Friday, September 21, 2012


I've spent about a week doing Icelandic, perhaps more.

I'm concentrating on Mandarin for the time being so I'm just doing the minimum for Icelandic to keep it fresh.  I've done at least a couple of minutes each day but understandably it's not really becoming second nature but I will make some progress despite the small amount of time I'm devoting to it.

Is it really as difficult as they say?

So far, the greatest difficulty has been the fact that even in lesson one the declension number and gender and the conjugation number is given for each new noun and verb... and for now at least, they're just arbitrary numbers that go with these random pieces of vocab (I say random but they all occur in the first dialogue so I've seen them in context) and they are really difficult to memorise.  After all, language learning is normally about learning sounds, with the accompanying meaning, but memorising the verb number that goes with certain verbs is memorisation without having anything to hang it on.

Perhaps this will change once I actually learn how verbs conjugate, so I can memorise the past tense with each verb and that will make the verb number obvious. Or perhaps it's the present tense pattern... I don't know yet.

As for progress, I'm still doing lesson one, but I've become familiar with each piece of vocab and all the sentences in the dialogue.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Mandarin - number of characters

Besides the other languages I'm doing I'm actually concentrating on Mandarin.

I think a lot of Chinese learners wonder how many characters they know.  There are webpages that will give you a test and make an estimate based on that.

I've found another method.  For iOS devices there's an app called Flashcard Fu.  Once you have the app it's a free download to download the 4,000 most common characters.  Besides being a pretty good way of memorising a few extra characters it also tells you how many characters you've mastered.  As it takes a while before the app believes you have mastered a character it will be a while before my actual knowledge will be reflected by the app.  At the moment it's showing me as having mastered 320 characters but no doubt it's several times that.

I think it will be quite interesting to see how many characters I actually know and how that correlates with how much difficulty I have reading.

I don't really suggest that this app is all you need to learn characters but it does give audio for each character, and it's pretty quick to go from one character to the next so you get some nice audio feed-back which I think helps link tone marks with what you hear.


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Persian (Assimil)

Yesterday I made a start on Persian.  Assimil of course.

I patiently waited for several months between the course being listed on the Assimil website as coming soon, and actually being able to buy it. Unfortunately it appears to have exactly the same content as the old pdf file that's available on the internet.  I'd presumed this would be a new version but it looks like they were sold out of the old copies and needed to reprint some copies.  Also annoying is the fact that the .mp3 disk doesn't have the text of the lessons unlike the Hindi course.  Having the text already in the Persian alphabet would have made entering the course into my spaced repetition software a bit quicker.

Like the Arabic course, lesson 1 consists of only two sentences.  I don't know whether they're progressing so slowly because of the language or because of the alphabet. 

Reading the intro it looks like there is some difference between the written and spoken language.  I'm sort of commited to using this course but I'm not even sure what sort of Persian I'm going to end up speaking.

At least the book is printed on nice glossy paper so there's no problem reading the dots in the script. And as the vowels aren't indicated they continue the transliteration right to the last lesson.  That's handy if you can't be bothered with the script.