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History of Japan

I subscribe to Tim Ferriss’ 5-Bullet Friday emails which I highly recommend simply because I find it interesting seeing what other people are reading, watching, listening to, etc. You can subscribe at his website, fourhourworkweek.com. If you don’t know who this guy is, check out his website and blog.

Today, he mentioned a 9-minute video on the History of Japan. Now before you pre-judge. I just watched it and it’s fast and hilarious, while at the same goes through the entire history of Japan. For 9 minutes of your life, it’s worthwhile.

Pimsleur Italian – A Brief Review

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I think Pimsleur is still one of the best language learning tools available. Other than the fact that I can listen to it in my car, the spaced repetition method and forced repeating of everything in each 30 minute lesson not only bonds the language to my 45 year old brain, but also greatly helps with my pronunciation.

The catch is that you have to do it regularly. I am no saint and have been known to slack-off from time to time,

slacking offbut I really do try and keep up with it.

My first go around with Pimsleur was a few years ago when I almost completed the Italian course and was well into the advanced Spanish. Just recently, I started Italian again from lesson one. Yes it is basic for me, but anything will help and I can’t see myself jumping back into advanced Italian without brushing up a little.

One awesome added bonus is now my wife, The Quaint Mommy, has started listening to the lessons! I NEED someone to practice with so I am forcing highly-encouraging her to keep up with it.

Back Again!

After a two and one-half year hiatus, I am back again blogging.  However, I am completely changing the theme of this blog.  As you can see from past posts, I tried to do a foreign language learning blog.  I’m going to keep the language posts active for posterity and now simply blog about being a 44 year-old man.  I like to cook, dress well and learn new things.  I am also recently engaged to a wonderful woman who is the love of my life.  So, she will get some blog time as well.

Italian is Easy

I’ve come to the conclusion that Italian is a fairly easy language to learn, compared to others.  Go ahead and put Spanish right up there as well due to the similarities between the two.  Here are the reasons why:

  • only two genders
  • simple noun-adjective agreement
  • no declension of nouns
  • verb conjugations are mostly regular

Yes, Italian has irregular verbs and some strange ways to use their pronouns, however, for the most part, Italian is a very “do-able” language and I am enjoying learning it.

 

I’m Back! Italian Project

Hello all,

Sorry for the lack of updating this blog and I’ll forego giving you the standard litany of excuses of why people don’t update regularly.  However, I did want to get you up to speed as to what I’ve been doing all year in terms of my language learning.

I completely dropped Spanish for the time being.  Frankly, I wasn’t feeling it and I have no cultural background to the language at all.  Although, Spanish is such an important world language, especially in the United States, I am committed to learning it at some point.

What I did do is start an Italian project!  The are several reasons why I want to achieve some level of fluency in Italian:

  • My mother’s side of the family is originally from Italy.
  • I have visited Italy and wish to return.
  • I LOVE Italian food.
  • I live in Connecticut, where a lot of Italian-speaking people live.
  • Which is close to New York City, where even more Italian-speaking people live.

So, I want to chart my progress and my attempt to become as fluent as possible in the Italian language.  My next post will go into what tools I am using to accomplish this task.

 

Ahhh! I think I just learned the Spanish conditional!

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Pimsleur Spanish just sneaked up on me and zinged me again!  Similar to when they hit me with the present perfect tense a few weeks back, today, while listening to Pimsleur Spanish II Lesson 5 in the car on my way to work, I hear “Me gustaria”.

Gustaria … it sounded to me like a place to buy meat or bread.  But actually, it is the conditional form of the verb “gustar”, meaning to like.  It’s conditional because it’s translated into English using the word “would”.  For example:

  • me gustaria – I would like (or it would be pleasing to me)
  • nos gustaria – we would like
  • les gustaria – you (formal) would like

Although it’s initially frightening on many levels, I like how Pimsleur just throws new tenses, pronouns, etc. at you without any warning or explanation whatsoever.  I agree that this is truly how a child would learn (ha! conditional!) a native language.  Nobody explains grammar to a 2 year old. Parents simply talk to them and they pick it up.  Then, theoretically, the child will learn the grammar in school.  Although even that point is open for debate nowadays.

My Spanish status right now is that I am on Pimsleur II, Lesson 5 for the second time and I am also doing a little Rosetta Stone and the Practice Makes Perfect Basic Spanish workbook.

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Pimsleur is fantastic, but you need to supplement with grammar exercises.  Otherwise, I would have had no clue that “he hablado” was the present perfect tense … which is just cool to know.

“B” vs “V”

I have read dozens of articles and forums regarding the correct way to pronounce the letters B and V in Spanish.  Guess what? No clear answer!

I completely understand that country and dialect come into play. I have read that in Spain, for example, it’s considered correct to differentiate between the two letters. I also read somewhere that it is customary and correct in certain countries (Latin America), to pronounce both letters the same. Apparently you should pronounce the B/V as a “sloppy B”. Meaning, when you pronounce a word with a B in it, you should not say in a clipped, crisp Germanic manner, but with more of a half-V sound. If you think about it in English, both letters are pronounced basically the same. It’s just a matter of how close your lips are together.

My opinion, just like everything else, is that you are going to be completely understood regardless of how you pronounce the B/V. So, I’m not worrying too much about it. My goal was never to sound like a Spanish orator anyway.

Spanish Present Perfect Tense

I am finally up to Pimsleur Spanish Lesson 29!  Although, I have to say, Dr. Pimsleur just kicked it up a notch.  Out of the blue with no warning whatsoever, they hit me with …

THE PRESENT PERFECT TENSE!

Of course, I didn’t know it was the present perfect at the time, but starting around lesson 27, we started using sentences like, “E hablado con su madre” or “I have spoken with your mother” (I know it’s spelled wrong … just wait). The way that I study is that if Pimsleur introduces a word or concept that I am not familiar with, my goto site is www.studyspanish.com .  Lo and behold!  I discovered the actual grammar to this new tense.

Grammar

The present perfect tense is a compound tense.  This means that it is formed by using both a main verb and an auxiliary verb.  Specifically, the present perfect is formed by using the present tense of the verb “haber”, to have, with the past participle of the main verb.  Haber is conjugated:

  • he
  • has
  • ha
  • hemos
  • han

(I haven’t mentioned this before, but I am completely skipping the 2nd person plural conjugation of verbs.  From what I understand, it’s only used in Spain and frankly it’s one less thing that I have to learn.  Therefore, I will only be conjugating five forms of the verb for any given tense.  Sorry Spaniards!)

Ok, back to the present perfect.  You then take the conjugated forms of haber and add to it the past participle of the main verb.  For example, the past participle is formed by dropping the infinitive ending and adding either -ado or -ido; depending on whether your verb is -ar or -er/-ir.  Therefore, “He has eaten” is translated as “Ha comido”.  “I have spoken” is “He hablado”.

My study method of Pimsleur supplemented with internet and workbooks works for me very well.  Pimsleur taught me to speak Spanish in the present perfect tense without me even realizing it and then StudySpanish.com taught me the grammar.  However, the real key for me is that now when I hear it in Pimsleur, I can picture the phrase in my head spelled correctly by adding the silent “H”.

 

Romance Languages … more than you think

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It can certainly be argued that the well-known world languages of Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian do not exist.  This is not as ludicrous a statement as one might think when you consider all of the aforementioned languages as various dialects of their mother tongue; namely, Latin.  If you think about it, our current “Romance Languages” (i.e., Spanish, French, Italian, Portuguese and Romanian), are historical flukes.  Over the past 2,000 years, there have literally been dozens of “romance languages”; some still spoken today and some which have since become extinct.  Then, why when we think of Romance Languages, most consider only the previously mentioned five languages?  There are three reasons: 1) politics; 2) conquest; and 3) chance.  Even Latin, the language from which all romance languages, past and present, are derived from would never have come into such prominence without all three of the above-mentioned reasons.

Wikipedia lists 37 actively spoken romance languages and frankly, I consider that number a bit low. For example, some of the lesser known languages descended from Latin include:

  • Aragonese
  • Bolognese
  • Leonese
  • Neapolitan
  • Norman
  • Walloon
  • Mozarabic
  • Sicilian
  • Picard

I find it interesting to note that if the ruling power in Spain in the 15th century was from Galicia, rather than from Castile, the modern “Spanish” spoken by more than 407 million people worldwide, would be closer akin to modern Portuguese.

Pimsleur Spanish 13 & 14

I know it’s against Dr. Pimsleur’s rules, but I did two lessons in a row today: 13 and 14.  On short notice, I had to drive to New Britain court and since I was going to be in the car for a few hours, I figured … why not.

I think I was having delusions of grandeur as to my rapid progression in Spanish, because today’s lessons were at little difficult at first.  The lessons introduced the telling of time, which wasn’t that bad.  “son las ocho, son las siete y media, etc.” However, lesson 14 introduced pronouns for the first time.  Honestly, I had some trouble with these the first time around.  For example, you had to say something like, “I want to buy it”, which in Spanish was “Quiero comprarla”  The “la” is the pronoun referring to what you are thinking of buying. Although, the trick is to match the correct gender of the pronoun to the target noun.  So, if you are talking about buying a beer, la cervaza is feminine, and therefore the correct pronoun to tack onto the end of the verb is “la”.

On top of that, if the target noun is plural, then you have to make the pronoun plural as well (e.g., “las”).

I think though that if I do each lesson twice, I am about 90-95% correct and timely with my responses, which is good enough in my book to move on to the next lesson.  I also would never want to do any more than 2 lessons in a single day.