Computer Languages

Hi everyone! I know it’s been awhile since I posted but this semester of school has been rough. Currently I’m finishing up my BA in Linguistics with a Certificate in TESOL while also starting my MA in Linguistics.

After much peer pressure, pressure from teachers, and nearly being hired at an amazing company, I’ve decided to delve into the word of computer languages. Generally we don’t think of programming as “computer languages” though I like the metaphor.

About two years ago when I was preparing to attend a university, I took a class in information systems and got my first taste of programming by learning Python. Obviously I didn’t keep up with it since I figured I’d never need it. When I made my decision to learn programming I immediately settled on Python as the first one to learn since it was the only one I was familiar with. Currently I’m using Code Academy to learn and I must say it’s pretty awesome. I’m hoping to master Python and at least one other program by the end of August, though that might be a bit ambitious with summer classes. I’m also hoping to return to studying languages starting this summer. I’m hoping to become fairly fluent in French, German, and a ton of others though for summer I’ll probably focus on French, Italian, German, and Vietnamese (I have a soft spot for romance languages).

Hopefully I will have more time to practice and continue to update you on my progress with natural and computer languages! I’m also still working on my Language Journal and hope to maybe get some practice worksheets together to upload to this blog.

Are you learning a computer language or a natural language? Let me know how it’s going!

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Learning French

After taking a rather long hiatus I am back to language learning! I think the language I have made the most progress with this summer is French. I have been using two French books and Rosetta Stone to build up my French and I think it is really paying off!

When I started learning French, I was very frustrated with the conjugations for verbs (they are all spelled differently depending on the person doing the action but in most conjugations they are pronounced exactly the same) and the use of Elle (pronounced El) for feminine and Il (pronounced eel) for masculine. This last part is because of my having studied Italian (which uses Il for masculine) and Spanish (which uses El for masculine). After practicing awhile I managed to get it down fairly well, though I do slip up sometimes.

I’m still working on the conjugations. If I hear it or read it I can generally tell who is doing the action, though I am still having trouble with writing.

Because of classes and the necessary hiatus, I haven’t made as much progress as I had hoped. I go through the exercises and the books very slowly to make sure I completely grasp the material before moving on. As a result I am only on like chapter 5. I really want to take French classes (along with many other language classes) but currently can’t fit them in my schedule. By the time I do take them, I should have no problem since I have been studying!

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Challenges in Learning a Foreign Language

I think I will start this post by saying I dislike the term “foreign language” especially when it refers to a language close to home (for me this would be Spanish, Portuguese, Hmong, and Vietnamese especially). I feel as though using the term “foreign” implies that it is far away and strange. I suppose that this works to an extent though since when you start out learning a language it is often very confusing and unfamiliar.

Getting back to what this post was originally about, I wanted to briefly discuss some of the challenges that I have been facing in learning languages.

Social Pressure: many may not even consider this when it comes to learning a language! Even if you live in a linguistically diverse area and have access to great language materials and speakers, you may never take the steps to actually learning the language. This was me for the longest time. The problem wasn’t laziness or lack of discipline, it was that every time I tried to learn someone would try to put me down. They would make fun of me because I said a word wrong, respond to me by saying a phrase too fast or complicated for me to understand and then laugh, or tell me that it would take many many years of intense study before I could even consider myself decent at the language. I try to stress to everyone I meet to focus on the goal and ignore anything that would prevent them from reaching their goal. Something you need to understand is that these people likely are feeling insecure about their own language abilities for whatever reason and that it has nothing to do with you. You have no room in your life for people to put you down and stop you from reaching your goals.

Fluency: I get a headache every single time the topic of fluency comes up. This goes back to the previous paragraph’s idea that it will take a lifetime to become fluent and years to become decent. There’s this misconception that you have to learn a language as a child to be fluent. If this were the case we wouldn’t have remedial English classes specially for English speakers and we wouldn’t have non-native English speakers teaching English. No you don’t need to memorize a dictionary full of vocabulary in order to say you know the language. English is my first language and I still have to look up words in the dictionary now and then or make mistakes in spelling, grammar, or pronunciation! This does not mean that I’m stupid or lack fluency in English, it simply means that I’m a human being and no one is perfect. Please remember this, no one is perfect and you don’t have to be in order to speak a language. I think a better idea of fluency is your ability to create unique sentences and express yourself as well as converse with others. This goes beyond the simple “Hi how are you? My name is…” structure for starting out. While it can be fun and useful to know slang and idiomatic expressions (i.e. cat’s out of the bag) they certainly are absolutely necessary for being fluent. However, you will certainly want to learn pragmatics for the language, especially if you are planning to stay in a language community for work or school (in other words, know the cultural meanings behind refusals, acceptances, and covert comments. Although you may offer someone water and they refuse, it is possible that according to their culture you must refuse three times before accepting or say something is tasty even if you don’t like it.

Grammar: Some people find grammar easy while for others it is very challenging. For me personally, grammar has never been much of an issue. First step is figuring out what order the Subject Object and Verb are in for making a grammatical sentence. Once you know this then it is a matter of knowing smaller grammar things such as where prepositions go (words such as to, at), where demonstratives go (words such as those, that, these), along with tensing (past, present, future), and conjugations (I sleep, she sleeps). Grammar used to be difficult for me until I had to start drawing tree diagrams in my Linguistics classes (literally a tree with each branch showing the grammatical relations within the sentence).

Spelling: I have trouble with spelling in English, now I have to do it in other languages! For phonetic languages (such as Spanish and German) this really isn’t an issue. Once you memorize the sounds associated with the letters the words really are spelled exactly as they sound. For languages such as French this can be challenging (and has been for me) because there are so many silent letters. Just keep practicing! Reading passages in the language helps a lot!

Pronunciation: I have always considered this the easiest thing about learning a foreign language! All you have to do is mimic a native speaker/signer over and over! Maybe this sounds hard but after the third try most people get it correct! Some language learning programs, such as Mango, will show you how the word looks phonetically in your first language. I don’t really recommend this because most likely the two languages don’t include the same sounds (i.e. English does not have the trilled ‘r’ found in French or Spanish). For learning pronunciation, just focus on getting your mouth (or hands if it’s signing) to move in the correct ways to make the correct sound. When you first start learning a language you may have to train your mouth to make new sounds, but you can accomplish this faster than you think! Some people are afraid to learn tonal languages such as Vietnamese or Mandarin because they think it is too hard. Many people don’t realize that English is tonal in many respects because by changing where you stress the word you can make it a noun or a verb (example: a part, apart or a way, away). English also uses tone to indicate sarcasm or a question. Something else to consider in learning a tonal language is that the tones are relative to individual speaking levels. In other words, they are not “set” in that you have to dramatically alter your style of speaking in order to achieve them. If you are trying to accomplish a high rising tone (in which you raise your pitch) and you have a low speaking pitch naturally that doesn’t mean you have to raise it to be super high pitched, just raise it enough that people can tell you are doing a high rising pitch.

Time: Probably the greatest challenge in learning a language is finding the time to study! With work, school, families, friends, and all that it can be hard to schedule in some time for learning a language. There are ways to make this happen though! You can always take a class (not only scheduled time but also at the risk of hurting your GPA if you don’t study!), get apps on your phone, or take a book or audio with you to read/listen to while you are waiting for class or an appointment or on break at work.

I hope this post has been helpful and inspiring! Please feel free to share your own challenges or progress in learning a language! Good luck!

Posted in Acquisition, American Sign Language (ASL), English, French, German, Phonology, Pragmatics, Spanish, Syntax | Leave a comment

About Me and this Blog

In case you didn’t read the About Me page for this blog I thought that I would re-post it here. At the time it made sense to have it as a separate page but now I realize that it is a little confusing.

Hello and thanks for clicking on this blog!

Some quick information about me:

In studying linguistics I have furthered my ability to analyze languages and as a result learn them fairly quickly. As an aspiring writer, I decided to start this blog as a way of recording and sharing my progress with my languages.

Some programs I’ve used for studying languages:

  • Rosetta Stone
  • College courses
  • Mango
  • Duolingo
  • Michelle Thomas Method
  • ASLpro
  • Signing Time
  • Sign Enhancers Bravo Family Series

I mainly use Mango and Duolingo since they are available for free (Mango can be accessed for free through select libraries).

Languages I’ve studied and/or hope to study:

  • American Sign Language
  • Arabic
  • Cherokee
  • Dutch
  • Farsi
  • French
  • German
  • Greek
  • Hindi
  • Hungarian
  • Irish
  • Italian
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Mandarin
  • Navajo
  • Norwegian
  • Polish
  • Portuguese
  • Russian
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Swedish
  • Turkish
  • Vietnamese

I hope that my posts are enjoyable and inspire you to learn languages as well!

 

 

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Hardest Languages to Learn for English Speakers

Awhile back I stumbled upon a chart on Pinterest that diagrammed the hardest languages for English speakers to learn. I wasn’t able to find a decent sized picture, but I did find one that separated the three sections so they were large enough to read.

Hard-Languages-To-Learn3

Hard-Languages-To-Learn4

Hard-Languages-To-Learn5

I can’t say that I am surprised by the rankings. Those that are ranked as “easy” are the most similar to English while those ranked as “hard” have less in common with English. These languages are not inherently easy or difficult, these rankings are simply in relation to how difficult or easy it would be for an English speaker to learn them (in other words the rankings would differ in the native language of the learner was say Arabic or Swahili).

Many people who I’ve shown these rankings to were put off by the estimated time to become fluent. I say, keep in mind that these are estimates. If you have grown up in a community where one of the “hard” languages is spoken, you may become fluent faster than the estimated time since you have previous exposure and available conversation partners. As well, if you’ve taken a class in the language versus studying independently will influence how long before you are fluent. With all this talk of fluency, I have a feeling I will need to define it or write a post about it!

If you really want to learn a language, I recommend taking a class in it (at least a year, so if you are in college make that two semesters), find some conversation partners (best to get more than one in case of dialect differences), and create your own study materials (like the Language Journal!). You can become just as fluent without taking a class or reading a grammar book, it just might take some more time! If you can, visit wherever the language is spoken! Staying in Mexico really helped me with learning Spanish while attending Deaf events helped me with learning ASL!

Don’t be discouraged, approach learning a new language with enthusiasm!

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Language Journal

Welcome back! Hope your language studying is going well!

In studying languages these past few days I was really starting to strain my eyes from staring at the computer/phone screen for so long (I tend to lose track of time when I’m having fun). I do have a lot of books, but I like to use those more for reference and use my apps as actual practice or application. I was able to come up with a solution, however!

I decided to start writing notes from my books and apps, that way I didn’t have to hunt around through my books to find specific things to study and had something to study from when my eyes got tired. I started out just writing grammar notes (like conjugation tables and irregular verbs) and then started writing down vocabulary. I only started doing this a few days ago and already have a neat little stack. I would post pictures, but some of my notes are word for word copies from the books and I don’t want to get in trouble for plagiarism or copyright infringement. I have the pages separated according to focus (conjugations, numbers, vocabulary, and grammar notes).

I’m planning to get a binder with tabs to put them all in, that way I can have them organized and study better without carrying a bunch of books. This is also great for if you are planning to travel to another country since you can study from it on the plane or anywhere! I really recommend that anyone studying a language or languages make their own journal! Not only does it help you with referencing, but it also helps you to remember and know what to study. The best part is that the journal is specific to you! If you learn a whole page of vocabulary from your journal by heart you can just remove it or if you forget how to conjugate in the future perfect you can add it in!

So far mine has a few entries for Spanish, Swahili, French, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Italian (just to give you an idea of what I’ve been studying). Unfortunately I haven’t thought of a way to incorporate signed languages into the journal. I guess you could write down the words to study and then just practice the signs while you go down the list or print pictures from the internet of those signs and write in the meanings.

Good luck! I will be posting again soon! Until then I hope you start your own language journal and tell me how it works for you!

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Progress Report

Before I start blogging about my progress with languages I thought I should begin by first posting about my current progress with languages. This way, I can better see my progress
by having something to compare.

American Sign Language:

I have taken two college courses in ASL, in addition to using the study aids Signing Time, ASLpro, and Sign Enhancers Bravo Family Series. I am also using Talking with Your Hands, Listening with Your Eyes, American Sign Language Dictionary, 500 Flash Cards of American Sign Language, and The American Sign Language Phrase Book.

Spanish:

I have taken two college courses in Spanish, Rosetta Stone (levels 1 & 2), and Michelle Thomas Method (level 1). I am currently using Duolingo (level 7) and Vistas.

Italian:

I have taken one college course in Italian and used Rosetta Stone (level 1). I am currently using Duolingo (level 6), Mango (35 minutes, Chapter 1 lesson 2) and Sentieri.

French:

Currently using Duolingo (level 5), Mango (1 hours 28 minutes, Chapter 1 lesson 4), French Made Simple, and The Ultimate French Review and Practice.

German:

Currently using Duolingo (level 1), Mango (1 hours 32 minutes, Chapter 1 lesson 3), and German Made Simple.

Swahili:

Currently using Mango (2 hours 41 minutes, Chapter 2 lesson 1).

Japanese:

Currently using Mango (30 minutes), Genki, and Rapid Japanese.

My current progress may not seem like a lot, I only recently became enthusiastic about learning languages. I hope that by the end of the year I have progressed a lot, I will say at least double my current progress with the previously mentioned languages. Most of my progress will probably be over this summer since I’m taking the summer off from school. As you might have noticed my favorite study aids are Duolingo and Mango, mainly because I can use them on my phone anytime. As I post my progress with each language I will be sure to include the resources I use and also review them.

Posted in American Sign Language (ASL), French, German, Italian, Japanese, Progress Report, Spanish, Swahili | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment