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#IGLC February Prompts

What a great first month for the Instagram Language Challenge! I’m so happy that so many of you got involved. I loved checking the hashtag feed each day to see what everyone has been learning. Over these past couple of days, I’ve been reviewing the words I’ve learnt in January and using them in bigger contexts to help me get to grips with the meaning and increase my vocabulary. But this is just the way I’ve been using the Instagram Language Challenge. I’ve been really inspired by how you have been making it work for you too. So I asked a few people I’d seen pop up regularly on the feed to share a few words about what they’ve got from the challenge.
#IGLC Instagram Language Challenge Lindsay Does Language blog

Why did you decide to do the Instagram Language Challenge?

ALEX: I made a few language videos on Instagram before to mark my progress in several foreign languages and I saw what Lindsay was doing for Japanese and after a Skype call I had with her she suggested I do the Instagram Language Challenge and I thought why not? I love languages too! I wanted to do the Instagram Language Challenge because I felt like I needed to get more productive with the current four languages I’m learning, German, Russian, Hindi, and Indonesian, and I thought it would be a useful exercise to learn a word in each of those languages for the words I picked for the IGLC.

TANISE: At first, I thought it was a good idea, but then I realized it was a great one.

LAWRENSO: I took this challenge with the idea that I would be learning vocabulary proactively, meaning I would be learning a word and immediately applying it to something, versus thumbing through flash-cards in my down time and only retaining a portion of what I’d studied.

SHANNON: It looked like an interesting challenge and a fun way to boost my Mandarin vocabulary, so I was eager to try it out.

AUDREY: I decided to join the Instagram Language Challenge because 1) as a trained linguist (Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Master’s degree in Language Acquisition) and lover of all things Spanish, I love language and 2) I’m raising my daughter bilingually (English/Spanish). Since I only speak to her in my second language, Spanish, I have made a personal commitment to increase my OWN input, reading more and learning new words (if daughter is learning, so is mom!).

CHARLOTTE: Although I’ve had Instagram for a long time, I don’t really use it much – and before I saw Lindsay posting about this challenge I never really thought about using it for languages. So I decided to join in and I tried it; and really, it was kind of fun. I decided to do the challenge in Spanish because I was supposed to be focused on learning it and though I didn’t manage to post a picture every day, it was fun to try and relate new words to the prompts and the photos I was taking. I’ve only learnt a handful of new words, but it’s a handful more than I had in December!
#IGLC Instagram Language Challenge Lindsay Does Language blog

How did you decide on which words to learn?

ALEX: I picked the list by copying down Lindsay’s list of words, however I used my own ideas for the topics related to the words on her list and got a little innovative and creative.

TANISE: The words came to my mind when I read the day, some words I already knew in French, but others I had no idea, so I started searching the translation, the right way to use the word.

LAWRENSO: Just before this challenge officially began I printed off a copy of all of the themes from one day to the next, so it kind of became part of my morning routine to glance over what the theme of the day was and just keep that in the back of my head. More often than not, I would be lost in thought or lost in the day when it would occur to me, “this fits today’s theme,” and I would look up the best word to describe the current situation. I don’t think I’d ever gone into the day with a word already in mind, but now in search of something to photograph that will match this predetermined word.

SHANNON: I decided on words based on whatever came to mind. If my first impulse was something I already knew, I tried to approach it from a new angle. For example, one of the challenges was “little useful word.” I decided to do husband because the word that first comes to mind for me is too formal for everyday use. I wanted to further instill the more colloquial way of saying husband and the challenge served as a great tool to help me do so.

AUDREY: Based on the assigned hashtag/word for the day of the month, I would ask myself, “okay, is there a corresponding word in English that you DON’T know in Spanish?” That would be my word for the day.
#IGLC Instagram Language Challenge Lindsay Does Language blog

What are you doing to follow up what you’ve learnt?

ALEX: I will definitely do more IGLCs in the future and I’m going to make my own Instagram challenges with my own word lists (which I’ll write in my notebooks and probably create on Memrise and Anki) next time because it seems to help me get on top of retaining vocabulary better.

TANISE: It was a great exercise and I want to review all the words to see which I’ve already included on my vocabulary.

LAWRENSO: Throughout this challenge I have been making sentences with my new-found vocabulary words, just for the sake of using each word. My goal is to write a small script using all of these words and record a video of myself for speech practice. It might be a bit too ambitious, but I’m hoping for the best.

SHANNON: Lindsay asked me how I planned to follow up and retain the words I learnt this past month which is why I created this post. It serves as a way to create a document to use for reference in the future and to share the vocabulary list with you.

AUDREY: Although I didn’t participate in the Instagram challenge every day of the month of January, I appreciated participating in the challenge because it kept the idea of learning and acquiring new vocabulary at the forefront of my mind. An additional vocabulary-learning strategy that I have been using for a few months now is taping new words in Spanish to the insides of my kitchen cabinets (which is where I spend a lot of my time), so when I’m cooking and doing dishes, I’m constantly looking at, thinking about, and using new words.

CHARLOTTE: After the challenge, I’m going to collect the words together and make sentences with them as practice and hopefully there will be enough reinforcement there for me to have about learnt them.
#IGLC Instagram Language Challenge Lindsay Does Language blog

Will you join in in February?

ALEX: I’m definitely considering joining in the February challenge to keep going!

TANISE: For sure, I’ll be joining the next one.

LAWRENSO: Without a doubt! In February I want to get my friends and family involved as well. Instead of simply saying, “Hey, sit still, I need to take a picture for this project I’m doing,” I will give a much better explanation and go beyond what I’ve done for the month of January.

SHANNON: Yes! Please join us in February – I look forward to learning a new language with you.

AUDREY: Yes, I’d love to join the Language Challenge in February! (And, March, April, etc…)

CHARLOTTE: Obviously, I can’t wait to take part in February too!

Inspired? Up for it? Let’s do this! Here are the prompts for February.
#IGLC Instagram Language Challenge February 2015 Lindsay Does Language blog
You don’t have to learn the word given in your target language. The idea is to use that as inspiration to think of a new word you don’t know in the language you’re learning. Using your own photos means you’re also ore likely to learn relevant vocabulary because chances are you’ll be taking photos of things in your life. Win win. All you have to do is take a photo each day and post it to Instagram with the hashtag #IGLC in the description so I can see what you’re getting up to. Because I’m nosey.

Shannon blogs over at Eurolinguiste and wrote a lovely blog summarising her first month doing the Instagram Language Challenge. Alex is currently starting his language coaching business here, Audrey blogs about bilingual parenting and related topics to bilingualism here; and you can find Tanise, Charlotte, and Lawrenso over on Instagram. Be sure to say hey!

Are you going to take part in the Instagram Language Challenge this month? Share your reasons why in the comments!

Language Learning Review & Goals: January

One of my new year’s resolutions this year was to give myself monthly language learning goals. As it turns out, I didn’t actually give myself any language learning goals for January. Partly because I was going along with the first stages of my Language Script Challenge, partly because I forgot to write separate goals to my new year’s resolutions, and partly because I spent the first week or so still waiting for people to come and fix stuff like the internet. However, I think I can safely say (this is too risky) that our little home is almost there now. Yay!

So looking back on my goals for January, I’m going to take my relevant new year’s resolutions and see how I’m doing so far. Here’s my language learning review for January.

I will be able to visually identify and distinguish between 30 different scripts and writing systems

This is going well! I’ll be giving a proper update in the next couple of weeks but I’m more or less on track. My plan with this for January was to learn the Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, and IPA alphabets, which I’ve kind of done so far. Kind of? I’ll explain all of this in more detail in a couple of weeks but I’m happy with my progress on this so far.

I will achieve at least a grade 2 pass for my Spanish course

My Spanish course doesn’t officially start until tomorrow, but with every OU course, I’ve always been keen to get ahead as soon as the materials arrive. This means I’ve had time to settle into a nice new routine with this, and so far it feels really good and I feel like I’m making good progress. One thing I’ve started, which I haven’t done with my previous Open University courses is start a Memrise course for the new vocabulary, so if you’re after some new advanced Spanish vocabulary, feel free to join the Memrise course!

I will listen to online radio 3 hours

The first day in January that I sat back at my desk was depressing. Not January blues, just lack of internet blues. I was limited to using a costly 4G box as a wi-fi hotspot that ate data. So I was sat using the bare minimum internet I needed, which meant no music or online foreign radio. Or Memrise for that matter. Argh! It was dull. Now though, I’m able to follow this resolution through and it’s nice to get some passive exposure to my languages that don’t always get a look in at the moment with my current routine.

I will have at least 2 trips abroad!

So, one was always going to be Berlin. Another has been planned! I’m ridiculously excited but I’m not allowed to say anything until after this weekend. I think. My lips are sealed.

I will continue to study Japanese as my priority language after Spanish

Yes! Japanese is still happening although it sometimes feels like I’m neglecting it. When I look back to this post, these goals just haven’t happened since November. As in, post moving into a concrete shell and waiting for men to come and fix stuff and Christmas happening and life not being normal and…sigh. I admit though, my plans were ambitious and I was naive as to how long it would take to move in completely. I didn’t think my life would be so topsy turvy for so long, but it was, so hey ho, there’s no point dwelling on it. Moving on from this, I decided to do the Instragram Language Challenge in January primarily in Japanese. The Instagram Language Challenge has been designed so that you can use it in a way to suit you. I’ve left a few days at the end of the month so that you can take a step back and go over everything you’ve learnt. Perhaps practising in videos on Instagram, maybe writing stories using all of your new vocab, whatever works for you. This month, I decided to put my new Japanese vocab into sentences. I’m not quite at the story stage yet! You can see my progress with this in the video.


Moving forward, what am I planning for February?

At least 40 more Kanji radicals

I was learning Kanji radicals at a pretty speedy rate but with the huge gap in my Memrise routine over winter, the watering got slightly over the top when I was reconnected to stable internet. This means that learning new ones has been put on hold this month as I’m catching up with where I was. In February, I will get 40 new ones in, roughly one level a week on this course.

Get back to speaking

Lack of internet (I’m bored of writing it now!) also meant that I couldn’t commit to the italki Language Challenge this time around because I just had no idea when our provider would hook us up for good. I will take at least 2 italki lessons this month in languages I haven’t decided yet. I’m leaving that bit open, I just want to speak again! Speaking of which, I’d like to commit to language exchange again. I used to have a great routine last summer with this for Spanish, German, and Dutch but it fell apart when moving started. I think a good place to start with this would be Spanish once a week.

3 new scripts

In February, I’ve got British Sign Language (BSL), Burmese, and Cherokee on my list for the Language Script Challenge. I have to be honest, I’ve already looked at a video for the Burmese consonants. I’m just too keen!

Instagram Language Challenge

I’m thinking of doing next month’s Instagram Language Challenge in Spanish, or even a mixture of languages. I haven’t quite decided yet but probably Spanish. You should totally join in too! The prompt list will be up on the blog tomorrow, as well as some inspiration from people that have taken part in January. Be sure to check it out!

How has your January gone? What are your plans for February? Share in the comments!

World Cinema Club: January Discussion

As if the end of January is upon us! How did this happen?! Oh yeah, time happens…I forgot that bit. I hope your January has been filled with lots of kept resolutions and language learning? Here’s to keepin’ on carryin’ on in February!

Now that the end of the month intro is out of the way, let’s get down to business. Film business. World cinema club business. Walts With Bashir business. What did you think?

Personally, I picked this film based on the fact that I’d bought it a few months back in a library sale haul. (It feels like just the other day I was writing about library sales. Am I going that often?) So I knew nothing about the film other than I thought it might be animated from the cover and that it was in Hebrew. I got home, I read the box, I still didn’t know much. So there’s probably no surprise when I say that the film wasn’t what I thought it would be. I was expecting a fiction, perhaps loosely based on a true story, using real events as a backdrop. I wasn’t expecting a documentary. In fact, this may be embarrassing to admit, but I didn’t realise it was a documentary until about 20 minutes in. Yeah, I’m good with film.

However, this really drew me into the film. To think that the stories being told were actually real was quite moving and I believe that the animation gave the documentary a whole new level that this genre sometimes lacks when relying solely on stock footage. So you’re left with a bizarre feeling that you shouldn’t enjoy what you’re watching because of the subject matter but you do enjoy it because it’s so captivating to watch. I’d love to know if there’s more documentaries out there using animation as a means of expression. I found that one of the most powerful things about the film.

It was also an interesting time to encounter Hebrew because I began learning the alphabet at the same time. The language is interesting (what language isn’t!) and sounds really beautiful spoken so from a language perspective, I enjoyed gaining some exposure to Hebrew at this time when it’s suddenly fallen into my life a little bit.

Be sure to check out next month’s film, Bad Education, which we’ll be discussing at the end of February. It’s gonna be good.

What did you think of Waltz With Bashir? Did you enjoy the animation being used in line with real audio interviews? I’d love to read your thoughts on this in the comments.

My OU Story

You have probably guessed by now that my love for languages runs a little deeper than formal study. Regardless, I’m about to embark on one final course in order to complete my degree. Today I want to share a very personal post with you about my relationship with The Open University. This is my OU story. Allow me to explain…

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away…Sorry, wrong story.

When I was 17 (August baby. Power to the young!) I was faced with the mind-boggling decision of picking a university. Let me give you some background. At secondary school, no teacher had even uttered the word university to us. We weren’t expected to go it seemed. Predicted to spend our lives in the first job we found out of school at 16 it seemed. Yoda it seemed. Oops, wrong story again.

I didn’t really fancy staying in the first job post education for the rest of my life. Even at that age, I didn’t know what I wanted but I did know that what I wanted wasn’t to be found in the first job I found out of school at 16. Incidentally, that was Argos. I even had keys to the iPod and jewellery room. Not that a lot of the jewellery was worth much. Unless big dangly golden doll necklaces are your thing. Or bling. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Anyway, whilst working at Argos, I also moved on from the secondary school that had rather low hopes for us to a “better” sixth form school in a nearby village that, as it turned out on open evening, was a specialist language school. The sixth form here did predict you to go to university. Only, the overwhelming sudden existence of the word threw me right off. And I instantly repelled against the thought of it. It wasn’t until the last week of applications that I approached my intelligent, university applied friend Hannah to help read through my personal statement and finalise the application. I visited 3 out of the six universities I applied to and felt no affinity to any of them. I didn’t really want to go. I reluctantly accepted a deferred place at Sheffield as plans for a year out before hand were in full swing. I can’t say gap year anymore, it sounds far too rah nowadays.

Until very recently, boxes upon boxes of kitchen paraphernalia and flat pack furniture graced my mum’s attic with the word SHEFFIELD inked in permanent marker on their sides. Needless to say I didn’t go to university. For a few reasons. I didn’t want to be surrounded by people who cared more about their next beer than their next exam, I didn’t want to then be excluded from social activities for not caring about the next beer, and finally, and most importantly, I didn’t want the debt. I still don’t understand the principle of going somewhere to supposedly improve your life only to be grazed with a hunking great big hole in your imaginary unbalanced finances looming over you until you earn enough to pay it back or you die, whichever comes first. Is that really the sign of life improvement? At risk of sounding like a rebellious teen, the formula was all wrong, the system was broken and to top it all off, a recession was happening. Adios, Woolworths. Graduates were leaving university into a jobless market, saturated by competition due to the number of people that held a similar piece of paper affirming their life was, well and truly, improved. It didn’t make sense.

Yet, amidst all this, I knew I wanted to continue to study languages – not just French and Spanish, but other exciting foreign tongues. The Internet was still growing, rapidly, but options for self-study remained slightly blurred from view. It seemed the only way to truly improve my French and Spanish was to advance onto university study. But I didn’t want to! Was there another way?

One day I received a text message from my cousin “We’re going 2 Kenya. Do u fancy a little holiday?”. Erm, yes! As it turned out, I wasn’t going to Kenya, but instead up north to housesit whilst they visited Kenya. Still, it gave me the headspace I needed to figure out ‘what next?’ when all around me at home was… well, no one other than a few friends similarly left behind by the annual migration to university. I scoured the web for alternatives: ‘part time university study’, ‘language courses certificate’, ‘part time language study’. Firstly, I stumbled upon Birkbeck University in London and simultaneously a job for a petrol station cashier (work I’d previously done – every girl’s dream) very close to the train station on the direct line to London. This was a plan! I could still work, travel down to London 3 nights a week, earn some money, and get the sought after piece of paper to say I can speak languages. Travel down to London 3 nights a week? Was that too intense? I was inclined to decide against it but still remotely drawn to the idea when I came across the term ‘distance learning’ and in particular, The Open University. This was what I had been looking for.

And so, voila, here I am 5 years later. Debt free, self-employed, and officially Miss Lindsay H. Dow Cert. Italian Cert. Open (German). It’s too long for most forms so I don’t brag much. Don’t get me wrong, at times I’ve hated my studies. French for some reason has always been a bugbear of mine over the two courses I’ve done, as you may well be aware. However, having the chance to learn Chinese, Italian, German, and English linguistics along the way has been great. Meeting fellow students of all ages, professions, and backgrounds has been wonderful. And having an actual life progress and develop alongside my studies has been priceless.

There was a time I didn’t think I would get a degree. I wasn’t going to go to university so that door was going to be closed. I was closing it myself so I’m not looking for sympathy here but to say I was happy with this would be a lie. I still felt the need to prove that I could do it. But I didn’t want to go to university. Can you see how this cycle worked? It wasn’t going to happen. the Open University gave me the chance to make it happen without going to university. For that I am eternally grateful.

It sounds far too cliché to say The OU saved me, so I’m not going to, hell, this isn’t a cat poster. But I will say that it has improved my life; just as young 17 year olds expect university to. Studying with the OU has enriched not just my language studies, but my overall attitude to time management, learning, and life in general. Entering into my last course of study, I have already ventured into studying at least 3 languages alone, completely unaided by any form of academia, and I don’t intend to stop there. The OU has given me the confidence and vision to be able to do that. When I think of all that I have done over the course of my studies: from language self-study to starting Lindsay Does Languages, from long term solo travel to buying a house; it’s crazy to think that the one consistency the whole time has been the OU. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with all my time when this course is over! Then again they do have a Welsh course I haven’t done…

Thank you for letting me share this very personal post with you today. I hope it gave you a little insight into why I big The OU up so much. Here’s to graduating!

Is Emoji a Language?

I love emojis. I know, they may be a little bit Marmite. You love ‘em or you hate ‘em. And I used to hate them. Mainly because I didn’t know how people were getting this weird collection of images that went far beyond a smiley in their messages. Then I found the emoji keyboard and my life changed forever. Ok, so I’m exaggerating slightly but you get the idea. Then I introduced the emoji keyboard to my mum and now we sometimes just communicate through emoji if we text. My sister is in America at the moment, and when she was sat waiting in the airport, I was keeping her entertained with a little game of ‘Guess The Movie From The Emojis’. Patent pending. If you have a friend and too much time on your hands then it’s a surprisingly easy game to play.

Recently, I read a couple of articles that argued (both for and against) the idea of emoji being a language in its own right. I found this really interesting and wanted to throw the discussion out there to you. What do you think? Is emoji a language? Take a look at the video and let me know your thoughts on emojis in the comments either here or on YouTube!

Things I’ve Learnt About Arabic So Far

One thing I love about blogging is that it gives me the chance to document my progress as it happens. That’s exactly what I want to do with this post. My Language Script Challenge has begun and this week I’m starting my forth script (Thai!). I’m on track, Jack. And I’m making up new expressions like there’s no mañana. Along the way, I’m learning little nuggets of language joy that I just can’t help but share with you! I figured the best way to do this would be language by language so let’s start today with Arabic.

What I already knew

It only seems fair that I start with what I already knew before beginning to learn the Arabic script. I knew that Arabic is an alphabet but didn’t know how many letters it has. I knew that Arabic was always written joined up, or in cursive. I knew that Arabic is written from right to left. This makes me wonder, historically, were there more right handed people in places where writing left to right happened and more left handed people in places where writing is right to left? I’m thinking for, what I believe the technical term to be, smudging avoidance. I don’t know the answer to that one.

It’s not just Arabic

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
So, before I even wrote the list of scripts I wanted to learn, I knew that the Arabic script is used to write other languages than Arabic. The one that jumps to mind is Urdu. Mainly because my library had a sale and I have Teach Yourself Urdu on my shelf. I can’t resist. I’ve also taught people from the Middle East before who spoke an array of languages that used the Arabic script. Anyway, in doing a little research, which I think of as a rather important side note to this whole challenge, I have to be honest that I’ve been amazed by the quantity of languages that are written in the Arabic script. I also learnt that it’s the forth most used writing system in the world (after Latin, Chinese, and Devangari). That is a little bit amazing to say the least.

Surprising similarities with the Latin alphabet

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
Not long before getting started with learning the Arabic script, I was putting together this video when I found out that Arabic, and Hebrew, have their roots in the same alphabet as the Latin alphabet. I didn’t think much of this at first. Arabic has always looked like one of the hardest scripts to read to me and I couldn’t see ANY similarities so figured this same alphabet thing must go waaay back. Which it does. But it also turns out that although we may not see much similarity between the Arabic and Latin script, the order of letters does bear some resemblance. There’s even more similarities in the order of sounds between Arabic and Hebrew – but that’s another blog post.

A significant lack of vowels

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
Ok, not strictly true, but when it comes to the Arabic alphabet, there’s only three vowels included. Arabic has what’s called short vowels, which are added above and below consonant letters. I’m pretty sure I read somewhere that these short vowels aren’t often added in everyday writing. (Ds dis mn Arbk invntd txt spk?) I find this absolutely amazing. It reminds me of that study that says that no mteatr waht oerdr lteerts are in, if the frsit and lsat are trhee we can raed waht’s bieng siad. Phew, typing that way is hard. But looking back, I can read it. There must be some of the same science applicable to reading Arabic, I guess?

Little dots change a lot

Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog On its own, it means nothing in Arabic other than a smiley face with no eyes, but just by adding a dot here…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog We get ‘b’. Let’s move it on top and add a friend…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog Now we have ‘t’. But because three is the magic number…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to ‘th’.

Dots did that! Dots changed the letter, the sound, and, in a bigger context, the word. This is making learning the alphabet a lot more enjoyable than I imagined. These shapes are also next to each other in the alphabet, so it’s easy to group letters and learn it chunk by chunk. Isn’t chunk a gross word? Chun…blurrrrgh.

Stop in the name of the glottal stop

Glottal stop is one of my favourite language term names. Another is interrobang?! Arabic has its very own glottal stop called hamza or, if you’ll allow me one more shot at my shaky Arabic writing practise in this post…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog hamza Which when written with other letters looks like this…
Arabic writing practise alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog hamza
If you’d like an English example of a glottal stop, try saying the words ‘water’, ‘bottle’, or ‘butter’. Whether or not a glottal stop is in the middle – in our examples on the ‘t/tt’ – depends on accents and dialects. One of the reasons I love glottal stops so much is because where I live we do this ALL THE TIME. Just can’t enough of that glottal stop stuff. Even the word ‘glottal’ has a glottal stop. Geniously named.

I can read it joined up! (ish)

Arabic writing alphabet letters script Language Script Challenge Lindsay Does Languages blog
I am by no means a pro. Or even a semi-pro. And probably not even a semi-semi-pro. But, I CAN read (mostly single) words and say them out loud at this stage. This is something I’m so proud of. A few weeks ago, Arabic text was a complete mystery to me, and now, albeit very limited, I can make some sort of sense of it. This is exactly why I decided to do this Language Script Challenge – to open up my mind and read and understand things that have always been out of my reach.

I think my experience so far with Arabic has highlighted to me the purpose of this challenge and inspired me to keep going. It’s definitely not something that will be left behind. I do hope to engage more with the script – who knows, maybe I’ll even go on to learn Arabic at some point! Spoiler alert: I can see myself ending every one of these posts about every script with that line.

Also, just to mention – This post is merely the thoughts of someone in the early stages of learning the Arabic script. I’ve done my best to make the information in this post as accurate as possible. However, if you’re after more info on Arabic from someone in the know, check out this guest post by Donovan Nagel. His blog is right here too.

Do you speak Arabic? What fascinates you about the script and the language? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Guest Post: Learning Nahuatl

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to be featured on The Polyglotist, a language learning blog by Siskia, a Mexican language lover. I was absolutely delighted when she offered up a guest post on her experiences learning a rarer language, Nahuatl. Being really interested in the idea of focusing some attention of some lesser studied languages myself once my formal study is over, I found this post a darn good read. I hope you do too! Over to you Sis…

I’m pretty sure that if you’re reading Lindsay’s blog, it’s because you must like languages. So tell me, what are you thinking of studying this year? Spanish? French? Mandarin? Japanese?

How about Hawaiian? Yiddish? Welsh? Ainu? Telugu? Hausa? I hear Euskara’s hot property these days…

Believe it or not, as rare as these languages may sound to you, they’re all very much worth your time and consideration if you’re learning languages for the pleasure of understanding (or attempting to understand) foreign cultures. But wait! Instead of explaining why they’re so and so, I’d rather tell you a little about my own experience learning one, and why I think that learning a “rare language” is something everyone should try at least once.

In 2014, I decided to learn Nahuatl. Excluding Spanish, this is the most widely spoken of 67 (!!!) languages spoken in my native Mexico, and it’s gone through a remarkable revival period in the last few decades, in spite of having essentially gone underground while and after Mexico was under Spanish rule. Even nowadays, it’s spoken or known by over one million people between the US, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador! That’s six zeroes for you!
Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog
I decided to study this language for two reasons: first, my best friend speaks it quite decently and hearing him speak it sparked my interest. Second, I found it somewhat embarrassing that I didn’t know even the tiniest bit of a language that was considered the Latin of the Americas because of its huge influence and reach. You, dear reader, are probably using Nahuatlisms without even knowing so every time you open a chocolate bar (from xocolatl), or eat a tomato (from tomatl) or an avocado (from ahuacatl).

Now, if this is such an important language, finding where and how to study it should be a breeze, right?

Actually… not really. Latin of the Americas or not, Nahuatl remains a minority language and unlike most mayor languages it has no regulating body, so finding everything necessary for studying this language came as the result of exhaustive investigative work (an activity also known as “asking everyone AND their mother too”). As a matter of fact, this was a very enjoyable side-effect of my learning project. I expected to run into a wall while gathering learning resources, but asking around got me a lot of interesting information, opened lots of doors and made me at least one new friend!
books Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog

Putting aside the hunting of textbooks, dictionaries, schools and such resources, I must admit that learning rare languages isn’t for everyone (particularly if it’s your second or third tongue). Not only is it hard to find learning resources, but encountering communities of people that speak it near your own location is oftentimes more of a chore than learning the language itself. It also doesn’t score you many “cool points” at parties to speak languages nobody knows of lest they consult Wikipedia on their smartphone. It requires a study strategy, a good deal of commitment, patience, and understanding of the fact that more often than not you’re going to be studying in a utterly analog fashion (no Duolingo for Maori yet!).

One, if not the biggest, of the rewards I reaped by studying Nahuatl for a year was a better understanding of my own culture. I realized that my everyday is soaked in a culture built by Mexico’s forefathers, and found new respect and love for this country (which sadly, is always hurting some way or another, but that’s a topic for another blog). In a way, learning Nahuatl was like taking a long, contemplative look inside my own house after I’d been travelling for what felt like forever. It was really an enriching experience for me, which is why I’d love for everyone to pick one minor language that’s always made them curious and start learning it. Don’t say “It would be so cool to learn…”, just go out, learn it! Somewhere in this broad world of ours, someone really appreciates your effort and interest in their (small, yet awesome) culture.
Nahuatl Mexican language Lindsay Does Languages blog
Not all countries have minor or rare languages, and I’m most definitely not saying you should learn them just because they’re part of your country’s identity or because they’re endangered and must be saved! (cue superhero theme), but because they’re just as interesting as any other language and carry with them the satisfaction of learning something unique, of knowing something not many do. Don’t be discouraged because you can’t find a course or textbook in the language you want to teach—use Google, go around bookshops, ask. But most importantly, have fun (and let me know if you are)!

If you’re interested, check out these websites aimed at the preservation and study of rare, endangered or minority languages—there are tons like these if you know where to look, but they’re a good start.
Foreign Service Institute
Alliance for Endangered Languages

Be sure to visit Siskia’s blog, The Polyglotist for more interesting posts like this one. Do you have any experience learning Nahuatl or another rarer studied language? Which language takes your fancy? I’d love to know in the comments!

9 Reasons to Learn Hebrew

A long time ago (as in 2014! Say what?!) I received a lovely email from Ahikam, a Hebrew speaker, giving me 9 Reasons to Learn Hebrew, à la this video. So, I’ve finally got around to putting it together. And I couldn’t be more happy to present to you the first co-written 9 Reasons video! Thanks, Ahikam!

This morning I had three men in the kitchen playing around with buzzy things behind the coffee machine. Turns out the switch saying “Washing Machine” turned the kettle on and off. Logical. It’s not as exciting as that may sound, and I’m sure the technical term is working, not playing, but either way they cut off my power. Yikes. I had to rerecord bits of lost footage (the “reason number” bits – you can tell, I’m sure!) but thankfully everything fell back into place. So it’s a bit of a miracle I’m managing to get this online today. Proof that good stuff can happen even if all you can do is sit and twiddle your thumbs on your extended lunch break. Also, sidenote, one of the men spoke Spanish! Yay!

This video has actually fallen at a really nice time because, as you may remember, the current World Cinema Club film we’ll be discussing at the end of the month is in Hebrew. Not only that, but I’m also currently learning the Hebrew alphabet as part of my Language Script Challenge. Be sure to check both of those out.

Do you speak Hebrew? What do you love about the language? I’d love to know in the comments!

World Cinema Club: February Selection

February is soon upon us! Already! This means that it’s time for me to announce February’s selection for World Cinema Club. I try and make the films I pick as seasonal as possible, and with Valentine’s Day (a holiday invented by greetings card companies or not – I’ll let you decide) around the corner, I got to thinking about romantic films and if I could think of one in a foreign language that would work for World Cinema Club. In the end, I settled for a…perhaps non-conventional romance, but I think still a romance nonetheless.
Bad Education La Mala Educación Pedro Almodovar Spanish Foreign Film World Cinema Club Lindsay Does Languages blog
Bad Education. Or La Mala Educación en español. This film really is a classic and holds a place in my heart because I actually wrote about it for my A level Spanish coursework. That said, it’s been a while since I’ve seen it so I’m excited to watch it again after all these years.

Have you seen Bad Education? Find a copy this February and we’ll discuss it at the end of the month. There’s A LOT that can be talked about with this one! Also, if you have any films that you’d like to see discussed as part of World Cinema Club, let me know in the comments. I’m always open to ideas!

Guest Post: Crash-Course in Argentine Spanish

Today, we have a guest post from Paul, of Language Trainers all about Argentine Spanish. I know I enjoyed reading this one and I’m sure you will too! I leave you in Paul’s hands…

Argentina: it’s the land of Eva Peron, juicy steak, red wine, and . . . an extremely unusual Spanish dialect! Those who have watched Argentine movies without subtitles will know what I’m talking about: when you’re used to the Spanish that’s spoken in Spain or Mexico, Argentine Spanish can seem like a completely different language. Indeed, Argentine Spanish been subject to several linguistic influences, such as immigration from Italy and borrowed words from indigenous languages like Guarani and Quechua. As a result, Argentine Spanish is distinct from other Spanish dialects in almost every domain — in its vocabulary, its pronunciation, and even its grammar.

If you’re taking a trip to Argentina, or just want to know more about the linguistically rich Argentine dialect, read on! You’ll learn what words to use, what sounds to make, and what verbs to conjugate — you’ll be sounding like a true Argentine in no time!
The Obelisco on Avenida 9 de Julio Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Grammar: Ditch “Tú”, Enter “Vos”

One of the most striking features of Argentine Spanish is that it completely forgoes the pronoun tú. That’s right: the ever-popular second-person singular pronoun is simply absent. Instead, Argentines use vos, which carries the exact same meaning as tú. But ojo: vos has nothing to do with vosotros, which is used primarily in Spain. Okay — so Argentines say vos instead of tú. But the fun doesn’t end there! Forget what you learned in Spanish class, because vos comes with its own completely different set of present tense conjugations and commands.

“Even more conjugations?” you ask, exasperated. “Doesn’t Spanish already have enough different verb endings?” But don’t give up! The rules for vos forms are simple — here’s how it works. For present-tense vos forms, there are three steps. Let’s use the verb tener as an example…

1. Take the “r” off of the infinitive (tene)

2. Tack on an “s” at the end (tenes)

3. Place the accent on the final syllable (tenés)

And you’re done! So tener ends up being tenés, venir becomes venís, hablar becomes hablás, and so forth. Pretty easy, huh? And as an added bonus, there’s only one exception: the present tense vos form of ser is sos.

Now that you’re an expert on conjugating present-tense vos forms, let’s take a look at commands. This is even easier than present-tense vos conjugations — there’s only two easy steps. Again, let’s use tener as an example:

1. Take the “r” off of the infinitive — sound familiar? (tene)

2. Place the accent on the final syllable (tené)

So, a speaker of Argentine Spanish might issue the following commands: tené cuidado, venite acá, or prepará la cena.
Buenos Aires' famous Teatro Colon Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Vocabulary: Learning Lunfardo

The vocabulary Argentine Spanish differs from that of other countries in two important ways — in the names of everyday objects (not so fun) and in the use of a distinctly Argentine slang called lunfardo (very fun). I’ll teach you a little bit about both of these.

First, the nitty-gritty: if you’re in Argentina, you’ll find yourself having to un-learn a lot of what you’ve been taught, because everyday items simply have different names. To give you a head start, here’s a list of some of the more common differences:

+ Cars aren’t coches or carros, they’re autos

+ Corn isn’t maíz, it’s choclo

+ Pens aren’t bolígrafos, they’re lapiceras

+ Suitcases aren’t maletas, they’re valijas

+ Tee shirts aren’t camisetas, they’re remeras

. . . and the list goes on and on. But don’t worry: spend a few weeks in Argentina, and you’ll be well on your way to using the correct terminology.

Now onto the fun part: lunfardo. Lunfardo is a class of distinctly Argentine slang that developed in Buenos Aires’ lower-class neighbourhoods in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Since then, its use has become widespread, and it’s been immortalised in several popular tango songs.

The best way to learn lunfardo is to stroll the streets of Buenos Aires, but for starters, I’ll give you a list of some of the most popular words:

+ when your plans fall apart, it’s a quilombo (which literally means “brothel”)

+ pickpockets and muggers are chorros (and watch out for motorcycle-riding

+ when you’re feeling lazy, you’ve got lots of fiaca

+ young men are pibes, and women are minas
The San Telmo Feria Argentine Spanish Lindsay Does Languages blog

Finishing Touches: the Accent

You’ve got the grammar and the vocabulary down, and now there’s just one more thing left for you to perfect: the accent. This is an important step, but luckily, it’s a pretty easy one. In most dialects of Spanish, the letters y and ll stand for a vocalic “y” sound (as in “young”). But in Argentine Spanish, they’re consonants — they sound like “sh” (as in “sheep”). So the pronoun ella isn’t pronounced like “eya”, but rather “esha”. Likewise, “yo” sounds like “sho”.

You’ve now successfully learned the basics of the Argentine accent! Celebrate with a glass of Malbec. To get a little more practice with the Argentine dialect, try listening to some Argentine music (tango, anyone?) or reading some books written by Argentine authors. Not sure where to start? There are plenty of reviews over on the Language Trainer site! And if you’re really confident in your Argentine Spanish abilities, try your hand at a listening test — it’s harder than you think!

Whether you like to dance the tango or stay home and eat dulce de leche by the spoonful, Argentina has plenty to offer everyone. Learning the dialect takes some getting used to, but if you spend time with Argentines, you’ll pick it up fast. Readers — what are your experiences with the Argentine dialect? What are your favorite words in lunfardo? Leave a comment!
Image sources: Image 1, Image 2 (Paul, Language Trainers), Image 3.