101 language learning tips coming soon. Plus links

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

About three years ago I created the content for an iPhone app containing 101 tips for learning languages, and since it has been quite some time since it was originally released I've decided to also publish them here. Coming up with a full 101 tips was no easy task at the time, and given their large number they range from the very general to very specific. Three quick examples:

How standardized is the language you are planning to learn? Some languages like Icelandic are spoken with almost no variation throughout the country, whereas others like Arabic are extremely different depending on where it is spoken. This is not simply due to Arabic being spoken by more people though as many small languages vary by region too - Frisian with a population of just 500,000 in a small area has many dialects, as does Slovenian. 
Norwegian is relatively easy for an English speaker to learn, but it has two official standards (Bokmål and Nynorsk) and a lot of regional variation. When planning a trip or long-term stay abroad, be sure that the area you are going to speaks the language you are studying on the streets as well, and not just on national TV.
That one was general. Now a specific one:
Take a look at the recent edits in the Wikipedia of the language you are learning from time to time. While some edits on Wikipedia are complete paragraphs that significantly expand the size of an article, the vast majority of them are small edits that correct spelling or grammar (such as this one), or simply improve the wording of an article, and watching this interaction online can be very helpful. Even an edit such as this where the name of a people (the Picts) has been fixed by capitalizing, can prove useful in remembering how capitalization in French works. Names of peoples and countries are capitalized in French (as in English), but languages are not (different from English), and one may find examples of this in the recent edits as well. Watching vandalism as it is added and quickly removed can be fun as well.
and one more, also about a Wikimedia project:

While contributing to a Wikipedia in another language can be a difficult task, Wikisource may be worth considering as well if you like the idea of contributing to a language but don't feel comfortable writing your own content yet. Wikisource is an online collection of copyright-free texts, and for most languages this means a large number of texts ranging from the development of the printing press to around the early 20th century. A well-organized Wikisource will often have communal projects that one can take part in, which are books that have been scanned and uploaded but not yet typed out. Even if you are not fluent in a language it is not too hard to type out a scanned image, and as created pages are checked by other users before they are finally confirmed, you do not need to worry about the odd typo. 
Wikisource is often a great resource for free books even if you don't contribute (as is Project Gutenberg). On Wikisource one can find translations in other languages of Sherlock Holmes, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Plato, Moby Dick, and just about any copyright-free classic.

I'll probably release these at about 14 per post, making a total of seven posts. Some of these could use a bit more information: one is about forvo.com but now rhinospike.com should be added as it is a great source of audio. This app also predated Duolingo so I might end up putting that in somewhere...although Duolingo is pretty self-explanatory ("go to Duolingo.com and sign up" isn't much of a tip).

The first 14 or 15 should be in a day or two.

And now for a few links:

-- This one from the Economist on multilingual interpretation in courts, with the ICTY as an example of a court where things are rather speedy due to the low number of languages that need to be translated.

-- Turkish newspaper extends a lifeline to Ladino. Ladino (Judaeo-Spanish) looks like a more viscerally pleasing form of the language to me (and perhaps most Romance speakers) as it did not undergo the same phonetic alterations Spanish did, such as j turning to [x].

-- Some numbers on which people from which countries in Europe are coming to Germany to work. Spain, Italy, Greece are up 33,000 to 462,000, Bulgarians and Romanians are expected to arrive in numbers from 100,000 to 180,000, etc.


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