Sunday, October 16, 2011

End of first week

So - looking back to my first week of 52 in 52 challenge...

I wish I had chosen the language better.

I wish I had chosen a language with more resources available.
I mean, there are better options for people learning Finnish than Albanian, online.
There are more blogs in Finnish than in Albanian.
The Finnish Wiki is better and better connected with the English Wiki, so the articles are easier to find.
There are more texts in Finnish than Albanian, even translated texts, for example Jules Verne, so you can try the "listen-read" technique. I haven't managed to find anything in Albanian.
There are practically no novels or children's books in Albanian in our library. There is one course book in Albanian, Colloquial Albanian, which is okay, but they haven't bought the CDs to go with it to the library, so the listening part is missing. Viola is amazing, lovely and just seeing her makes me happy, but - she is just one person.
There are no audio books in Albanian in my bookstore. In fact, there are no novels or children's books in Albanian in my bookstore at all...
There is some information, groups, and so on, online, for Albanians, but most of the material seems to be nationalistic. I really don't care who has "more right" to Kosovo, if Albanians are related to the ancient Illyrians or not, who was there first and when and why and how and with whom and so on. Totally uninteresting. I don't want to learn Nazi-talk in any language.

Of course Internet isn't working now, when I cannot get help from Henric and I cannot call the internet provider. It's half past four in the morning.

The second reason to why Albanian was not a smart choice was that nobody uses it. I have been in a couple of internet language forums, and asked for help, and no help is in sight. There has been plenty of people looking at what I have written, but no help. I'm sure it's not because the Albanian people isn't willing to help, it's that they aren't around. 50 years of Communist isolationism does that to people, besides, I don't remember seeing many Serbians, Kroatians, Macedonians, Greeks, Bulgarians or other Balkanis around the internet either, so perhaps it's a trade of the people from the area.
I'm happy that I studied it anyway, because now I know a lot more about Albania than I knew before.
I have learned that Albania is a beautiful country that has great tourist potential, and if I was a traveling kind of a girl, I'd definitely go there.
The food sounds wonderful, and I will be using my skills in Albanian to cook some Albanian food. I think my family will appreciate that.
I also find Albanian a fascinating language, and a nice and easy language to learn. It's a good choice for "those who already have everything" - a curiosity - and something to brag about. It's also quick to learn. In my opinion the grammar is easy, clear and understandable, the many forms are not a problem, because they are also logical and simple, as an Indo-European language, most of the vocabularity has a resemblance with every other Indo-European language, the few "difficult" sounds are a "soft" landing to the sounds of Slavic languages, yet giving the language some challenge and making it more fun to learn. It was fun to learn the vocabulary and try to pronounce words like impressive and excellent. (Yes, I tried to say it like mr Burns...)

So - what have I learned this first week that I can use the weeks to come?

1) Start the vocabulary study from day 1. Learn the alphabet and numbers, all of them, up to 100. Yes, the first day. Prepare a list with the numbers and alphabet  the first thing you do in the morning and take it with you where ever you go.

2) deconstruct the language also on day 1. Learn those sentences by heart as well. Also learn to say "thank you" and "good morning". Use those as often as you can.

3) Translate the 100 most used English words list and write it on flashcards. You don't need to learn these words the first day. It's enough with the numbers.

4) Learn the phrases from Omniglot day 2. Yes, all the phrases AND the vocabulary. Check every word from a dictionary, and only if you can't find it, leave it to the phrase. Write flashcards. (Yes, yes, even the eels and hovercraft. I'm pretty sure that will make you smile every time you get to those cards in your word pile)

PREPARE ON DAY 1! You need to have the flashcards with the sentences and the words ready on the morning of day 2, and you need to write them yourself.

Write flashcards so that you flip them, like Barry told you, and mark them with the language. If you feel the need to have transcription/pronunciation of the word, have it on the side where the word you are transcribing is. The same with Japanese/Chinese signs. If you want to have a lot of information about the word with your flashcards, write "3D" flashcards: If you take a piece of paper twice the size of a flashcard and fold it in two, you get four-sided flashcard. You can add as many flaps to this as you want, and each flap adds two more sides to your flashcard. I wouldn't, but some people have said they appreciate this possibility with electrical "flashcards" like A-what-ever-that-was-called. If you find the multi-sided flashcard option a plus for your vocabulary studies, go for it. I can see the possibilities and benefits of a 4-sided flashcard, where the "innards" of a card can be used for declination of verbs and a sample where the word has been used in a sentence. But not more than that. You can still use a folded piece of paper easily as a flashcard, but the more pages you add, the more difficult it gets to use the card. You can diminish the problems by using really thin paper and pencil, so it doesn't show on the other side of the paper.

5) On day three jump into action.
Find a short text. I used the Albanian Wikipedia page on Harry Potter.
Find the words. Every word used in the text. Make flashcards of the words.
Translate it, which ever way you want. You should understand what the text is about. It doesn't need to be a perfect and complete translation. You should know enough of the language by now to be able to get an understanding of a text with the help of a dictionary.
Print or write the text on a piece of paper. If you write it, use something permanent, like a ball-point pen or marker. Leave plenty of space between sentences and wide margins.
Parsing is an excellent way of understanding the construction of the language. Use different colored pens to mark the subject and predikate (verb), draw arrows to show the dependence and relations, circle the pre- and postpositions (case endings) and other such things.
Look at the similarities, like work-ER, teach-ER, driv-ER - physic-AL, ment-AL - close-LY, simp-LY, quiet-LY. Learn to recognize a verb and plural form of nouns.
write your thoughts and ideas and suggestions on the margins.

Translate the text by your best ability, not word by word, but as you would translate a book. Things are said differently in different languages. Write down what you understand of the text. What are they trying to say?

Drill in the vocabulary which ever way that suits you. If you want to use the excellent mnemonic techniques, do so. To me it's the classic parrot repeat method that works. It's only when I cannot remember a word after I remember 80% of the words in the pile, when I start using the mnemonics. I'm really bad at that, you see.
I can use other people's ideas, but coming up with them on my own... I just don't seem to be able to. It really is like "mr Burns saying excellent" stuff that's the best I can do.
"Er... this word looks like Moshe. Moshe - Age... could work." No ideas of a Jewish boy called Moshe growing up, pictures of him taken at every birthday flashing in a photo album, seeing him age... Nope. Moshe - age.
I use the other words in the flashcard pile as mnemonic aid. "Mirë" is good. I know good morning, good afternoon, good evening, good night and good bye, so the last mirë word in the pile is acclaimed. The only "mundo" word in the pile is "try" and the only "mungo" word in the pile is "missing". One of the "një" words is people, the other is year. People is a noun that ends in plural ending, so një-it is people, and the other is year.

Do this every day with a new piece of text. It gets easier by every piece of text. Also, it's not a problem to learn 100 new word every day, even more. I really don't see any reason why you shouldn't know 1000 words in the end of the week, and be able to read most of the texts you encounter.

6) Grammar? When you are learning to recognize a language in a week, you don't do anything with the grammar. Grammar is for the day when you decide you want to give more time and effort to the language than a week, if you want to learn the language properly, that's when you study the grammar. You will learn enough every day grammar by translating a piece of text every day.
Unless you're a grammar buff, of course. If you are, use grammar as a way of rewarding you for having "eaten your porridge".

P.S. You don't need to use flashcards. Language learning is like everything else in the world. Use what works for you, what feels comfortable. Read this: "Why I don't use flashcards (and you shouldn't either)"

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