Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Updating Your Language OS

I am excited to announce that Becoming a Polyglot will be relaunched shortly!

What's to expect?

  • Mind tricks to learn grammar
  • Languages under the spotlight
  • Language videos
  • More to follow...

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Part 3: What Easy New Language to Learn? Italian? Spanish? Think farther...

Welcome to the third and final instalment of "What Easy New Language to Learn..." of course 'easiness' is shaped by subjectiveness and personal influences, a language learned through pleasure in contrast to a language forced upon you, will be learned quicker, regardless of any innate 'difficulties' or 'easy' features that may be bound within the language itself.

The third and final language we will look at today... is a language that ranks equal in its primary country to another 10 languages... Afrikaans. Of course, Afrikaans is spoke also in Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland. It has 6.45 million native speakers, but up to 12-16 million people worldwide have some knowledge of the language.

Alike Norwegian, which featured in Part 1, Afrikaans is a West Germanic language and therefore a member of the Indo-European language family.

Essentially, Afrikaans is the African version of Dutch, in fact until the early 20th century, Afrikaans was still considered a dialect of Dutch. Despite similarity however, Afrikaans poses far fewer problems when trying to acquire proficiency. Hence, Afrikaans' approval and Dutch's disapproval as one of the the three languages contained in this series of posts.

What makes Afrikaans 'easy' to learn??

Afrikaans, unlike Dutch, and similarly to Norwegian has NO verb conjugation by person. 

Alike English, Afrikaans has NO grammatical gender. Words are neither female, male, neuter etc.

Afrikaans DON'T express the Perfect or Pluperfect tenses... 
In simple terms...

Ek het gebreek, can mean either 'I broke' or 'I have broken!'

To make an object plural, Afrikaans generally employs the ending -e or -s
ex. land (land) -> lande (lands)
artikel -> arikels

Afrikaans has a word order similar to Dutch, which isn't too far removed from English, but isn't that straightforward either. 

Potential Hurdles

The letter 'G' in Afrikaans, is pronounced with a strong guttural sound akin to the 'ch' found in the Scottish word 'Loch' or the fourth letter of the Welsh alphabet, found in words such as 'Chwarae' (to Play.)

Although learned fairly easily, this may pose problems for some with oral comprehension. 

Adjectives change a little before the noun... although this is found with many Indo-European languages. 


Sunday, 22 August 2010

Part 2: What Easy New Language to Learn? Italian? Spanish? Think farther...

In part 2 of What Easy New Language to Learn? I would like to draw all of your attention to the exotic East. 

The Iranian language Persian or Farsi is found on the Indo-Iranian branch of languages, thereby making it a relative, albeit fairly distant, of other Indo-European languages. It is spoken in 10 countries and natively by 60-70 million people. 


Due to the countries where it is spoken, I foresee, like many, that the Persian language will soon be an important world language, and an essential learn for all linguaphiles or media moguls. 

In addition to this the language is interesting... it is written in an aesthetically pleasing script. The same script that renders all the wealth of beauty found within great Persian Literature such as, Attar's The Conference of the BirdsOne Thousand and One Nights and Yeki Bud Yeki Nabud (Once Upon a Time.) OR, THE PRINCE OF PERSIA :L  

So, how difficult exactly is Persian/Farsi to learn..? Stupid question huh?.. Well, at least based on the post title! 

Welcome features...

Persian verbs in the PAST tense all conjugate regularly! ABSOLUTELY NO EXCEPTIONS. In fact, conjugation, as a whole, is pretty straightforward... except  for a sometimes irregular PRESENT tense STEM... But, that poses no great setbacks!


Articles such as 'Le' 'La' or 'Les' in French, 'La' and 'El' in Spanish or the 'der' 'das' and die's etc, found in German... DO NOT EXIST in Persian... this surely saves a lot of dictionary time, and spares annoyance. 


Say good bye to the Female, Male, Neuter and other grammatical genders found in other European languages such as Spanish, French, German, Italian and even Norwegian.


All verbs end in -dan or -tan!! BUDAN - TO BE



Garm bud, means... It was warm (garm) or این گرم بود.


As you can see from above, Persian is written in a Perso-Arabic script, meaning, that it has a non-Roman alphabet which has to be learned. This script however, isn't too difficult, sure it'll pose problems to begin but overall it's ok... there is some variation to be found, but don't panic!

This script is beautiful looking, and once learned will amaze people when being written by your smug selves! Here are a few helpful things that will get you well on your way!

Where to begin... Get a good course book... TRY THIS ONE

Friday, 20 August 2010

Part 1: What Easy New Language to Learn? Italian? Spanish? Think farther...

My goal, despite my blog's name, isn't to learn as many languages as humanely possible. I have always believed in QUALITY before QUANTITY when concerning language learning. But, there are occasions when I myself like to step outside my current language learning frames, French and Spanish, and to dip my toes in the fresh pools of another language, similar languages usually fit the bill, allowing me to see in essence a different rendition of the current language I'm studying. Linguistically, written French and Italian aren't all that different. From seasoned polyglots to amateurs however, quantity matters. Indeed, Spanish, Italian and French all learned consecutively, greatly reduces their respective learning times. That will surely rack up your number...

Here, however are my suggestions... all of which should be easier learned than expected, and if you care, look vastly more impressive under your belt than the much sought after Romance Languages...So, let's roll on language number 1.


You may be wondering... Norwegian, Why Learn Norwegian? Only around 5 million people speak Norwegian, and those are mainly in Norway... Norway's a cold, desolate place.
Here are reasons to make you think again...

Norway's standard of living has been voted one of the highest in the world for many years. In fact, Norway isn't how you entirely imagine it... a quick Wiki search or the Norwegian Facebook group will change your mind.


Norwegian, being a Germanic language, contains many English cognates that will help you on your way when trying to build a sizeable vocab.

Here are some examples...

tre - tree
busk - bush
gress - grass
hund - dog (hound)
katt - cat
mus - mouse
regn - rain (sounds like 'Rhine' - as in the river)
snø - snow (said, 'snuh')
vinter - winter
sommer - summer

Norwegian Grammar

Norwegian grammar is surprisingly straightforward... easier than French or even Spanish.

Norwegian verbs are among the easiest to conjugate with any language in Europe.

With the Present Tense, one but only has to add -r to the end of the infinitive, regardless
of who's doing the the action.

ex. Ha - to Have

Jeg har - I have
du har - You have (singular)
han har - He has
vi har - We have
dere har - You have (Plural)
de har - They have

Past Tense has the -te suffix, whereas English has -ed
Plurals are formed by adding -r to the end of a word that ends in a vowel, and -er to a word
ending in a consonant.

Word Order is similar to that of English, often SVO
and so on...

Mutual Intelligibility (source)

Norwegians can... understand 88% of SPOKEN Swedish. (Swedes -> Nor = 48%)
understand 89% of WRITTEN Swedish. (Swedes -> Nor = 86%)
Norwegians can ALSO... understand 93% of WRITTEN Danish. (Dan->Nor=89%)
understand 73% of SPOKEN Danish. (Dan->Nor=69%)

Fancy learning 100 or more words a day??

Today, I will show YOU how one can learn, with enough creativity, ten's or hundred's of words a week!

I will outline to you many methods that have worked for many:

The sagacious Hungarian polyglot Kató Lomb was THE great advocator of context to deduce the meaning of words; the famous Lectoglot was thus named aptly "Kati Kontext" by her friends. Kató was a vociferous reader, and indulged in swallowing as many enjoyable works of foreign literature as she could to learn her languages.

In her book "Polyglot, How I Learn Languages" chapter 14, Kató suggests using First Language dictionaries to provide the meaning of the word, and an example of the word being used in a sentence. She suggests learning words that share the same root to draw connections and improve the connectivity and relationship of words, synonyms and antonyms can also be called upon. The autistic savant Daniel Tammet, speaker of over 10 languages, (having learnt Icelandic in a week), also advocates such "hyper-connectivity" highly when learning vocab. Her, is one such demonstration with French found in Kató's book:

abolition (manumission)
affected (maniéré)
begging (manche)
crank (manivelle)
cuff (manchette)
demonstration (manifestation)
demonstrator (manifestant)
to emancipate (émanciper)
handcuffs (menottes)
handle (manche)
to handle (manier)
handling (manutention)
horse training (manège)
to maintain (maintenir)
mandate (mandat)
manifesto (manifeste)
manipulation (manipulation)
manual (manuel)
manual labor/er (main-d’œuvre)
manufacture (manufacture)
manuscript (manuscrit)
muff (manchon)
now (maintenant)
one-armed man (manchot)
operator (manipulant)

Logic, thus far has been the tool used to build your vocabulary... Here comes the best bit... creativity!

The mind has a tendency to remember things better if say they are funny, scary or bizarre. In fact, any method that evokes the reaction of any or all of the senses proves to be worth while.
Have you ever suddenly when met by a smell been flooded with memories associated with your prior smelling of it?

This is where creativity rears its head.

Many people have over the years when revising for their exams, tried the technique of listening to a specific song when revising a certain subject matter. The theory being that when you are sitting your exam that all you'd have to do is recall the song, and along with it would be the connected facts. This, is an example that has proved useful for many... but we can do one better.


HOMES : Maybe you have seen this mnemonic phrase before, if not, HOMES, an easy to remember acronym... is a common example of how mnemonics can speed up memorisation.

Huron Ontario Michigan Eerie and Superior. Or, the 5 great lakes.

Here is another example:

This time using an entire sentence, to memorise the order of the colours' of the rainbow.

Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain :

Another such example is the use of RHYMES & CATCH PHRASES:

I before E, except after C...
Or when sounded like 'A' as in Neighbour and Weigh

Now, here is when it gets creative, sure it'll take effort and about 15 mins to create such a mnemonic, but, that same effort will make it stick in your mind.

Here is Stuart Jay Raj's creation from an interview in Tomisimo.
MingguYou’re mingling in church on Sunday.
SeninAnd then on Monday after church you go back to ’sinnin’.
SelasaThen like an Italian waving his hands in the air, you exclaim ‘Selasa’ (at last) Monday is over!
RabuThen you call the ‘rabi’ to come and cleanse your sins.
KamisThe rabi ‘comes’ (Kamis).
JumatThe rabi performs a weird ritual by ‘jumping on the mat’ (Jumat) to cleanse the sins from Monday.
SabtuAnd then it’s the Sabbath… ready to go and mingle again the next day on Sunday (Minggu).

The above are only examples... the rest is in your hands... remember think full of emotion, humour or logic (if you prefer)... such methods... will get you learning many, many words daily. Reading alone sometimes allows you to learn many by context.