Showing posts with label language learning tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label language learning tips. Show all posts

Armenian Wikipedia, Rosetta, Mormon language learning, Gaza tunnel diggers

Saturday, August 02, 2014

I haven't been writing here much recently, simply because I've been so occupied with reading. Maybe two months ago I came across this study showing the effects of massive amounts of reading (1+ million words) and how it compared to time spent abroad, and apparently the general rule is 1 million words equalled about the same improvement as a year overseas. This one here is interesting too, especially the chart a few pages down. That chart shows that the volume of text needed to be exposed to 10,000 words at least once is 600,000+ words. To see them three times each: 3+ million.

So I thought I would read The Wheel of Time (4+ million words) in two languages and see what a difference it makes. And also to truly get a feel for what a million words is like. A million is a lot of words. I'm currently halfway through book 5. I read up to book 8 in English before back in the 1990s, and decided that I would stop reading until the series was completed, which it was two years ago.

I don't like to treat Page F30 as a polyglot blog, given the limitations it places on what one can write about, but this spreadsheet might be interesting to readers.

Words means the number of words I've deleted that day (I use Readlang.com for this), words learning is the number of words registered there, and it goes up as new words are added and others I don't need to review anymore are deleted. Total is the total number of new words I assume have been put in my head since starting this, 1400 is just a number to make the graph look nice, pages is the number of pages read that day, words read is pages multiplied by 350. Then divide that by new words, which gives words per new word. That last column has turned out to be less meaningful than I thought because it depends on my mood whether I click on a word or not. Sometimes I feel like adding a word I kind of know but want to see a few more times anyway, and other times I don't.

On days off I can read 20,000+ words, on work days I can get 10,000 words in, sometimes fewer.

DateWordsRunning totalWords learningTotal
PagesWords readNew wordsWords per new word
July 7222017209211400612135045474,44
July 8252267519771400561960056350,00
July 92525179210431400682380066360,61
July 104529677210681400561960025784,00
July 1113743365210851400301050017617,65
July 123346666411301400632205045490,00
July 131648267011521400311085022493,18
July 14849069311831400451575031508,06
July 1524927151207140039, on page 6851365024568,75
July 161350573412391400102, on page 3935700321 115,63
July 1725077371244140029, on page 681015052 030,00
July 181106176371254140021, on page 89735010735,00
July 191207375351272140064, on page 15322400181 244,44
July 20557924901282140041, on page 19414350101 435,00
July 21418334561289140019, on page 21357957827,86
July 22398724311303140017, on page 230595014425,00
July 23188904181308140013, on page 24345505910,00
July 24369264231349140034, on page 2771190041290,24
July 25359614151376140029, on page 3061015027375,93
July 26189794501429140054, on page 3601890053356,60
July 272410034491452140040, on page 4001400023608,70
July 282410274481475140040, on page 4401400023608,70
July 29810354491484140025, on page 46587509972,22
July 303610714531524140047, on page 5121645040411,25
July 315211234531576140082, on page 5942870052551,92

So let's let to the other items in the title.

Armenian Wikipedia: I remember being disappointed at its tiny size a year or two ago, and apparently it has exploded since then due to a national campaign to have everyone write one article each. Here's one video encouraging Armenians to contribute:





Rosetta: the mission, not the language learning software. I an extremely pleased with them releasing daily images of the comet as Rosetta approaches. Dawn had better do something similar when it approaches Ceres in the next few months, as the lack of images during the Vesta approach was simply unacceptable.


Mormons: NPR has an article on the techniques they use to learn languages. I've always been impressed by the way they learn languages, since the first time I ever spoke with a non-Japanese person only in Japanese with a Mormon from Brazil in Nagoya.

Gaza tunnel diggers: This documentary with French subtitles is one of the more interesting documentaries I've seen in a while. It is a few years old, and is just 50 minutes of following a few of these tunnel diggers around as they do their thing. It has music but no extra commentary, which is great. A documentary without the typical dozens and dozens of quips from specialists speaking on the matter in their office is a rare treat.

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Germany takes a 2-day rest, simple yet interesting tool for forcing repetition

Monday, June 16, 2014

Germany in 1912 is taking a rest for two days. I'm about a third of the way through the images I have.

Why Germany in 1912? Well, the book where the images come from was published exactly then (next volume was 1913), and there's something about books published just before the war that draw me. They are a final snapshot of a Europe that turned into something completely different in the space of a few years, and the last few years hold something akin to nostalgia even though I was never there.

And now to the "tool for forcing repetition". I'm not sure how else to put it. The tool is here:

http://ikindalikelanguages.com/re/

It's a very simple idea I had that I proposed to our friend at ikindalikelanguages and interlinearbooks.com who then made it happen (may still be a few bugs). I was listening to something the other day that mentioned a study claiming that one needs to encounter a new word thirty times in order to truly learn it. I haven't been able to find the study but it probably refers to encountering a word thirty times in differing situations. However, the second-best thing may be to force oneself to encounter it thirty times however one can.

So how does one do that? Well, you could find a book and read it thirty times. Or you could read one sentences thirty times and go on to the next one. The former is a Herculean task, the latter is probably not possible due to the utter tedium of it all, the inability to stop one's mind from wandering while doing it.

So perhaps if one wants to truly repeat something thirty (or ten, or five, or what have you) times, the best way to do it is the following. Let's take the first paragraph from this article for example and pretend we want to read each sentence a number of times. For the sake of brevity we will do one paragraph five times per sentence instead of the whole article, thirty times per sentence.

Well, first we start with the first sentence.

Poverty Point ist ein archäologischer Fundort im Nordosten des US-Bundesstaates Louisiana.
Then the first and the second.
Poverty Point ist ein archäologischer Fundort im Nordosten des US-Bundesstaates Louisiana.
Das Gelände auf einer Hangkante über der Talebene des Mississippis birgt in Größe und Komplexität einzigartige Erdwerke einer präkolumbischen Indianerkultur, die auf das 18. bis 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr. datiert werden.
Then the first three.
Poverty Point ist ein archäologischer Fundort im Nordosten des US-Bundesstaates Louisiana.
Das Gelände auf einer Hangkante über der Talebene des Mississippis birgt in Größe und Komplexität einzigartige Erdwerke einer präkolumbischen Indianerkultur, die auf das 18. bis 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr. datiert werden. Ihre Erbauer gehörten zu einer Jäger-, Sammler- und Fischer-Kultur, die bereits einfache Keramiken herstellte und das Material für ihre steinernen Werkzeuge über Entfernungen von zum Teil über 2000 Kilometern bezog.
Then the first four.
Poverty Point ist ein archäologischer Fundort im Nordosten des US-Bundesstaates Louisiana.
Das Gelände auf einer Hangkante über der Talebene des Mississippis birgt in Größe und Komplexität einzigartige Erdwerke einer präkolumbischen Indianerkultur, die auf das 18. bis 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr. datiert werden. Ihre Erbauer gehörten zu einer Jäger-, Sammler- und Fischer-Kultur, die bereits einfache Keramiken herstellte und das Material für ihre steinernen Werkzeuge über Entfernungen von zum Teil über 2000 Kilometern bezog. Bei der 38. Tagung des UNESCO-Welterbekomitees vom 15. bis 25. Juni 2014 soll Poverty Point als Welterbestätte ausgewiesen werden.
Then the first five.
Poverty Point ist ein archäologischer Fundort im Nordosten des US-Bundesstaates Louisiana.
Das Gelände auf einer Hangkante über der Talebene des Mississippis birgt in Größe und Komplexität einzigartige Erdwerke einer präkolumbischen Indianerkultur, die auf das 18. bis 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr. datiert werden. Ihre Erbauer gehörten zu einer Jäger-, Sammler- und Fischer-Kultur, die bereits einfache Keramiken herstellte und das Material für ihre steinernen Werkzeuge über Entfernungen von zum Teil über 2000 Kilometern bezog. Bei der 38. Tagung des UNESCO-Welterbekomitees vom 15. bis 25. Juni 2014 soll Poverty Point als Welterbestätte ausgewiesen werden. Die Begründung lautet, dass Poverty Point ein herausragendes Bauwerk einer Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur sei, die größte Siedlung im Nordamerika seiner Zeit und möglicherweise „die größte Siedlung von Jägern und Sammlern aller Zeiten“.
Now we've seen the first sentence five times so it drops away. Next would be sentences two to six (then three to seven, then four to eight, etc.) but the text is only five sentences long so the next one is two to five.
Das Gelände auf einer Hangkante über der Talebene des Mississippis birgt in Größe und Komplexität einzigartige Erdwerke einer präkolumbischen Indianerkultur, die auf das 18. bis 10. Jahrhundert v. Chr. datiert werden. Ihre Erbauer gehörten zu einer Jäger-, Sammler- und Fischer-Kultur, die bereits einfache Keramiken herstellte und das Material für ihre steinernen Werkzeuge über Entfernungen von zum Teil über 2000 Kilometern bezog. Bei der 38. Tagung des UNESCO-Welterbekomitees vom 15. bis 25. Juni 2014 soll Poverty Point als Welterbestätte ausgewiesen werden. Die Begründung lautet, dass Poverty Point ein herausragendes Bauwerk einer Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur sei, die größte Siedlung im Nordamerika seiner Zeit und möglicherweise „die größte Siedlung von Jägern und Sammlern aller Zeiten“.
Then three to five:
Ihre Erbauer gehörten zu einer Jäger-, Sammler- und Fischer-Kultur, die bereits einfache Keramiken herstellte und das Material für ihre steinernen Werkzeuge über Entfernungen von zum Teil über 2000 Kilometern bezog. Bei der 38. Tagung des UNESCO-Welterbekomitees vom 15. bis 25. Juni 2014 soll Poverty Point als Welterbestätte ausgewiesen werden. Die Begründung lautet, dass Poverty Point ein herausragendes Bauwerk einer Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur sei, die größte Siedlung im Nordamerika seiner Zeit und möglicherweise „die größte Siedlung von Jägern und Sammlern aller Zeiten“.
Then four to five:
Bei der 38. Tagung des UNESCO-Welterbekomitees vom 15. bis 25. Juni 2014 soll Poverty Point als Welterbestätte ausgewiesen werden. Die Begründung lautet, dass Poverty Point ein herausragendes Bauwerk einer Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur sei, die größte Siedlung im Nordamerika seiner Zeit und möglicherweise „die größte Siedlung von Jägern und Sammlern aller Zeiten“.
Then just five:
Die Begründung lautet, dass Poverty Point ein herausragendes Bauwerk einer Jäger- und Sammler-Kultur sei, die größte Siedlung im Nordamerika seiner Zeit und möglicherweise „die größte Siedlung von Jägern und Sammlern aller Zeiten“.
And that's what the tool does. You decide how many times you want to repeat the text, paste the text in, then click and read the first sentence. Then click and read it again. Then click and read it again. It's a nice way to force yourself to repeat what you are reading, while still retaining that sense of accomplishment in getting through a book bit by bit.

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Readlang now available in Estonian

Monday, April 14, 2014

I've been meaning to mention this for about two weeks now - Readlang.com now has Estonian as one of its options (upon my request). I haven't been able to use it yet for Estonian, but will when I get the time.

More interesting than that though is this post by Steve Ridout, the creator of the site, on exactly how it was created, how many people have subscribed, number of visitors, amount of revenue raised, everything. It's a very long read.

One other thing I noticed a few days ago is that vocabulary is now sorted by source, so if you want to go over all the vocab learned in Book A and not Book B, then you can do that now. I think I will start naming the text I paste in now, because at the moment I usually just hit a bunch of letters for the title, read the text, click on words I don't know, and delete it after I'm done and the words I want to see later are in the system. Now of course I don't remember what bbbbb, eee, and eeeeeeeeeeee were actually about.


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How much Chinese a beginner can learn in 4 months

Sunday, March 23, 2014

I came across a great forum post today by someone who spent 4 months in Taiwan studying Chinese very instensively, about 70-80 hours a week. He (I will assume it's a he) started this experience as a beginner so it shows what can realistically be accomplished in such a short period of time, and the post is extremely detailed, including living and tutoring expenses, so it may help for others thinking of planning the same thing. Personally I do not like immersing myself in a language at this stage and also don't get the strong urge to do so until later on, but precisely this makes for an interesting comparison with how I learned Korean. One big difference right from the start: I never had to hire a tutor for conversation since making friends accomplished that, and being at an intermediate level upon arrival makes it that much easier to make such friends. At the lowest levels you need either an incredibly patient friend, or will have to pay a tutor / arrange a language exchange.

Immersing oneself in a language early on vs. later may seem to be irrelevant at first sight since both involve improving in a language, but it fact it is not: in most cases the student will end up returning to his home country, and after that "real life" will often set in. Back to school, back to work, out of money, etc. etc. If you, for example, have about $3000 in living expenses saved up but can make the trip now vs. later, later may be the better option if three or four months of exposure at a more advanced level can make all the difference between coming back an advanced beginner or coming back mostly fluent.

If you have a few hundred thousand saved up for language learning, however, then it won't matter a great deal. Spend four months abroad, come back, use lots of Italki or pay people to speak to you in person, and you will be able to continue the immersive experience wherever you happen to be.

Anyhow, read the post if at all curious what this person did in four months in Taiwan. Highly recommended.

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Was ist mit mir geschehen? Interlinearbooks is up to four books now

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Interlinearbooks.com, the site originally inspired by this and this (well, just the first one), is now up to four books, each in a different language. Last time I mentioned it the site had two books and two languages: Swedish and Lithuanian. The fourth I won't mention here so go there to see it, but for the third I will steal an image from the site for readers to guess. Though I doubt it will be all that hard for anyone familiar with German literature.


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The ideal dictionary: L2 -- L2 --|-- L1

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A few days ago I ordered a book from Wook.pt, a very highly unrecommended site for e-books. Portuguese is one of my many languages somewhere in between Conversation Ridge and Mount Fluency, so many of the books I would like to read in English I try to buy in Portuguese whenever I can. Anything written in the non-Brazilian variant is especially hard to find, so when I find something written in that type of Portuguese I usually snap it up. Which book I bought this time I won't say because then someone will ruin the ending for me.

Unfortunately the reader on that site is about the worst I've ever used, and after a week of trying on various computers and browsers I was finally able to get it working on an Android tablet. At least I can read it. At least I was able to practice the fine art of sending angry customer emails during that time (which were answered by automated messages). Pelo menos posso ler o livro que comprei.

One positive thing I can say about the online reader though is that it comes with a dictionary, a dictionary for Portuguese readers of course. Click on a word for about a second and one can see the definition, and with the explanations being in Portuguese it gives more of an immersive experience.

However, there are times when one reads and is able to understand the definition of a word...but still doesn't know exactly what word it is. This is particularly the case with things like types of clothing, trees, and the like. Let's say for example I came across the word abeto. What's an abeto? It's this:

(Botânica) árvore conífera da família das pináceas (Pinaceae) que se encontra na Europa, Ásia e América do Norte

Árvore da família das pináceas; pinheiro-alvar; madeira de abeto.

Okay, it's a kind of coniferous tree. How about a freixo?

designação comum a várias espécies de árvores da família das Oleáceas.

Árvore oleácea, tipo da tribo das fraxíneas.

Okay, it's another tree. And even with a more complete explanation containing leaf size, tree height and anything else one might want to know, I've never learned these trees as an L1 speaker along with this information so I still wouldn't know.

So this is one of the situations where one requires quick access to one's L1 to check the meaning of the word. Teachers in schools that are forbidden to use anything but the L2 will remember a lot of frustration here, where a student asks for the meaning of a word and the word just happens to be one of these. How does one explain a word like this without using the student's native language? Acting it out, drawing it on the board, looking up an image online...but even with an image of a tree, it's still better to just say fir, or ash. Abeto is fir, freixo is ash.

So in short, the best dictionary for an intermediate language learner is the following: one with the definition of the L2 word given entirely in the L2, with a tiny button somewhere that can be clicked on if necessary to show the L1 definition. Ideally this would only be used once every dozen or so words, but always available as a last resort. Without it, one must leave the book for a time to go off to Wiktionary or wherever to find what the word actually is, in spite of having a general concept of what it means.

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How to think in Spanish

Sunday, December 01, 2013

I love these textbooks on Archive.org. One of them comes complete with movements to carry out while learning phrases.


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Kinderseele has arrived in the mail

Thursday, November 14, 2013

This book is adorable! Here it is compared to an early proof of Demian (where the title is spaced a tad too high and to the left).






Lulu shows the exact dimensions of one book compared to the other.

Demian - 244 pages, 6 x 9, 0.93 lbs.
Kinderseele - 165 pages, 4.25 x 6.88, 0.4 lbs.


For any future longer projects I'll probably go with the size between these two, but for a book of its size (one quarter the length of Demian) the pocketbook size is perfect.

This weekend I will give it a look over in paper form to see if any small changes need to be made in the translation itself, so expect a post on that around Sunday or a bit after. But the design (as before, conceived by me, perfected by Lance Kraemer) is perfect.

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Readlang now has Afrikaans, plus some new features

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


I haven't written about Readlang.com in a while, and during that time it has had some interesting features added.

One change is that Afrikaans has been added - I thought it was already there but it was not, and Steve added it fairly soon after I requested it. Don't forget you can get anything else supported by Google Translate added too...unless it doesn't have spaces between the words.

I forget if I've mentioned this one, but the web reader is for me the most useful change in the past few months. Now the Chrome extension will keep the format of a page you are reading when you click on the green R, in effect putting an invisible Readlang screen on top of the page instead of importing the document and taking you to Readlang to read it and learn the content. This is much better than the previous system, where importing a text often resulted in a few pages of unrelated content (categories, other headlines, email addresses, physical addresses, etc.) before you got to the article. If you look at the front page of Welt.de for example the first text you will encounter is Abo, then Shop, then TV-Programm, Wetter, Anmelden, Registrieren, Home, Politik, Wirtschaft, and so on.

This change is interesting - a Reddit-like voting system for documents readers have shared. I won't be sharing any of mine as I prefer to delete anything I've read through once, but looking at what others are sharing can give one some good ideas for where to get content.

Finally the most recent one - the ability to type the answers to vocabulary cards instead of just clicking. Makes the process a bit more active.

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My second book is done. Kinderseele by Hermann Hesse

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Readers of Page F30 will know that I created an interlinear translation of Hermann Hesse's Demian about two years ago, and published it on Lulu about half a year later. The motive behind an interlinear translation is to provide a translation, as literal as possible, that is lined up directly below the original text. Such a translation is exactly what I would have liked to buy a few years ago when I first started learning German, when I found the following:

1) the original German text was what I most wanted to read but could not understand it,
2) the English translation simply didn't feel like the same work (and in many cases was inaccurate), and
3) switching back and forth between the two was somewhat hard on the eyes and the brain, plus a non-literal translation did not always help in showing the meaning of the original text when the translator chose a different way to express an idea than Hesse did.

Because I so enjoyed making the translation the next question was what to translate next. I began reading Hesse's other works and ended up with a few candidates, but some of them were quite long, while none of them I enjoyed as much as I did Demian. Steppenwolf for example I enjoyed for the first half, the second...not so much. Eventually I came across a book called Klingsors letzter Sommer that I found on Gutenberg.org, and got ready for a book about a painter's last summer, as the synopsis said.

The first page of this book began with the word Kinderseele, which I first thought was the first chapter of Klingsors letzter Sommer. Because just about nothing I had ever come across in Hesse's works has ever truly resembled Demian, I was taken aback by this work which, from the first page onward, almost seemed like a rewriting of it. There again was the mention of unser Vaterhaus, "unsere" Welt, the light and comforting world of Sinclair's parents ("hinten führte die Treppe aus der dunklen Kühle empor und zu Licht und hellem Behagen"), then a comrade at school that had a certain aspect that Sinclair was drawn to (different from Demian here, but still), and so on. Eventually I realized this was a different book from the other two in Klingsors letzter Sommer, and read it through.

Kinderseele is not officially a prelude to Demian, but truly resembles one. Though it is a story that takes place when Sinclair (Hesse) is eleven years old, and Demian begins when Sinclair is ten, besides the discrepancy in numbers it reads like one that takes place one year before Demian. Take for example this part from Demian where he first steals from his own money box:

Es ging sehr leicht, sie aufzubrechen, es war nur ein dünnes Blechgitter zu durchreißen; aber der Riß tat weh, erst damit hatte ich Diebstahl begangen. Bis dahin hatte ich nur genascht, Zuckerstücke und Obst.
Dies nun war gestohlen, obwohl es mein eigenes Geld war.

The part in bold means "until then I had only filched (small things) like candy and fruit"...and in Kinderseele we see him stealing exactly that.

After that we have the relationship between him and his father, events that get out of control after Sinclair lies to a fellow student, and many more. Suffice to say, if it is not officially a prologue to Demian, everything in it reads as one.

So naturally I began the translation right away, finished it relatively quick due to its smaller length (about a quarter the size of Demian), and would have published it a few months ago were it not for a weird font issue with Libreoffice that caused half the text to disappear when I tried to make the document into a pdf. A new edition of Libreoffice has fixed this, and I was able to finish the project on Lulu.com this morning.

Here is the link to the book on lulu.com.

Cover design improvement is by Lance Kraemer, as before, as well as the proofreading which was done by Olivier Simon. This time I have made the book a pocket size edition, so it is 165 pages at 4.25 x 6.88, compared to Demian's 244 pages at 6 x 9. Price is also much less: $9.50 instead of $17.50, partly because of the smaller size but also because of opting for a smaller profit margin this time because Kinderseele is a much less well known work, and the more that can read it the better.

The cover look like this.



Now that it is done I have ordered myself a copy, and will receive it in about a week. Though I have proofread it a number of times already, reading a paper edition is always a different experience than a file on a screen, and I could see myself making a change or two here or there, though I don't expect any major changes from the current edition. I will probably post about it again in two weeks' time, after I have received the first paper edition and have finished going through it.

One final note about the translation: the translation this time is still literal, but I have made it somewhat less literal than the one used in Demian due to the rarity of the book. It is not easy to simply pick up another translation of Kinderseele for comparison, and so I wanted to make it easier for the reader to understand. The smaller size of the book is another reason for this, because not as many words are able to fit on a single line. So for the most part it comes across just like the translation of Demian, just slightly more readable.

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Interlinearbooks.com has just launched

Monday, October 21, 2013

A short while after publishing my first interlinear book: Demian - An Interlinear Translation, a friend of mine contacted me about how I had arranged the translation below the original text. The book looks like this:


which makes it look like I used some sort of software to automatically arrange one line below the other. Unfortunately that was not the case. I spent a while searching for something that could do the trick, found nothing, and eventually just went with massive hitting of the spacebar below each and every line. I would not recommend doing that. Fortunately my love of the book itself made this less than a dreary task and I was able to spacebar this book into existence.

A while later this friend began developing his own software to automate the task, started a test site that he (and I, a bit) used for a few months on two more open-source books, and yesterday he has given me permission to announce the website to the world.

So here it is: Interlinearbooks.com.

I am pleased to see that he has explained the methodology as well:


just in case anyone comes along and asks why the translation below is so awkward at times. This is exactly the point - such a translation is supposed to keep nudging the reader toward the original text and away from the translation. However, it should never be so unclear that the reader is forced to go and pick up a dictionary to confirm what a sentence is supposed to mean.

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Half review, half request for review - Sayafter.me

Monday, October 07, 2013

About a week ago I learned about a website called Sayafter.me, a site for learning languages that is based on comparing one's pronunciation with that of a native speaker. At the moment it's only available to practice one's English, though the site owner says he will be adding other languages later. Because English is my first language I was able to verify at least that it correctly recognizes my pronunciation as correct (even though it was using RP and my pronunciation is Canadian), so far so good. I also had a Korean I know that doesn't know much English try it out and she got about 30 - 50% every time, also so far so good. But I'm curious to see what others at varying skill levels get.

If English is your L2 give this site a try and see what results you get, and let me know in the comments below. I'm curious about Olivier in particular.

Once other languages are added I'm going to try them out, and will be sure to not post about the results if my pronunciation is deemed to be bad.

(Just kidding)

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Bilinguis shows promise

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Not as good as an interlinear text, but this site displaying Librivox texts side by side with audio is not bad at all (albeit still lacking in content).

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Now trying out Bliu Bliu

Monday, August 12, 2013

Bliu Bliu is pretty fun so far - it's a website for learning languages that seems somewhat similar to others like Lingq or Reading With Texts except that BB has an algorithm that guesses for you which words it thinks you know (based on which words you've already told it you know and don't know), and then goes around the web picking texts for you that seem suited to your level. Meanwhile, the selected texts can be recorded by native speakers if they so choose, meaning about one in twenty or so will come with audio.

The guessing algorithm is fun, resulting in a much more effortless experience than something like Lingq where you will say for example that you know the word chose but when the word choses comes up it will assume you don't know. On the other hand it also means that you will spend as much time marking words that you don't know (that BB assumes you did) as vice versa, so you have to be sure that you are scanning each text slowly and checking whether you actually know words that aren't highlighted.

That's all I have to write about it after a day of trying it out, may have more to say on the subject in a week or so.

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European radio stations all in one spot

Friday, August 09, 2013

My new favourite go to site is this one, a collection of radio stations in Europe by country, even sub-countries like the Faroe Islands and tiny ones like San Marino. Because they are grouped by country and not language that means that the one for Spain has Basque, Catalan and Galician along with the expected Spanish, France has Occitan, and Slovenia has Hungarian.

Galician (at least on that one station) comes across as more of a Portuguese-influenced Spanish than a Spanish-influenced Portuguese, at least phonetically. When written it comes across the other way.

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Sentence breaks now available on Readlang

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Readlang.com now has a new feature, beyond a doubt the most exciting new feature the site has ever added, because I was the one that suggested it and now it's a reality. It's a simple one, which turns this:


into this:



Much easier to read. I came up with this idea when I was doing it myself to compare readability, and the thought struck me that it would be fairly easy to implement for a programmer of Steve Ridout's talent.

For those already using Readland: activate it by clicking on the settings tool, then AA, then change no sentence breaks to sentence breaks.

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Readlang.com has a lot more languages now

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

I logged into Readlang.com today for the first time in a while, and it looks like the selection of languages has really improved. The first time I used it there were about seven languages and Portuguese wasn't one of them until I contacted the site owner and asked for it to be added. Now as you can see we have the following list to choose from:


So which obvious ones are still lacking? Persian isn't there, nor is Slovak (since Czech and Slovenian are there, Slovak probably should be too). I suppose Croatian as well since Cyrillic Serbian is there. Oh, and "Türk" should be Türkçe. Besides that it is turning into a fairly well-rounded list of options to choose from. I assume Chinese/Japanese/Korean aren't there due to encoding issues.

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The Lernen to Talk Show

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Thanks to Reddit two I was alerted to the existence of a highly interesting show called the Lernen to Talk Show which documents in weekly videos the one-year experience of a certain Mickey Mangan as he goes from what seems to be a solid but rudimentary foundation in German in the beginning to something much more fluent by the end. I have never been very interested in the experiences of other language learners as they so rarely resemble mine, and the videos they do are far too well prepared to be interesting, but this Mickey Mangan's approach to learning them is almost the same as mine, except that 1) When immersing myself in another language I usually spend about two-thirds of my day reading and the other third talking to people and he looks like he has about the opposite ratio, and 2) I doubt I would have spent any time going to other countries during this time; I don't like breaks when doing something like this.

The complete lack of care about one's mistakes when talking with native speakers, however, is what is most similar to my approach. In the moment during a conversation the most important thing is to say what you need to say and understand what is being said, and any mistakes you make are good material for study later, but in the moment they quickly flow by and are forgotten, and do not hinder the back and forth between you and others. All his attempts to make up his own words are fantastic too, and sometimes they work and other times they don't. One of the words was Himmelbühne or Nebelbühne (checking the video again...it was Himmelbühne) that the person he was talking to had never heard of, but it's one of those words that kind of exists and one could make but nobody really uses.

So let's get to the videos. There should be 50 and 46 of those are done, and I watched all 46 yesterday and today. We must of course begin with video 1:



Then four weeks later showing what the first few weeks of immersion have done:



Four weeks after that is a video I like because the participants are all English speakers only using German:



This video three weeks later is another good one where his humour really comes through - once sentence about es gibt nur einen Knopf zwischen uns und Abenteuer or however he expressed it was hilarious.



The kids six weeks later were of course lots of fun:



The one episode done in England four weeks after that with Siddartha (and him being a fan of Hermann Hesse was a pleasant surprise) shows where he has spent much more time on colloquial German than reading novels:



Five weeks later he does a fairly good job explaining a board game:



Five weeks following that he has clearly gotten very comfortable using the language:



Nine weeks after that (now week 41) we have another long interaction:



and then two weeks following that is the only video in Germany that he took without a guest during a bike ride through Köln, and his quite fluid yet still error-prone German is really interesting to hear, and the reason why it is so interesting he has already elaborated in the blog post for this episode so I don't have to:

"I thought I’d give a few short glimpses into a typical ride through my neighborhood to the center of Cologne, but I ended up with a shaky fourteen minute odyssey filled with near crashes, deafening brakes, and an embarrassing amount of amateur speaking mistakes. But I guess that’s what happens when you’re on your own! A person’s German ability is only as high as its lowest moments, right? So here’s a true glimpse into where my brain was at after 42 weeks.

That really is how one always feels at that stage. When talking with people it seems like your German (or other language) is now really close to perfect, and then all of a sudden when you take it upon yourself to explain something alone, without anybody you can prompt for the proper term, your German feels like it's hardly advanced at all...even though it has.



Since this show has suddenly gotten a flood of attention thanks to Reddit, hopefully Mickey is working on the last three episodes as we speak.

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101 Language Learning Tips - complete

Sunday, April 14, 2013

I intended a few days ago to have one more post before putting these all together, but it is the weekend and there is time.

To whomever has not been following the progress of this post: the following 101 language learning tips are ones I had come up with in 2010 for an app, and after a few years it is time to give them a larger exposure. The tips range from the general to the very specific, and are not assembled in any particular order. Hopefully about a third of these will prove helpful regardless of the language you have chosen to study.




1. Ted.com videos: TED is a conference featuring talks from interesting speakers from all walks of life, with talks ranging from a few minutes to 20 minutes and above. Ted.com has a page here called the Open Translation Project where all these talks are translated by volunteers into any language, from major languages such as Spanish and Chinese to even tiny ones like Bislama. Most major languages have at least a few hundred talks translated, and even smaller ones generally have a few dozen.

When watching a talk it can be a good idea to first turn off the volume to see how well you can understand it reading the subtitles alone. You will be able to come up with your own preferred method for using the subtitles, but one good method is to first watch the video without volume, then to read the subtitles separately at a slower pace, and finally to watch the video in English with the subtitles again.

One other advantage to these videos is the ability to read the transcript on the right in full even without watching the video. This text can then be used like any other text - copy and paste it, print it out to read at a slower pace, whatever you like.





2. If making a trip abroad to a country with a large number of people fluent in English (Norway, Sweden, Netherlands, etc.) you will need to have a plan ahead of time on how to use the language while you are there, in order to avoid simply falling back on English to communicate all the time. If you are naturally stubborn about using foreign languages while abroad then this will be no problem, but otherwise it may be best to arrange ahead of time a daily session with someone you know where you teach them something in exchange for using their language for an hour or two, in what is known as a language exchange.
One other option is to teach what you know using only the target language (if you are good enough to do so), so if you are learning Dutch in the Netherlands and are a history professor for example, you could meet up with someone majoring in history to tutor them for free, on the condition that the tutoring take place in only Dutch and not in English. In this way you would get to practice your Dutch, and the person you are learning Dutch from will receive tutoring for free. Whatever form the exchange takes, be sure to arrange it ahead of time or as soon as possible after arriving.




3. How similar is the language you are studying to English? If studying a language closely related to English (Dutch, Norwegian, German...) then reading literature in Medieval English in your spare time will also provide some aid. The word eek for example can be seen in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, and means also; this is the same as German auch and Dutch ook. One other example:

Whilom, al olde stories tellen us,
There was a duc that highte Theseus;

Highte here means "was named", and is cognate with German heißen, Dutch heten, Norwegian hete, and so on. The large French influence on English also means that you'll be able to find a lot of French words in older English novels that you will not encounter today. This technique will naturally not replace a good textbook or class, but if you are an avid reader anyway you may want to think about adjusting this to the language you are currently studying.




4. Google Translate: Google Translate, while not perfect, is a great way to get the gist of something in another language. If you don't feel like tackling a textbook but still feel like learning something new, find anything in the language you are learning, bring up Google Translate in another window, and simply type it out and watch it turn to more or less correct English. Since Google Translate now translates in real time, you don't even have to hit the translate button.

Edit 2013: Google Translate now has an option to save words you look up.





5. Google Translate as a dictionary: looking up new words in a dictionary takes time, and one option when encountering a new sentence with a lot of words you don't know is to put a period in between each of them, which will prompt Google Translate to look at them one at a time instead of translating the full sentences. This is especially good with languages that don't resemble English, especially when the word order is different. Take this example with Finnish:

Onneks mulla oli kuitenkin varasuunnitelma tilanteen pelastamiseksi.

Google Translate gives us the following:

But luckily I had an emergency plan to rescue the situation.

This is correct, but what if you're not sure which word represents which? Just add a few periods here and there. Now it looks like this:

Onneks. mulla oli. kuitenkin. varasuunnitelma. tilanteen. pelastamiseksi.

And now Google Translate gives us the following:

Luckily. I had. However. contingency plan. situation. rescue.

You've just saved yourself a lot of time otherwise spent looking up each word in a dictionary.




6. Music: music is a great way to learn other languages, but there are a few things to keep in mind. One is that simply listening to music without paying much attention will not help a great deal; you need to spend time looking at and studying the lyrics before listening to a song will do you any good. After all, think of all the English songs people mishear lyrics to - listening to the song over and over again won't do you any good and it's only upon reading the lyrics that you know what is being sung. Because of this you will have to spend as much time reading the lyrics on your own as listening to the song. Since songs are easy to listen to over and over you can make this quite easy - listen to the song once, memorize three new words, listen to it again, memorize a few more words, and continue until you understand it in its entirety and have the song in your head, after which it will repeat over and over for at least the next few hours.

Also be sure to pick music that is fairly easy to understand. Radiohead may be a great band but the singing can be difficult to hear and much of the time the lyrics are too abstract to be of much use to a student. So if possible you don't want to choose the foreign language version of songs with lyrics such as "I'll take a quiet life, a handshake of carbon monoxide" (from their song No Surprises) that may be fun for a native speaker to interpret but a nighmare for the student who has no idea whether this is some new idiom or simply poetic license by the writers of the song.

YouTube is particularly good for multilingual versions of songs from cartoons and TV shows. Songs from classic Disney cartoons such as The Little Mermaid and Mulan can be found in dozens of languages there, and will often be subtitled and/or translated by the uploader. Even rare languages such as Icelandic are easy to find here.





7. Are you sure you're learning the right language? Even relatively easy languages take years to master, and be sure that you aren't studying Language X when you know you would rather spend the next five years learning and using Language Y. This is especially pertinent if you are inclined to study one language for practical reasons (larger population, your family or friends or school have recommended you learn it) but the language you would prefer to study is related. 

For example, you may feel obliged to study Spanish but would prefer to learn Portuguese or Italian, or you may feel the need to learn Russian but have a lot of friends in Bulgaria and want to learn their language. In this case you're in luck, because the language you truly want to study happens to be very similar to the language you feel obliged to study, so following your heart and studying the smaller language will still bring you much of the way towards knowing the larger language as well. Spanish and Portuguese is an especially good example as the two languages have a lexical similarity of 89%, meaning that most of the time a Spanish word will be present in Portuguese and vice versa, so learning one is to a large extent learning the other as well. Choosing the more 'practical' language may seem to be the right decision at first, but if you suspect that you will end up giving it up before becoming fluent, then maybe it's best to go with one you truly like. The decision is yours to make, but always remember that whatever you choose you will have to stick with it for years in order to become fully fluent.





8. Do you enjoy reading Wikipedia articles in the language you are studying? Perhaps from time to time you would like to contribute but don't want to annoy the other users with any mistakes you might make. No problem: enclose any edits you make with the following tag and it will be invisible until it is removed:


For example, if you want to write "Calgary is the largest city in the Canadian province of Alberta" in French, you would write it like this to make it invisible at first:



Now you can contribute to another Wikipedia without worrying that you will end up annoying its readers. Editors on the Wikipedia of your choice often keep an eye on the most recent edits and they will notice the edits you make, and if your edit contributes to the overall quality of their Wikipedia they will not mind making the odd correction to what you have written, especially if you have made sure to make it invisible until they have corrected it.





9. Do you spend a lot of time reading discussions on online forums or sites like Reddit? No sense in spending all your time doing this in English alone. Find a site in the language you are studying and look for the same content on forums there. Do you enjoy watching people debate about philosophy, religion, politics? They do that in other languages too. For one quick example, see this forum in Norwegian where discussions on all subjects take place - from serious subjects such as politics and world news, to recent TV shows, to people looking for jobs, and more.

In order to quickly follow the discussions it is best to install an add-on or extension that allows you to translate without leaving the page, such as GTranslate for Firefox or Translate this for Google Chrome. Now you can study your language while following the same discussions you enjoy reading (or don't particularly enjoy reading but can't seem to stop for some reason) in English.




10. Have you changed your language settings online to the language you are studying yet? If you are past the beginning stages (that is, if you are capable of muddling through most of what you read in the target language) there is no reason to keep Gmail, Twitter or anything else you sign into daily in English anymore. Think about how many places you could get a bit more study in every day by just changing your language settings from English.





11. 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.





12. Sometimes, paradoxically, learning a lesser-known language can be easier than a large one. Why? Because learning a large language like German, Spanish or Chinese does not usually stand out, but learning a language spoken by just a few million (or even fewer) people will almost certainly guarantee you friends in that language that will be delighted to see you taking the time to learn it and will almost always want to help you progress. As a student of a much larger language it is difficult to stand out, but if you are learning a smaller language you will almost certainly make friends quickly by people from the country who are delighted that you are studying their language, and will do what they can to help you find places to use it.





13. Three great sites for free language learning content for rare languages online are: the Defence Language Institute's Global Language Online Support SystemFSI Language Courses, and Eric.ed.gov. The first has a large collection of text and audio in rare and strategic languages, the second has pdf scans of language courses created by the US government for foreign service personnel, and the third has textbooks on a great number of languages, in particular those made for the Peace Corps. For rare and/or small languages like Armenian, Latvian, Uzbek and so on, these sites often prove to be invaluable.

Edit 2013: The FSI language course has gone down recently, and the content can now be found here.





14. When studying another language abroad where local friends of yours happen to speak English fairly well, try to meet up with at least two of them instead of one on one. When meeting one on one the tendency might be to fall back on English if their English is better than your command of their language, but if you meet up with two or three friends then there will be less of a tendency to do this as they will feel more comfortable talking with each other in their mother tongue, and you will have fun trying to follow along.

On the other hand, having too many friends at one time may make it difficult to follow along, because the more there are the easier it is for the discussion to switch to topics that pertain to them and not to you - inside jokes, old stories from childhood or school, and so on. Also, simply having more people will mean that you will have to speak up to be heard by the whole group and having to shout in a foreign language is not nearly as fun as intimate conversation with a smaller group. Meeting up with two to four people (in addition to yourself) is probably ideal.





15. When talking in another language, be sure to take an active part in the flow of the conversation. Talking in another language is difficult enough, but if the subject turns to local politics or inside jokes that you could never hope to understand at this stage you may end up completely lost. You don't need to change the subject entirely, but a bit of careful steering away from these and towards subjects you know will help to keep up.

If you are in Germany for example and the subject of taxes comes up, everyone may start talking about vague subjects like filling out tax forms and the state budget. Here you might want to steer the conversation towards what Germans think of taxes in general compared to your country, and when that happens (especially if you are from the US) they will likely start asking you why Americans are so opposed to higher taxes compared to Europeans, and now you will be talking about a subject you know something about, while sufficiently general that you won't need a great deal of specialized vocabulary to participate.




16. When learning vocabulary, finding a frequency list showing the most common words used in the language you are studying can be very helpful. Generally one only needs to know a few hundred words in order to be able to understand 50% of the text in a language, and knowing a few thousand is enough to understand almost anything you see.

Word frequency lists can be found here on Wiktionary for a number of languages, but if you can't find one for your language you can create a quick one of your own using a site like wordle.net, where you can copy and paste a large amount of text which is then turned into a word cloud with the most frequent words in the largest font.

Depending the language you are studying, creating your own frequency list in this way can actually be better than using one from Wiktionary. Why? Because word frequency lists will usually have the words reduced to their uninflected (dictionary) forms. Children registers as childfought registers as fight, and so on. When analyzing a language this is fine, but when learning a language you want to make sure you understand inflected forms as well, as that is what you will be encountering when using it. That is, knowing the word fight doesn't do you much good if you don't know that it is fought in the past tense, and knowing the word mouse isn't enough to say you understand the word if you think that the plural must be mouses instead of mice. This is particularly important for heavily inflected languages like Lithuanian, and agglutinative languages like Turkish.





17. When learning vocabulary make sure you keep in mind how well you know words you have learned. There are certain levels of 'knowing' a word, and to truly know a word one must be able to use it almost without thinking.

Before this stage though there are a number of levels, such as:
  • not knowing a word at all,
  • knowing it enough that you would probably understand it in a sentence,
  • knowing it well enough that you could recall it after a few seconds' thought,
  • knowing it quite well due to frequent use but still unsure of how to correctly use it,
and so on. If a new word doesn't seem to 'stick' in your mind, you may want to spend some time checking to see if there are related words that may help foster a stronger connection in your mind. For example, the Persian word dânestan (دانستن), to know, may not be easy to remember at first, but if you look up the related words dânesh (دانش), knowledge, and dâneshgâh (دانشگاه), university (lit. place of knowledge), then all these words together may help make a stronger impression than just trying to memorize a lone verb.





18. How much money do you have? Keep your goals realistic when choosing a language to learn as most languages will eventually require a number of months or years abroad to become fluent (unless you live in a very ethnically diverse city), and if you don't have a great deal of money you will want to make this time abroad last as long as possible. In addition, if money is limited you also want to make sure that you have reached a certain level in a language before going abroad. The reason why is simple: the basics of a language can be learned anywhere, and you do not necessarily need to be in another country to do this. After a while though you will reach a level where outright exposure to the language and the culture in which it is spoken becomes a necessity, and this is when spending time abroad is most valuable. So if your funds are limited, try to do as much as you can back home, and only go abroad when you have reached a point where you are now fairly proficient but simply need more practice.





19. If you are studying something else unrelated to languages (law, math, history, etc.) try to see how much of this can be done in your target language instead. If you happen to be studying Spanish and astronomy for example, then why not simply merge them together? Find a few astronomy textbooks in Spanish and simply use them, and now you won't have to divide your time between the two subjects anymore. The larger the language you are studying the easier this will be to do, but even when studying a small language see what you can find, and if you can combine another subject with the language at least some of the time then so much the better. YouTube is an especially good place to find documentaries in other languages. French and German for example are particularly good when studying Ancient Egypt (archaeology) and content on this subject is nearly endless online.





20. Learning two languages at the same time: whether learning two or more languages at the same time is a good idea or not is a subject of much debate. If you intend to learn more than one language, you may eventually reach a point in the first language you are studying where you have become somewhat proficient, after which you may begin to wonder whether it wouldn't be a good idea to begin studying the second, while spending some time every day 'maintaining' the first. Whether this is possible, of course, will mostly depend on the amount of free time you have. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when considering studying more than one language at a time:

- How similar is the second language to the first one you are studying? If the two happen to be closely related (German and Dutch, Italian and Spanish, Turkish and Uzbek) then it is probably not worth it to embark on a second, as a deeper understanding of the first will do just about as much for your understanding of the second as beginning to study the second outright.

- How many dialects are there in the language you are studying? Some languages have regional variants that resemble other languages, and if they are well known by the population as a whole then to be considered fluent you will have to have a familiarity with them as well. For example, if you have been studying Norwegian bokmål (the main standard for the Norwegian language) and are tempted to learn Icelandic, you might want to think of familiarizing yourself with Nynorsk, the other official standard of the language which, being used more on the west coast of the country, resembles Icelandic a bit more. Some examples:

"I come from Norway” in bokmål is "Jeg kommer fra Norge”, in Nynorsk it's "Eg kjem frå Noreg”, and in Icelandic "Ég kem frá Noregi”.

"What's his name?” in bokmål is "Hva heter han?”, in Nynorsk it's "Kva heiter han?”, and in Icelandic "Hvað heitir hann?” (Note: hv- in Icelandic is pronounced kv-, whereas the h in hva in bokmål is silent).

"Rainbows have many colours” in bokmål is "Regnbuen har mange farger”, in Nynorsk it's "Regnbogen har mange leter/fargar”, and in Icelandic "Regnboginn hefur marga liti”.

- Can you satiate your urge to learn a second language before you have finished the first by reading about the second language and/or its culture in the first? If you want to study Persian after German but don't feel that your German is up to snuff yet, maybe you could find a German translation of the Persian national epic shâhname (شاهنامه) or the poet Rumi for example.

In the end though, whether to study another language at the same time will be your decision and will depend more on personal factors such as drive and free time than anything else. It is certainly not impossible though. Learning and using two or more languages at the same time is very common in some parts of the world so it certainly can be done – in Luxembourg for example, people speak Luxembourgish (similar to German) on the street, use French and German in more official venues, and usually learn English as a foreign language on top of that, all from a young age.





21. Are you an avid gamer? There is a good chance that many of the games you have have already been translated into other languages, and if so then you can play them for hours at a time without any guilt whatsoever that you are neglecting your studies. Some free strategy games like Freecol have been translated into dozens and dozens of languages, and online one can even find classic paper and dice gaming books like Lone Wolf translated into Spanish and Italian.





22. Since 2010, YouTube videos have become much more useful for language students with the addition of Google Translate and the ability to create off-the-cuff captions using an automatic service that creates them instantaneously from the video's audio stream. The accuracy of these captions will depend on audio quality and clarity of the speaker, so if the video you are watching is relatively clear and easy to follow you can then instantly create these captions, and then translate them into the language you are studying. The result should not be taken too seriously as it will contain more than its share of errors, but as a means to jog your memory and help you remember vocabulary it can be quite useful. Even better is if the creater of the video has uploaded English captions, in which case the automatic translation will be that much more accurate. Videos on accounts such as the White House will usually have English (and sometimes Spanish) captions added soon after a video is uploaded - here is one example.





23. Don't put too much faith into claims that one language is harder to learn than another, and that as a result one should choose the 'easier' language instead. The reason for this is simple: although difficulty certainly does vary, just about every language has its easy and difficult points, and simple interest and desire to learn a language can overcome any difficulty. Icelandic for example is said to be the most difficult Scandinavian language to learn due to its archaic and rather complex grammar, but on the other hand keep it mind that it has the least regional variation (almost none) of all the Scandinavian languages. In other words, while Norwegian is fairly easy to learn, going to another city you may find people speaking it in quite a different way from the Norwegian you have seen in books and on TV, while Icelandic hardly varies at all over the whole country. 

Turkish is also said to be difficult to learn due to having a grammar nearly entirely different from English, but then again it is pronounced nearly as written, has but a single irregular verb, and no grammatical gender to worry about. Estonian is said to be difficult to learn due to its 14 cases, but what is often overlooked is that these 14 cases are for the most part just one case (the genitive) plus a simple unchanging suffix, and Estonian as well has no grammatical gender so the only two forms one has to consider when forming cases are the singular and plural.





24. The type of language you should learn will depend a lot on your personality and the way you want to use it. Think about whether you want to know a language primarily for conversation, reading, studying another subject, and so on. Some languages like French, Dutch and German are fairly easy to passively understand, but using them properly can be tricky at times. These languages are thus worth learning even if you only want to use them to read news and don't have any plans to travel abroad. Other languages like Persian and Armenian are very simple and regular and thus easy to use after one has studied the grammar, but initial passive comprehension is close to nil. 

This means that if you are able to be patient during the first stage while you are getting used to a new alphabet and somewhat unfamiliar grammar, you will be rewarded later on with a language that turns out to be surprisingly easy to use properly. Knowing what kind of student you are will help you to pick a language that most suits your study habits, as well as the use you want to get out of it.





25. Constructed auxiliary languages are an interesting subject, and are brought up from time to time. Is it worth it to learn one of them? In terms of number of speakers the answer is of course no, but considering the short time it takes to learn them due to their nearly complete lack of irregularities it may be worth it.

The largest auxiliary language in the world by far is Esperanto, with speakers ranging from the tens of thousands to perhaps two million. The other two auxiliary languages of notable size are Ido and Interlingua; the former is a reformed version of Esperanto that was created in 1907, while Interlingua was created in 1951 and attempts to look as natural as possible, ending up resembling something like a cross between French, Spanish and Italian. The Esperanto community worldwide is an interesting diaspora-like subculture that is large enough that users can be found in any large city, and Ido and Interlingua while much smaller still have annual meetings that bring a few dozen people together over the space of a few days. Other notable auxiliary languages with a few dozen speakers include Occidental, Novial, and the new Lingua Franca Nova.

So why learn them? Simple: their simplicity combined with their propaedeutic benefits. Propaedeutic here means the benefit they give in studying further languages. In other words, their form resembles other European languages but without any of the irregularity. Imagine for example one has decided to learn the language Occidental, which like Interlingua resembles French and Italian at first sight. Here are some of the basics of the language.

To love: amar. "I love” - "yo ama”, "you love” - "tu ama”, and so on.
Past tense: add -t, no exceptions. "I loved” - "yo amat, "you loved” - "tu amat.
Future tense: va plus infinitive. "I will love” - "yo va amar, "you will love” - "tu va amar.
Definite article (the) is li. The indefinite article (a) is un.

To learn the same concepts in French, you would have to learn to conjugate the verb aimer (aimeaimesaimeaimons...) in different ways for the past, present and future tense, and in order to love something you would have to know whether it is masculine (un/le) or feminine (une/la). And this is only for the verb aimer: while in a language like Occidental verbs conjugate in the same way, in French you will have to know whether a verb is irregular, and memorize these conjugations along with the rest in order to properly use it. Interestingly though, in the end the two languages end up resembling each other:

French: Tu aimes l'école. (You love the school)
Occidental: Tu ama li scola. (You love the school)

But switch a few words around:

French: Nous aimons le chocolat. (We love chocolate)
Occidental: Noi ama chocolate. (We love chocolate)

and in French you are now dealing with a different conjugation (aimons, not aimes) and gender (now masculine, not feminine). The two languages continue to resemble each other but the knowledge required to correctly use the auxiliary language is but a fraction of the other.

The best way to think of auxiliary languages is as something akin to Linux distributions or keyboard layouts, or even the metric system (before it became popular). A certain Linux distribution may be fantastic and easy to use, but the smaller user base is its downside. In the same way the Dvorak keyboard may be faster than the Qwerty layout that most people use, but you will have to take extra pains to use it such as setting up your system to allow switching to Dvorak, carrying around a USB with a program that does the same when using another computer, etc. In the same way it is easy to pick up an auxiliary language and you will find a great deal of peripheral benefit in understanding other languages, but there will be few people to use it with.



26. Listening to the radio: having a 24-hour news channel in the language you are studying playing in the background is a good thing. However, be sure to spend some time actively listening as well as simply letting it carry on while doing other things.

The state of mind required to actively listen to a radio broadcast is actually quite simple to attain: imagine for a moment that you have suddenly been transported to the front of a group of people and are now responsible for interpreting the news that is being played into English. How well can you explain what is being said? Now instead of simply letting the language flow by you are in a focused state of mind where understanding as much as possible is of crucial importance; after all, your imaginary audience is depending on you.

Luckily you are not actually standing in front of a crowd of people and expected to do this, but imagining this to be the case is the best way to get into an active state of mind. Listen closely for keywords that will clue you in on the general subject, as once you latch on to this it will be that much easier. Is there a war going on? Is somebody on strike? Was a cat saved from a tree? Do your utmost to figure out the general subject first of all, concentrating on getting this first before worrying about this or that word that you may not have understood. If you can keep this state of mind up for a good ten to thirty minutes you will notice how intensive it is, as even after a short time of 'interpreting' (to your imaginary audience) you may begin to feel tired, and this is a good sign that you have been flexing your linguistic muscles.





27. How old are you? Take a moment to think about what things you saw and heard while growing up. If you are 30 years old now, that means that you were a child in the 1980s, a teenager in the 1990s, and an adult after that. What did people your age in your target language watch as cartoons in the 1980s then, what music did they listen to, what shows did they watch in the 1990s when they were teenagers? People your age in other countries, with whom you are probably most likely to become friends, will share a collective knowledge about these periods of time.

Because everybody your age will have also lived through these periods of time you will also have to familiarize yourself with it to some extent. Imagine for example learning English but never knowing about Star Wars, Star Trek, Seinfeld, the Beatles, Nintendo, Sega, Madonna, all the things that (whether you liked them or not) you learned about growing up either directly or indirectly. Learning English from textbooks alone will not give access to this shared 'pop culture database' (for lack of a better term), and other languages have this as well. So when learning another language be sure to find out not only what people your age are interested in, but what they know about from their shared experience growing up.





28. Proficiency tests are a great way to focus the mind on a goal if you are studying a language on your own. Many large languages have standardized tests administered a number of times per year and given by the organizations that promote the language (Alliance Française for French, Goethe-Institut for German, and so on), and if you find your studies to be somewhat vague and lacking in focus then you may want to think about simply up and registering for one of these tests and then trying your best to pass it. Passing one of these tests also makes it easy to describe your proficiency in a language to others, especially potential employers. Of course, only do this if you think it will help. If you simply do not enjoy taking such tests then you should not feel the need to do so as this may end up turning the language you love into just another academic subject.





29. Mnemonic cues can sometimes help when learning new vocabulary. Some words more or less have their own mnemonic cues built in, such as the Lithuanian word for boa constrictor, smauglys (think of the dragon Smaug from the book The Hobbit). Others you may have to be creative with in order to come up with a cue that you can remember – perhaps you could remember the Lithuanian word mokyklos (school) if you grew up watching Fraggle Rock and thought that Mokey was the smartest Fraggle (Mokey must have gone to the mokyklos a lot...). The simple act of coming up with a mnemonic cue is in itself a good thing, as it means you are giving a word the attention it deserves and are creating a nice kind of familiarity in your mind, making it a part of the neural net you already have set up.

However, before a word can be said to be perfectly learned you must be able to recall it almost instantaneously, and so the mnemonic cue should eventually become unnecessary. A mnemonic cue is mostly useful for a word that you know you will end up forgetting soon after seeing it, and need some sort of trick to retain.








30. If you have a website or a blog, or discuss on forums a lot, you may want to try to find a way to work the language you are studying into that. Perhaps you study Japanese and are interested in technology. If so then you are in luck, as using it you will be able to find stories on new technological developments in Japan (high-speed rail, robotics, etc.) that haven't been published in English yet. Translating this into English will not only be a good way to practice Japanese, but it will also provide a service for those that are also interested in such developments but don't know Japanese. In this way you can make your language skills useful from an early stage, and further motivate yourself to continue studying.

Learning Persian would also help you find information not found in English on the latest developments in Afghanistan and its neighbors (Iran and Tajikistan), and so on, so this would be a good language to choose and a method to study it with if you are interested in geopolitical subjects. In short, try to find information in the language you are studying that isn't available in English. If such information is only available in the language you are studying then you will have no choice but to use it to learn whatever it is you want to know.






31. Good pronunciation when learning a language is a must, but the pronunciation found in textbooks is not always the only way to speak a language. Most languages have a variety of pronunciations in different regions that are considered correct, and while some of them are not recommended to imitate (certain regions are often looked down upon and one will come across as uneducated when imitating their speech patterns, unfair and unsubstantiated as this may be) many others may be easier for you to pronounce and may feel more natural. Think for example of the non-rhotic r used in Boston ("that was a wicked hahd test") or how British English is pronounced versus standard American English - all of these are correct English, and speakers from one linguistic background may find one more comfortable than the other. The same is true with other languages too.

Consider the French r as an example. In textbook French this is pronounced as what is known as a voiced uvular fricative, which is a sound made near the back of the throat. However, certain varieties of French pronounce it instead as a flap or a tap, which is the same as the t in the way Americans and Canadians say water or butter. If the textbook French r just doesn't seem to agree with you, you can pronounce the r in this way and there will be no problem. On the other hand, simply pronouncing it as an English r (as in war, or roar) will never sound good, so there is a limit to how much one can deviate from a language's standard pronunciation and still sound acceptable.

Keep in mind that while extremely thick accents are painful to hear, a certain amount of accent can actually be a good thing. Arnold Schwarzenegger wouldn't be the same without his accent, and apparently he even takes pains to maintain it even after all this time. A good teacher will be able to tell you which parts of your pronunciation are perfect, which are accented but sound fine, and which parts definitely need to change. Parts of your pronunciation that need to change (anything that just sounds awkward and not the least bit cool) you will need to work especially hard on, while parts that simply give you a nice accent in your target language you can leave alone, and indeed speaking in this way may become part of your charm.





32. Languages such as Chinese and Vietnamese where a change in tone can result in a word meaning something completely different require a good amount of attention to master. The easiest way to learn tones is to find examples of words with differering tones not on their own, but inside a sentence. English speakers in particular have a tendency to raise their voice at the end of a sentence when asking a question, but in a tonal language this may result in a completely different meaning so this habit needs to be broken. The best way to do this then is to find many examples of: 1) declarative sentences (not questions) that end with a raised tone, and 2) interrogative sentences (questions) that do not end with a raised tone. In other words, examples of sentences with tones that differ from your speech habits in English. Find as many of these as possible and repeat them over and over again, until your mind begins to subconsciously understand the large difference in how tone works in a tonal language compared to English.

Also, do not overly stress out about tones either. While the wrong tone can result in a completely different meaning and learning to properly to use tones is crucial, context is still very important and nobody in Chinese will think that you 'bigged' a telephone call (我大电话了 wǒ dà diànhuà le) when you said that you 'made' one (我打电话了, wǒ dǎ diànhuà le) even if you mistakenly used a falling tone for the second word.





33. Have you decorated your room or your entire house with vocabulary yet? A common technique suggested when learning a language is to put post-it notes everywhere or use some other method to surround yourself with the language you are learning. You would put a note on the door with the word for door, a note on the window with the word for window, and so on.You should also give some thought to how much more information you can squeeze into one item though. For example, instead of just learning the name of an object you should also try to add a verb or two, so that you can properly use the word as well and won't just learn it in isolation. Doors for example can be openedshutslammedknocked on, a tv can be turned on and turned off, with a chair you sit down and stand up, and so on.

If you are learning a language like German where there are three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) but generally no way to tell which word is which, you could use three colors to write the name of an object. Blue crayon for masculine, pink for feminine, grey for neuter, for example. In languages with irregular plurals (once again German), indicating that as well would be a good idea. Tasse (cup) then would be written with pink crayon, and with (Tassen) in parenthesis to show the plural.





34. One type of language not often studied but worth looking at are creoles. Creoles are languages created by the mixing of a number of other languages over time (usually at least three) in a setting where peoples of different linguistic backgrounds begin living together and find a way to create a common language. The development of a creole begins as a jargon (a set of words used to communicate between peoples), then later on becomes a pidgin (a fuller language with its own rules that develops from the jargon), and finally becomes 'creolized' after it acquires its first native speakers. In other words, a creole is a language that has been broken down and then built up again. Creoles usually have a vocabulary that strongly resembles its source languages, but the grammar will be quite different.

One example of a creole is the language known as Papiamentu, spoken in Aruba and Curacao just off the coast of South America. Papiamentu is mainly Portuguese and Spanish, but with a large Dutch influence as well as words from other local languages, and it ends up giving the first impression of a kind of easy Spanish or Portuguese. For example:

"Kon ta bai?" is "How are you?" In Portuguese this is "Como vai?" and in Spanish it is "¿Cómo te va?"
"Ainda no" is "Not yet", which in Portuguese is "Ainda não".

The English creoles of Tok Pisin and Bislama are spoken in Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu (near New Zealand) and serve as a unifying language in these countries where there are more than 700 (!) and 200 local languages, respectively. Looking at part of the national anthem of Vanuatu it is easy to pick out the English vocabulary in spite of the different spelling and usage:
  • God i givim ples ia long yumi, -- God has given this place to us (you me)
  • Yumi glat tumas long hem, -- We are very glad (glad too much) in it
  • Yumi strong mo yumi fri long hem, -- We are strong and we are free in it
  • Yumi brata evriwan! -- We are brothers, everyone
The most spoken creoles, however, are French creoles. Haitian is the creole with the largest number of speakers (approximately 12 million), and nations such as Mauritius use a French creole in daily life but hardly at all in writing. French creoles also look like a type of French without complicated grammar, as these examples from Haitian creole show:

Li sé frè mwen - He is my brother (French Il est mon frère)
Nou sé zanmi - We are friends (fr: Nous sommes amis)
Mwen sé on doktè - I am a doctor (fr: Je suis un docteur)

Papua New Guinea even has a German creole known as Unserdeutsch. Unfortunately, it is hardly spoken at all anymore.





35. Two of the best places online to obtain long samples of recordings in languages are Librivox, and Spoken Wikipedia. As both of these are created by volunteers the amount available in each language will depend entirely on the motivation of those recording the files, but for most major languages you will be able to find hours and hours of content on each. The Dutch and German Wikipedias have a particularly large amount of recorded content, and Librivox has recordings in not only most languages but also some extremely rare or extinct ones, such as Ancient Greek, Latin, Old Church Slavonic, and Old English. If you can't find any content in your language on Librivox you may be able to ask around on the forum to see if anyone knows of somewhere that you can.

The only thing to be careful of when using Librivox is the age of the document used to make a recording, as having all content in the public domain means that there is a large amount of material that is fairly old, or at least quite formal. Different languages change over time at different rates so a 100-year-old book in one language may look almost the same as a language's modern form, while in another language a document of the same age may not look the same at all. Consider for example the readability of Sherlock Holmes; in comparison, Turkish at the time was written with an entirely different alphabet (the Perso-Arabic alphabet, compared to the Latin alphabet now) and the vocabulary was quite different as well.

Edit 2013: See Lingq.com as well.





36. The economic value of a language (if this is your primary goal) does not necessarily depend on simply the number of speakers, or even the total GDP of all the speakers put together. Certain languages are also sought after for their strategic value. For example, the CIA offers hiring bonuses of up to $35,000 for those fluent in so-called 'mission critical' languages, namely Arabic, Chinese, Dari (Persian as spoken in Afghanistan), Korean, Pashtu, Persian, Russian, Urdu, Indonesian, and Turkish. The reason for this is simple: not only are speakers of these languages needed, but it is extremely difficult to carry out the needed background checks for most speakers of these languages before hiring - one needs to provide proof of residence for the past five years plus a great number of references before being hired for classified positions, and long periods of time overseas without sufficient proof of activity will almost always disqualify a candidate. The value in these languages does not extend merely to intelligence gathering though. Other examples abound of agencies that require speakers of rare languages, such as overseas aid agencies or media outlets.





37. While it is difficult to find content for smaller languages online, in person when studying abroad they can actually end up being easier to learn, due to the zeal by which they are often promoted. Languages such as Welsh, Irish, and Basque in particular that faced extinction but are beginning to thrive again are easy to find support from, as local governments are very eager to promote them and will do their utmost to help out someone who truly intends to learn them to fluency. So if you are studying a language with a few hundred thousand to a few million speakers (Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Albanian, Luxembourgish...) be certain to announce it on a blog of yours or somewhere else online in order to receive as much feedback as possible, and if you are learning a language such as Welsh or Basque you should contact the local government to see what sort of aid they can provide, including low-cost homestays where you can be completely immersed and won't have to worry about being spoken to in English. Learning one of these languages to fluency is also often a quick route to local celebrity as you will certainly be interviewed time and time again after having invested the years it takes to learn it, in order to discuss why you chose to go with a language like Welsh or Basque instead of German, Chinese or another language more often studied.





38. How helpful are movies for learning a language? While better than nothing, they are unfortunately not nearly as helpful as other methods such as listening to the radio or watching more general shows such as soap operas or comedies. Repetition is extremely important when learning a language, and the predictability one finds with radio news or a 30-minute program is much more helpful than a single movie, where plot twists, noisy special effects and other such intricacies are much more common. Movies are also far more likely to have long periods of time with little or dialogue than a TV or radio program. A movie can be somewhat helpful, however, if you are able to find the original subtitles (not a translation). Otherwise, watching four 30-minute episodes in a row is a much more effective use of two hours of your free time.






39. Though only containing single words and short phrases, forvo.com is now the best place online to find audio samples in a large number of languages. As contributors can help out by uploading just one word at a time participation is easy, and thanks to this the site now contains samples in hundreds of languages. This makes it one of the most valuable resources on the internet for rare languages, sich as Micmac, Nauru, Ossetian, Abkhazian, and many more.

Edit 2013: rhinospike.com is another good site.





40. Languages such as Japanese and Korean that use intricate levels of speech to indicate politeness or lack of it may seem intimidating at first, but there is an easy way to overcome this. Most pro-drop languages (languages where speakers don't have to use pronouns to indicate who is doing an action) show who is doing an action by the ending of a verb, whereas Japanese and Korean are often pro-drop without this. Instead of a verb ending though to show the doer of an action, one often simply knows who is doing what by context. For example the Japanese onaka suita? (お腹すいた?) or Korean baegopa? (배 고파?) mean "are you hungry?" but there is no pronoun there - both of them literally just mean "stomach empty?". However, depending on the level of politeness you can tell who is being talked about and who is talking to whom, so if you think about these levels of politeness as providers of extra information rather than simply cultural straitjackets that must be followed, you should have an easier time figuring out how they work. The two examples given here of "are you hungry?" show that the question is being posed between people that are friends or similar in age.

One good example of extra information provided is in the sentence 뭐 하시는 분인데? This means "what does that person do?" but this mode of speech is used by two speakers of about the same age or who are close to each other (friends or family members), talking about a person they respect. It is the form of speech you would use for example when asking a friend about what his grandfather does for a living. On the other hand, "뭐 하는 사람인데요?" which also means the same thing ("what does that person do?") is being used by two people who may not be so close (co-workers, people who have just met) about a person that doesn't necessarily require an extra amount of respect. It is what you would use to a person you have just met when asking about their friend that just left.

Also note that languages like these will usually have a standard form of politeness that, while not always perfectly correct, is polite enough that you will be able to rely on it as a failsafe in most situations. Students of a language are given a fair amount of leeway when it comes to politeness, as long as they do not always use the most casual and intimate forms of speech all the time.





41. Some languages are well-represented on the internet, while others have a much smaller representation in comparison with their real population. The site internetworldstats.com provides a great deal of information on this, and may help you in ascertaining the future potential of a language you are considering.

Languages such as Finnish and Norwegian for example have a relatively large presence on the internet compared to their population, but have almost reached full saturation - as of 2010 a full 95% of the population of Norway has access to the internet and 85% in Finland. Iceland is the highest at almost 98%. Languages such as these have reached almost their full online population, aside from growth in the language itself.

On the other end of the scale are found languages with large populations but almost no online representation. The most extreme example of this is certainly Bengali, spoken in eastern India and Bangladesh. Surprisingly one of the most spoken languages in the world (usually ranked at around sixth to eighth), under 1% of the population in Bangladesh has access to the internet and India is still at 7% nationwide.

French is another interesting case. While study of French has gone down in Europe over recent years, the language itself is actually growing very rapidly. Due to the large population increase in sub-Saharan Africa the French-speaking population has grown by 20 million over the past three years (200 million in 2007 to 220 million in 2010), and thanks to this growth there are expected to be another 500 million French speakers in the world by 2050. Rumors of the demise of French are certainly exaggerated.





42. International broadcasters are often the best place to learn languages, and this includes not only the target language but other languages at the same time. For example, the German international broadcaster Deutsche Wellehas an amazing selection of German courses, as well as daily news selections with text, recorded both at regular and slow speed. However, these language courses are also available for speakers of other languages besides English, and using them it is possible to practice other languages at the same time. If you are fairly good at French but would like more practice, for example, then you can use the French edition of its online courses to learn German. The same is the case with the French broadcaster Radio France International, where French courses are available for English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, Persian, and many other speakers.






43. Many languages that go under the same name can actually be quite different, while other languages called by different names may be quite similar, or nearly identical. "Chinese" is an example of the former. Cantonese, Wu and others are said to be types of Chinese but (especially when spoken) hardly resemble Mandarin Chinese at all. Different types of spoken Arabic will also differ from each other just as much as different Romance languages (French, Italian, Portuguese...) differ from each other, but are all said to be Arabic due to the large cultural and religious cohesion between Arabic-speaking countries. On the other hand, Serbian and Croatian are nearly the same, as are Hindi and Urdu (though these two use different scripts), and Bulgarian and Macedonian. For political reasons they are given different names but by learning one, one is able to understand the other as well. 

So when choosing a language be sure that you are receiving unfiltered information about what learning one will mean for you as an individual, in order to avoid either choosing a language that is said to be universally spoken somewhere but is not in practice, or overlooking a language that may seem small but is actually spoken in nearly the same way in a lot of other countries as well.





44. If you are partially proficient in a language but are having a hard time finding enough information on its grammar and syntax, consider doing a reverse lookup by searching for information in that language for students studying English. Korean is an example of a language that is notorious for not promoting itself as well as it could (even now, many in Korea are surprised that anyone would want to learn Korean in spite of its large population, economy and cultural influence), but content in Korean for English students is everywhere and a quick search will turn up a nearly endless amount of content in Korean explaining how English grammar works. Using content of this nature you should be able to learn nearly as much about Korean grammar as Korean students learn about English grammar from it. And in the same way, reading an explanation in French of how English word order works when using adjectives, you can learn how they work in French as well.

For example, on the French Wikibooks one finds the following: "A small blue German car" is "une petite voiture bleue allemande" (lit. a small car blue German), and "a young French player" is "un jeune joueur français"(lit. a young player French). Reading about how a French textbook explains word order in English adjectives will help you just as much in learning how word order for adjectives works in French.




45. If you are able to spend some time abroad, there is nothing better than befriending people with young families. While adults may tend to want to use English with you or may prefer to talk about subjects that you have difficulty with, children talk endlessly about simple subjects and on the whole have no interest whatsoever in practicing English with you. Listening to children talk can also teach you about how the language works, especially when they make mistakes and are corrected by their parents. In English this is often found with children making mistakes with verbs ("I runned", "I fighted", "it blowed up stuff"), plurals (mouseschilds...) and other irregularities that are only learned with practice. Your friends will also certainly be glad to get a little free time to themselves as their children pepper you with question after question that they may be tired of, but are completely new to you. Indeed, offering to babysit your friends' children often may be helpful for all parties involved - free language practice for you, free babysitting for them.






46. The large French influence on English over time has caused it to diverge from the original Germanic dialect continuum. Before the Norman conquest of England, English, Icelandic and other Germanic languages were for the most part mutually intelligible; this is not the case anymore with English. However, in spite of this the large majority of words used in everyday speech in English are Germanic as these have a much higher frequency of use.

What this means to the student is this: everyday speech (discussions on chat forums for example) in Germanic languages such as German, Dutch and Norwegian will soon be easy to understand, whereas Romance languages such as French are very easy to follow along when one picks up a newspaper, but daily conversation is an entirely different matter. Some examples:

German: Der Mann, der auf dem Wasser ging. (The man who walked on water). In French this is "L'homme qui a marché sur l'eau". The French when spoken is even less comprehensible: "homme" is cognate withhuman and homo sapiens, but when spoken l'homme simply sounds something like "lome", and l'eau for water sounds like "lo", nothing close to the word water. The German "der Mann", however, looks and sounds almost exactly like the English "the man", and Wasser is nearly as immediately comprehensible. On the other hand, in a newspaper terms such as "referendum on independence" look almost exactly the same in French (référendum d'indépendence), but in German it is a nearly unrecognizable "Volksabstimmung zur Unabhängigkeit".

Thus, when learning a Romance language it is best to pay particular attention to daily conversation where English cognates lack, whereas when learning Germanic languages you will have to spend more time learning unfamiliar technical terms. Luckily most technical terms in Germanic languages will still be cognate with English, just in a less direct manner. The word independence for example (Unabhängigkeit in German, onafhanklikheid in Dutch) can be thought of as "un-off-hangey-hood", or in otherwords the state of not having to "hang on" or depend on another. Many Germanic words are quite easy to remember in this way after a bit of investigation when their common origin with English is made clear. One other good example is the Norwegian word snikskytter (sniper), which looks quite strange in the beginning but actually simply means "sneakshooter".





47. When comparing two or more languages, there is a difference between classifying a language according to its linguistic character, and what this will actually mean to the student in practice. Comparisons between languages are usually made in order to properly classify them in their respective linguistic families, but have little to do with the point of view of the student.

For example, consider the fact that German, Bulgarian and Romanian have three grammatical genders (masculine, feminine, neuter) while French, Spanish and Latvian have two (masculine and feminine). It is tempting to think that vocabulary in those with two genders should be easier to remember and use properly than those with three, but in fact these languages use grammatical gender quite differently. In German the gender of a word is almost entirely arbitrary, and so represents an extra piece of information that must be learned with each new word. However, in Bulgarian and Romanian the gender of a noun almost always matches up with its ending, and so the student only needs to keep an eye out for exceptions to the rule. The same is true with the other three languages with two genders. While the gender of a French noun can be tricky to determine at times, Spanish and Latvian are almost always regular in the same way that Bulgarian is.

One other example of linguistic classification not being all that helpful for the prospective student is the phenomenon of shared vocabulary and some overall characteristics. Turkish and Persian are unrelated languages, in the sense that Turkish is Altaic and Persian is Indo-European; they also use different scripts. However, the two have had so much shared history over time that learning one is very helpful in learning the other, in spite of the fact that they do not share a common origin. Much of this comes from a common Arabic influence, but also much borrowing back and forth as well.





48. Which modern languages provide the most insight into the English language itself? As English began as a language mutually comprehensible with other Germanic languages but first began to drift apart after the Norman invasion and rule over the following centuries, the answer is easy: Icelandic and French provide the most insight into English.

Icelandic has preserved an archaic character that other Germanic languages have lost over the years (including the letters þ and ð formerly used in written English, representing the th in "think" and "though" respectively) while French (or more precisely, Norman) has changed the entire character of the language from one that strongly resembled Icelandic into the one it is today. Latin has also had an unmistakable influence on English, but considering the difficulty in learning it to fluency nowadays as a language without any native speakers, French would be a more practical choice.






49. If you are really ambitious about learning multiple languages and intend to spend some time abroad but haven't yet decided on an ideal location, be sure to look beyond national borders and major countries, as many parts of the world will offer the opportunity to learn much more than one language.

The tiny country of Andorra for example located between France and Spain has Catalan as its official language, but given the number of tourists from the two larger countries on both sides there are many languages spoken there.

While Moldova speaks Romanian as its official language, there is a small autonomous region within the country known as Gagauzia where a language known as Gagauz is spoken, a language that is nearly the same as Turkish.

Luxembourg has three official languages (Luxembourgish, French, German), and is located close to the Netherlands as well.

Estonia has but a single national language, but one hour by ferry to the north is Helsinki (the capital of Finland), St. Petersburg is close to the east (and Estonia itself still has a large number of Russian speakers), the Latvian capital of Riga is just a few hours to the south, and Stockholm just across the sea to the west.

While the island of Curacao off the coast of South America speaks Papiamentu (a Portuguese/Spanish creole with some Dutch influence), Dutch is also an official language there and is often used in education and the media. This makes it the closest place to learn Dutch for anyone from the United States, especially those in the south.

These are but a few of the many examples that abound, so if you are ambitious and intend to go abroad be sure to do a lot of looking into which location would suit you best, especially if you don't like the idea of having to move to an entirely new place (leaving behind the friends you have made) every time you embark on a new language.





50. While small languages do not have a great deal of content and the student must make do with whatever can be found, if you are learning a large language you have a much greater selection to choose from and should take advantage of this. If you haven't done so yet you should take the time to look for things you truly enjoy in the language you are learning if it is sufficiently large. As a student of German, for example, you do not have to stay within the confines of textbooks if what you really are interested in is architecture or astronomy, as both of these can be and are learned through German alone. In the same way, with a large language you can take the time to search for music you truly like (as opposed to simple top-40 or folk songs), authors that really speak to you, anything that turns the language you are learning into something real and not just another subject. If you find yourself less and less enthused by the thought of studying but are learning a language with a large number of speakers, it may be time to take a day or two, or even a week, to just search for things you truly like in the language you are learning.





51. There are various ways to study throughout the day, and you can use different techniques depending on the setting you are in and the time you have. The usual way to study is to find a free hour or two (or 30 minutes if you are busy), sit down, remove other distractions, break out the books and simply keep at it. Outside this, however, you have a lot of time during the day that you could be using that you may not be making the best use of. If you study before work on the bus or subway, be sure to jot a few notes down on a piece of paper (new vocabulary for example) that you want to focus on. You can then put this in your pocket and look at from time to time during the day, even if you are at work. It is much easier to slyly peek at a scrap of paper in your pocket from time to time when in the office than to pull out a book that says something like Learn German in Six Months in large font. A scrap of paper is even better than using an electronic device to do the same thing for the same reason, as constantly looking and poking at your phone is much more noticeable than a tiny bit of paper.

If it is late at night and you feel too tired to tackle a textbook lesson, you can still read something in the language you are studying without worrying about how much you understand - simply read what you can read, and don't worry about what you don't understand. Pretend that you do (imagine that this is your native language and this is the language you read in when you want to relax), and simply rely on the words you already know to try to follow the content. Even this amount of exposure will prove to be helpful if kept up. Consider other interesting methods to expose yourself to your language as much as possible - you could send yourself a time-delayed SMS earlier in the day that you will receive later at night, or some other time during the day when you least expect it.





52. A number of virtual flash card freeware programs have been developed over the past years, and if you enjoy learning vocabulary using this method then be sure to look around for one that most suits you. One program known as Anki (the Japanese word for remember, 暗記) uses an interesting method whereby the user does not simply mark words as known and not known; instead, words that you guess correctly will still appear over time, but less and less frequently. This method is quite effective in that often a student will "learn" a word and retain it for a while, but then over the next week it will be mysteriously forgotten due to not using it again. Every student has had this experience, where he or she has aced a test but a few months later has forgotten nearly everything due to moving on to different units and never applying the knowledge from the former test again. But by testing the student on a word that has already been learned (but very possibly almost forgotten) a few days later, one's memory is thereby jogged and the word becomes easier to remember over time. Many other programs use some clever methods like this to make memorization more effective, so be sure to compare and find one that works best for you.

Edit 2013: Readlang.com is a new site that is somewhat similar to Anki.





53. How does the language you are learning deal with foreign terminology? Some languages have a tendency to take in words from other languages without changing them, aside from altering the pronunciation a bit when necessary. Japanese is a good example of this, gleefully using English words such as Space Shuttle (supe-su shattoru, スペースシャトル), guide (gaido, ガイド), energy (enerugi-, エネルギー), and so on. While occasionally helpful, sometimes knowing whether to use a local word or a loanword in a certain situation can be confusing.

On the other hand, languages such as Icelandic will almost always adapt foreign words by adopting their meaning, but through Icelandic terminology. This means that words such as "grammar" and "anthropology" will becomemálfræði and mannfræði, which seem unrecognizable at first but given that the word mál means language, mann means man and -fræði means "study of" (same as -ology), the meaning is not very hard to guess. In fact, this often will end up teaching you about the origin of the word itself: the word þrælahald (slavery) is cognate with the English word thrall, which nowadays is used in the sense of "to enthrall" but also refers to a type of slave in Scandinavian society during the Viking Age.

German also does this to a certain extent, whereby words such as carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen are known as Kohlstoff (coal stuff), Wasserstoff (water stuff), and Stickstoff (choking stuff, because it sticks in the throat and makes one choke: verstikken = choke in Dutch). So while the vocabulary may not be exactly the same as that used in English, the interesting internal derivation nevertheless makes it very easy to remember, and indeed may teach you more about the meanings of these words that are usually used without any thought to their origin or true meaning.





54. Finding a good dictionary is now as much about finding a good dictionary online as one in paper format. While online dictionaries are often the easiest to use, a good paper dictionary is still worthwhile for its convenience (especially if it is small), and the ability to browse. Electronic dictionaries are usually based on searching for a desired word, but paper dictionaries have the advantage of having related terms often listed next to the one you are looking for, thus making it easier to jump from word to word and learn more than just the word you originally intended to find.

Because online dictionaries are almost always better when simply searching for the meaning of a word, paper dictionaries are now most useful when they provide context and examples. The best paper dictionary to buy nowadays is thus usually a lightweight student dictionary, with perhaps fewer entries than a massive dictionary of old, but very user-friendly and with example after example of how to use each word as opposed to just providing the English equivalent and little else.





55. 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.





56. If you live in a large city and live on your own (or are planning to), there is a good chance that you may be able to find a roommate that speaks the language you are studying and is in your country to study English. While it is true that politeness dictates that you should speak English with people that have made the effort to come all the way to the US/Canada/etc. to study it, it is also true that many students go overseas to learn English but end up never studying it outside of school due to having too many friends that speak their own language. This is often the case with students from Japan, Korea and Taiwan in cities such as Vancouver and Sydney, where it is far too easy to simply make friends with non-English speakers and only meet them after class. Thus, people in this situation often seek out an English-speaking roommate in order to avoid using their own language too much, and your motives in looking for a roommate that speaks the language you are studying will actually be very welcome.





57. Not sure whether what you wrote is correct? Using quotation marks when doing a Google search can often tell you whether you're wrong or not. Let's pretend for example that you want to write "I want to go to the movies" in French, and aren't sure off the top of your head whether the word cinéma is masculine, or feminine. If it is masculine then the sentence would be "je veux aller au cinéma", but if feminine then it would be "je veux aller à la cinéma". So which is correct? You don't need to ask someone from France to find the answer to this, just put quotes around them and see how many results you get.

"Je veux aller au cinéma" gives 39,500 results.
"Je veux aller à la cinéma" gives... one result.

Obviously the first is correct.

This method will not work with lengthy sentences, but even when writing a long sentence you can check it bit by bit by dividing it up and using the the same method.





58. When choosing books or other content in a language you are learning, be sure to check for those made specifically for children or young adults. Japanese is a good example of this, as while an adult needs to know the 1945 joyo kanji (Chinese characters) in order to be considered literate, children can still read books with kanji in them that they haven't learned yet, as the pronunciation is indicated above in small characters known as furigana. This makes comic books for young children to young adults particularly useful for learning Japanese, as instead of having to look up individual characters (which requires counting strokes, looking up radicals, and other time-consuming methods), since the pronunciation has already been provided you can look up the word in alphabetical order instead, and you will be able to type it out instantly as well.

Note that this doesn't necessarily mean you have to find childish content, just content that has been made easy for children and youth to understand. A good example of a comic book series is the Japanese BASARA, which has furigana over each character, but is about a dystopian post-apocalyptic Japan that has been reduced to a feudal civilization with medieval technology, and is not the least bit childish or boring.

The same applies to other languages in different ways as well. Perhaps your Russian is not yet good enough to tackle Dostoevsky, but if that is your favorite author then the next best thing is to find an abridged or simplified version written for elementary students, and likely with pictures as well which will help you keep track of what is going on.






59. Most people when they begin studying a language intend to learn it to fluency, but what exactly does fluency mean? Different people have different definitions for what fluency is, and the fluency you intend to achieve may not necessarily be the same as what others consider it to be. You should not let yourself be too concerned with definitions of fluency as given by others, as your goals are your own. For example, if you began learning German with the intention of being able to understand most everything you read and hear, as well as being able to express yourself with few problems (functional fluency), then do not concern yourself with those that only define fluency as being exactly the same as a native German speaker (perfect Hochdeutsch accent, no flaws in speaking or understanding whatsoever). You may also want to learn a language simply to read it and are not concerned with conversation, or on the other hand you may just want to understand your wife or husband's family when they come to visit and aren't concerned with being able to perfectly read and write newspapers or literature in their language.






60. Reading books that you have already read before in English, or know about indirectly, is often advisable over lesser-known literature or poetry in the language you are learning if you are not yet fluent. Because you are already working at understanding the language you are studying, it does not help to add an extra layer of cultural vagueness on top of it. Works with a lot of conversation and repetition are especially advisable, and a great example of this is Plato. Unlike most other works of philosophy the works of Plato are essentially just Socrates debating with his friends and acquaintances in a very informal manner, and the logical structure (the Socratic Method) present in the dialogues makes it very easy to follow. Some sentences in the dialogues are even but a single word in length. Here is one example from a translation in French that shows how easy Plato can be to understand:
  • Socrates: "Qu’en dis-tu ? Cela ne te semble-t-il pas vrai?" (What do you say? Doesn't this seem true to you?)
  • Criton: "Fort vrai." (Very true.)
  • Socrates: "A ce compte ne faut‑il pas estimer les bonnes opinions, et mépriser les mauvaises?" (To this account should we not highly esteem good opinions, and despise the bad ones?)
  • Criton: "Certainement." (Certainly.)
  • Socrates: "Les bonnes opinions ne sont‑ce pas celles des sages, et les mauvaises celles des fous?" (Aren't good opinions those of wise people, and bad opinions those of fools?)
  • Criton: "Qui en doute?" (Who would doubt?)








61. One good rule of thumb when getting used to the way another language is pronounced (especially when you've never learned another language before) is this: if you don't sound awkward to yourself at first, you're going to sound awkward to speakers of the language. The proper French pronunciation of the word croissant may sound pompous when talking in English, but in French this is the only way to properly say it.

On the other hand, be sure that you are not overly exerting yourself. People tend to slur their speech or soften words here and there in their own language too, and you don't want to be the only one constantly striving for a perfect textbook pronunciation. Remember that every language is the most comfortable language in the world to speak for those that grew up speaking it as a mother tongue, so if you find yourself constantly exerting yourself to pronounce everyday words you may be trying too hard.





62. When choosing to spend time abroad, longer is almost always better. This may seem obvious, but far too many people cut their overseas experiences short due to one personal reason or another (assuming they will be able to reach fluency through keeping up their studies back home), but as long as these personal reasons aren't absolutely critical it is better to stay abroad for as long as it takes to become fluent. The internet (and real life) is full of accounts of people that had gone abroad, stayed for a while but then returned early for some reason or another, but then found upon returning home that they wished they had spent more time abroad instead of cutting things short and coming back so early. Reverse culture shock is also quite common, where upon returning home things aren't quite as fun as you remembered them to be, and you begin to actually find yourself missing the other country you were living in and may regret leaving it.





63. Vocabulary in languages that have grammatical gender (words that are masculine or feminine, as well as neuter) can be difficult to remember if the gender is mostly arbitrarily assigned (as in Danish or German) as opposed to mostly easily identifiable by the ending (as in Spanish or Latvian). There are some methods you can use to deal with this.

With Scandinavian languages where the definite article (the word "the") is written after the word, consider writing down words you learn with the definite article attached. For example, the word for house in Danish is hus, and as a neuter gender noun "a house" is "et hus", while "the house" is "huset". When writing down this word, then, write it down not as "hus" but as "huset"; remember it that way. The word "areal" (area) is the same gender as hus so you would write it down as arealet, while with common gender nouns (en-nouns) you would write such words as ambassade (embassy) and konvention (convention) as ambassaden (the embassy) andkonventionen (the convention) on any vocabulary lists, flash cards etc. you make.

Other methods for remembering grammatical gender include marking up a document with color (even crayon if you wish), or simply finding example after example of the word in use. The world for world in German (die Welt) is feminine, so you could go to a page such as its Wiktionary entry and then find examples online of the word being used in as many declensions as possible.

Simply thinking about the word and why it happens to have the gender it has can also be helpful. Consider for example that in German the moon is masculine (der Mond) while the sun is feminine (die Sonne), and since this is completely the opposite of the case in English it is easy to remember these words in tandem. Water (das Wasser) is neutral because water is good for everybody and holds no bias...even if there is no seeming logic behind the assignment of grammatical gender, you can pretend that there is, make it up for yourself and use this to remember a word.





64. When learning languages with fairly complex grammar (German, Russian, Lithuanian, etc.), printing out samples of writing and marking them up with pencil can be a good technique. There is no uniform technique for doing this as each language is different, but you could for example mark the dative case ending with an arrow underneath, the accusative with an arrow pointing down, the genitive with a connecting sign or underscore, and so on. The Lithuanian "my name" is mano vardas, and -o is the ending that indicates the genitive. It would then look like this:

manvardas

The locative could be shown with parenthesis, so Lietuva (Lithuania) which becomes Lietuvoje (in Lithuania) would become:

Lietuv(oje)

Other possible signs are a Mars sign for masculine nouns and Venus for feminine, a tiny spear to mark the past tense but a planet for the future tense, and anything you can come up with. Since each language differs it is impossible to come up with a single system to do this, but since this is meant to help you learn a language as an individual you should come up with your own system. Don't worry about marking up parts of the language that you have already learned well and have no problem using (this would be a waste of time), just use this to concentrate on parts of the language that you are having difficulty solidifying inside your mind, or are particularly irregular.





65. When learning a language with a different alphabet, getting used to reading this new alphabet as quickly as possible will be your first and most important task. Luckily this will not be a difficult job, simply a repetitive one: the best way to familiarize yourself with another alphabet will be to simply read pages and pages and pages (and pages and pages) of text in the language, without worrying much at all about the meaning. Also be sure to alternate this with following along with recordings of texts by native speakers as much as possible.

Your ultimate goal will be the ability to recognize words at a moment's notice in the way you do in English. This ability is what gives one the ability to read sentences such as this in spite of it being jumbled up:

Aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer in waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteer be at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a toatl mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.

Now, it is not entirely true that a word can be jumbled up in any which way and still be readable if only the first and last letters are in the right place (turning "aoccdrnig to rscheearch" to "anodriccg to rcrseeah" actually does make it unreadable), but the point still stands that native speakers by and large do not read words one letter at a time but rather their overall appearance, and this is the ability that you will want to foster as soon as possible early on.

Even while not studying, you could familiarize yourself with the alphabet you are working on by plugging anything you read in English into a transliteration applet, and continue until you have become almost 'fluent' in reading this other form of English - English in Cyrillic, Armenian, Greek, Georgian, or any other letters.





66. If learning Japanese or Chinese, do not hesitate to plunge straight into the writing (kanji / hanzi) as soon as possible, as there is no way around this - they are an essential part of the language. There is a great deal of disinformation about Chinese characters, however: they are not letters in the same way that other languages use them and it is not quite accurate to say that Japanese people must learn over 2000 'letters' to be fluent while other languages get by with just a few dozen. Each Chinese character is actually a word, or a part of a word, and is more like learning a word root than a letter. Take for example the English word internationalize. This is composed of the following:

inter- (between)
nation (country)
-al (turns it into an adjective)
-ize (to make, turns it into a verb)

In Chinese, the word internationalize is composed in a similar way, 国际化 - country -- between -- make / to make something become. The first character is then used in similar constructions such as 国内 (local/national, from country + inside), 国外 (foreign/abroad, from country + outside), and an almost unlimited number of other examples. A good character dictionary will show a sufficiently large number of compound words that you can make with it, which will make it that much easier to remember.

One other point to keep in mind when learning Chinese characters is that an extremely large number of them are simply composed of two radicals, where (in the most common type of character formation) the one on the left indicates the meaning and the one on the right the pronunciation. The Japanese characters 紹 招 沼 照 紹 (and many more) all have the onyomi (imitated Chinese pronunciation) shou, while all the characters 海 浴 沐 沢 all have something to do with water due to the water radical on the left. While there are many exceptions, or meanings that aren't always obvious at first (the character for rest, , is a man next to a tree which may be easy to remember when pointed out but not quite obvious at first), it is often possible to guess at the meaning or pronunciation of characters that you haven't even learned yet.

Learning characters by frequency is also a better idea than learning them according to the levels set for students in the country. Chinese characters at the lowest levels are often chosen for their simple form in order for children to be able to write them, but may not be commonly used and will not serve you well in the beginning. An example of this is the character  in Japanese which means shell - a simple character, it is learned early on...but is not very frequently seen. On the other hand, the character  (consult, discuss, meeting) while more complex is one of the most frequently used characters in Japanese. While it looks intimidating at first, it is not difficult to remember if you magnify and break it down into parts, which it resembles exactly except for the vertical stroke in the second character which does not pass all the way through in the compound character:

議 --> 言 + 羊 + 我

Indeed, in the beginning one or two complex characters may be enough for a full day's study as you will actually be learning five or more separate characters if you look up the meaning of the component parts as well.






67. In languages that have irregular stress, like those with tones, proper stress is important but not nearly as important as context and simple common sense. Lithuanian is one example of a language with variable stress, and one example often given in the beginning is that the word yra when stressed on the second syllable means "is" or "are" (as in "they are"), while when stressed on the first syllable means "it decays" or "they decay". True, but will saying "Mano vardas yra Johnas" (my name is John) cause people to think that you are saying "My name decays, John" if you stress the wrong syllable? Not likely.

In the same way, saying "I am a photo-grapher" in English instead of "ph'tawgrapher" will not confuse people into thinking that you have a strange job that somehow involves "graphing photos", whatever that means. So while stress is important and learning proper stress is essential to become fluent, do not be afraid to pronounce words just because you aren't absolutely sure where the correct stress falls. At worst you will be corrected.





68. Don't be discouraged by people that claim that their language is somehow harder to learn than others. This seems to be a common occurrence on online forums, where claims are made by people that their language is difficult or impossible to learn due to a variety of reasons, such as:

- the presence of a large number of dialects
- weird orthography
- strict grammar
- loose grammar
- some flimsy cultural reason ("our culture is difficult for foreigners to understand")
- alphabet

and just about any other reason one could think of. First of all, keep in mind that many of these reasons can be found in English as well - English has British/American/Australian/South African/Nigerian/Indian and dozens of other types of English plus dialects within each of these countries, and any language that pronounces through and queuethough and mowtough and huff in the same way can be said to have a pretty weird orthography as well...and yet hundreds of millions have learned English.

In fact, instead of being discouraged you should be eager to prove statements such as these wrong. If Chinese is difficult then why do over a billion people speak it? If Russian is difficult then why does it maintain a strong presence in Central Asia and other countries where it is learned as a second language? No, the only true barrier to learning a language is motivation.





69. If you have studied one language for a while and are tempted to begin learning another closely-related language, keep in mind that there is little benefit in doing so and is not advisable unless you have a concrete reason to switch (plans to move to that country, you truly like Language B more than Language A, etc.). Many languages are mutually intelligible, either entirely or partially, and if you have not yet taken advantage of all there is to learn in a first language it will still be easiest to learn about the second language you now want to study by remaining with the first and learning it in greater depth. If, for example, you have been learning Norwegian for a while but have become attracted to the idea of learning Swedish due to its larger population and opportunities to use it, unless you are planning a trip to Sweden anytime soon it would still be easiest to stay with Norwegian and become good at it, as once you have become fluent in Norwegian learning Swedish will be little more than a tweaking of the Norwegian you already know, as opposed to a foreign language.

Use common sense here though, of course. If you began with Faroese (population approximately 70,000) and love it but simply aren't having any luck finding content in the language, then by all means switch to something larger yet related (Icelandic, or Norwegian Nynorsk).





70. When studying abroad or meeting speakers of a language you are studying for the first time, be sure that you are not lulled into a false sense of confidence about your abilities due to the compliments you will almost certainly receive for your effort. Given the low number of English speakers per capita that study other languages, people from some countries will tend to compliment English speakers for just about anything - basic greetings, being able to read a different alphabet, simple verb conjugation, just about anything. Asian countries (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, etc.) tend to do this in particular, along with countries with small populations. While nice, it is best to think of these compliments as compliments on your effort and not necessarily a serious evaluation of your abilities. You will know yourself when you are approaching fluency as you find yourself becoming more and more comfortable in the language you are using. If you can read the newspaper without a dictionary, laugh at comedy shows on TV, get your news from that language alone, and often trick people on the phone into thinking you are a native speaker, then you will know that you are nearly there.





71. If you don't have the money at the moment for a few months abroad, then a plan involving as much immersion as you can create for yourself in your hometown may be necessary. For fairly large languages (French, Spanish) it is often not too hard to find immersion trips where participants go to a location somewhere for a week or so, agreeing ahead of time to use only the language they are studying and nothing else, and these programs are just as good as spending the same length of time abroad. In fact, they sometimes prove to be more effective given that each participant will be interested in using the language they are studying as much as possible, whereas spending an actual week abroad you may encounter a large number of people that will want to use English with you, either because they want to practice or because they simply feel it to be an easier way to communicate. A great number of people plan trips abroad with hopes of "picking up the language", but end up using English everywhere they go for practical reasons and never get the opportunity to immerse themselves in the language.

Even if the language you are studying is not large enough to offer such programs, you may be able to create one of your own. Find a few native speakers of the language you are studying and a few others that are learning it, and arrange a long weekend somewhere where you are only allowed to use that language. The native speakers should be paid for this of course (a long weekend activity is much more than a simple favor), but if arranged properly and with the costs split between you and the other students it should not be too hard on the pocketbook.





72. Teaching English abroad can be an extremely easy way to spend a year or two in the country you want to live in. Each country has different standards by which visas are given out to prospective teachers though, so be sure that you are going to be able to get a visa in the country you want to live in if this is how you intend to begin living abroad.

South Korea for example requires but a 3- or 4-year degree in anything and citizenship in one of seven English-speaking countries (United States, Canada, South Africa, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom) for a visa, other countries do not require a degree at all, while EU countries will generally prefer UK or Irish citizens as they then do not have to worry about arranging for a visa for their employee. Also, very few English teachers are in a country in order to learn the language. Reasons for going abroad can include paying off student loans or a simple desire to travel, and the company environment you are in is likely to be almost entirely English. On top of this, after a full workday you may be too tired to get much study done. Having a full-time job is certainly not an insurmountable obstacle to learning a language, but remember that even if you are living abroad you will have to put a lot of effort in, and many people spend years and even decades abroad without ever learning the language.




73. The Eurostat poll is an interesting reference for European countries if you are curious how easy it will be to avoid using English while abroad. According to the latest poll, Latvians for example are particularly good at foreign languages with only 5.1% of the population professing to be unilingual. However, the most widely spoken foreign language there is still Russian, and in particular when talking with the older generation it should be easy to use Latvian. In France the percentage of those that know just one language rises to 41.2%, which is not at all surprising considering how large the language is. Hungary is interestingly the highest of all with a full 74.8% of the population surveyed saying that they speak Hungarian and nothing else. In other words, in spite of the almost complete lack of similarities between English and Hungarian, you are likely to have the easiest time getting as much practice as you need in Hungary than any other country in the EU.

The most recent poll can be seen here as a pdf.

Edit 2013: these numbers are from 2009, and a few things have changed such as a resurgence in interest in German, particularly in Southern Europe.





74. One great tip for languages with quite complex grammar that you find yourself tending to skip over: write your own textbook. Not necessarily a real textbook, but something you would write to a friend of yours if he or she asked you to explain how the language works. The greatest way to be sure that you understand a subject is to begin teaching it yourself, and as you create this textbook of yours you will find that it will be impossible to let anything slide as it is up to you to explain how it works. Now the complex table of declensions is no longer something you glance at and avoid, but something you have to explain to someone else.

Have you been avoiding adjectival declension in German because it is simply too annoying to pay attention to and you can understand the gist of a text without it anyway? If you are writing your own textbook then you will have no choice but to try to make sense of it as you write about how it works. Teachers often come up with novel ways to explain subjects to their students, and it is very likely that as you create this textbook with your imaginary students in mind that you will begin to understand a concept that you had avoided until now, due to the need to explain and make some sense of it. And who knows, maybe one day you actually will publish your own textbook based on this experience.





75. Be sure to take advantage of all the add-ons for browsers such as Firefox and Chrome that make studying and using a language that much easier. Besides obvious add-ons that make use of Google Translate without having to leave the page, there are a number of others: abctajpu for Firefox enables one to type in any Latin-based alphabet by using dead keys that you yourself can set (for example, typing a: and then hitting insert will give ä, or o^ plus insert gives ô), Rikaichan is a great dictionary lookup for Japanese, and many others will bring up virtual keyboards you can type with or transliteration tools you can use to type without having to change layouts. Also be sure to search for add-ons in the language you are studying for speakers of that language (as opposed to students of the language), such as add-ons made by Persian speakers for Persian speakers or by Turkish speakers for Turkish speakers. One you often be able to find add-ons that help one type in a certain language, not because there is a large number of people that study the language but because speakers of the language want something to use when traveling abroad and using other computers that don't let them type in their mother tongue.

Edit 2013: Zhongwen is also fantastic for Mandarin Chinese.





76. Volunteering is an easy way to find practical use in the language you are studying while in your own country, especially if it is a language that has a stronger presence in real life than online (e.g. languages such as Hindi, Arabic, Bengali, Urdu, etc. with many speakers but a relatively low number online). Immigration and cultural centres often use volunteers, and helping out new immigrants in your country will provide you with an endless list of things to do. Many immigrants end up bringing their families with them as well, and there is a world of difference between simply studying a language you are learning in a textbook and using it to help out someone's unilingual mother find the best deal on a cellphone, or to explain to them which internet service providers are a good deal and which aren't. The more practical value you find early on in the language you are studying the quicker it will be to make it a part of your life, and not just an academic subject.





77. When buying or reading a book in another language you are studying that is a translated work, be sure to check the translation (by asking a speaker of the language if necessary) to make sure that it is not too archaic. Public domain content is a good example of this: while content spanning religious works such as the Bible and the Koran to Greek literature and more recent authors such as Charles Dickens and others is fairly easy to find in a large number of languages, sometimes the translation will be overly archaic, often simply due to age or even on purpose in order to give it an authentic flavor. Whether this is a problem or not will also depend on the character of the language you are studying as different languages change at different rates over time. Turkish for example was given a large reform in the 1920s, Japanese changed a lot after World War II, and Korean a few decades ago was written with a large number of Chinese characters but very few today. On the other hand, languages such as Icelandic and French have not changed nearly as much and thus public domain works from the late 19th and early 20th century will resemble the modern language much more than Turkish, Japanese and other documents from the same period.





78. How does learning another language affect the amount of money a person makes? This is not an easy question to answer, but a few generalities can be made. In countries that are officially bilingual (or trilingual or more), knowing another language is almost always an advantage when applying for or working in a government job, so here the answer is clearly yes, it can easily have a large effect on one's salary. English-speaking Canadian public employees for example are actively encouraged to be bilingual and many that are not bilingual are put on one-year programs where they make a smaller salary but are taught French, and if they become fluent in the language within a year they are then moved to full pay.

On the other hand, languages that are widely spoken but not official in most areas (Spanish in the United States for example) may provide benefits but these are not quite as obvious, or as structured. In addition to not being an official language, Spanish is also spoken by many immigrants who often are not paid as much as US citizens. Thus , whenever bilingual employees are sought for positions such as call centers, the vast majority of the time the employee that fills the position is a native speaker in another language who has immigrated and speaks English as a second language, and will not necessarily be making a great deal of money due to being bilingual. When a language you have learned is not an official language in this manner you may have a harder time in reaping an economic benefit from it.

Generally, languages are most helpful in terms of making money when combined with something else, such as an advanced degree or long experience in a certain field. This is especially true with translation, as simply being fluent in Russian does not mean that one will be capable of translating a document on advanced chemistry, but as a specialist in the field who is fluent in another language it will be easy to find translation work than cannot be done by many others. Also, being fluent in Russian or Turkish (or a related Turkic language) will prove to be especially valuable if you work in an oil company that has a particular interest in Central Asia.

The general rule of thumb is this: fluency in a language alone will not necessarily result in higher pay, but if combined with another skill it is much more likely to do so.





79. Languages with cases may seem intimidating to English speakers at times given how foreign the concept may be to an English speaker - English has mostly lost the use of cases (except the 's for the genitive and those in personal pronouns such as "I hit him" and "he hit me" (not "he hit I")), but keeping the right frame of mind will make them far less intimidating. Cases are usually used in situations where English would use a preposition, so just think of the case as a preposition on the other side. Lithuanian "Lietuva" (Lithuania) becomes "Lietuvoje" (in Lithuania) for example, and this -oje suffix is really just the same as English "in" except that it is on the other side, and must agree with the type of word it is attached to. You can also remove the endings to words when memorizing them in order to make them more succinct and easy to remember. The Lithuanian word vyras (man) for example declines in the singular this way:

  • nominative - vyras
  • genitive - vyro
  • dative - vyrui
  • accusative - vyrą
  • instrumental - vyru
  • locative - vyre
  • vocative - vyre

Looks complicated, but note that everything in the above chart is simply "vyr" plus an ending. In fact, since the nominative introduces the subject of a sentence you can think of vyras not as a word that means "a/the man", but a separate word "vyr" with an -as ending tacked on that makes it the subject.

Google is also your friend in finding example after example of these words in use, so if you want to work on remembering the genitive (vyro) then try searching for examples of "vyro (insert any noun you can think of here)" to see what you can find. Vyro namas (the man's house), vyro draugas (the man's friend), and then alternate the case for other words as well - draugo vyras (the friend's man), vyro draugo namas (the man's friend's house), and whatever you can come up with. Playing around with cases like this after a while will make them seem very familiar, and actually quite fun to use. Indeed, English may even seem a bit boring in comparison after you have become comfortable with mutating words in this manner every time you use them.





80. One easy way to give yourself daily exposure to the language you are learning is to find a feed to subscribe to. The easiest way to do this is to subscribe to a Twitter feed based on one or more keywords relevant to your interests. This will also depend on the size of the language you are learning, as with a small language even a single word may not appear for hours at a time, while with something much larger you will have to choose two or more in order to avoid being barraged with tweet after tweet throughout the day whenever a tweet containing the word comes up.

Some international broadcasters will have feeds of their own that may be worth subscribing to, such as Deutsche Welle's Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as a foreign language) and Deutsche im Fokus (German in focus), although there are not nearly as frequent as a Twitter feed. A feed that gives you one tweet every one to three hours is probably best.





81. If you have a site or a blog of your own you may already submit content of yours to sites like Reddit from time to time in order to bring attention to a post that otherwise would be ignored, and a particularly interesting entry may bring in tens of thousands of people in a single day. Such sites exist in other languages too, so if you have written something that the internet seems to find interesting then you may want to try translating it into the language you are studying as well, especially if you have found a Reddit-like site in that language with a sizeable and interesting community. While some sites come and go and never end up attaining a large user base, there are some particularly large ones in other languages: Meneame (Spanish), Wykop (Polish), Balatarin (Persian), and Lintas Berita (Indonesian) are a few examples. Not all languages have sizeable sites like these, but there are always certain community-based sites that are particularly popular in every language. LiveJournal is especially popular among Russian-language users, while Orkut is especially popular among Brazilians who make up the largest contingent of users there, with Indian users close behind.





82. The largest factor in how long it will take to learn a language will be personal drive. As long as you have at least a minimum of material to work from, everything else pales in comparison to personal drive as the deciding factor. Be wary of textbooks or programs that promise a new method that will somehow cause a language to almost slip into your mind without having to work at it, especially those that seem to be devoted to self-promotion ("Learn Portuguese in a Month With The Bob Johnson Method!") and are eager to promote it as the only method worth using. Multilingualism is in fact the norm in the world, and people in even the poorest countries have linguistic skills that put those in the developed world to shame. The reason why: personal drive. If learning English helps one sell wares on the street to passing English tourists, then that is what a person will learn, and learn well.

If you can somehow convince yourself (even if you live the most comfortable life imaginable) that this language you are learning is not just a hobby but rather a key to a better life, then you will be that much more driven to learn it. This is actually the reason why the earlier work of a great number of musicians, directors, artists and others is so much greater than what they produce after achieving success: before achieving commercial success they are often driven to succeed as much due to desperation and the drive to succeed whatever the odds as much as for the love of what they do, but after success is achieved will tend to relax, enjoy life as it is, and begin to coast. If you do not yet have a fierce desire to learn your language, think about how you can create it.





83. A person's skill in a language can be generally divided into four areas: readingwritingspeaking, and understanding. For most people, understanding and reading will be the most important. Young children are a good example of the importance of understanding. Though their vocabulary may be limited and their pronunciation awkward, they have few problems communicating with their parents and following conversations. It is usually far preferable to be able to follow a conversation even if you are only capable of adding a few words here and there, than to be able to compose full sentences on your own but not be able to understand what people say to them in reply. The former enables you to interact with speakers of the language even if you are not yet fluent, while with the latter you remain isolated for the most part.

The same is true to a certain extent for reading, as there is always going to be a lot more reading material created by others than the material you write yourself. There are exceptions to this, of course (for a politician or public speaker it is more important to be able to give a fluid speech than to be able to follow the speech of another) but in general it is best to concentrate most on understanding others.

In addition to this, since learning a language is largely a matter of imitating others, working on understanding others is also a good way to keep the things you say from being awkward. Sentences composed entirely on your own that you have not yet tested out yet may be grammatically correct but will just end up sounding wrong. Consider the sentence "I want to see you tonight" versus "my desire to meet you this evening is very strong". Both of these are technically grammatically correct, but the latter sentence is just awkward and no native speaker would seriously say that to another person. A student of a language who pays close attention to what others are saying will have heard the former said by others many times, and thus will have an instinctive feel that it is correct.




84. Language learning podcasts have been popular over the past few years, and most of these offer a certain amount of free content (the podcast itself) along with paid content on top of this for students that want more detail, such as transcripts on pdf and/or individual guidance. While not every language has podcasts of this type they exist for a surprising number of languages (even those spoken by just a few million), and often one will be able to find similar content in varying levels of completion on YouTube as well. Most podcasts of this type will feature one or more native speakers of the target language, along with English speakers who are either learning the language or have already learned it and are walking through the steps again. One example is the podcast Lithuanian Out Loud, produced by an American man and his Lithuanian wife along with guests from time to time, as he learns the language along with the listeners. Notes in Spanish is another podcast that has been going for a few years and is quite popular.





85. National broadcasters (and sometimes private companies) often offer the news in their language spoken at a slow rate for language learners and/or immigrants to the country, and this can be a good way to get one's fill of daily (or weekly) news without having to resort to English to get it. Some examples of this are:

- Deutsche Welle's Langsam gesprochene Nachrichten (slowly spoken news)
- Radio France International's Journal en français facile (Easy French)
- Norwegian's Klar Tale (Clear Speech - a private, weekly news podcast)
- YLI's Selkouutiset (slow spoken news in Finnish)

and many more.





86. After reaching an intermediate level in the language you are learning, see if you can find podcasts entirely in the language you are learning about subjects that you are interested in. Podcasts with a transcript will be even better (and there are many of this type), but depending on the size of the language you are learning you may only be able to find audio. For those interested in astronomy for example the German site Raumfahrer.net always has astronomy podcasts with text that matches up with audio, and while Afrikaans does not have exactly the same thing there is a program in Afrikaans known as Sterre en Planete (Stars and Planets) that is also about astronomy. Podcasts on more general subjects such as news and business are much easier to find. Latvia's Latvijas Radio has daily features in its news archive that have both audio and text.






87. If you are studying a particularly rare language with a very small presence on the internet, you may do yourself a favor by simply using your time to work extra hours in order to save up money to directly visit the country and stay in the long term. In general, when it is difficult to find much content in a language online this will be due to a low level of development in the country where it is used, but the bright side of this is that it will likely not cost as much money to simply move over to the country where it is used to live for a year or two. Amharic (the most used language in Ethiopia) is spoken by some 25 million people, but but with only about half a million people with internet access in 2010 its online presence is limited. The best way to learn Amharic, then, (besides finding Ethiopians in your city to teach you) is to learn the basics from the limited content available to you, and then to save up for a year or two or three in Ethiopia. While even this will cost a fair amount of money, it is nothing compared to a country like Norway where living in the long term would be unthinkable without either a fantastic amount of wealth or a job in the country. For countries like Ethiopia and Bangladesh it is possible to save up the money required for a year or two, in a much faster time than it would take to learn it on your own back home.







88. In some countries (especially those in Asia) it is easy to find English speakers on TV that have become famous for little more than having learned the language of the country to fluency. If you are the competitive type then watching some of these appearances may inspire you to work harder, especially since despite all the compliments you may receive on the study you have done so far, actually watching a fluent speaker in action who a number of years ago did not know a word in the language may help to reinforce your drive for real fluency. A little friendly competition is just as good in the language learning world as it is in business. 

In addition, due to having worked their way from scratch to complete fluency, many of these now-famous people have written textbooks for the language, and these are often quite good given that they are written by someone with direct experience in what it means to tackle a language from the background of an English speaker.





89. As the most translated book in the world, the Bible is often used to learn and compare languages, and when learning an extremely rare language it is often one of the only sources of written material that can be found. As it is not a single book but rather a collection of books and letters and other types of writing, however, some parts of the Bible are better for learning languages than others. Some parts of the Old Testament for example are packed with references to old kings, lands, customs, units of measurement, instructions for building, and all sorts of other vocabulary that hardly applies in the modern world, and are not recommended for language learners. This passage from Deuteronomy is a good example of a book that is not very helpful when learning a language.

8 So we passed by from our brethren the children of Esau, that dwell in Seir, from the way of the Arabah, from Elath and from Ezion-geber. And we turned and passed by the way of the wilderness of Moab. 9 And the LORD said unto me: 'Be not at enmity with Moab, neither contend with them in battle; for I will not give thee of his land for a possession; because I have given Ar unto the children of Lot for a possession.-- 10 The Emim dwelt therein aforetime, a people great, and many, and tall, as the Anakim; 11 these also are accounted Rephaim, as the Anakim; but the Moabites call them Emim.

Not only is it lacking in interest, but it has far too many names of locations and peoples and obscure references that will only confuse a language learner. Such passages are particularly confusing in a language like Chinese where even names and locations are written in hanzi (Chinese characters), and the student may not realize for a while that this new word he or she is looking up is actually not a word that needs to be learned, but an obselete place name.

 The best book of the Bible for a language learner is without a doubt the book Ecclesiastes, which has none of this specialized vocabulary, refers to no historical events or locations besides the city of Jerusalem, and has a good amount of repetition - just enough to make the vocabulary easy to learn, but not repetitive in the way that other parts of the Bible are when referring to chronology. An example of good repetition in Ecclesiastes:

1 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5 A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6 A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

and an example of the overall tone of the book:

7 Go your way—eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart; for God has already accepted your works. 8 Let your garments be always white, and don’t let your head lack oil. 9 Live joyfully with the wife whom you love all the days of your life of vanity, which he has given you under the sun, all your days of vanity: for that is your portion in life, and in your labor in which you labor under the sun. 10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in Sheol (the grave), where you are going. 

11 I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happen to them all. 12 For man also doesn’t know his time. As the fish that are taken in an evil net, and as the birds that are caught in the snare, even so are the sons of men snared in an evil time, when it falls suddenly on them.

In general one can say that books in the New Testament are more concise, easier to follow and more interesting to a modern reader than the Old Testament, although the first two books of the Old Testament (Genesis and Exodus) contain stories the majority of which people are already familiar and have an easy time following (creation of the Earth, expulsion from Eden, Noah's Ark, Moses and Egypt, etc.). Proverbs is also generally quite good.





90. If you intend to learn two or more languages, there may already be a language out there that already resembles both to a certain extent and may be worth taking a look at. Many languages straddle two or more linguistic families in the way English straddles the Germanic and Romance language families. Some examples:

Maltese is a Semitic language with a great deal of Italian (or more precisely, Sicilian) influence, and thus at times may look entirely Arabic and other times much like Italian. Arabic speakers from nearby countries such as Tunisia often say that Maltese is almost entirely comprehensible to them.

Uzbek is a Turkic language that has retained a large number of Persian words that standard Turkish has done away with ("poytaxt" for capital instead of Turkish "başkent", "pul" for money instead of "para", etc.).

Romanian is a Romance language but with about 10% of the vocabulary from Slavic languages (words such as "a iubi" - to love, "a citi" - to read, "nevoie" - need, etc.), and so on.

Luxembourgish is primarily a regional variant of German, but also has a large French influence due to its location (in between Germany and France) and the fact that French is also an official language of the tiny country.

While not extremely common, if you intend to learn two languages from separate families you may wish to see if you can find a language such as these that has been significantly influenced by both. Some languages may also be useful as a springboard to other languages later on due to their script, such as how Persian and Urdu use the Arabic script (though modified), and Kazakh and Mongolian the Cyrillic alphabet.





91. Especially in the intermediate stage, your best friend as the student of a language will be large amounts of text with recorded audio (this includes song lyrics too). One of the best places to find this content is on pages devoted to making content for the blind or hard of seeing. On the German Wikipedia for example the recordings of articles with the highest sound quality are made by the Deutsche Zentralbücherei für Blinde zu Leipzig, an organization devoted to recording books and other texts for the blind. Many such organizations not only record large amounts of audio content, but also will have text-to-speech tools that do a fairly good job at imitating the speech patterns of a speaker of the language.





92. It is often said that a student only needs to learn a few hundred words to understand half of anything said or written in a language. This is true, but also somewhat misleading, as all languages have a large number of function words that are often quite redundant in determining the meaning of any passage. The most common words in English are generally words such as: the, and, to, I, of, that, a, in, was, he, and so on, and though together the most common hundred or so words do make up about half of what one reads in English, it is impossible to write anything meaningful using them alone. Phrases using only the hundred most common words in a language tend to look like this: "Is it you?" "Yes, it is I. I am here. Are you there?" "No, I was there, now I am here. Where are they?"

For a demonstration of the role of frequent vs. infrequent vocabulary, let's take Bram Stoker's Dracula. Beginning with the most frequent words, you only have to remove the first 63 of them to reduce the book to half its size. However, the remaining 50% of the book is actually where the meaning lies, and this can be seen by reading the remaining 50% of the book. Take a look at the first few paragraphs of the book with the most frequent words removed:

(this is from Jonathan Harker's journal)

"3 May Bistritz --Left Munich 8:35 P M 1st May arriving Vienna early next morning should arrived 6:46 train an hour late Buda-Pesth seems wonderful place glimpse got train little walk through streets feared go very far station arrived late start near correct possible

impression leaving West entering East most western splendid bridges over Danube here noble width depth took among traditions Turkish rule

left pretty good came after nightfall Klausenburgh Here stopped night Hotel Royale dinner rather supper chicken done way red pepper very good thirsty (Mem get recipe Mina ) asked waiter called paprika hendl, national dish should able get anywhere along Carpathians

found smattering German very useful here indeed don't how should able get without

Having disposal London visited British Museum made search among books maps library regarding Transylvania struck foreknowledge country hardly fail importance dealing nobleman country"

As you can see, even with half of the words removed the remaining words are those that convey the most meaning. For comparison, here is the same text with only the most frequent words. The text is slightly smaller given that more frequent words are generally smaller.

at, on, at; have at 6:46, but was late. a, from the which I of it from the and the I could the. I to from the, as we had and would as the time as.

The I had was that we were the and the; the of the, which is of and, us the of.

We in time, and to. I for the at the. I had for, or, a up some with, which was but. (for.) I the, and he said it was "," and that, as it was a, I be to it the.

I my of, I know I be to on it.

had some time at my when in, I had the, and the and in the; it had me that some of the could to have some in with a of that.

You can see that knowing the most frequent words you can read the same number of words, but the original meaning is hardly conveyed at all.

Finally, for comparison here is the complete passage without any words removed. You can see that the least frequent words have done a much better job conveying the meaning.

3 May. Bistritz. Left Munich at 8:35 P. M, on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning; should have arrived at 6:46, but train was an hour late. Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. I feared to go very far from the station, as we had arrived late and would start as near the correct time as possible.

The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East; the most western of splendid bridges over the Danube, which is here of noble width and depth, took us among the traditions of Turkish rule.

We left in pretty good time, and came after nightfall to Klausenburgh. Here I stopped for the night at the Hotel Royale. I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem. get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called "paprika hendl," and that, as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians.

I found my smattering of German very useful here, indeed, I don't know how I should be able to get on without it.

Having had some time at my disposal when in London, I had visited the British Museum, and made search among the books and maps in the library regarding Transylvania; it had struck me that some foreknowledge of the country could hardly fail to have some importance in dealing with a nobleman of that country.

For the language student this means that a healthy interest in vocabulary is highly recommended, as a focus on function words alone simply because they make up most of a language (some textbooks recommend this) will not give you the ability to express yourself in the way you need to.





93. 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.





94. Forums devoted to translating TV shows and movies to and from English can be extremely helpful once you have reached the intermediate stage in your target language.

One good example of this are the forums and a wiki devoted to translating the movie Star Wreck, a Finnish parody of Star Trek and Babylon 5. On the main page of the wiki where the translations can be found is a pdf (see it here) that provides not just an English translation but an annotated version as well, in order to more correctly convey the original Finnish humor in detail that would be impossible in the constraints provided by just regular subtitles. The annotated version has been provided in order to help people translate the movie correctly into their own language without necessarily having to be fluent in Finnish (a rare skill to have), and provides an example of how surveying the activity between translators can be so educational.

Discussions between translators on what to do with humor in English movies can be particularly interesting - sometimes jokes will work as is, other times another idiom will have to be used, and sometimes a translator will have to come up with something completely new or simply avoid the joke altogether.





95. Taking a look at some unorthodox places to immerse yourself in a language can be helpful if you don't have a great deal of time or money at the moment. Some examples of this:

- For those in Canada Quebec is usually the place to go to to learn French, but there is actually a small group of French islands right off the coast of Newfoundland known as St. Pierre and Miquelon that are quite popular as a place to learn French for those from Newfoundland, as the ferry takes but an hour and a half to reach the islands. 

- If you live in Asia then Macau (a former Portuguese colony) may be the best place to learn Portuguese, and if currently residing in Japan then keep in mind that there is a large community of Portuguese speakers in the city of Hamamatsu, in between Nagoya and Tokyo.

- Even Basque (spoken in a corner of Europe from northern Spain to a part of southwestern France) has a surprisingly large community in Boise, Idaho, and even has a Basque language kindergarten.

- The small town of Gimli, Manitoba (Canada) also has a large Icelandic community with an Icelandic festival every year and many opportunities to practice the language.

If you are lucky you will be able to find something like this near the area where you live for the language you are studying.









96. Though ancient languages are often assumed to be long extinct, there are quite a few ancient languages throughout the world that are either still alive (and sometimes even thrive), whereas others remain liturgical languages and though may have few fluent speakers, can still be learned. Some examples of this are:

- Coptic, the descendant of the Ancient Egyptian language. Still spoken by a few in Egypt and by Copts around the world, it also remains the liturgical language of the Coptic Church of Alexandria, with a total membership of some 20 million. The Coptic language uses a script based on the Greek alphabet and thus does not use Egyptian hieroglyphics anymore, but besides this it is simply the modern form of the Ancient Egyptian language.

- Aramaic - once a major language throughout the Middle East, it is still spoken today. Most famous now as the language of Jesus Christ, there are three villages in Syria where the language continues to be spoken every day.

- Mayan languages - it is often thought that the Mayan languages must have died out due to the large amount of Mayan architecture from ancient times. In fact, the Mayan languages are spoken by some 6 million people today in Central America and are in no danger of extinction.

- Sanskrit - Sanskrit is another language that is thought to have died out in the same way that Latin now has no native speakers. However, Sanskrit has some 14,000 native speakers at present and is being promoted in the state of Uttarakhand. It is also one of the 22 scheduled languages of India.





97. Recent history has shown language revival to be not as difficult a process as previously thought. Though English historically tended to weaken and even completely wipe out smaller languages, the prevalence of language preservation and revival today shows that this is not something inherent to languages themselves, but rather simply the fact that other smaller languages were actively persecuted and banned before. Nowadays a number of languages are undergoing revival due to a much more positive climate, and even when surrounded by much larger languages such as English and Spanish. Some of these are:

- Welsh: As of 2004, 21.7% of the population in Wales spoke Welsh. In comparison, 20.5% spoke Welsh according to the census in 2001, and the census in 1991 showed just 18.5%.

- Cornish: Another Celtic language like Welsh but with a much smaller population, it went through a period of virtual extinction but has begun to revive itself with 2,000 fluent speakers today. Disagreement over how to write the language was a stumbling block to reviving the language until 2008 when an agreement on a single orthography (the Standard Written Form) was reached.

- Basque: one of the most unique languages in Europe, Basque is spoken in a region that extends from northern Spain to part of southwest France. Basque is one of the few non-Indo-European languages in Europe, and continued to be spoken it its corner of the world even after thousands of years of being completely surrounded by other languages. 30.1% of the population in the Basque Autonomous Community are fluent Basque speakers, an increase from 29.5% in 2001, 27.7% in 1996 and 24.1% in 1991.

- Hebrew: Hebrew is an especially interesting case as it was not simply a language that retained a core number of native speakers that kept the language alive, but a language that remained a liturgical language with no native speakers for some 1500 years - from the 2nd century until it was reconstructed and revived in the late 19th century. Modern Hebrew now has some 7 million speakers and is in no danger of dying out.





98. Sometimes the best way to quickly explain the nature of a language is to compare it to another one, and online one can find an almost limitless numbers of of these quick comparisons. While never entirely accurate, they are a fun way to quickly sum up the overall character of a language. A page here has a few hundred.

A few of the more interesting ones are:

  • Norwegian is essentially Danish spoken with a Swedish accent.
  • Danish is essentially Swedish after running over all consonants that didn't get out of the way fast enough.
  • Dutch is essentially German written with English spelling.
  • Spanish is basically just a crude form of Vulgar Latin jazzed up with a little Basque and Arabic.
  • All Romance languages are essentially the same. Except French.
  • French is essentially an attempt by the Dutch to speak a Romance language.
  • Portuguese is Spanish spoken by a drunken Frenchman.
  • Bulgarian is essentially Russian spoken with an Italian accent.





99. The Slavic languages by and large resemble each other to about the same extent that Romance languages do. Russian is by far the most commonly used Slavic language, and though it is grammatically quite complex material is plentiful and easy to find. The second-largest Slavic language is Polish, with some 50 million speakers. It is also the largest Slavic language in the European Union, and Poland over the past year has become a highly-developed country on the Human Development Index. As it is written in the Latin alphabet there is no need to learn a new alphabet when learning Polish, though grammar is typically complex and pronunciation can be difficult. Czech and Slovak are closely related Slavic languages, also written with the Latin alphabet. Serbian, Croatian, Montenegrin and Bosnian are essentially the same language, and are spoken in the south of Europe near and next to the Mediterranean. Serbian tends to use the Cyrillic alphabet more than the others, which use the Latin alphabet. Slovenian is somewhat related to these languages, but not mutually intelligible. Grammatically, Bulgarian (and Macedonian, similar enough to each other to be mutually intelligible) is the most unique of the Slavic languages as the way nouns are used much more closely resembles English: Bulgarian uses a definite article as English does, and nouns do not decline - Bulgarian uses prepositions instead, in the same way English does. Bulgarian is the descendant of Old Church Slavonic, the lingua franca of the Slavic languages during the Middle Ages. It is written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Bulgarian does have a much more complex verbal system than the other Slavic languages though.





100. Sometimes the best way to spend your day studying a language is to simply isolate yourself from anything technological (that usually means actually turning off your phone since glancing at one's phone can be a bad habit) and going over a good textbook for hours, without writing anything down either. If the textbook is detailed enough it will take an entire day just to read through once, and in doing so you will be able to notice areas you might have neglected before.

Pay attention to each sentence and grammatical point you find, giving it just the right amount of attention. The right amount of attention is this: read over and give attention to everything you find, and linger slightly longer on words you do not know. However, do not get bogged down in one part of the book, as your task here is to cover as much ground in one sitting as possible. Act as if you were "checking off" sentences and grammatical points, in the following manner:

- ones you understand completely
- those you mostly understand but are glad to review
- those that are somewhat iffy and require a bit more attention
- those that are completely new.

The goal in one sitting is to bring the entirely new concepts to an iffy state, the iffy concepts to a state where you mostly understand them, and the ones you mostly understand to a state where you completely understand them. Treat it almost as an investigation into your own mind, or an overall upgrade of what you know.





101. Some languages such as Korean and Vietnamese underwent a great deal of foreign influence (in this case Chinese), and though they have recently made the decision to largely do away with Chinese characters in daily life, they still carry a strong enough influence on the language that one could say that a basic knowledge of how they work is a necessity for full fluency. Some examples from Korean:

석탄 (石炭) -- seoktan, coal
탄소 (炭素) -- tanso, carbon

Here the character 'tan' means carbon or charcoal. Taking the first element from the first word (seok, stone) we can now see another group of related words:

보석 (寶石) -- boseok, jewel
석유 (石油) -- seokyu, oil (petroleum) -- literally 'rock oil'

The 'so' character in the second word is also used as a suffix for other elements.

This does not mean that you will need to learn to write the characters as you would if they were used in daily life, but a general knowledge of how they are written and the role they play in vocabulary in the language will be essential for fluency. Many other languages have a large Arabic influence as well.

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