Using technology to up your language game

It’s always a good idea to work smarter not harder as then you are rewarded for your efforts without you having to struggle so much. Therefore using the resources that are available and around you means maximum effect from minimum work. To this end I have started using Blinkist and Audible in addition to Amazon to be able to create an immersive environment to further my language learning.

As I’m introverted and autistic I’m not too fond of talking to people. This becomes apparent quite quickly if you have previously come across any of my work. As you may expect this presents certain problems. With the fact that I don’t like to mingle with others; my communication skill development has to take a different path. As I’m good at mimicking I can learn pronunciation from repeating the correct sounds made by others. As an integrative approach is best here, I need to look at a diverse range of options to get a broad spectrum. As accents vary from country, region, age, male/female etc I need to incorporate as much material as possible.

I have previously been using YouTube for music and educational purposes (Tedx) but the gap between the 2 is too vast. A lack of “Comprehensible Material” meaning it’s not currently the right level for me. When watching YouTube videos there is frequently no subtitles to assist me so this cuts down there usefulness. I have tried Sky Arts but there is not enough foreign language material. I have also looked into foreign films (World cinema) but again there is a lack of material or maybe access to the material as I’ve never found any. Netflix also seems to come up short when looking for Greek material.

My new idea is based on the fact that was used by a famous polyglot from the past to progress his linguistic merits. That is, read the same book in many languages since then you can learn grammar, syntax and semantics while enjoying a story that you already know well. This is a style favoured by Hungarian polyglot Kato Lomb and is also mentioned by other noted polyglots such as Canadian Steve Kaufmann and Italian Luca Lampariello.

Since the best way to learn a second language is to repeat the way you learnt your first language that is what I’m attempting to do here. It’s a lot easier for children to gain language skills than it is for adults as we try to intellectualise it too much. Basically we think too much about the underpinnings of a language looking to gain an understanding of the structure before attempting to ‘build a house’. Children just go forth and practice.

However the problem comes when the way I learnt is through my mother reading to me constantly. This meant that I could read by 18 months but was unable to talk for a further 4 months. My mum doesn’t know any foreign languages and is dyslexic just like my husband so that counts that option out. This means I have no practice partner. I have tried recording my voice and uploading to YouTube but I haven’t had any luck with that because I can be quite quiet and indistinct.

My solution to this problem is to get Blinkist and Audible to read to me but Greek books are few and far between. Getting a physical book to look at is very difficult online. As your brain reacts differently to an ebook than to a physical book this means that the real copy is much better for this purpose. An ebook could have a narrative attached to it to make it better as a real book wouldn’t have this capability. Getting a physical, audio and ebook of the same title in Greek is next to impossible. Dual language books are equally as difficult to find.

This 3 tier attack is easier in Italian, Spanish and even Russian but in Greek they just don’t seem to exist. I have done extensive research and monitored this over many years. While the situation has improved slightly, I don’t hold out much hope for a sudden burgeoning in the market.

Below is a link to my published work and to my previous blog posts where I have talked about many of the issues I have mentioned above.

My published books

Series links

Best wishes

Angela

Different types of Reading

This is a topic that I have previously visited and probably will visit again as it’s it’s very important.

Recently it was my birthday but I didn’t realise that I had hidden it on social media. I also didn’t realise how important the “it’s someone’s birthday, wish them a happy birthday.” function is to actually getting any greetings. Until my husband put up a picture saying “This is what I got my wife for her birthday“; nobody said a thing. Not even the people who came to my party although they did personally. So skim reading and pattern recognition must be what everyone uses to minimise the amount of attention they pay but also keep up to date. I also noticed that since I didn’t congratulate the people who had their birthday in the couple days before mine; they reciprocated by not bothering to send their wishes to me either. Fair enough that I don’t hang out with any of them but it was quite marked from previous years when it has been mentioned “Oh I wanted to write something but it won’t let me so I’m saying it now“.

The point I’m making here is that it’s a mainly dyslexic trait to look for certain words to figure out the meaning of a sentence but also an autistic one. Pattern recognition is very good for quickly analysing what a piece of text says and reporting back if you understand all of the words. Sight reading is what autistics do as they have memorised all of the words in their native language. This is how autistics can read so fast. This however does not mean that any understanding has been gleaned. This is certainly what will happen with someone who is hyperlexic.

The brain also doesn’t pay attention to most of what’s in a word. If it looks at the first and the last letter it can mostly figure out what is in the middle. There is that passage that goes around the internet frequently to the tune of

“Isn’t the brain wonderful, at first it was difficult to read this but now your getting used to and it’s becoming a lot easier”.

However they mix up all the letters in between to show that this really is the case.

I’m not sure how someone without a neuro condition reads but I think it’s similar to a phonics system and sounding out words then practising writing and talking. I personally only know how I do it and cannot pronounce any word correctly until I’ve heard it. Reading a word and saying it are quite frequently different especially in English.

The problem with using pattern recognition, skim and sight reading is your only getting the gist of the text in front of of you. If your learning to read in a foreign language these can and will trip you up on a regular basis as they do for me. False friends are very true to there name. This brings me to the subject which I’m yet to write about – making mistakes.

Best wishes

Angela

When you suddenly realise you know more than you think

It’s interesting that at some point in your language learning journey it will occur to you how much you have learnt. You may not realise this for quite some time but when you do, it hits you like a bullet.

To explain a bit about my personal story, I love the Greek language and I started from scratch. Although being an English speaker you could debate that given the amount of words that have their origins there. I used to spend many hours listening to https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=RDEMh-SVbgWi4o0giQEIFYvZUg Kostas Martakis songs because they were simple bubblegum pop and he is certainly easy on the eyes being a former model.

I followed this by watching Nikos Vertis – Eisai einai asteri https://youtu.be/6Ye0NOn7nrI
or You are a star. It is a beautiful love song that you can easily find with English lyrics. For those that are not quite so sappy try To Kyma (wave) by Melisses (honeybees). https://youtu.be/GBSqFT1yqqU

For more song practice I tunes is good as it’s one of the few places you can get hold of Greek songs and there English versions too. Beware because of the grammatical differences between the languages you might end up with some funny phrases. Helena Paraparizou sings about the love police in Fiesta https://youtu.be/TTEMu1t4BxM
but it’s also present to some extent in the Greek version but it’s agape poli or much love here. https://youtu.be/JG-TPHlqerg

If soaps is your thing, there are subtitled Greek soaps made occasionally by the Lacta company which makes Greek chocolate bars. These shows https://youtu.be/k4L0he1WC0I
are really funny and the acting while completely over the top is so very Greek. You don’t really need the subtitles unless you want to know every little thing. These are an amusing diversion from studying but your still learning.

I also have a Greek version of the BFG to progress with as it was above my level last time I tried reading out loud. This is a lot more difficult than just reading.

Now I have progressed to the point that I’m watching Ted x talks but in Greek. https://youtu.be/fZi1f2OS7nU
There fascinating for the cultural insight that they give you and the fact I just love the sound of the Greek language. There is of course huge variance just like with all languages and people. I haven’t got to the point yet where I’m understanding why he suddenly laughs but I will get that eventually.

As well as reading a Greek newspaper (see recent posts) with Google Translate and a Greek language learning FB group as backup; I can write to one of my Greek friends and she can understand. She has for instance asked me where am I on meeting my brother in law and asked when am I visiting as she misses me. I do still need help with spelling so the internet and autocorrect are helpful here. I don’t think I will ever have a native level but I’m not aiming for that. The ability to communicate effectively is sufficient. This has must certainly been quite an undertaking though. Learning a foreign language when you have dyslexia is not for the faint hearted.

What challenge have you undertaken that is now starting to yield results?

Best wishes

Angela

Lightbulb moment!

I read an article about Keira knightly who said that she was dyslexic but that they only found out a year into her schooling. This was because her mother read lots of books to her and it’s only when they came across new ones that problems were discovered. Keira had memorised them and that’s what I do with words.

It explains why I read everything in sight so this would not ever be an issue. My autism allows me to combat my dyslexia in a novel way but it’s still an acquired skill that can disappear if I’m not feeling top notch. I covered up my problems so well, that despite a few grammar issues that persisted throughout my education; nobody including myself ever thought I was dyslexic.

I only uncovered this with my attempts to learn Greek and the fact that I most certainly do not read in a normal manner. This causes lots of additional difficulties in Greek because of genderized conjugation. Grammar is also completely different and highly flexible. This requires a lot of attention to learn all of the spelling patterns and word pairings especially since I have sequencing issues due to my autism. The cases (dative, accusative etc) are a big thing here which is not quite so obvious in English. There is also the tonos to account for which isn’t present in English. Thank goodness they got rid of all the other accents and breathing marks from modern Greek that are still present in older styles of Greek.

As regards my reading I can sight read to pick up the gist of something but I may miss subtleties or I can read all of the words in a normalise fashion. I know when I’m tired as I’m reading words and there just not sinking in. They remain on the surface like bread floating on a pond instead of being submerged as they have absorbed water.

This also explains my difficulty with speech as there are so many different ways to pronounce a word and the right way depends on so many factors. Your country, age, education, class, the influence of those around you, the language(s) you speak and for what purpose you use them as well.

I have more difficulties with grammar and spelling now with the English language as well. Which is why it is helpful to write my blog as I continue to keep my level up. Without this constant practice I will certainly diminish my skill level.

Just like a muscle wastes away without use so does the skills that we learn throughout life and the abilities present in your brain. So keep active and keep positive. If you do the things that you enjoy even if your not initially good at them. This will cause neuronal growth and you will learn that activity. So nothing is impossible. As the saying goes, even the word says I’m possible.

Good wishes to you all,

Αγγελα (pronunciations produce all manner of spellings and there all right as Greek is a phonetic language.)

Reading

Reading is very important for comprehension but also so is understanding. Reading is difficult for dyslexics of which they are many in both my own and married families. I’m starting to think that in my adopted language of Greek that I possibly have this too but not in the way that any of them have. You can also read in a hyperlexic way. While a dyslexic has an inability to read hence the term coming from 2 Greek words dys and lexic; a hyperlexic can very easily read and in fact will do quite quickly. It is this apparent ability that causes issues. The problem with a hyperlexic is that they don’t understand what they are reading. This is similar to how an autistic reads. They can do sight reading because that is just pattern recognition after all. This is another thing that is common across all 3 conditions. The ability for words to transform into hieroglyphs so you recognise the symbols (letters) but when they are combined in new ways, you don’t always get what they are trying to tell you in terms of content or pronunciation.

Autism is another word originating from the Greek language meaning self. As it’s a gendered language you have he, she it being auto, aute and autos. The strange thing here is with it being said afto, afte and Aftos. Then of course you have to factor in that it is a different alphabet with only 24 letters so not everything maps directly. This causes lots of issues with spelling etc as the above words are represented as αυτό, αυτή και αυτός. This is quite bewildering at first and will still get me on quite a frequent basis. It probably always will which is a pain but that’s life.

This is another article I did on the challenges of learning to read in another language The positive side.

Αντζελα (yet another way of writing my name in Greek that’s closest to the English pronunciation.)

Perception

I recently wrote a fairy tale romance short story :-

A life of Halcyon Days

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07MWBZTCR/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_awdb_t1_ujfsCb8KAF56Y

and to me it’s obvious who the characters are based on. I gave it to my husband to read as he knows the people who the story is based on. Yet, apart from the 2 characters who have the same name as I believe it’s fitting symbolically; he couldn’t figure out who they were. I didn’t think simply changing there name would obscure who they actually were. My mother in law also read it too and it got me thinking whether this was something to do with the dyslexic mindset as she knows the people too. It may also have something to do with theory of mind which is a very autistic thing. I do frequently think that because I know something and you have better skills regarding perception that you automatically also know what I’m thinking because I need to work on my poker face. It’s a pity Snape can’t give occumlanmency lessons to us all. For those that don’t know Harry Potter it’s the art of shielding your thoughts from others so they can’t read and manipulate you. Hence the reference to poker and body language. This is what I have struggled with because so much happens in daily life that if you really thought about it in the way I do; it would floor you. Hence I do have a certain amount of inertia at times. It’s about learning when to analyse the situation and how much depth you should go into. The trouble is you never initially know which level is required so if you spend insufficient time you may regret it later just like spending too much time. It’s a fine balancing act that you will never truly master but on the occasions you do, you will feel good. However on the opposite side, if you screw up, you will feel bad and be reluctant to try again until you have learnt the lessons inside of that particular episode.

Imprecise English is another thing that can start you off on a bad thought process as calling banking man’s work is immature and inappropriate nowadays. You should leave men to there financial discussion or deliberation instead as otherwise you open yourself up to such comments as go play with kittens. This is continual work for myself and for others around me as nobody is perfect. We’re all trying to do the best that we can do each and every day. Striving to improve but never able to reach the goal as the goal posts keep moving. Such is the march of progress.