How to Learn Your First non-Native, non-English Language

 

I would like to dedicate this post to the mighty and memorable Miguel Nicholas Ariza, who celebrated his birthday yesterday at the famed Mungo Lingo Language Exchange events.

I hope that this article will inspire people to return to language learning again and again, as well as to the events that you help host!

 

be like miguel

This is Miguel. He is open-minded, friendly, curious and a great human being. Be Like Miguel.

 

In much of the world, people have 1 ½ native languages, English being the 1/2 , and the local language being the 1. (Sometimes there are areas with two local languages, possibly even more, such as areas of Spain or India that have regional languages)

The dynamics of learning English are very different from learning other languages. While Iceland may excel at teaching a lot of its students English, there were (and sadly continue to be) snags when it comes to the country’s Danish education system, which may be on its way out.

To compare the experience of learning Danish (in the case of Iceland) or Swedish (in the case of Finland) or Irish (in the case of the English-speaking areas of Ireland) to learning English just isn’t fair.

Imagine if, out of 20 products (such as computer programs or company names or refrigerator brands), 19 had names in (insert name of language that isn’t English here) Imagine if (that language) had among the best known movie and entertainment industries in world history and had a significant amount of  import words in every language in the developed world and, to boot, was more learned than any other language on the planet by people who have been told their entire life that not knowing it is to be left behind, and that sometimes a nation’s economic worth and potential in the eyes of the world is dependent on how well (or not) they speak that language.

That’s reality for non-native English speakers, almost anywhere, regardless of what continent they’re on.

No wonder people get answered in English when starting to learn languages. The native speaker may feel an inherent shame on not having won the “native language lottery” the way I did. Even if they come from a place like Iceland, where English proficiency is a standard.

(For whatever it’s worth, I think English will lose its cool factor when it starts to more seriously threaten other languages and cultures, and English proficiency is already starting to lose its impressive factor, even in places like Iceland, and will continue to do so. Contrariwise, learning non-English languages of all stripes will continue to be seen as an even more impressive feat if English continues to be on the ascent. These are my opinions).

 

I am beginning to learn my dream language. It is (XXXX), and, right now, I only speak English (or English + My Native Language). I feel that I’m struggling a lot. What can I do?

 

The first thing I would recommend is take your first field trip to omniglot.com, look at the language you are learning from the A-Z database (I can almost guarantee that it will be there, no matter how exotic), read about it, get used to the sounds of it, click the links offered at the bottom of the language profile page to either read more about the culture or get language learning resources (many of them free online pages)

If there is a “phrases” section, copy out everything in it into a notebook or put it into a program of your choice. You will use these countless times throughout your life if you are to succeed! Exciting, huh?

From there, you have a number of options, are your primary goals are as follows:

  • Learn all of those phrases.
  • After that, say, “I have, I need, I want” followed by “do you have? Do you need? Do you want?”
  • Activate the following “checkpoints” (I’m not thinking about Duolingo right now, I promise!). Think of these as your “collectibles” (so this is what was going through Luis’s head, right?). Just learn how they work in a basic sense: articles (if any), adjectives (how to say “I am X, you are X, he / she / it is X, etc.), verbs (in order of importance: present, past, future, imperfect, any conditional tenses), conjunctions (start with and, but and or, they get you pretty far), prepositions (size will vary tremendously depending on language), case system (If there is one. How many? How often are they used? Which are regularly used? In some languages, like anything Finno-Ugric, case system and prepositions overlap.), noun genders (if any, there are entire language families lack them)
  • Give a stump speech about yourself and prompt others to do the same. (I am a X, I come from Y, I was born in A but now I life in B, my current goals are CDFG because of H. I am learning dream language because of reasons IJK.)
  • Learn associated vocabulary with your job and the things around you.
  • Common mistakes made by learners (unless you are learning something very rare indeed. Even something like Welsh will have an article about it about this topic)

 

From then on, learning the vocabulary in that language will be like assembling puzzle pieces, except for the puzzle NEVER ENDS!

 

Congratulations, you just got in for life! You’re always going to be learning new things about the language, maybe even if you try to forget it…even if it is your NATIVE language! Ha ha ha ha!

20140928_074028

Here’s lookin’ at you, kid!

 

Okay, Jared, that is great and all, but how do I go about memorizing it?

 

Imagine you have a giant pizza or other fantastic meal you like right in front of you. You wouldn’t try to shove a whole piece in your mouth…(I would hope…)

 

Some ways you can assist the memorization project:

 

  • Memory devices. This is easier for languages closer to English, obviously, but even with something like Greenlandic I made it possible (Even something like “sumingaaneerpit?” [“where are you from?” In Greenlandic] I memorized in this fashion.) Memrise.com has it as an in-built function that you can store your memory devices in. I imagined that the word resembled “some gunner pit”, and while it didn’t even make sense, it got the job done. (If you have a notebook, feel free to put your “mems”, as Memrise refers to them as, next to the words)

 

  • Repetition. The same Burmese learning audio every day for a week sure doesn’t hurt…

 

  • Funny incidents. True story. One day I got “Colloquial Hungarian” shipped to me, and that day there was a Jewish event (Lab / Shul in New York City, for those curious). I met a Hungarian native speaker that evening and I told her that the book arrived today. I asked her how to say “pleased to meet you”, and I hear “örülök hogy megismertelek”. After nearly destroying my tongue after four attempts (and a lot of laughter), I explained that I got the book earlier that day. When I heard it again a few days later, having it associated with that incident made it stick better.

 

  • Mental Images from TV or Audio “Images” from your Dialogue Tapes. When I was learning Dutch from watching a lot of the Pokémon Anime in it, I remembered a lot of key phrases by virtue of remembering certain poses of characters or certain plot points that I would remember. If you do something less visually oriented (like a dialogue tape), you can note anything unusual about a certain phrase or intonation and you may remember it better.

 

 

And here are some general pointers:

 

  • Do NOT be hard on yourself! This includes: (1) do not compare yourself to other learners who have had more time than you (2) do not compare yourself to native speakers of your target language and their English skills and (3) do not expect to know all vocabulary. No one ever knows all vocabulary in any language (true story!). 10,000 words will net you something very close to a native speaker, 2,000 words will get you through almost all conversations with significant ease (others would even argue that 600-1,000 would suffice)

 

  • Start off by simplifying your language. You may be tempted to think of everything in terms of flowery English idioms, instead, at this stage you should train yourself to simplify your speech and once you’re assembling that puzzle you’ll acquire useful phrases and idioms along the way for which English has no equivalent for.

 

  • If you have to lapse into English, do so confidently. A perfect example includes how people from places like India and the Netherlands may use English phrases in casual speech to make a point.

 

  • Don’t be afraid to ask questions of native speakers. Almost all of them want to help you, actually, even though they may not explicitly express it.

 

  • Don’t get discouraged from native speakers. Some of them may have no intention of becoming polyglots and may be threatened. Anyhow, if you encounter any amount of discouragement from a native speaker at any time, it is thoroughly their This is different from constructive criticism! Constructive criticism: “this word is too formal, be aware of that”. Destructive criticism: “your accent is awful”.

 

  • There will be hard times ahead. There will be a lot of people that may belittle your efforts or unknowingly make you feel bad. Just keep on going forward. The more forward you’ll go, the more you’re hear native speakers ask you in amazement. “How on earth do you speak such good (XXXX)?”

 

And then you’ll think of the times that you were struggling, that you thought of giving up, or even times that people were not very nice to you on behalf of your choices. But congratulations! You won!

IMG_2807

You, someday, with twice as much happy and the fact that you’re probably not an orange if you’re reading this. 

Celebrating the First Birthday of “A World with Little Worlds” with Music, Translations and Fun!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

One year ago today, I decided to celebrate the anniversary of my college graduation by creating a new blog, celebrating my language journeys. One year later, after plenty of embarrassing moments, self-doubt, as well as mirth and fulfillment and euphoria, here I am, certain that I have made progress in some regard, although I have gotten better in many languages and forgotten many others.

To celebrate, I hereby present the BEST of the music that my language journeys have exposed me to this year. This was a very hard choice, and if I could have my way I could post entire albums here but that would probably result in a cease-and-desist letter.

I could very well provide these in an album form if this was another time, but it seems that in the world of streaming and many other media without physical components that it may not be necessary. Hence, this post!

Below is all of the music that I have selected. Some of it is from languages that I know well. Others from languages that I forgot completely.

(Note: it was originally my intention to translate all of the lyrics, but due to time constraints I’m not going to go around to doing it today. If you want the translations, let me know and I’ll provide them at a later date.)

(Other note: in the event that any of these videos is blocked in your country, let me know!)

https://www.facebook.com/zorgzikhnit/videos/vb.675695412/10155178442800413/?type=3&theater

A song from R.A.G., Cornish Radio, and one of the first songs I ever heard in the language “Hen yw an pris” (The Price is Old)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6igIvhXJCF4

From Finland, a song in the Finnish Language that has consistently topped the charts, a classic love song, titled “Paper Airplane” (not often you encounter such a title for such a genre):

“Paperilenokki”

Mä en lähelles pääse,

on jengii sun ympäril taas ku piikkilankaa

Oon rakentanu sun jalustan

niin korkeeks,

et vaan ilmateitse sut saavuttaa

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen

et sua ajattelen

ja sen kirjoitan siipiin,

paperilennokin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen,

oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

En sun numeroo löydä, mut tarviin sen äkkii, et sut kii saan

Mun mielessä oot saavuttanu statuksen missä oot vähemmän totta ku tarua

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen et sua ajattelen ja sen kirjoitan siipiin, paperilennokin Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia, o-oo, o-oo-oo) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa) Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia, jei-jei-jee)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä vaan, haluun kertoo sen et sua ajattelen ja sen kirjoitan siipiin, paperilennokin Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin

Pientä turbulenssia (turbulenssia) ja vähän lentopelkoa (lentopelkoa)

Mut mullon viesti valmiina (o-oo, o-oo)

Paperilennokkiin

Mä haluun et tiedät sen, oot ainutlaatuinen

Laitan viestin siipiin lennokin.

Two songs in Tok Pisin:

And this classic, featured on the blog previously:

From Samiland, a song that has become an internet sensation and, interesting, has been translated into Tongan. I guarantee that you HAVE heard this song before:

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Vilges dolggiid geigestit
Várrogasat salastit

Njukča, njuvččažan
Buokčal, ligge varan
Njukča, njuvččažan
Ovdal iđitroađi

Iđitguovssus girdilit
Hávski lei go iđistit
Jaskatvuođain savkalit
Nuorravuođain njávkalit

Njukča, njuvččažan
Buokčal, ligge varan
Njukča, njuvččažan
Ovdal iđitroađi

Riegádahte áibbašeami
Oktovuođa váillaheami
A classic folk song in Northern Sami, courtesy of Sofia Jannok, a legendary Sami singer from Sweden:

Sámi eatnan duoddariid, dáid sámi mánáid ruovttu
galbma geađge guorba guovlu
sámi mánáid ruoktu

Beaivi Áhči gollerisku, almmi allodagas
coahkká váibmu Eanan eatni, eallin eatnun šoavvá

Mánu silbbat šelggonasat, jietnja
meara márra, guovssahasat
násteboagán, lottit ráidarasas
vuoi dáid Davvi duovdagiid
dán viiddis almmi ravdda
garra dálkkit juoiggadallet, máná vuohttunluđiid

vuoi dáid fávrrus eatnamiid
vuoi jávrriid čuovgi čalmmiid
liegga litna eatni salla, gievvudeaddji gietkka

Biegga buktá Biegga doalvu
duottar dat lea duottar
duoddar duohken duoddar askkis
sámi mánáid dorvu

Sámi eatnan duoddariid
dáid sámi mánáid ruovttu
šearrát gearrá šealggáhallá, sámi mánáid ruoktu

From Estonia. Interesting fact: Ott Lepland is, very roughly, my age:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOC2A0EJcGk

Sa ju tead, ma soovin sulle öelda:
oled südames.
Sa ju tead, et tahan nüüd vaid mõelda
meie hetkedest.

Sinu hääl minu sees
kõlab nüüd vaid mõtetes.
Sinu käsi minu käes –
sellest und nüüd vaid näen.

Mu südamest viid osakese kaasa,
kui sa ükskord läed.
Kuid ma tean, seda tagasi mul saada
aitab nüüd vaid aeg.

Seisan siin vaikselt ma,
sellel teel käin üksinda.
Viivuks tagasi vaatab silm,
kuid seal ei ole sind.

Vaid võimaluse eest
võiks hoida sellel teel,
et unustaksid sa oma maailma.
Siin seisan nüüd vaid veel
su elu silmades ja loodan siiski ma sind leian…

Mu südames oled kirjutatud luule,
mida nüüd vaid loen.
Kuid ma tean: need sõnad heidan tuulde
ja vaikselt peitu poen,
vaikselt peitu poen.

From the Faroe Islands, a pop song from the 1990’s and a Christmas song:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlKH1wWdJpY&list=PL7xreoFR3bi1X2qe0wXmQP8gVNp1x2Gso

Kenslur mínar brenna við sakninum í tær gekk ljósið út

Eitt kaldligt tám er tað einasta ið rennur mær í hug at eg ein fuglur var, sum hevði mist sín song

Eg hómi minnir frá tín farna men rødd tí ljóðar enn í mær

Og tú vart sólstrála mín eitt brosi snýð tá eg var stúrandi

Og tú kanst fjala út yvir men hon er altíð har

So leingi sum tú livir men tú lærir tíðin lekir sár

Eins og trø seint á heysti so ber um vári festa aftur bløð

Minnið um teg mól í mær sum malargrót skræddi fyri sær

So við og við sum tíðin rann mól gróti runt og rundaði so av tók eitt annað skap

Men tíðin tekur tørni alt søkir sína slóð

So satt sum trøð missa tey bløð sum skrýddi tey so standa tey í kuldanum so ber

Og tú kanst fjala út yvir men hon er altíð har

So leingi sum tú livir men tú lærir tíðin hylur sár

Eins og trø seint á heysti so ber um vári festa aftur bløð

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kjJcbgPjik

  1. Kvirra um fjøll og fløtur,
    og náttin døpur, myrk og svørt.
    Lýsir av fjallatindi
    stjørnan so blonk og bjørt.
    Rekur burt nátt og niða
    vill dýr um teigar tiga,
    stjørnan so spakuliga
    seg otar fram í náttini.

Niðurlag: Føddur er konga Kongur
til eina falna verð.
Hoyr hvussu einglasongur
boðini sælu ber.
Ja, hoyr teir syngja um frið á foldum,
tí Frelsarin nú føddur er.

  1. Rekur í nátt og niðu
    so mong ein friðleys sál í dag
    ljósið tó bjart úr erva
    skínur við sama lag,
    boðar á lívsins vegi
    sálunum frið og gleði.
    Leita á hesum degi
    til Hann sum kom at frelsa teg.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4dT8FJ2GE0

Heyr, himna smiður,

hvers skáldið biður,

komi mjúk til mín

miskunnin þín.

Því heit eg á þig,

þú hefur skaptan mig,

ég er þrællinn þinn,

þú ert Drottinn minn.

Guð, heit eg á þig,

að græðir mig,

minnst, mildingur, mín,

mest þurfum þín.

Ryð þú, röðla gramur,

ríklyndur og framur,

hölds hverri sorg

úr hjartaborg.

Gæt, mildingur, mín,

mest þurfum þín

helzt hverja stund

á hölda grund.

Set, meyjar mögur,

máls efni fögur,

öll er hjálp af þér,

í hjarta mér.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpscxhgZYeE

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RQNbgwKk_UQ

Ósýnilega gyðja ég vil kynnast þér af líkama og sál

Myndi þora að veðja að þú munt dýrka mig og ég mun kveikja hjartabál

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Ísmeygilega gyðja hvað er að gerast hér vá þú fellir tár

Ég skal föndra við þig alla og ég mun eiga þig en þú munt ei eiga mig Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús

Hann langar í sanséraðan sportbíl og hann verður dús þráir heimska ljósku, sportbíl og risastórt hús…

And, from Greenland. Asuki’s “Halilu’lilah” is probably my favorite song to date.

HALILULILAH

AQQUSERNUP SINAATIGUT KISIMI INGERLAVOQ

EQQARSAATEQARUNARTOQ MALUGAARA

NALUNANNGIVILLUNI NUANNERSUNIK

EQQARSAATEQARTOQ QANORMITA HALILU’LILAH

APERISSANERPARA AJOQUSISSANERPARA

IMMAQAMI ILASSILAALAARLUGU

SUSSALUUNNIIT ILASSINAGU TUSARUNNANNGIIVIPPAANGA

HALILU’LILAH QANOQ ILIUSSAVUNGA.

SANIOQQUTILERLUGU ISUMAGA AJORTIMMAT

ILASSILAARUSULLUGU MISIGAANGA

SUUKIMI AKINANI QUNGUJUINNARALUARUNI

MISIGISSUSEQ TAKUTILLUGU HALILU’LILAH

SANGUVUNGA TUNGAANNAANUT TASSAMI TIKIPPARA

ILASSIGAKKULU INUSSIARNISAARPUNGA

QIVIARPOQ ANNUSERPOQ QUNGUJUSSAQANNGIVIPPOQ

ALASSAARIVOQ IMATULLU AKIVOQ.

Chorus:

HEY UUMANGA NIPAGILAARIT – IMALUUNNIT ALALAARIT

PAATSIVEERUTILIIVIPPARA

HEY UUMANGA OQALUNNAK – KIISA AAMMA PUIGORTIPPAT

HALILU’LILAH HALILU’LI’LULILAH

https://www.facebook.com/zorgzikhnit/videos/10155767937835413/?pnref=story

“Nannup angalaarfia

tusaajuk qupparpalunnera

aqqutigisaa ingerlavigisaa nungullarpoq

nanook nanook tammartajaarpoq

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Kusanaqisut allanngujaqisut sikorsuit

Qimaatitsisarlutik qaaqqusisarlutik amigaataasaramik

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Takujuk nanook Pissaaneqartoq

Paasilerpara inuit kalaallit

Pissaaneqaqisut”

Happy Birthday, “World with Little Worlds!”. May it continue to inspire me and all of you to follow the paths you desire most…