TRACY on Language

Posts Tagged ‘Materials

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 :-).