Learning Czech using guerilla tactics

I do not think we learn languages in a straight line. I do not think we learn best by starting with the basics and proceeding in an orderly fashion. I think we learn best by bouncing around, attacking and retreating, following our interests. At least that is what I am doing.

I mix in some beginner and intermediate content at LingQ,?? all provided by our members, audio and text, consuming it as fast as they produce it. Then I imort content from Radio Praha. I have 15 articles in one collection, complete with text and the link to the MP3 file. I read them, save LingQs, listen to the audio while reading online, and then download the audio to my MP3 player for later.

I also have imported the first 5 chapters of The Good Soldier Svejk into LingQ and have studied the first two and a half, and listened many times.

I?? found a copy of?? Teach Yourself Czech, with CD which I read and listen to, as well as a book I bought in Russia called “?????????????? ???????? ???? ???????? ??????????”.

I also use the bookmarklet to import a few articles every day from the Czech online newspaper http://www.ceskenoviny.cz/ to read and study at LingQ.

I bounce around from easy to difficult to easy, following my interests. Slowly I am understanding more.Speaking is still at least a month away. I wish I had more time. Between my trip to Nelson last week, and on going obligations here, and continuing my Russian, I really don’t have as much time as I would like.

Tomorrow my son from London comes to visit for a week, and that will leave even less time. Maybe I should just go off to the Czech Republic for a month or so.


The psychological benefits of reading fiction.

On Fiction is a fascinating website that describes iteself as follows;

“OnFiction is a magazine with the aim of developing the psychology of fiction. Using theoretical and empirical perspectives, we endeavour to understand how fiction is created, and how readers and audience members engage in it.”

To me reading has always seemed a powerful way to learn, and to improve language abilities, in our own and other languages. We take advantage of our own imagination and curiosity, and the narrative skills of others. Apparently reading can also have many psychological benefits. This is especially true for narrative fiction according to this recent news article.

“Reading narrative fiction (and potentially narrative non-fiction such as memoirs as well) is like a form of meditation, Oatley says, because it opens you up to emptying your mind of real-life concerns in favour of focusing on a fictional world.”


Don’t learn English, it is too easy.

I think the hot summer and the paprika is affecting the thought processes of Hungarian educators. The government there wants to stop teaching English as the first foreign language, and instead impose some other foreign languages with more structure, which they think will be harder to learn, and therefore help Hungarians become more multilingual.

According to this article in the Wall Street Journal,

“The initial, very quick and spectacular successes of English learning may evoke the false image in students that learning any foreign language is that simple,??? reads a draft bill obtained by news website Origo.hu that would amend Hungary???s education laws.

Instead, the ministry department in charge of education would prefer if students ???chose languages with a fixed, structured grammatical system, the learning of which presents a balanced workload, such as neo-Latin languages.???

In my view, a language is only hard to learn if we are not interested in learning it. If most people want to learn English, why not let them. Once they have one foreign language under their belt, the next one, if they are motivated, will be easier.

As the article points out, “A Eurostat survey from 2009 found that 74.8% of Hungarians aged 25 to 64 don???t speak any foreign languages whatsoever. Only 6% of respondents said they speak a second language fluently, which places Hungary at the bottom ranks of the European Union table. In comparison, only 5% of Swedes speak no other language but their native tongue.”

With thinking like this from the education ministry, these dismal numbers are not surprising. The key to success in language learning is motivation, not coercion, everywhere else, and probably in Hungary too.


We won!

Our team, the Old Goats, won the B.C. Senior Games 65 and over hockey tournament in Nelson. We had a wonderful time in the beautiful town of Nelson, which has a lot to offer in the way of scenery, mountains, a lake, nice restaurants and great golf. And in the winter there is great skiing at the nearby resort of Whitewater.

We drove home after the game, through the spectacular BC mountain scenery. I went for a swim in Christina Lake to get the feel of the smelly hockey equipment out of my system. It felt good.

We won the Gold Medal game 3-2 with a short handed goal in the final period. My winger and I had a two on one break while killing a penalty. Fortunately he did not pass to me and instead chose to shoot a lightning fast wrist shot past the other team’s goaltender. Very exciting. See of you can locate me in the picture. Now I have to get back to my Czech (and Russian).



More on the power of audio books and language learning.

I heartily recommend that language learners get a hold of good quality audio books, narrated by people whose style and voice they like, as I pointed out in an earlier post. Listen to them over and over if necessary. Even if you do not understand it all, or even much of it, I believe?? a well narrated audio book can be a short cut to fluency in another language. I don’t know that for a fact, but I suspect it is true and am going to test this out in Czech.

When I studied Chinese, I listened repeatedly to comic dialogues featuring renowned XiangSheng artist Hou Baolin. I listened tens of times to the same comic dialogues and at first did not understand much, but the voices, rhythm and cadence captivated me. People were laughing, and I did not know why. This content connected with my brain in a way that no lessons or classes could. I attribute much of my success in learning Mandarin to listening to these tapes. My only regret is that I had no access to the transcripts.

Now I have started listening to an audio book, in Czech,?? of The Good Soldier Svejk narrated by Pavel Landovsky. I am doing one chapter at a time. I import the text to LingQ and go through the text, saving words and phrases for review. I have even found a Russian translation online that I refer to when I get stuck.

I have read and listened to chapter one many times and am now starting chapter two. I do not understand much unless I have the text in front of me,?? but I am captivated by the power of the narrator. I know that this is creating new circuitry in my brain and that before too long, I will start to get used to this new language, while at the same time I am accumulating lots of words at LingQ.

Maybe humour is the key to rapid language learning.


Audio books and language learning.

Il Narratore Italian audio books are now available at LingQ. These are wonderful recordings of many of the classics of Italian literature. I have long been a fan of Maurizio and Il Narratore, and have listened to many of these works in order to enjoy Italian literature and to work on my Italian.


Come cambia la lettura con l’audiolibro di Maurizio Falghera

Maurizio, explains, in this short recording in Italian, the power of an audio book as a learning tool which can stimulate our brain to learn, especially when narrated by a skilled?? artist.I am in full agreement with him, and am finding the same now with my Czech as I listen to an audio book of The Good Soldier Svejk, able to understand only a little bit, but quite willing to listen over and over. Of course I can read the transcript and learn the words and phrases on LingQ as well.


Even if your Italian is not great, I suggest you listen to what Maurizio has to say. You will find that you will want to devote more energy to the study of Italian.

The full transcript and translation are available??here??in the LingQ Italian library. If you are not a member you will have to register to read the transcript and translation, but it is all free. You can stream the audio and follow along, saving the words and phrases that you want to learn, and referring to the translation as required.

Learning Czech, three week report

I am just not finding a lot of time to spend on Czech with all of the other things going on in my life, and of course my interest in listening to the Russian interviews on Echo Moskvi. What I have been able to do is the following.

1) Go through much of the beginner and intermediate content provided to our library at LingQ. I save lots of LingQs, words and phrases, in fact I now have well over 4,000 of them. That does not mean I know them by any means. I do not have enought time to review them all, and in fact I am more motivated to attack new content, regularly reviewing the meaning of words that show up as yellow ords in the text, telling me that I have already looked them up before.

2) Using the bookmarklet, import about ten items from Radio Praha, which I have read at LingQ, creating LingQs. I try to listen to them often but have trouble understanding them. (Although I understand them when I read them with the help of the online dictionary).

3) Spend some time at the Vocabulary page searching my long list of saved words based on suffixes, prefixes, and other roots that are common to a number of words. It helps to sort out which words are related, and which ones just seem similar but are not related.

4) Start?? The Good Soldier Svejk. I have imported a few chapters, and I have the audio book for the first 4 chapters. I plan to spend a lot of time on these 4 chapters. I must say that a professionally narrated audio book, if done well, really does grab me, and I can listen to it over and over.

But I am off to Nelson for the BC Senior Games. My hockey team is going there and I was not going to go, but another guy got injured, so now I have to go. My wife is coming with me, and so are the golf clubs, so I don’t think I will have a lot of time to study this coming week. Our team plays 5 games in 4 days and it is a 9 hour drive each way. We leave Vancouver tomorrow and return on Sunday.