Flash cards

One of my big complaints about Instant Spanish is the lack of flash cards. Well, there’s a few but so few, it’s hardly worth mentioning them.
I’ve just come across a nice little Mac program called iFlash that seems perfect for my needs: it has iPod integration; there’s a library of existing flash cards that other users have created; and it has all sorts of ways for you to test yourself.
I’ve started a new page on the site which will contain all the flash card decks I create. Only one deck so far, which is for the New Words section in week one of Instant Spanish, but there’ll be more to come.

Watching the English

If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of Watching the English from your nearest bookshop. It’s an attempt by a professional (English) anthropologist, Kate Fox, to analyse the English and English behaviour.
While it’s a bit repetitive, she does manage to make explicit most of the implicit rules of social behaviour in English society. This is sometimes amusing, mostly enlightening and occasionally irritating, mainly when she highlights things you’ve already noticed. It is well worth a read, particularly if you’re English and think that some of your behaviour is “natural” and the “way everyone is”. Is should also help foreigners avoid making various faux pas and help English readers be more tolerant of those that do.

Stories from the frontiers of language

Interesting couple of stories in the New Scientist this week. I was particularly interested in the second, which reveals “An American mother will say: ‘Look Billy, a truck. It’s shiny and has wheels.’ The focus is on the object… By contrast, Japanese mothers stress context saying things like, ‘I push the truck to you and you push it to me. When you throw it at the wall, the wall says ‘ouch’… To Westerners it seems obvious that babies learn nouns more easily. But while this is the case in the West, studies show that Korean and Chinese children pick up verbs – which relate objects to each other – more easily.”

The rain in Spain…

…s caused mainly by people speaking Spanish. It seems to be a language geared up mainly for spitting on people. Rolling the ‘r’s, the velar frictive ‘j’, the lisping ‘z’s: what the hell’s going on here? Oh well, at least the vocabulary and grammar seem relatively simple in comparison to certain languages I could mention.
Incidentally, a good site for examing just how different languages can (and could) be is the Primer in SF Xenolinguistics. Yes, I know it’s about science fiction languages, but it makes some good points about actual languages, too.

It’s all Spanish to me

So how did my experiment in language learning work out? I didn’t quite manage to complete my Instant Greek book, since I ran out of time, but overall, it was pretty good. I could understand what was going on in specific scenarios pretty well – anything outside of the book’s scope was still gibberish – and I could actually speak to people and get them to understand me. All in all, feeling quite chuffed about my linguistic adventures.
The Greeks seem quite happy when you give Greek a go, although since they all seem to speak English, I did begin to feel as though I’d wasted six weeks on a language only spoken in one country, but c’est la vie.
Anyway, my plan continues. This morning, Instant Spanish arrived. The scenarios and dialogue are almost exactly identical, except in Spanish of course, right down to the names of the characters: Tom and Kate Walker. The only noticeable difference so far? They meet Mr Iglesias, rather than Mr Onassis, in the first story.

Thieving gypsies. Well maybe

These thieving gypsies are very cunning. While I was at a supposedly closed bar, they managed to lift my camera, phone and money from my jacket, which was hanging on the back of my chair. Thoughtfully, they left the wallet from which they extracted my euros and pounds. Which was nice.
How do I know they were gypsies? Well, I don’t. But since they ran up £108 of calls to Romania before T-Mobile noticed this was a bit atypical of me and blocked the phone, I’m taking a wild, punning guess that the Romani were behind it all. They probably weren’t, but it makes for an interesting epigram anyway.

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