Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stop learning a language, start speaking it!

In my internet travels I came across the Lifehacker Blog. This blog refers to Language Hackers. One story tells is about a woman who did not speak anhything else but English when she was 21 years old. In the following seven years she learnt to speak another eight languages fluently. The blog argues that the key to actually learning a foreign language is to actually apply it.

Makes sense to me. The blog refers to Zenhabits -Simple Guide to speaking foreign languages. This site is full of tips and makes your mouth watery for language learning. Here is only a small selection of the tips mentioned:

Rather than downloading podcasts and buying too many courses, meet up with actual people and use the language! A few resources I like to use include:
  • for language meet-ups in major cities. You can also read advertisements in newspapers and your local library to see if people meet up interested in speaking the language you want to.
  • Join Couchsurfing and host foreign travelers in your home. The same site also has international meetings and a feature to search your city for people who speak a particular language.
  • You can also find native speakers online and practice over Skype, through many language learning social networks available for free online.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

First week of learning Chinese

The first week of learning Chinese has passed. I can count until five and say hello as well as thankyou in Chinese. I am proud but at the same time surprised how long it took me to get this far.

The last language I learnt - apart from a few words in languages on the way - was Indonesian. From 1986 or 1987 I had tuition at university after my law degre. I attended lectures of South-East Asian Studies. Learning a language was part of the course and still is. I had a choice between Thai, Vietnamese and Indonesian then. Indonesian was the obvious choice, as I had travelled to Sumatra and Malaysia the year before and that's where my interest for the area and further studies originated from.

We progressed fast and I remember well the only sentence in our christmas play that, being only two months into the language studies, we presented to surprise our inspiring teacher Professor Bernhard Dahm: "Apakah kaju sudah dipotong Mario? Anak kita kedinginan!". By the way, last year Prof Dahm received the  Dr. Jose Rizal Awards for Philippine-German Cultural Relations.  I ended up learning Indonesian quite easily and later even worked as a junior lawyer in Jakarta. It was a speedy journey studying Indonesian for about two years only.

Another incident is in my mind from around the same time. We used the hot weekends in Jakarta in 1989 for bush walking in the hills. One time we were in Bandung walking down the Tangkuban Perahu, the active volcano just north of the city. I met some French travellers and wanting to speak French with them I was unable to remember any words. Out came only the Indonesian words that my brain must have saved straight on top of the French vocabulary. This has changed by now, more than 20 years later. I think the brain had ample time to sort out the parking in the memory area.

This is the first time I started learning a language in isolation. It is more difficult than I thought and I am lucky to have a school aged boy, who learns that language at school, to be my saviour. He reinforces the little progress I have made and asks me to help him in return as well. Yesterday we went to the beach for sunset and we drew Chinese numbers into the sand.

However, this it looks like I need a more competent teacher and other strategies must be looked at. Still, language learning is fun!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

International Mother Language Day 2011

Today is International Mother Language Day. It's the 12th time this International Day is celebrated worldwide. The Day is very special to the Bangla speakers, as it originates in the Language Movement Day, which has been commemorated in Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan) since 1952. In that year a number of University of Dhaka students were killed by the Pakistani police and army in Dhaka during Bengali Language Movement protests.

The main celebrations in 2011 be held in Paris. Theme is  "The information and communication technologies for the safeguarding and promotion of languages and linguistic diversity".

The Language Challenge 101 from Bilingual Families Perth fits spot on into the theme, as people are encouraged to learn languages using information and communication technologies, such as the internet and other digital media.

Today is my first day of learning Mandarin. I had a bit of a peak in the lead-up to the commencement and assisted collating several useful links:
I have started by selecting the most suitable site for my needs. I will learn Chinese with Yangyang. My boy brought the link home from school. 10 free lessons are up on the web that suit my learning style, progress fast enough. Yangyang is great, funny, to the point and easy to understand.  A list of other useful Chinese sites is up on the project Wiki.

Can't wait and have decided to make time of at least 15min a day for the learning of Mandarin, my new language!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Favourite video for February 2011

Language Challenge 101

The Language Challenge 101 down under is born. My personal commitment to learning Mandarin has provided enough motivation for a project that aims at getting more people interested in language learning.
Bilingual Families Perth will host the project, participation is free and more information is available from their website.  

Language learning is fun and not that hard when you do it at your own pace, within your own means but with the support of friendly people who are on the same journey.
  • Have you ever wanted to learn a language but could never gather enough motivation?
  • Would you like to make a serious attempt in learning the language of your partner, your parent or your friend?
  • Are you planning a holiday overseas and want to be able to hold a small conversation?
  • Would you like to refresh knowledge of a language you spoke or learnt in your childhood?
  • Are you interested in picking up a language that was once spoken in your family but is now lost?
  • Would you like to join your child who learns a second (or third) language at school? 
Please show your support by filling in a survey. Consider your participation. Learning languages by yourself is a bit daunting but if you have the support of other learners and can share free resources it is a lot easier.  What language you chose is up to you and there is no cost. The only thing you need is a working internet connection and that is often available at your local library.

The project is kicking off on International Motherlanguage Day 2011 -21 February! More information about the project Language Challenge 101 here.