TRACY on Language

I realized not to long ago that I love the idea of picking up a “Teach Yourself This Language” book and reading it and grasping the language, or better yet, listening to audio lessons that go with it. The problem? All of these language learning books and audio lessons teach towards the vacation/business traveler! I’m so tired of being taught how to say boy, girl, my name is, where is the embassy, I’m an American, yadda yadda that it’s sickening. And then the audio lessons not only have these dull topics, but also a dull voice. And there’s so much English (and spoken the same pace as the L2!). No need to speak the English part slow! Tell me what it is and quickly move on! And with some personality, please!

I learned a surprising amount of Spanish from not because their method was particularly more instructive than any other method, but because I enjoyed listening to them banter in English or in Spanish and the hosts have great, authentic personalities. So many podcasters are just so plain awkward to listen to that it’s painful. The host of SpanishPod are natural and interesting on the mic. I’ve listened to FrenchPod, ChinesePod and ItalianPod, and maybe I need to give them more of a chance, but not even other hosts from the same company are quite as good.

I can learn the word boy just as well from the sentence, “Hey, I think that boy is flirting with you,” as I can from, “The boy is short.” Why do traditional materials insist on spending the bulk of their time with sentences like the second one???

Anyway, so in theory, traditional learning materials are HOW I want to learn, they’re just not WHAT I want to learn. Or from WHO I want to learn it. I’m sure there have to be some interesting, funny personalities in every language. Can’t someone find one and have them make audio lessons?

*Stepping off soap box*


14 days into my Russian study.

I got my Penguin “Russian Course” book in the mail today from I read all the reviews and it really seemed up my alley for the grammar and general Russian guidance. Grammar is, gasp, one of my more favorite subjects when it comes to languages. And I’m sure that, eventually, you could learn grammar just by seeing enough example sentences, but it’s a whole lot easier to get a base of grammar and then just reinforce that grammar with sentences.

Many say, “Oh, but this four year old speaks perfect English/Russian/Japanese and you can learn the same way!” But, thinking about it, I was still figuring out the right way to spell and write things far into college. This leads me to think that, yes, I can get to a reasonable level just by looking at example sentences over and over, but if I want to converse at a gramatical level higher than 4th grade, I need to study the intricacies of the language.

One thing I find interesting on the Russian language is the lack of prepositions like “a” and “the.” You essentially say, “You doctor…I woman…” and so on. It’s funny! I know Russian grammar is suppose to be all crazy, but that’s just so simple it’s funny to me. Usually my hardest thing is vocabulary since I don’t have the memorization thing down and I think that will be the case here. I’ll just have to work at it!

My new sentences are from the Princeton course that the ex-professor offers as a free download. It comes with dialogs and translations, so I’m just using Audacity to separate the dialogs into sentence chuncks and then add them to my SRS (spaced repitition software), Anki. So far I’m up to 92 sentences. There are about 15 per lesson and there’s about 200 lessons, so it should last me a while on my quest to 10,000 sentences. I’ll start tracking my SRS study stats on the side bar, mostly for my benefit but for anyone else who by chance might be following me. I’m a numbers person :-).


So far Russian (or Русский!) has been going very well!

I have the Cyrillic alphabet mostly conquered and now I’m working up building the basics like how to say “I” and “you” and so on.

It’s very slow since the alphabet plus the language makes it double foreign and makes the words harder to remember. I have to hear the word over and over and over and then see it over and over and over in order just to make sense of it. I’m hoping this will get better with familiarity with the Russian letters and standard sounds.

I miss how far I was along in Spanish, but I’m sure a few months or a year from now I can get to a good level again in this language. It seems like all it takes is consistent effort and daily study. I miss not being able to half-read things. Oh well! More motivation to study!

Sentences:  69/10,000 (more on the 10,000 sentences method)

Princeton Course: Lesson 3 of SLA101 (A free 200 lesson course offered by a former Russian teacher available in PDF/MP3 downloads)


I was talking to my grandma today and my wheels started turning. My plans have changed from studying French to studying both Russian and Portuguese.

  • I have good base in Spanish to make Portuguese relatively “easy” to learn
  • I wanted to learn Portuguese, but did French due to the not wanting to lose my Spanish. But it’s Portuguese I want to be fluent in, so why not study Portuguese? I’ll probably understand more Spanish with Portuguese study than I’ll retain with French study anyway
  • My goal is to be able to translate in the energy industry (where my degree and career are), and there’s not much French in that industry
  • There is a LOT of petroleum interest in Russian speaking countries (Russia, Kazakhstan, etc.)
  • There is also a lot of petroleum interest in Portuguese speaking countries (Brazil, Angola, etc.)
  • Both Russian and Portuguese are less known by native English speakers than French, thus making it more useful skill
  • Russian and Portuguese are far enough in language spectrum that I don’t think I’ll mix them too much. If I do, learning how not to mix them will just be part of the learning process
  • I currently work with two Russian-speaking people and know of one Portuguese speaking person, making now an ideal time to practice 😀

So there’s my thought process behind that one. I’ll now be studying Portuguese and Russian. But as you’ll come to see with me, that could change any minute :-D.

I bought this book yesterday on the bargain aisle at Barnes & Noble and I finished it today. What a wonderful read on language learning! I feel so much better about my love of languages and cultures after feeling the same emotions jump from the pages of Farber’s vivid writing. His story is also inspirational, with his outline of how he came to learn most of his languages.

After Farber’s book, I’m now brushing up on some French grammar (with my “Correct your French Blunders” book), learning basic pronounciation, and adding cards to my flashcard program (Anki). After I get a good base, I’ll try his newspaper paragraph method of learning words and use my iPhone to have my flashcards with me all the time.

So far so good!

This is Tracy. I know a total of one language at the moment (English). I can read some Spanish and understand some spoken Spanish after 8 months or so of not so serious study mixed in with some serious study. But that’s not much in my eyes.

My goal is to become fluent enough in French and eventually Portuguese (and maybe Spanish) that I can do translating and conversing. I love studying languages of all types and I hope, through many forms of learning, that this will give me a chance to communicate with people around the world and open up opportunities a regular engineer would never have.

Oh yes, I have an engineering degree, which is why I never took any language in college (no time!!) and I only took two years of German in high school (which means I know “ich” and that’s about it). It’s also why I’m interested in Portuguese, since the petroleum industry (my industry) has quite a bit of Angola operations and South American business. But it’s also such a beautiful language. You should really listen to it if you haven’t yet.

French is my current goal since I wanted a buffer between Spanish and Portuguese, and French has similar sounds as Portuguese. French is also such a beautiful language that it makes for a good excuse! My goal here is to have a rockin’ accent and awesome grammar skills. I’d love to take French to the “advanced fluency” level, whatever that means.

This site is for me to muse on things language since my husband likely tires of my endless chattering on the subject :-). It is also for me to take notes on sentences, save links, and share interesting findings between languages and within languages.

Please do comment and please do enjoy!