TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

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TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-01-14, 9:02

I just found this forum, and I'd like to join the TAC. Don't know how much logging I'll do, but it could be worth just starting this thread.

I actually head started this around October/November last year. I've bought translations of the book "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" in ten European languages which are not in the three big groups Germanic, Slavic or Romance. I'm already able to read to some degree in several European languages, all in those groups, so I figured I should have a try at the rest. I settled on those languages which had a translation of The Book, and it turned out to be the magic number ten.

I've managed to read through The Book a few times by now, and I read it in my native language as a child. I've seen the film too, so I know roughly how the story goes. I feel I'm already beginning to dislike the story. There are several major holes in the plot, and I haven't found anything that could possible give me deeper insight into human nature. I may not be in the target group for this book. I thought I could manage to read only this book for a whole year, but I'm already reading some other book as well (an Italian translation of a Norwegian crime fiction book).

The idea is to learn these languages the "natural" way, like kids do, except that it's all about reading. I also know too much about linguistics and other European languages for this to be completely "natural", but it's worth a try.

This is like the R part of the "L-R" technique, but as I begin to know The Book by heart, it may approach parallell reading techniques.

For all languages
Current knowledge
I know the most important pronunciation rules. For the non-IE languages, I have read some brief outlines of the grammars just to know what to look for. I have a fairly good idea about what to expect in the Indo-European languages.

Means and method
  • The Book
  • No comparing to other translations while reading, and never comparing to translations in languages I know.
  • Basic descriptions of pronunciation and very rudimental grammar, on the level of a short overview page on Wikipedia.
  • Nothing else, no grammar books, no dictionaries. No radio, TV, newspapers, people, web sites, text books, music or similar. I'm not interested in any extra help whatsoever.

Goals
  • To be able to know roughly the meaning of most of the words in The Book.
  • To be able to do a basic analysis of most sentences and word forms.
  • Get a better idea about how the Indo-European languages in Europe are related.
  • Get a better idea about how the non-IE languages are influenced by IE languages and European culture.

Is this possible? I have no idea. I estimate that 5 readings will give an OK level of understanding in a language. With 10 languages, that's one reading per week. We'll see about that.

These are the languages. I don't like using flags for languages, but it looks nice:

[flag]fi[/flag] Finnish
Current knowledge
The only language here I know to some degree. I know the most important grammatical rules, a few words, and I've been exposed to the language on TV etc.

[flag]et[/flag] Estonian
Current knowledge
I'm able to decrypt fragments from what I know from Finnish.

[flag]lv[/flag] Latvian
Current knowledge
Read The Book three times already. Turns out to be fairly easy if you know some Slavic language, which wasn't a big surprise.

[flag]lt[/flag] Lithuanian
Current knowledge
I've read an Asterix magazine several times, so I can recognise some words, but not many.

[flag]cy[/flag] Welsh
Current knowledge
Read The Book twice. Awkward spelling!

[flag]eu[/flag] Basque
Current Knowledge
Almost none. This will be a tough one.

[flag]hu[/flag] Hungarian
Current knowledge
Almost none, but I tried to read a children's book once. Can it be that difficult? Maybe, that remains to be seen.

[flag]sq[/flag] Albanian
Current Knowledge
Read The Book once.

[flag]el[/flag] Greek
Current knowledge
Read The Book twice.
I know the alphabet well from math studies, and have been able to guess many words from borrowings into other languages.

[flag]tr[/flag] Turkish
Current knowledge
I once studied a grammatical description fairly throroughly, but I've forgotten most of it, and understand next to nothing now.

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Books I chose not to read

Postby hcholm » 2010-01-14, 9:59

Some may wonder why I didn't choose the book "The Little Prince", which is available in very many smaller languages as well, and popular for parallel reading. The reason is that I can't stand that book at all. I read it for my kids once, and I thought it was the second worst book I've ever read. It's like a children's version of "The Alchemist", which is the worst book I've read.

I could have chosen some Harry Potter book, but I chose not to. HP is OK, but I'm no great fan of fantasy literature either, so I have to take it in small doses. The books are also too big and the language is too complicated for my project.

I have a sizeable collection of Asterix and Tintin translations, but there is just too little text in comics.

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby Karavinka » 2010-01-14, 11:35

Your project sounds extremely ambitious and yet interesting... I remember myself using "The Communist Manifesto" for the same purpose when I was learning to read German, French and Spanish but I didn't imagine myself doing so with this scale. I'll be very interested in following this thread.
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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-01-14, 12:43

Karavinka wrote:Your project sounds extremely ambitious and yet interesting... I remember myself using "The Communist Manifesto" for the same purpose when I was learning to read German, French and Spanish but I didn't imagine myself doing so with this scale. I'll be very interested in following this thread.


There are some reasons why I believe that this project is a lot easier than it may sound:

  • Reading is a lot easier than writing, listening or speaking.
  • Nine of these languages use Latin script, and Greek is very similar.
  • The book is aimed at children, but not the youngest. The language isn't very complicated, but should be advanced enough to cover most aspects of grammar, word formation etc.
  • There is a limited, but representative and modern vocabulary. Maybe this is good point for learning in general?
  • In some cases, I can guess the meaning of a sentence even before I've read it, because I know the story. This will make it easier to concentrate on individual words and grammar.
  • If you know some IE languages, it's not extremely difficult to pick up another one. Some features are very widespread. For instance, I could immediately recognise several verb and noun endings in Latvian from what I knew from other languages. Many words are very similar too, because of the common origin.
  • European languages have a common cultural context. The borrowings are much the same, and this extends to idioms and grammatical influence, and even into the non-IE languages.
  • The same applies to pronunciation. There are no "exotic" sound systems like those you meet in Arabic or Chinese.
  • As far as I know from the pronunciation rules I've read, all ten are fairly "phonetic". Even if it's only reading, I like to have an idea about how the words sound.

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Greek, 3rd reading finished

Postby hcholm » 2010-01-14, 16:39

The third round of Greek is just finished. I need to read something in Latin script now.

Progress:
  • I understand enough words to analyse most sentences and determine the part of speech for each word.
  • I've got a basic understanding of cases and noun endings.
  • Some understanding of verb forms, but there could be much left to learn here.
The good:
  • Greek looks like a very straightforward IE language so far. No funny syntax or spelling.
  • It's fun to recognise words that have been borrowed into other languages and get a better understanding of the borrowings. This makes Greek an extremely "useful" language. The original meaning of loan words from Greek may not be as evident as with loan words from Latin. Everyday language which looks like philosophy and scientific talk at first sight is amusing.
The bad:
  • The non-Latin script slows down reading a lot.
  • I have a feeling that there may be many verb forms that are not used in The Book. I may need a grammar at some point to get a more complete picture, but I'll wait at least a year before I open one. This could be the case for many of the other languages here as well.
  • The rules for stress placement escape me completely. Luckily, I don't have to worry about that.

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-01-20, 9:41

Progress: Read a book about Italian dialects, "Dialetto, dialetti e italiano". It had too much sociolinguistic theory and too little about the actual dialects, so I skipped some parts. Oh wait, that's not part of this project, sorry. Back to Latvian now.

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby No passive learning » 2010-01-31, 18:40

I like your approach of "no external help whatsoever". What tou'd recommend to someone like me who lives in a continent where almost 90% of inhabitants are monolingual?
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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-02-02, 19:26

No passive learning wrote:I like your approach of "no external help whatsoever". What tou'd recommend to someone like me who lives in a continent where almost 90% of inhabitants are monolingual?


I'm not sure I understand exactly what you mean with your question ...

I try to avoid extra help because I'd like to see the effect of a single learning technique. Other reasons are that extra help sometimes can distract more than actually help. In my experience, it's particularly so with dictionaries. It's too easy to begin looking up every single word you come across and don't understand, or memorise long word lists. That can become nothing but a waste of time, in the worst case. I'd like to focus as much as I can on this particular text and this particular method.

I think it's difficult to judge single methods, though, and I believe that it's just as much a question of certain combinations of techniques that could be better than others. I'm wondering if I should use a plain grammar as well for a couple of languages, so that I can compare with the effect of that combination. Yes, I'll do that. Turkish and Greek, maybe?

I don't know, this method may be best for learning languages you don't know at all. It's like learning to swim just by jumping into deep water, except that there's no risk of drowning. One thing I've enjoyed a lot so far, is that I've managed to grasp many grammatical features quicker than I've ever done before in any language, without a grammar. When learning something, I've always liked to get a good overview of what there is too learn first of all. When I studied, I often read books by starting at the end and reading towards the beginning, or even starting with a sample of exam questions. If you know what to look out for before you start learning, it's a lot easier to remember what you learn and why you learn it. E.g. when reading a unknown language, you see or hear things that appear often, wonder what it could mean, make a few guesses, and then maybe look it up.

I feel I'm learning these languages surprisingly fast, at least as long as I able to concentrate on the task. My biggest problem is time, and I've spent too much time reading Italian for the last couple of weeks. Right now I'm reading a novel and a really excellent grammar I just found, "A reference grammar of modern Italian" by Maiden & Robustelli. Best grammar I've ever seen, and I've seen a few. I really like Italian, so I guess I'll follow this casual interest for at least one more week or so. The most important thing when learning is probably motivation!

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby lama su » 2010-02-02, 20:55

nice idea!

I tried to do something similar some years ago, with basque and brezhoneg.. and I tried to read some ramdom pages of wikipedia..

If the text is descriptive, it is not so hard to crack it.. not completly, of course, but it is faisable..

so.. good luck! :mrgreen:

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby Ser » 2010-02-03, 1:02

No passive learning wrote:I like your approach of "no external help whatsoever". What tou'd recommend to someone like me who lives in a continent where almost 90% of inhabitants are monolingual?
I would look harder for the 10% that *is* multilingual. :)

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-02-14, 21:45

Boy, do I hate this book now. I'm reading it in Latvian again, as well as in Basque. Basque is really intriguing. I don't understand much at all yet, but I get a nice little kick every time I realise that I've recognised a pattern.

But I'm getting serious doubts that childrens' books are suitable for learning. It's just too boring after a while. I remember I couldn't stand more than a few chapters of "The little prince", but this book certainly has it's limits too. For languages I know better, I've used translations of Scandinavian detective stories with great success, but I don't know how suitable they are for more "difficult" languages. Still, I'll try to stick to The Book a least until I've picked up the basics in all languages.

For Finnish, I'm considering substituting The Book with "Miehet jotka vihaavat naisia" (Men who hate women / Män som hatar kvinnor) by Swedish writer Stieg Larsson, since I already know the basics of Finnish. I'd change the chocolate river and that silly guy with the top hat for some real violence, sex, drugs and rock'n'roll (or any other contemporary musical style) any day now.

I've finished the Italian novel, but then I immediately began reading another one in Italian ...

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-11-27, 17:29

I might as well sum up now. I'm not sure whether TAC 2010 was a great success or an utter failure.

My last post was over nine months ago, so at first glance, it's been a failure. I got so tired of the book that I didn't mangage to read it anymore, some time in February or March.

The main problem is that the book is for kids. It works well up to a certain point, but it has serious limitations. When learning languages, I think it's important that you have some interest in the contents of what you read. Context and references are invaluable when learning languages, or when learning anything else, for that matter. In this case, the contents in one translation obviously had references to the contents in other translations, but after a while, the effect kind of faded away. Another problem is that the story jumps too much from one situation to another. There is too little repetition of expressions and phrases. A longer novel for adults will often have some central topics that are elaborated using similar, but varied expressions. After reading such a book, you will remember those expressions well. This is particulary so in crime fiction, where a certain scene or a limited topic can be the basis of a whole book.

On the plus side: I got a fairly good insight into the European languages I was unfamiliar with before. There are now few completely white spots on my European linguistic map, not counting the many indigenous languages of Western Russia and the Caucasus. The main exceptions are Basque, Irish/Gaelic and Romani, which are still mostly "white" to me. (TAC 2011 candidates, maybe?) I can't say I know much Basque, one of the my TAC 2010 languages. It was hard to read even without trying to understand it.

On funny thing is that whenever I decide to learn something, I often get a lot of inspiration to learn something else instead. That happend in TAC 2010 as well. As mentioned above, I started to read a lot of Italian, partly because I was going to Italy this summer. Which was great fun. I knew some Italian before, but I'm now able to read rather well, and speak without too much trouble. I've read several novels in Italian, including two by Gianrico Carofiglio which I liked very much (very important point!). I read a couple of grammars and two books about Italian dialects plus some extra material, and have a good overview of the main dialectal differences. I've also seen quite a few Italian films and TV series, and got some good kicks whenever I was able to recognise dialects and regionalisms.

Latvian was the biggest success among my TAC 2010 languages. I bought a grammar earlier this year, and it was great to see that I had got most of it right.

There were some features in Latvian that puzzled me that the grammar answered: Some past verb forms were confusingly similar to their present forms. I'm not sure I've understood it completely yet, but at least I'm aware of them. I had a hard time finding out how many cases there actually were, and it turned out that I was tricked by syncretism. And I didn't understand the difference between definite and indefinite adjectives until I read about them. Before that, I was just confused by the variation.

I may sign up for TAC 2011, but that's going to be a different story. I'm deciding whether I should continue with some of my 10 TAC 2010 languages in one way or another, or if I should brush up some of the languages I already know a bit, going for intermediate or semi-advanced level. Or maybe the mentioned Basque+Irish+Gaelic+Romani, to fill in some white spots. One thing is for sure, TAC 2010 won't be based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Harry Potter. Or The Little Prince or The Alchemist, two books I really hate. The only Charlie etc. book I may ever read again is the one in Basque. But the basic technique with heavy emphasis on reading novels will probably still be central. Translated Scandinavian crime fiction for basic stuff, or mainstream native literature on a more advanced level.

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby ILuvEire » 2010-11-28, 8:37

Karavinka wrote:Your project sounds extremely ambitious and yet interesting... I remember myself using "The Communist Manifesto" for the same purpose when I was learning to read German, French and Spanish but I didn't imagine myself doing so with this scale. I'll be very interested in following this thread.
I know this is an ancient post, but it sounds interesting. I mean, the Communist Manifesto was a bit of a complex read in English, but I think it would be a fun exercise. Where'd you find it in many languages?

hcholm wrote:I might as well sum up now. I'm not sure whether TAC 2010 was a great success or an utter failure.

On the plus side: I got a fairly good insight into the European languages I was unfamiliar with before. There are now few completely white spots on my European linguistic map, not counting the many indigenous languages of Western Russia and the Caucasus. The main exceptions are Basque, Irish/Gaelic and Romani, which are still mostly "white" to me. (TAC 2011 candidates, maybe?) I can't say I know much Basque, one of the my TAC 2010 languages. It was hard to read even without trying to understand it.
I say it was a success then. You somewhat achieved your goals. I mean, you learned something. Which sounds like success to me. I mean, that's the whole point, to learn something, so if you did, I say you win.

On funny thing is that whenever I decide to learn something, I often get a lot of inspiration to learn something else instead. That happend in TAC 2010 as well. As mentioned above, I started to read a lot of Italian, partly because I was going to Italy this summer. Which was great fun. I knew some Italian before, but I'm now able to read rather well, and speak without too much trouble. I've read several novels in Italian, including two by Gianrico Carofiglio which I liked very much (very important point!). I read a couple of grammars and two books about Italian dialects plus some extra material, and have a good overview of the main dialectal differences. I've also seen quite a few Italian films and TV series, and got some good kicks whenever I was able to recognise dialects and regionalisms.

Latvian was the biggest success among my TAC 2010 languages. I bought a grammar earlier this year, and it was great to see that I had got most of it right.

There were some features in Latvian that puzzled me that the grammar answered: Some past verb forms were confusingly similar to their present forms. I'm not sure I've understood it completely yet, but at least I'm aware of them. I had a hard time finding out how many cases there actually were, and it turned out that I was tricked by syncretism. And I didn't understand the difference between definite and indefinite adjectives until I read about them. Before that, I was just confused by the variation.

I may sign up for TAC 2011, but that's going to be a different story. I'm deciding whether I should continue with some of my 10 TAC 2010 languages in one way or another, or if I should brush up some of the languages I already know a bit, going for intermediate or semi-advanced level. Or maybe the mentioned Basque+Irish+Gaelic+Romani, to fill in some white spots. One thing is for sure, TAC 2010 won't be based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or Harry Potter. Or The Little Prince or The Alchemist, two books I really hate. The only Charlie etc. book I may ever read again is the one in Basque. But the basic technique with heavy emphasis on reading novels will probably still be central. Translated Scandinavian crime fiction for basic stuff, or mainstream native literature on a more advanced level.
To me, it sounds like you've already got a really great thing going with Italian and Latvian - why throw it away? If I were you, I'd expand on these two languages that you've had success with and go deeper into them than skimming the surface. I mean, having some knowledge of every major European language really isn't all that it's cracked up to be. You can't do anything with it unless you know something further to communicate about.

Still, congrats :]
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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby hcholm » 2010-11-28, 10:00

Thank you!

I'm not throwing anything away, that's for sure. It's all part of my rather ambitious, life-long effort to learn all European languages well enough to at least be able to read simple to intermediate texts. Wandering between languages like I did now doesn't really matter. The synergy effect is great in any case.

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Re: TAC 2010 – hcholm (fi, et, lv, lt, cy, eu, hu, sq, el, tr)

Postby No passive learning » 2017-01-24, 1:44

Seven years after, and I have realised I didn't make myself clear. Well, I wanted to know whether you were talking about no external (human) help in language learning, as in "I''m learning [insert your target language] but not paying for classes." I don't blame you on not understanding my question, my English has always been poor.
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