lifestyle and situation.

Can you tell me a bit about yourself? What is your main occupation?

My name is Artem and I am a language enthusiast from Russia.

I am a student of International Relations and European Studies. I really love it. But this wasn’t my first choice. I had to make some efforts to find out what to do in my life. In a way, language learning helped me find my purpose.

Apart from my university studies, I love learning languages, practicing sports and getting to know people from all over the world. That’s why I worked in a local hostel.

My main job, for now, is my language learning blog (yaziky.com).

The languages I speak now are Russian (native language), English, Italian, French, and Spanish. I am also learning German and Portuguese.

How did you become involved with languages? Did anyone motivate you?

I was born and raised in an absolutely monolingual environment. Here in Russia, it’s not easy to encounter anyone who speaks English well, let alone multiple languages. So I never actually thought that someday I would be able to speak multiple languages. But I clearly remember the moment when my language learning journey began.

I was 19, the only foreign language I was able to speak was English. Back then, I went abroad for the first time. I have visited some European countries such as Italy, Switzerland, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. It was an amazing experience. I was impressed by everything I saw.

I realized how cool discovering new cultures is. And what had the most impact on me was the Italian culture. I totally fell in love with it and when I returned home, without any hesitation I started to learn Italian.

This trip motivated me a lot, but it wasn’t the only motivator, so to speak. The other one was a very famous youtube polyglot who showed though his own example that speaking multiple languages is not only possible but could lead to an amazing lifestyle.

I am talking about Luca Lampariello. His native language is Italian, so I used his videos and articles to learn that beautiful language. It was very useful because I was not only learning Italian, but also fundamental language learning principles that I apply now.

That’s how I was deeply involved in an amazing lifestyle full of cultural discoveries and constant engagement with people from all over the world.

Have your family, loved ones and friends been supportive with your language interests?

To be honest, nobody in my circle has ever shared my language interests. I mean, of course, all of them were supportive and very happy that I have such a great passion for languages. But I really was the only language enthusiast around.

However, thanks to the Internet and numerous language learning communities, I’ve always been in contact with people who are also into languages. So I’ve never felt alone in that sense.

Have you ever faced a hard moment while learning languages? How did you overcome it?

When I was learning Romance languages, I never had any difficulties, lack of motivation or anything like that. I’ve never given up on my language learning before. I thought it would always will be like that. How naive I was…haha.

One day, I decided to learn German. And here my biggest language learning challenge began. I knew that it was going to be harder than all the other languages I’ve been learning before, but I wasn’t ready for German. I was so relaxed after learning 3 Romance languages in a row, that I forgot that to learn a language one should actually make some efforts.

The first difficulty with learning German was that I had no basic vocabulary in common with other languages at the start, which is not the case when learning multiple Romance languages.

The second difficulty was German grammar, which also has nothing to do with both my native Russian or any of the languages I had learned before.

Third, I had a lack of motivation caused by the fact that I couldn’t understand and speak the language for a long time.

And lastly, I just didn’t know how to approach such a complex language.

That’s why after a couple of months of learning German I quit, for the first time. I switched to Portuguese which turned out to be the easiest language I’ve ever learned so far. Fortunately, after a couple of weeks of my break, I began to learn German again.

Although I can’t say that I’ve overcome it, the fact that I try to do something to learn German on a daily basis convinces me that one day I’ll finally reach the level I’m aiming for.

What languages are you currently interested in right now? How do you practice them? What are your methods or “secrets” for that language?

As I mentioned earlier, the languages I am interested in right now are German and Portuguese. And, of course, the way I approach them is not the same.

Portuguese is the 4th Romance language I’ve been learning. So it is very easy and I don’t really learn it, in the sense we used to call it, I’d rather say I use it.

Mainly, what I do to learn Portuguese is, first of all, listening to podcasts every day. I’ve found an amazing show called «Café Brasil». Second, is speaking with native speakers at least once a week.

Less frequently, I write in Portuguese on italki.com and I read some article on the web. I call this approach to language learning natural and I am happy that it gets more popular with language learners. It’s a lot of fun and stress-free. But it works when you already have the basic knowledge.

As for German, I use a completely different method. Listening to podcasts and waiting till I start to understand everything doesn’t work here. Speaking with natives neither. Focusing on Grammar will only make matters worse. So what I do is translating. It worked out with French and it’s going to work with German as well.

So I’ve got a book with authentic texts for beginners and intermediate students. It has both translations and audio files recorded by native speakers.

I try to first figure out what the word means from the context, then I look it up on Google translate. Then, I read it sentence by sentence listening to the recording and trying to imitate the pronunciation and intonation.

That’s going to build the vocabulary I’ll need to understand native speech. It will help to work on my pronunciation and also to learn grammar in a passive way.

What counts most when it comes to language learning is not so much the method you use, as the attitude. If you like the learning process and you practice it every day, you’ll certainly end up speaking that language.

From my experience, to reach basic fluency, meaning that you are comfortable with communicating on non-specialized topics, it takes about 6-10 months, depending on how far the target language is from your native one.

My «secret» to learning languages is first being in contact with the language in any possible way you can. Second, attack the language from different sides (listening, reading, speaking, writing). Third, don’t skip your language learning two days in a row.

Be consistent, patient, and creative. Then, you’ll become a successful language learner.

Are you interested in a certain language that you know, more or less, you will not be able to learn it properly?

I was recently thinking about the languages I would like to learn in the future. I counted about 13 languages, among them are the most difficult ones like Chinese and Arabic.

Of course, I don’t pretend to learn all of these languages up to a native-like level, it would be impossible. I am ok with making mistakes. It’s normal and I am not aiming for perfection, I am aiming for the amazing experience I get from the communication with native speakers in their own language.

The difficulty of the language, lack of materials or any other obstacle shouldn’t deprive us of the cool experience we get from learning a new language.

Can you tell me a short, positive anecdote about your language learning history?

When I was learning Spanish, I used to hang out with Colombians a lot. We spoke entirely in Spanish, no Russian, though they spoke some of it.

One day, they took me to a salsa class full of guys from Latin America. I talked to one of them. I wanted to ask him if he was from Colombia as my friends were. But instead of saying «¿Eres de Colombia?» (Are you from Colombia?) I said «Soy de Colombia» (I am from Colombia). We had a chat for a couple of minutes and then my Russian friend came to me. Of course, I responded to him in Russian.

The guy I was talking to before said to me «¡Vaya! ¡Hablas ruso sin acento!» (Wow! You speak Russian without any accent!). And I realized that I have just come across as a «Colombiano». I explained to him that I made a mistake and we laughed. It was such an unusual and fun experience. I’ll never forget that moment!

[RECAP] Learning Polish while living in Chile

Originally, I had another post in mind for this week, but after things that happened by the end of the week, I decided to write something more personal.

Polish learning

It has been about 2 years since I started learning Polish [CLICK HERE FOR MY REASONS WHY I CHOSE POLISH]. To be honest, I was quite anxious when starting it. Especially because of those things you see online about this language: people claim it is one of the hardest languages of the world, that rules do not make sense, that few natives master it properly, among other claims.

Honestly, most of those claims were 100% lies (and even more confirmed after reading the background of such people). Yet, Polish isn’t an easy language. Especially when living far away from Poland, thus access to Polish media, Poles or even going to Poland every now and then is hard. Many people have told me that it’d be a better and safer choice to study German, French or Mandarin Chinese since the chances of finding native or advanced speakers of these languages in Chile are bigger than the ones of finding people speaking Polish. Curiously, I did learn some French and German back then, and one of the things that discouraged me of keep learning it was not having the chance to use these languages outside the classroom. Back then tandem sites were not as popular as now and several people preferred to use English or Spanish rather than other languages.

However, Polish keeps surprising me somehow. I *have* used Polish at work, I use it online on a daily basis, I take some time to read articles or listen to Polish radio and two days ago, I was invited to the local celebrations of the Polish national day at the Polish Embassy in Santiago for the second time in a row. Probably, I haven’t used and heard that much Polish since my last holiday to Hungary, where I would hang out and stay with Poles and often switched to Polish for a long while. Yes, it feels weird to speak a foreign language in your country and out in the street, but… I liked that sensation. I took it as a good test on my language skills. Sure, I need to still work on my numbers (but then, numbers in any language are a problem for me -no wonder I studied Humanities-), prepositions, certain verbs, remembering important words… yet, I am feeling more confident in Polish just by looking behind and seeing what I have achieved.

In comparison to other languages I have learned in the past, Polish has made me feel more complete (maybe it was because of my first experience with the language and I felt like if I were part of a community) and probably it is the reason why I put plenty of effort with it. Some people would already have given up when studying the first declension case or when trying to make the distinction between sz and ś [which I am working with it as always]… yet, the Polish community online and offline is quite welcoming in general. Yes, they are at first surprised, shocked and they won’t understand why I am so determined to learn the language. My answer will always be switching to Polish immediately and use other languages only in extreme situations. After that, believe me, it’ll be hard to stop using Polish and switching to another language with them. You’ll be corrected many times, yet they will feel that they are part of your learning process.

If I were to say anything to future language learners, polyglots or so, it would be to indeed follow your intuition with your language learning process while picking what to learn. Motivation and your genuine interest for the language and culture can make you do wild things out of your comfort zone you’d never expect and it’d be more useful for several aspects of your life than following what other people claim to say it is best for you to learn.

Have you learned an unusual language for the part of the world you are currently living in? How did you feel before and after the decision? Please, share your impressions in the comments!

El voseo en Chile y porqué no es “mal castellano”

Post originalmente publicado acá. Traducido por el autor.

Debido a varias peticiones, he decidido traducir mi artículo sobre el voseo en Chile, que llama mucho la atención a quiénes aprenden el castellano como también hablantes nativos interesados en Chile.

Muchos de ustedes ya conocen que para la segunda persona singular, el castellano hace la distinción entre la variante formal e informal: usted y tú (nótese que sólo usted lleva mayúscula al inicio cuando es abreviado, es decir Ud. y el resto con minúscula). Sin embargo, muchos variantes y dialectos utilizan el voseo parcialmente o completamente reemplazando a tú. Las dos grandes regiones que han reemplazado al tú por el voseo en casi todas las ocasiones (sino completamente) son la del Río de la Plata (Argentina, Uruguay y Paraguay) y América Central (Guatemala, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, El Salvador y Honduras). Sin embargo, hay también zonas en donde el voseo convive con el tú debido a diferentes razones. Una de ellas es mi país de origen, Chile.

Pese a que gran parte de la comunicación escrita en Chile utiliza tú (con la excepción de la publicidad apuntada a jóvenes, y solamente hace unos años), mucha gente utiliza oralmente el voseo en casa, con amigos o en muchas interacciones informales. Ya que tú y vos viven juntos, muchas de las conjugaciones también son diferentes a las otras regiones voseantes. No obstante, la conjugación el voseo chileno llega a ser intuitiva y con una lógica fácil de seguir.

La típica conjugación regular es de la siguiente manera:

Voseo 4

Ya que el castellano es una lengua que evita utilizar pronombres personales salvo para énfasis, mucha gente no utiliza la palabra vos. Además, ya que el castellano chileno hace gran uso de las aspiraciones de la s, los verbos en voseo están escritos de diferentes maneras. Y aquí viene la parte triste:

Por muchos años, la sociedad chilena ha tenido una autopercepción negativa de cómo hablan. Muchos lingüistas le han echado la culpa a las políticas educacionales del siglo XIX ya que sostenían que la lengua debía estar estandarizada para crear una identidad nacional única y homogénea (ya que se debía construir un estado-nación). Esto creó una mirada negativa sobre lo que ya existía lingüísticamente: palabras provenientes de las lenguas indígenas, el desarrollo del voseo, aspiraciones y otras características. Pese a que ellas se han mantenido en el tiempo y la gente las utiliza en casa o con amigos, en situaciones públicas o con figuras de autoridad cerca, se cambiaba de inmediato a un registro más estándar. Todo esto fue la percepción hegemónica y fue reforzada en los 70 y 80 (cuando miro programas de televisión chilenos de aquel entonces, siento que la manera de hablar suena “poco natural”). Desde los 90, ha comenzado un lenta, pero constante toma de conciencia sobre el castellano chileno, con una mirada positiva y usándolo en medios de comunicación y en la mayoría de contextos, pero usándolo bien. Gran parte de la publicidad para jóvenes utiliza el voseo y su uso oral (en televisión y radio) es muy común. Lamentablemente, todavía no ha sido estandarizado en escrito debido a esa percepción negativa, pero estoy seguro y espero presenciar que el voseo sea completamente aceptado y estandarizado en su variante escrita.

Las reglas del voseo chileno se pueden resumir en 3 puntos:

Voseo 5

Como ya he dicho, debido a una percepción negativa y el poco uso de los pronombres personales, la gente en Chile evita usar vos, salvo en ciertos contextos, como al estar enojado con alguien o mientras uno bromea con amigos. Tanto el tono como el contexto pueden informarte sobre esto. Para evitar decir vos, mucha gente reemplaza el pronombre vos por tú. Así, mucha gente diría (tú) tenís, (tú) sentís y no (vos) tenís ni (vos) sentís al utilizar voseo, para evitar ofender a alguien.

Para ya terminar esto, les adjunto un dato curioso sobre el voseo. Debido a todo lo anterior, ¿qué opinarían si les digo que el verbo ser puede tener hasta 5 formas de decirlo en la segunda persona singular informal? ¡Probablemente es uno de los pocos verbos que tiene 3 conjugaciones y que al combinarlas te dan 5 formas! En la imagen a continuación, verán cómo se conjuga y usa, desde la manera más estándar al inicio y la manera que quizás quieras evitar en la mayoría de contextos al final.

Voseo

Como diría el lingüista chileno Darío Rojas: “Hablar bien consiste en ser ubicado”.

¿Cuáles son sus percepciones del voseo? ¿Han experimentado percepciones negativas de algunas palabras o variantes en su proceso de aprendizaje de idiomas? ¡Compartan sus impresiones en los comentarios!

Y si les interesa aprender más sobre el castellano, pueden contactarme en italki.