vendredi 15 mars 2013

My present and future languages story

 Today it is my third day in Cambodia and i will start my 4th day of study. I have acquired in Bangkok "the Cambodian for beginners, 2nd edition" which is actually even much better than the thai one. For example the vocabulary is distributed in a much better way within the lessons with what really matter coming up in the first ones instead than right at the end of the book or not at all.
   It is now a real pleasure, with also it's moments of efforts and boredom obviously (but no pain no gain), to be on my way of "basic communication" (500-1000 words) with the friendly locals into such an exotic country faster than I ever did  with any other language!
   Khmer (Cambodian) is also, as most eastern-asian languages, very easy to learn since it doesn't even have tones. The pronunciation is still a little tricky though with some consonants clusters and vowels sounds unseen in western languages but this can be easily overcome if you are an attentive and motivated listener and speaker.
   I didn't get into the Khmer script yet (which is the only complicated matter in khmer) but within 3 days and 16 hours of study in total I managed to learn 2 lessons the first day (4hours), 3 lessons the 2nd day (5hours) and 2 more lessons the third day (7hours). So I have 3 more lessons to go with continue and daily revision and tests after that.
   Every day I review and listen again everything from lesson 1. Now I even start testing myself on the vocabulary (of the 3 first lessons yesterday) and note the mistakes i make and the number of words i know so far.
  I will continue to do that first with also the conversation and finally the sentences too. I'm really getting serious about it and my ultimate plan is actually to develop a "beginners" language method myself! 
  I hope to make it easy and fast for anybody to learn "simple verbal communication" in "any language possible" even the ones with a much harder grammar. I might have to use some unconventional methods at first as skipping a part of the grammatical process in some languages to go straight to what really matters: "being understood", at the cost of definitely not speaking at first free of any kind of mistakes but with providing to the learner great confidence, motivation and passion by the invaluable results they could achieve in "no time".
  Then only, the focus on "proper speaking and writing" could be achieved but things have to make sense! They have to be organised in the most effective, fun, motivating and simple way possible.
  Most of languages methods and schools lamentably fail on that and one day we'll gain unlimited knowledge (and languages) uploaded directly into our brain even before understanding the process of proper language acquisition, this is insane! 
  Technology goes far faster than human understanding. 

    I will stay in Cambodia for another 2 weeks only and then go to Lao for 7-10 days, again, only. I shouldn't have any problem with learning the lao language since it is very similar to thai. After coming back to Bangkok in order to take my flight to Yangon I will stay in Myanmar for 4 weeks and have time to properly undergo this "languages learning shift" which is changing me once again into something/somebody new.

    After Burma i will head to Malaysia and get acquainted with a language known as one of the easiest on the planet.
in june I will then hopefully fly to Seoul and have a first relationship with Korean for about another month only to leave it at this point for an even more fascinating and exciting language, Japanese!
   My idea now is to spend at least 3 months in Japan and possibly to start teaching english or even french with this method i want to develop. Since the level would be for absolute "beginners" I will have to know enough japanese at first in order to be able to communicate with them at least for the first courses. 
  Therefore, I still have 4,5 months and 6 languages to learn "how to learn better" before to start teaching myself the way I would like to be taught! 
   If I make it happen it will be an experiment more than a job even if i will also need the money obviously since I am gradually running out of it. An experiment that would continue on a proper website on the internet and hopefully on publicised books or even international languages schools even if it is far too early yet to envision such an achievement.
   It still all sounds like a dream for now but if i organise myself well and work on it with passion i don't see any reason why i shouldn't achieve at least some level of success. The system has obviously considerable flows. Of course it is far to be enough to simply point them out. The whole matter stands in actually making things better as it is easy to criticise but much harder to change and improve.
   But before any of that, I'll be back on my cambodian for now...    

My past languages story

Here is my description on a pretty cool "learning languages website" called

My name is Leon. I am 32 and I've been interested in "language learning" for the last 11 years. The short story I'm gonna tell you now briefly mentions the 15 languages I've been trying to learn so far and the main others I would still love to go for within the coming months.

    After studying quite unsuccessfully some english and spanish at school I moved to London at 19 and then kept travelling and living most of the time abroad since then. When I was 21, not too early, I first Started to self-learn an easy language for me, romanian (I travelled around Romania by bicycle within 2 months), which is a romantic language. 
    I then moved to some Italian, spanish and portuguese. After that I started learning bulgarian during a 2 months trip in the country and continued with slovak, russian, german and some hungarian.
    Every time I was spending time in the country where the language learned was spoken. 
I had discovered the "Assimil method" with romanian and then sticked to it with all the other languages. I generally bought both the CDs and the book and after assimilating the content of the book while also working on the audio I would just keep listening to my mini-disc player anytime during the day while wandering around a city or place instead of doing the same thing with music.
     When I turned 26 I finally decided to explore Asia for the first time and I bought the "chinese with ease" volume I and II and studied it for a couple of month before to move to China for a year where I, while being wrapped in an english speaking environment, very rarely used and practised the most spoken language in the world.
     Coming back to Europe after that I didn't study any new foreign language for four long years and definitely kept on forgetting (or at least deactivating) the ones I already partly knew. my hungarian, bulgarian and russian were almost totally gone by then and I kept on mixing idioms as different as german or slovak with my most recent language, mandarin chinese.    
    Fortunately i took the vital decision to move back to Asia.
I've now been travelling back into South-East-Asia for the last 4 months and after visiting again the Philippines and China I started my "learning languages quest" again not knowing exactly where it would lead me, if anywhere, with Vietnamese.
    Once again (and for the last time I think) I was using the Assimil method. The "Vietnamese with ease" comprises 63 lessons that it took me over 3 weeks of daily and sometimes intense studies to end and still without knowing too much of it. 
    I first thought I had learned quite a lot within a month but then going to Thailand taught me otherwise. I finally started learning some thai after already 3 long weeks in the country but within a few days of study everything I had ever thought impossible started to not appear so anymore. I was undergoing a drastic shift in my mind and my whole perception about "language learning" went through some fascinating change.
    I knew that the main reason why i could already articulate some proper short and simple thai sentences  within a few days of study was due to the fact that apart from it's writing system and tones, thai is probably one of the easiest language on earth. I didn't have to struggle with any type of complicated grammatical structure. 
    Everything was absolutely straightforward and simple to understand. Also, finally, I wasn't using the Assimil method but the "Thai for beginners" and this "10 lessons" book with a large vocabulary section of over 50 words for each lesson, a conversation section and finally a "sentences" one considerably helped me to go "straight to the point" without having to get through a 100 or 63 different stories that will very slowly only enrich my vocabulary and most of the time teach me the most useful words only in the later lessons.
    In Thailand I tried learning one lesson every 2 days but finally i didn't properly finish the lesson 7 to 10 as I started loosing interest in the process. This had to be quicker I thought!

dimanche 10 mars 2013

What's the plan?

Sure I care! You should have seen me in my early twenties when my creativity was at full steam and when I had new ideas every day that I never ever put into practise.     
    Now I am frustrated because of that. Coz I am getting old and haven't used any of my potential yet. 
Coz I've wasted my twenties being a slow and lazy bastard. 
    Things will start changing when I'll really get to accomplish something so I gotta work hard to develop some languages website I've been thinking of.
    Thanks to read me my dear, it means a lot to me. And sure now you can understand my point better about the fact that the only way to be with somebody is to share their interests and unfortunately few people share mine... 
     So tell me about your coming plans dear. 
My plans have changed too. I'll be in Myanmar from 10th of april til 8th of May. After that I'll be normally in Malaysia until the beginning of June then in Korea in June and I'll stay in Japan from July for at least 3 months hopefully and if by the time I have managed to develop this new language method I wanna work on I'd be able to use it in Japan with my potential students which would be a good experiment and way to make a living since teaching english in a conventional manner, with very little result, would just bore me and my students to death I can imagine.
     So now learning cambodian, Myanmar, Malay, Korean and Japanese before to potentially teach english will also enable me to develop an operational language learning system, hey hey. One day I'll get back to Tagalog too, hmm. Take care too dear and don't forget we live on a tiny world after all...

The Major System

IT has been on my mind since a few days already. When I was still in Koh Tao and a couple of days after I started to read Joshua Foer's book "Moonwalking with Einstein", about memory improvement which is a matter directly connected to language learning:

   Basically, one can only learn a language much more efficiently and faster by improving their memory. Everything is about memory in our society, either internal or external as it is mostly the case now. Well, to be intelligent one must have a potent internal memory and until technology makes the amazing step of providing to humans external memory into our own brain we'll still have to process and learn informations by ourselves to keep up with others dotted of a descent amount of culture and intelligence.        
     There are actually simple ways to drastically improve one's capacity to integrate new informations and store them as a powerful tool to built a richer, brighter and simply more colourful life for yourself.   
     This "food for the brain" doesn't actually have to be evacuated as excrements almost as soon as it reaches it and with a little practise almost everything can be remembered and brought back to life instantly. 
     I am not even close of such an accomplishment since Joshua Foer's book is the only one I have read so far on the topic and it is not a "self-development" book even though it gives away a couple of simple tricks to improve one's memory. 

For example, there is an extremely simple system to be able to remember easier "numbers" called the "major system" and invented around 1648 by Johann Winkelmann, which is nothing more than a simple code to convert numbers into phonetic sounds. 
     For example 1 is T or D, 2 is N, 3 is M and R would be 4. The number 32, for example, would translate into MN and 33 would be MM. To make those consonants meaningful, you’re allowed to freely intersperse vowels. So the number 32 might turn into an image of a man and 33 could be your mom. 
     What I thought about while having a brief look at that system is that instead of including vowels after, to actually make the system with vowels too so that 1 could be I or J, 2 could be E or N, 3 could be A or M and so on. 
     This way an entire set of maybe 10 digits could be pronounced as a meaningless word of 5 simple syllables which is still much easier to remember than 10 digits or even 5 words needing some kind of association for the trick to work. 
           Or it isn't more simple!?
    This is the thing. I might not have figured out anything at all (and probably many have already thought about it before) since meaningless words, and especially series of them (if a long list of digits has to be remembered) might not be of much help as they cannot be associated to any strong and vivid images, an absolute "must" in the small world of "memory training". 
      Now sure, probably 'aboidaolaaol" might be much easier to remember than the 12 digits: 120741091109 (if they weren't the dates of 2 main American events) but there again, the major system might work better. Up for you to look for it an try for yourself. 
     At least, the "V major system" as I could call it (including Vowels) is even easier to use than the original Major one. 
     It could take half an hour for most people to make their own and start using it without any need to create new words along the way. Most of digits have to be either a vowel or a consonant to avoid things PLB or OOO to happen.
     For example three 1 in a raw could be written IJI. and 123322113 could go as: INAMENIJA or JEMANEJIM and both would perfectly mean 123322113 even if obviously only one of the 2 codes would have to be remembered.

     It is quite obvious that there aren't 10 vowels in our latin alphabet but only 5 in the standard one. Sounds and for that matter accents will be necessary: 
     as é and è and e. o and ô (open and closed O) and the two different U soundings. That makes already 9 different vowels soundsand all I can think about right now.
     Also, when a digit is doubled (ex: 22, 33..) one could include a new unique letter (consonant) to make the number even shorter. If 2 means either E or N the 22 could be P for example, 33 could be R and so on, as long as the letters aren't part of the 1 to 10 original system already. 
    Using a set of 10 consonants and 10 Vowels mutually interchangeable would unable 10 different still unused consonants to be also part of the system for the double digits.
     There again, learning this "extra tool" to shorten the final number even more is a harder task but generally it is a common rule that "more you work initially and less you have to work the rest of the time". 

    Nowadays people don't have to remember numbers since your smartphone does it for you and very well but knowing your relatives phone numbers by heart can be a very rewarding exercise. Even, asking a girl's (or boy's) phone number and using your own memory to store it can be quite seductive for most people and a proof of your genuine interest toward them! Of course, digits aren't solely limited to phone numbers and remembering them could be used for a much wider range of applications. 

Now, there is another system supposedly better than the major one. It's called the PAO and I will talk about it on the next post...                                               

samedi 2 mars 2013

Privacy is over-rated...

Waww, it's REALLY cool! I'm glad to know you should get your spanish ID within a month! That's great! Well, don't worry, I haven't really found love or anything like that. I like this girl but we are still kinda too different so I don't think we'll be together anyway even if I should see her again. I'm looking for somebody sharing my ideas and passion for science, technology, languages and for the mysteries of the world around us and inside us, the human mind. I think I could only find such a person, a real geek nerd or brain, on the internet or at some social events about my interests...
      So you haven't found anyone yet pretty and charming as you are, either Farang or Pinoy?  Dear, I will leave Thailand in a few days for Cambodia then normally Burma in April/May and then I don't yet, either Indonesia or maybe China again and then maybe Korea/Japan/Taiwan but I'll be running out of money so I'd have to teach languages maybe. Now my idea is to develop a website about languages and how to learn and speak the basic of any language within days or weeks at most even if that kind of fantasy already exist in some kind of ways. 
     Starting to learn Tagalog for me had been a failure because I didn't have the good way/method/tools but I could have managed much better having them even if Tagalog is much harder than Thai apparently... 
     Obviously in might take a long time since I could start make any money on the internet that's why teaching english or French in Asia using a new method I would have developed could enable me to make a living, especially if it works, before I'll have enough income from potential websites I have to turn into realities. (Sorry but now that I think about it I might post in my new blog most of this message). 
     I'm pretty sure we'll meet again anyway either in Asia or Europe. Just let me know ahead what are your plans and we might be able to meet anywhere, who knows... Are you still working in the same bar-restaurant? And what are actually your plans for the coming months? Moving to the UK? So yeah, if and when you have any idea when you are coming back to the Philies and if you wanna stop by in another country on your way in or back from PI just let me know and unless you only wanna go to Thailand we might be able to spend a week together where I will be at the time you are coming, what I still don't know either for sure... Flights are cheap in Asia so it shouldn't be an issues... Take care dear and let me know what's up...

jeudi 28 février 2013

One global language. Not yeeeet please!!!

Now technology and the tools we can have at our finger-tips make it even easier to learn a new language or "avoid to learn" for the least adventurous and curious of us... "Google translation" is still annoyingly inaccurate but that will change. People will then have the choice to learn more languages and vocabulary or on the contrary to learn less or not at all. I'm trying here to address the people willing to learn "more". My interest of the other group is as tremendous as their interest for foreign languages and culture, not very indeed. Some days in any case translation and language-learning will disappear since there won't be anything else than "one global language" that, i'm almost 100% sure, won't be english. But for a while still we'll use perfectly efficient Artificially Intelligent translators which will highly simplify global communication and reduce even more people's interest in learning any kind of languages other than the one which will still have an undoubted supremacy for at least another quarter of century and at most another half. Yes, it's not (at all, haha) because I am French but I think that english will be a dead language by long already in 2063, left alone all the other 5000 languages still spoken nowadays. This doesn't make any sense at all you probably think? and if it even happened to be right what would then be the point in bothering oneself to learn something doomed to die anyway as this seems the normal process of the development of intelligence on an intelligent planet? Well, my own interest are "curiosity" and a love for these different ways to communicate among thousands of different cultures since it is still time. When the whole world will be unified in one arithmetic and algorithmic language with an impressive number of words/datas/numeral/figure/pattern we'll be able to communicate more accurately, faster and better for sure but the price to pay is a loss of these cultures that won't be ours anymore. That will just belong to museums, virtual for the most. We can't change that or even fight it. We can always pretend it will never ever happen, that this is just insane science-fiction but it would just be some form of denial that won't change a thing anyway. What we do actually is simply enjoy them while they are still their and travel and speak foreign languages as much as we can because our children won't be able to have the same chance at some point!                                                                                                                 

Tonal or not to nal, that is the question...

Thai is a "tonal language" as most of south-east asian languages for that matter and about half of the world languages if I'm correct. This means that you'll have 5 different ways in Thai to pronounce the sound "Mai" for example. There is a middle tone, a low tone, a falling one, a high one and a rising one. The falling for example would sound like a complaint (as if you said: whyyyy… is that happening to meeee!!) and the rising tone sounds like a more proper question mark (why?). The Tones in Thai are not exactly easy but they are also far to be hard! Actually what makes Thai such an easy language beside its super-easy grammar (or lack of it) is its tonal form. Why? Because thanks to that most of highly used thai words are monosyllabic. Thus for each new word you'd have to learn there is only one sound and syllable instead of several ones as in Indonesian, for example, supposedly one of the easiest language out there (not tonal). Also The pronunciation is fairly simple and straightforward so as you try to say simple words most people will understand you and repeat them also in a comprehensive way what is much harder with vietnamese which is also a very easy language with, on the contrary, one of the hardest tones and pronunciation you could imagine!! After one month of daily study of the vietnamese language last january I could not get close to what I achieved within only 2 weeks and with much less effort in Thailand. Why? Because of 2 main reasons I suppose. Because my Vietnamese language method wasn't straightforward enough with its tedious 63 lessons and also because speaking to people was more challenging. Even when they could understand me and expected me to have a fairly good knowledge of the language I just couldn't understand much of what they answered back. Therefore I had very little practise and just spoke a couple of minutes a day hoping for a break-through in my understanding. I studied hard but hardly got any reward out of it. Obviously something was going quite wrong even though I thought at the time that everything was fine since I could definitely not expect to be able to communicate myself after one month, left alone 2 weeks. Well, as good I thought my method (Assimil, le vietnamien sans peine) was actually it wasn't. It could have been on the long run but most people have very little patience and if they don't get what they want quite instantly they won't stick around. A method has to be efficient right at the beginning or people won't use it! Now, of course, the tones and pronunciation made it harder too but my intuition tells me that with the right method even the hardest languages with the most incomprehensible/reproducible accents, sounds and tones can be pretty easily handled! It's all a question of organisation, on the paper/LCD screen and into the brain but we'll get back to that later...