[Video] Entrevista con Marlon “Señor alemán” Görnert

Hoy nuevamente tengo el gusto de presentar la entrevista a un amigo que realmente se transformó en una charla muy interesante sobre la vida en general y que espero que haya una segunda parte de esta. Quizás esta fue bastante informal, pero creo que le da un gran toque de naturalidad y una sensación de comodidad.

Marlon es alemán y actualmente reside en Estocolmo, Suecia. Sabe alemán, inglés, español (con un perfecto acento porteño), portugués, catalán, francés, sueco e italiano, con un fuerte interés en otros idiomas germánicos y lenguas itálicas, como el sardo. Nos hemos conocido por intereses en común y muchas veces pasamos horas conversando, discutiendo y riéndonos de distintos temas y básicamente, eso queremos plasmar en este video.

Los invito también a seguir a Marlon en su canal de YouTube y su página de Facebook.

 

[Video] Language Learning Goals for 2017

While I’m working on the next round of videos, I’ve made my Language Learning Goals for this year. Considering I will have to deal with many things in other aspects, I’ve managed to keep them real, manageable. They are not very ambitious, but I’ll have to see. If I had to summarize them, probably it could be under strengthening my knowledge.

 

 

 

[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 🙂

 

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?

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!

[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!

Online resources for language learning: Don’t rely on only ONE

Online language learning materials have revolutionized learning. They have managed to generate democratization of knowledge, as well as inclusion. 20 years ago or so, it would have been impossible for me to learn the languages I am learning right now or meeting people from almost all over the World.

In fact, many of those language learning materials found online are well thought to suit any learners’ needs: people with not much spare time available, people who prefer a more interactive approach, books, audios, among others. You can look up words on online dictionaries or pronounciation guides. Even Google Translate can help in some instances for isolated pronounciation 😮

However, to be honest, I am wary of several methods, especially the ones in which people tend to get so enthusiast for and exclusively rely on them, without considering that you need to spice up your learning (i.e. use different resources to practice different aspects, ask for feedback from educated native speakers, getting in touch with local media and culture, etc.). Maybe the problem isn’t the method, to be honest… it is the attitude people partake with them. Learning a language is a hard job. Even if you choose to learn it with free sources. Those free, self-studying sources, in my opinion, require probably 3-4x the effort, time, dedication and discipline than people who decided who go with a more classroom-like instruction in languages. Lacking one of them would probably make your learning not effective. In this particular issue, I will consider DEDICATION.

Dedication is, besides your own will to learn a language, the time you spend gathering materials and informing yourself about them. Their strengths, weaknesses and what you can achieve by using them; if they are useful for your goal (whether it is being hold to hold small conversations, learning about the grammar, learning to communicate or read, or have a working competence in it) or so. Maybe, if you want to hold small conversations back and forth, having a tandem friend is probably the best thing you can have along with a small book that explains phrasal constructions and a dictionary to look for vocabulary, as well as informing yourself about the cultural expressions (music, films, et al). Those different resources can make my knowledge boost and learn different things that aren’t covered in X, Y or Z method-

Now, you may wonder, what was my inspiration for this post?

I have been practicing Hungarian phonology lately, especially vowel distinction. Hungarian has a more complex set of vowels, and many foreigners do get them confused, including myself. In order to work with it, I tend to look for videos on YouTube with the explanation and repeating common expressions with it.

One of the apparently most complicated words for Hungarian learners is egészségedre, the informal expression for cheers!, to your health! or bless you! Anyone may get scared with the amount of vowels and consonants.

If you ever type that into Google, you may get this as a first result

Captura

A video with pronounciation, interesting! This is the actual video

My Hungarian friends and fellow Hungarian learners would probably want to smash their heads to the keyboard right now. I guess someone used Google Translator’s voice generated software the wrong way or forgot to set it in Hungarian. Yet, this was the first result of it.

So, don’t be afraid of spending a lot of time researching for the right material. Look at comments, experiences from other learners, ask for advice, among other things. Maybe it’ll spare you one or two headaches while actually learning your language.

By the way, the right pronounciation for egészségedre is [ɛɡeːʃːeːɡɛdrɛ], that is to say: