Cunning Linguists.


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A thread for the linguists. Anyone learning a foreign language or already speak one?

I failed my GCSE German because I didn't turn up for the exam, it was a doss lesson where you could bunk off, I can just about do 'Hello where is the train station and that's it.'

Since then I've always been resigned to the fact that I'm just gash at languages.....until now.

I've mentioned before on here that the wife does languages, she just has a knack for it. When we we go on holiday, within days she's got the basics weighed off while I'm still working out the local word for beer. She has a degree in modern languages (French and German) so it stems from there. She's been taught how to pick up languages and knows how they work, knowing French and German allows her to piece together the rest.

She's done a fair bit of travelling and working abroad and she can now fluently converse and write in French, German, Dutch, Japanese and Latin American Spanish (apparently there is a distinct difference). She can also get by in Italian and Portuguese but can't write in either of them.

Along with laying off the booze, running more and swearing less in front of the kids, one of my New Years resolutions was to finally try and learn a new language.

The wife thought it was a fantastic idea and offered to help teach me one from her extensive list of lingos.

I chose Japanese.

Why? **** knows, I just thought it'd be cool to talk to her in Jap so the kids don't know what we're on about, also I've been to Japan and it was epic, I'd like to go again. She reckons it was the easiest to pick up and providing you can get the alphabet(s) weighed off early on, it comes naturally, even for a novice like me.

So I went a bit mental on the App Store and downloaded a fuckload of teach yourself Jap apps. Most are gash, but some are really rather good, even the free ones.

Over the past week I've managed to get the basics of Hiragana (the first alphabet) nailed down and I've got a few nouns and numbers under wraps too.

I'm using Tae Kim's guide to learning Japanese as a starting block, it's a free e book with interactive sounds. I've found it very useful for learning Hiragana. I've also got a couple of Japanese phrase apps for learning some basic nouns etc.

I'm really enjoying it and it turns out I'm not actually a language spaz at all. I can wholeheartedly recommend downloading some language apps, there is a wealth of free knowledge out there up for grabs, there are even lessons all over YouTube.

Anyone else learning a language? Anyone speak Japanese? Got any tips, any good sites etc?

Share your language experiences here.

Oyasuminasai *******.

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I struggle with English most of the time, normal for being Scottish.

I make a point of being able to order a beer in as many languages as I can, so far French, Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian are all I've needed. I get myself sorted with the basics before I go anywhere which are forgotten by the time I get back.

I did acceptable in French at school and I've remembered how to read a menu and roadsigns. That's about it.

I managed to talk my way into a French bird's knickers when hammered though, and she hardly spoke any English (that I remember) so maybe I'm fluent when pished. :)
Why? I always thought that although it may be spelt different beer was an understantable word in most languages. Failing that point and raise your voice, raising the voice has been an English way of communicating for decades!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Having grown up in Switzerland - although I'm a Jock - I speak Deutsch. Having been posted to Deutschland with Mrs. ND (1 for the use of) I taught her a few choice phrases... "Entschuldigung, ich bin doof... koenne Sie mir bitte helfen" in the PennyMarkt and "Noch ein Helles bitte"... no wonder we're divorced now. Thank F for that!
I speak some Japanese, although not as much as I should given the missus is Japanese. To be honest I struggled with it, even after 5 years in Tokyo. I am hoping to 'learn again' as our daughter does, although she is speaking 90% English at the moment.

I would suggest that you set yourself achievable goals by aiming to take, or learn to the standard of, the JLPT tests. JLPT 5 is the easiest, you only need to memorise 100 or so kanji. JLPT2 is business level and JLPT 1 is near fluent - few foreigners get to that level. I have friends who have been speaking Japanese for over 20 years and still admit that they are not completely fluent - although a lot of that is down to some of the more arcane rules and nuances of the language. Even if you reach fluency there is a whole 'other' language of ultra-formal Japanese called 'keigo', which even many Japanese can't speak.

This site is useful: NIHONGO ICHIBAN
It has the lists of kanji that you need for each JLPT exam as well as some basic lessons.

If you want to buy a book to use as a study guide I would recommend 'Minna No Nihongo' it is a good beginners' guide and well structured. Make sure that you buy the 'romanji' (western alphabet) script rather than the Japanese script tjough, otherwise it is indecipherable.
Does "Essex" count as a foreign language? I think I may have worked out what "jel" and "reem" mean.
I only know one word of Japanese: Panchira.
I juggle a fair standard of colloquial Croation and sweary drunken Irish thanks to being bollocked for years by my parents, admittedly for being a little twat, I was however ace at dodging thrown rigger boots and high heels!
I can understand Doric but sadly my fluency to speak it is evaporating over the years due to lack of use.
I had French in school and had a terrible time of it. I did Latin for 5 years in school and did a bit better than that, probably as my dad had 6 years of Latin in school and 4 more at university and helped me.

I few years ago with time on my hands after divorce I started classes in Irish at the Harvard Univ. evening school. Before anyone starts muttering "tin rattling plastic paddy noraid barsteward" I started as 1) I always like Celtic music and could not understand Irish lyrics 2) curiosity as I could recall my grannie and great uncle talking in it. Not fluent yet but a bit past the "cupla focal" level now. It is nice to know the words to songs anyway. Still working on it.

Oddly, my son became very fluent in French in high school and won some sort of medal from the French Govt and in university did enough Greek in 3 years to read books in it. (Not Doric Greek like you Fair Maid but classical Attic Greek)
I learned Russian, mainly because I wanted to speak to Russian chicks after seeing how awesome they are when I first went there. And I needed to keep my brain working in 1993/4 when I was unemployed. Anybody can learn any language, the proof being that someone else did, but it's all about application and putting the effort in - rather like getting very fit, really.
Also I think there is really no substitute for going to the place they speak it and immersing yourself in it. Ideally, by trapping a member of the opposite sex who does not speak much of your language. That worked for me too.
And yes, once you have learned one language and grasped a lot of the grammar concepts, it makes learning another one easier, even if it's not in a related group - which of course is why we used to teach Latin and Greek.
David, I have to admit that I don't speak Greek, I meant Scottish Doric dialect

Doric dialect (Scotland) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

I tried learning Irish a few years ago, the grammar was worse than German!
Oops! Sorry Fair Maid - it's my ignorance, never heard of that dialect. I thought of Greek as my dad, when I was little, used to read me bedtime stories in English with a Greek or Latin text in his hand. Irish grammar isn't that bad. Only 11 irregular verbs while French has something close to 200 I think. (my son had a book conjugating all French irregulars)

Irish is very close to Scots Gaelic in sound but the spelling is different. Probably has to do with trying to write a language with more sounds than English with an alphabet of only 19 letters.
Meine luftkissenfahrzeuch ist voll mit gantz or Ich haben eine grosse gummi tintenfisch aus meine lederhosen are good openers when blagging lingo skills - however, I recall trying out my Norwegian skills on AMF exercise - they were going great until after a few quaffs I began mixing Deutsch with Norge - didnt go down well with the locals - cue sharp exit on realisation that to be a Quisling is not good for one's cred... Whoops
I speak Japanese. It's the English I have problems with nowadays :)
It wouldn't have occurred to me to suggest Japanese as a first foreign language. However, your wife's lingusitic skillz are demonstrably far greater than mine.
Were to start... Ah, I know:
1/ Get divorced
2/ Marry Japanese lady (although success is not 100% guaranteed in either language or marriage)
3/ Move to Japan and work with Japanese people - it concentrates the mind wonderfully

Only joking. Well, only a little.
Language learning - unless you're two years old or unreasonably gifted - is hard work. It involves sticking to the task through the "lightbulb" moments and those bad head --> brickwall days. You will have both. They both serve a purpose, as even on the grimmest days, you are absorbing information and learning. It's just not immediately apparent.
In practical terms, avoid all language learning that involves romaji rather than the kana. Avoid any learning materials that imply easy/quick/simple.
What to do: learning the kana along with basic vocab and sentence construction is the way to go. You will learn the proper pronunciation for words and the language will begin to open up for you. It's a great & very satisfying feeling.
I bought one of the kana charts that all Japanese preschoolers use and stuck to the door of the lav. Something like this (preferably without romaji, though)

Ma femme was unimpressed, but it did the trick.
It's much easier of course, when you're surrounded by kana and kanji, but the internet can probably make up for that to some extent. I remember walking past a shop one day and suddenly I realised I could read "トンカツ". That was a lightbulb moment.
Beyond that, you have to keep adding vocab and get to grips with the grammer. The Dictionary of Japanese Grammer in three thickish volumes was the most helpful text for me. I never got on with the textbooks for gaijin.
The real difficulty is not one of words and grammer, it's one of concepts and perception. This is the area that many never quite get to grips with. It's an interesting journey nonetheless.
Learning German, have dabbled in Arabic. Used to be almost fluent in Swedish.

Ravers, the website you need to look at for anything to do with learning foreign languages is:
I went from Calais down to Medina in Italy to do a job and all I said to the locals was " Um Bongo". This phrase got me through several toll booths, across an international border,full tank of fuel, a hotel room and a night on the piss. Talking to johnny foreigner is overrated, as an Englishman we should just show our intentions and the locals will cater for them.
French, German and Latin in school.
Long German and long Russian courses with the Army.
Basic Turkish and Greek while living on Cyprus.
Bits of Norwegian and bits of Serbo-Croat, just the pleasantries like 'Dobar dan. Stoj! ili putsani' to break the ice.

Always found it useful to at least know how to say Please, Thank You, Beer and Steak and Chips, What's your Name and Goodnight.

Once you've learnt basic grammar and structures for one language, it's much easier to do a second. Latin grammar has been especially useful, even though it's 40 years since I last studied it.

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