Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Would language days be helpful?

I'm wondering if it is beneficial to devote a whole day to a single language? Such as I would even switch my Mac's system language when possible. On Thai days I would switch it to Thai. On Lao days I'd struggle with Lao. On Vietnamese days it'd be Vietnamese. I'd only look at web sites in the chosen language, try to think only in the language, maybe find a chat partner who speaks that language.

Well, I've got a lot more to learn before I can do that with any of those languages! I just wonder if anybody finds it to be helpful. I actually don't like to do that with Japanese. I find the unnecessary struggle to be quite frustrating. I guess I'm a guy who can't relax well and I need to relax. The only time when I unnecessarily think in Japanese is when I am imagining a conversation with a Japanese person. Such as how I would explain something or answer some question. After I realize that I'm doing this I try to stop it right away!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Is YouTube good for learning languages?

Is YouTube a good way to learn a language? While I think it could be a good way to present a language course, I am not currently aware of any good language courses on YouTube. There are random videos with people giving language lessons but they are not structured well. A really good video course would be French in Action. It predates YouTube and is copyrighted so it is not likely to show up on YouTube. But to make a language learning course like that takes a lot of planning and production costs. We cannot expect such a fine product from an individual's home-made language lesson.

In fact, to make an excellent video course for language learning requires a genius. You have to present the language in a piece by piece offering and yet make it engaging. The audience should get a lot out of the current lesson and want to go right on to the next lesson. When the learner doesn't know that he is learning, then he can make real progress. And that's the beauty of film. Your whole attention can be taken up and you can SEE what is going on. When you see what is going on, then you know what is being talked about. Keep the phrases short in the beginning lessons and it will be obvious what the words mean.

Some languages are better for this than others. Why? Because in those languages, whole sentences are just one or two words long. And those are natural sentences, not baby sentences. For example, in Japanese, in order to say 'It is hot,' you need only one word, 'atsui.' That one word conveys all the meaning. No need for 'it.' What is 'it' anyway? And no need for 'is.' If you just said 'hot' in English, you would conceivably convey the meaning, but you would be criticized for using unnatural methods to teach.

One of the most critical aspects to presenting a language is the 'build-up' approach. The words and phrases that are introduced in one lesson need to keep showing up in the next and subsequent lessons. If not, they will just be forgotten. And I think this is where the current YouTube lessons are failing. As I said before, it takes planning. Not for each lesson but from one lesson to the next so that no new words are left behind.

Friday, May 23, 2008


I have created the 100xPlayer. It will play a sound file 100 times. I use it for my language learning. I listen to the same sentence one hundred times in a row. If you are like me and you want to use this player, feel free to download it. It will play .mp3, .mov, and .wav files. It might not play all files. For instance, it won't play a file if you only have read permission but not write permission. And it won't play a mov file unless that is a sound file. But mostly, it is for playing short mp3 files.

You can download the Windows version here: http://musclepipe.com/100xPlayer/100xPlayer.exe

The Mac OS X version is here: http://musclepipe.com/100xPlayer/100xPlayer.zip

It is just a simple player with no support, no guarantees, no warranties, and no fees!
It is required that you have QuickTime installed on your system.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Sinhala: The language of Sri Lanka

Today I have been practicing writing one letter from the Sinhala alphabet. You know, it is really easy to practice just one letter. And if I add one new letter of the Sinhala alphabet to my practice every day, then I will know the entire alphabet in about 32 days. What could be simpler than that?

I have a pdf file of the FSI Sinhala Basic Course which was revised in 1978. Module 1 is devoted to learning the Sinhala script for the purpose of reading the colloquial Sinhala dialogues in the second module.

In high school, I had a classmate who was from Sri Lanka. I haven't heard from him since we graduated. Currently, I have a coworker who is from Sri Lanka. We don't work together at the same time but I see him whenever one of us takes over for the next shift. I will show him my newfound writing abilities and get his feedback.

Searching for Hmong

I have begun my search on the web for Hmong language learning materials. They are scarce. There are Hmong online radio sites but that won't help a beginner. There is a decent website for a beginner with Hmong lessons but unfortunately, no audio for those lessons. Since I have no Hmong speakers around me I need audio!

So far I downloaded a dictionary for White Hmong and one for Green Hmong (Mong Njua). I also have an excellent lesson book for White Hmong and a White Hmong Dialogues lesson book. Now all I need is a native Hmong speaker to record the Hmong in the lessons for me. Then I would be able to get started.