Thursday, December 29, 2011

Korean script

I can now phonetically read almost any Korean word put in front of me. The only part I have yet to learn are the dipthongs and double consonants. Basically, dipthongs are two vowel sounds joined together in the same syllable to make a new vowel sound.

I can thank...
Since Judith has not yet finished her sixth lesson--which would deal with the dipthongs I still have to learn--I plan on watching and taking notes on Professor Oh's next two videos:

Learn Korean 3: Double Consonants (and some words)
Learn Korean 4: Dipthongs (complex + compound vowels) with MINI DRAMA!

The girl has some serious video skillz.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Save the drama for your mama.

The Korean drama, that is. I unapologetically have been sucked into a series genre which is second in nerdiness only to anime. The acting is so bad sometimes, that I wonder how the scenes can evoke anything other than the gag reflex. Instead, I find myself laughing out loud or muttering at the characters on the screen as tears stream down my face. Here's how Korean dramas sucked me in:

Netflix. Yes, I can blame a lot of my wasted time on the streaming movies available on Netflix. Since I watch so many subtitled movies (See? I do read!), Netflix suggested "Playful Kiss" as a series I might be interested in checking out. I'm not going to recommend it, as it is more than mildly aggravating to watch... though watch it, I did. All twenty-something hours of it.

Just this morning, I finished watching the last hour-long episodes of another (much better) series called "Boys Over Flowers/Boys Before Flowers." The lead characters are less idiotic, the lead female is less helpless and pathetic, and the lead male is less of a complete jerk. Plus, there are four dreamy Asian main characters in this one (see image below). I've sort of developed a crush on the one to the far right. (What, am I in? High school?!)

But on a more serious note, I really started to appreciate some things about what I was watching:
  1. the sound of the language.
  2. the fact that I started to recognize words that were being said.
  3. the cultural differences between the US and Korea.
I also realized that:
  1. Koreans use a phonetic alphabet.
  2. Korean is an SOV language, which means that the verb comes at the end of the utterance (among other very distinct word-order differences characteristic of SOV languages).
  3. I have always wanted to learn to read and write a new alphabet.
  4. I have wanted to learn an SOV language since I learned about it in grad school.
  5. the path to learning Korean = talking to cute Korean guys.
So, I took myself to the public library tonight and checked out an audio book on learning Korean. Turns out, I have to learn the entire alphabet pretty well before it even lets me get to Lesson 1. Thankfully, I stumbled upon Judith Meyer's free online lessons to reading and writing Hangul, the Korean script. Her lessons were so well-constructed that she had me easily reading about fifty words in the span of thirty minutes. And writing several independently, too. Brilliant!

So, with that, I sign off. Goodbye! Annyonghi kashipshiyo! 안녕히 가심시오!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Will I ever Finnish?

Day 2 of my learn-to-count-in-many-languages challenge. Tonight I learned Finnish. And, by golly was it a real mouthful. See for yourself. This is worse than French, I think.

"They wouldn't be able to count seconds," my roommate remarked. "It takes longer than a second to say each number. They'd have to skip a few, like, 'sixty-three, sixty-six, seventy...'"

Surprisingly, though, the outrageously long names for Finnish numbers have not discouraged the country's math scholars from rising to the occasion. According to the 2009 PISA report (Programme for International Student Assessment) Finland was the top country for science education and the second place country for math education. Impressive.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I am trying out his new site that one of my former grad school professors recommended to me. It is called Livemocha. In addition to having a pretty kick-ass name, it also seems to have quite a lot of free perks for its members. There is a three-day free trial of everything, but I think a lot of the basic services and beginning lessons are free.

The best part about this site is the fact that you can submit writing or audio clips of yourself speaking, and honest-to-god, real people read or listen to your submission, rate it, and give you helpful suggestions. At my fingertips are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of native speakers of my target language (in this case, French), but I could also get help with Spanish, too, I suppose.

AAAAAAAAAND... If I am helpful and review submissions by people who are learning English, I earn points towards a "teacher score" which can help me get more free lessons if I rack up enough of them. I will have to report more on this as I test it out.

The only downside right now is that I cannot figure out how to record anything. My computer and Flash and this website seem to all be speaking different languages.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Language faux pas

Today I was reminded how funny language really is. There are just some things that--no matter how hard we try to be vigilant of what is leaving our mouths--simply come out wrong. That's half the fun of words, really.

Me (reading aloud): And then he stuck the flower in his button hole.
Student: Stuck it in his WHAT hole?!!
Me: No, no, no... Butt-ON. The word is butt-ON. Oh, for goodness sakes...

I lost the inability to hold my "teacher face." We all laughed for a full minute.

I told them that next year I will be reading, and then he pinned the flower to his lapel.

It reminded me of the several occasions in which I put my foot in my mouth after saying something unintended in Spanish. And invariably... it always has something to do with bodily waste-removal or procreation-type activities. That's just the nature of the beast.

Friday, March 4, 2011


Soy incapaz de dejar de escucharla. I can't stop listening to Julieta.

Hoping to pass the sickness on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Spanish again...

Since I am going to a Julieta Venegas concert next weekend near Boston, I decided to put the French down for a bit and spend the majority of this week trying to memorize all of the choruses to all the Julieta songs in the CD of hers that I just downloaded. Because, let's face it, it's waaaaaay better to go to a concert when you know the words to the songs and can sing along. I have quite a lot of work ahead of me. If I memorize three songs a day, I might make it. Or perhaps I should just listen to the whole CD as many times as humanly possible before then.

Already, it's really amazingly good and I'm only at song number two. Here is the video for Bien o Mal. It will make you laugh out loud.

I highly encourage anyone who has never heard Julieta, to poke around on youtube to watch her videos, or just download this album, Otra Cosa. I'm going to go ahead and recommend it to you even though I am now only on song three.

You'll freakin' love it. Promise.

Oh, and... here is a whole montón of Spanish crossword puzzles. Awesome. I just wish I could figure out how to have it give me the answers to the words that I don't know.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Progress with French numbers

So, I sort of already learned the numbers 1-100... a week early. I was so motivated today that I studied them for, like, three hours. I think maybe the French "r" makes my throat go all wonky. I was saying quatre-vingt so many times, which is the beginning of all numbers in the 80s and 90s, and that silly "r" is very prominent there. When I finished my language lesson, I suddenly had to keep clearing my throat. I wonder what it feels like to try to speak French with post-nasal drip. Or maybe the French never get that.

I know that part of setting a "smart" goal is timeliness. That's why I took my long-term goal and broke it up into the component parts to make it happen. I've been making a lot of goals lately... but they are pretty helpful. I like them and they keep life interesting. I just have to be careful not to have too many. Then I get confused and never accomplish any of them.

Here is a fantastic page with audio quizzes in French numbers. I was actually doing really well hearing the spoken numbers and writing them down quickly. It's another site. French Numbers: Listen & Repeat. If you scroll down a bit, you can click on "Listen" and a new tab will open up with an audio clip of a woman rattling off numbers faster than you can write them down on the page (if you're new to it, that is). Exercise 1 is slower than exercise 2. With another set of numbers (1-69, I think) there is an even faster exercise 3. Craziness. I got good at hearing and recognizing the numbers with this, though. It is a great tool for learning to hear the numbers. After listening and writing all the numbers down, you can click on "List," which is under "Listen," and you can check to see how many you got correct.

Then, once I had heard the way the numbers sounded enough times, I went to test myself with some Quia games that some nice person had cooked up. I was then able to say them on my own aloud. Hoorah.

BIG QUESTION. Who invented the French counting system? It's absolutely ridiculous. I wonder if that guy was shot or bowed-and-arrowed. Or clubbed over the head. Certainly deserves it, by the way.

10 = dix (ten)
20 = vingt (twenty)
30 = trente (trente)
40 = quarante (forty)
50 = quincante (fifty)
60 = soixante (sixty)
61 = soixante-et-un (sixty-and-one)
62 = soixante-deux (sixty-two)
63 = soixante-trois (sixty-three)

Up to this point, the French numbers have a number structure similar to both English and Spanish. Up to this point, things seem rather normal. Things quickly move downhill from here as the you-know-what starts to hit the fan.

70 = soixante-dix (sixty-ten)
71 = soixante-et-onze (sixty-and-eleven)
72 = soixante-deux (sixty-twelve)
73 = soixante-treize (sixty-thirteen)

Wait, really?
It goes on like that for a bit until...

80 = quatre-vingts (four-twentys)
81 = quatre-vingt-un (four-twenty-one)
82 = quatre-vingt-deux (four-twenty-two)
83 = quatre-vingt-trois (four-twenty-three)

Awesome. Then it gets even better...

90 = quatre-vingt-dix (four-twenty-ten)
91 = quatre-vingt-onze (four-twenty-eleven)
92 = quatre-vingt-douze (four-twenty-twelve)
93 = quatre-vingt-treize (four-twenty-thirteen)

My roommate: "So you have to do math just to say the numbers? If you wanted to add, you'd have to add before you add?"
Me: "Yeah, makes me think maybe French people aren't that good with numbers."

Anyway, I knew the French numbers were severely messed up before I started. That's why I made it this week's goal. I'll keep plugging away.

Goal setting

I've been having a lot of success with goal-setting this year. Goals are fantastic if you do them right. There is a sort of "check" system you can run your ideas through to see if your goals are "smart" ones. Google "SMART goals" or checkout websites like this one for more information on goal setting.


Therefore, because of my success in my daily life attempts to keep my apartment fairly clean, I will make a language goal in French.

Long-term French goal:
By this time next year (2/6/12), I will have gone to a French language meetup group. I would like to be able to hold my own in a very basic conversation. Right now, I would never put myself in an immersion setting, because I simply don't have the means to express basic things.

Short-term French goal:
By the end of this week (2/13/11), I will be comfortable in the French number system, numbers 1-100. I will be able to look at the number form and both (a) say the French name of the number aloud and (b) be able to correctly write/spell the French words for the numbers on paper.

As I just mentioned, there are a lot of holes in my French knowledge. I am starting to really piece the puzzle together bit by bit, but need some of the basics. Here is a list of language tools/abilities I will need to be conversational in French (the list comes largely from what I find very useful conversationally in Spanish):

  • Familiarity/practice with basic verbs: Need, want, be able to, think, make, do, like/love, wish, have, come, go, give, say, tell, see, hear, know, find, look for, study, teach, learn, etc.
  • Knowledge of common small-talk expressions and questions as well as common responses to these comments and questions
  • Topic-specific vocabulary to talk about my job, my hobbies, my life, my family, etc.
  • Colors, numbers, alphabet, months, days, etc.
  • Words/phrases that come in handy when vocabulary holes prevail: Stuff, something, thing, kind of/sort of, a little, you know, how do you say... ?, what is this called?, like this, etc.
  • Very important, highly used words: Maybe, if, however, but, together, far, near, everywhere, everyone, everything, next, last, first, now, later, again, still, yet, yesterday, of course, etc.
  • Already-constructed sentences to express facts about your progress (how much of the language you know and don't know) as well as ability to ask for clarification from others: What are you saying? Could you repeat that? What does _____ mean?
As you can see, I have a quite lengthy list, but I will add to it as I think of things.

I just took a multiple choice quiz on my knowledge of numbers 1-100 and got 88 (quatre-vingt-huit) out of 100 (cent) questions right. Fantastic.

Hasta pronto et au revoir, mis amigos.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Watching lots of movies in French

I've been keeping up the French lately... or at least listening to it. I know there is a language-learning tactic that involves watching movies repeatedly without subtitles. The good news about French is that I am already starting to get a feel for the pronunciation, and am able to pick out words in fluid speech. I have no idea what is happening in the movies, but I sure do enjoy listening to it.

At this point, I am having a whole lot of fun repeating things that I hear, but I don't know enough to say anything worthwhile yet. It sounds so beautiful, though.

I want to keep going, so I will continue to watch movies. Right now, I am watching "A Very Long Engagement" for the second time. The first time, this morning, I read the subtitles, so this time I already know what the storyline is, and I can relax and listen away. Perhaps that is cheating a little, but I don't really care. I've been studying Spanish for eleven years now and I still don't always understand movies without the subtitles.

The process is slow-moving, but fun. I would like to take a French class or do what (in Spanish) we call an "intercambio" with someone who speaks fluent, native French and wants to learn some English. Spanish and Portuguese speakers are easy to find around these parts, but I wonder how easy it will be to find French speakers?

I'm getting really good at pronouncing the French "r," by the way.

Au revoir.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Back to le Français...

Not sure exactly why, but I've taken a renewed interested in picking up French recently. Actually... I think it might have been spurred by daydreams of joining two of my friends on a trip to Norway this summer. I've got my fingers crossed that I can scrounge up the money to go. Naturally, I started to ask myself what the Norwegian language sounds like. So I started poking around online for some language information. That, in turn, reminded me that it had been a super long time since I'd practiced what little French I know. So I started back up.

So far, so good. I'm surprised at how much it's starting to come together and make sense in little basic pieces. It's fun to be a beginner at something again. Floundering and flubbing up over the basics is sort of refreshing. And it has the added benefit of making Spanish feel comfortable like a pair of old, comfy pantuflas (slippers).

Here is my current level of French understanding: Téléfrançais. Thank you, Max, for turning me on to this.