How to learn like a child as an adult

The best way to learn a language in my opinion is with the ease of a child. By that I mean don’t approach it head on. Don’t get bogged down with grammar, declension tables or memorising lists of vocabulary.

To effectively learn a language you need to engage your unconscious and sub conscious minds. This is where our creative powers reside and the majority of our brain power.

Communication is mostly done unconsciously. This is where body language comes in and Freudian slips of the tongue. This is challenging behaviour for a child to control but relatively simple for us unless we are under duress, in a new scenario.

A child will interact with his environment absorbing everything and gradually processing it into a shape that takes the form of words. However, before this children will express themselves in art. Even Picasso knew that the still resides an artist within every adult yet it has been obscured by becoming an adult.

Children have no innate sense of fear so this allows them to explore and practice language without worrying about the implications of what they are saying. This is how we get such phrases as “out of the moths of babes”. The honesty of children gets lost as we learn to say white lies, to sugar coat our words or simply to say the opposite of what we mean entirely out of politeness. This all builds up to prevent us from being able to communicate in a foreign language.

We are often reduced to the linguistic level of a child when it comes to second language acquisition and this frightens us. We are scared of the unpeeling of ourselves and the vulnerability that we now exhibit since we are no longer able to mask our true feelings.

In order to master our linguistic abilities we need to learn to appreciate ourselves for who we were, who we are now but also who we wish to become in the future. We can’t change if we don’t know that we need to in the first place.

Have you had to do any “unprogramming” of yourself to learn how to live a better, more authentic life for yourself?

Best wishes

Angela

The to be read pile

This is a common phenomenon that we all face if we like to read. We also like to collect books as there is nothing quite like settling down to read our latest find. However life frequently gets in the way of this so we forget where we are. This may cause us to neglect the half finished book in favour of something shorter or easier to read. This does not help when we are forever acquiring more books as they all seem so interesting!

I am a terrible hoarder when it comes to books as I just have so many. They cover a variety of subjects as you never know what mood your going to be in when the reading bug strikes. This is why challenges like the GoodReads reading challenge is useful. You can decide how many you are going to read in the year and then next year your goal is to beat it. It’s gamification to try to incite you to read more and to do it quicker as it’s now a competition. Although this is one you will never win since there is an infinite amount of books out there and your time is rather more finite.

In order to make this more achievable I suggest you utilise the Ultra Learning technique as proposed by Scott H Young. This was today’s free book on a Blinkist but I have been a fan of his for many years. This lists the steps that you need to follow in order to be able to do all that you want to in a day. If you are follower like myself on his email list; you will get access to the first chapter for free. There are other benefits like early access to courses too.

Are there any common problems that you have faced and found a solution to?

Best wishes

Angela

Vulnerability

This word is gaining in popularity at the moment as an antidote to the perfection that is put forward by over manipulated images. Instagram is responsible for a certain manufactured look that teens feel they need to conform too. Authenticity is lacking in our media at the moment. Social media is dictating too much of our lives so we need to step back and look at what is really important to us. Self awareness and meditation are other buzz words of the moment. They tie in with the previous craze for Pilates and more recently yoga. Wellness retreats are another idea that has sprung up to take advantage of our interest in self care.

Vulnerability is about openness and showing the world who we really are when we are not in the limelight. So many of us “put on a face” to show the world akin to a women’s makeup routine. This takes effort to do and shouldn’t be an absolute certainty before we can show ourselves in public. The neuro diversity movement that is currently gaining strength is all about being who you really are on the inside. Not hiding your genuine self because you have been taught that this side to yourself is unacceptable to society at large. This also encompasses the trans gender movement as well as gay rights. A person should be free to dress how they like, love who they want to, have a relationship with them and also to have a family. At the end of the day this is what everyone wants and they are all entitled to it as we are all human.

Best wishes

Angela

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

This is Greece on PBS with Michael Scott

I have been to Northern and Central Greece on a road trip and I have seen some of the magnificent treasures that are contained within. It’s fabulous that we can still look at all of this architectural, natural and archaeological evidence starting from the influential reign of Philip II. It was one of many crucial milestones in the formation of Greece which will be covered in this series of 5 programs. It’s power still resonates for all to see and will continue to echo through the ages for all to witness for eons to come I hope.

He first of all mentions the tomb of Philip II of Macedon as it is certainly a sight to behold. The museum contains the results of the excavations done on the site and the artefacts are astonishing in their brilliance. It is not much to look at from the outside but it is certainly worth taking your time to visit.

During the course of the shows he is visiting the historic sites of Northern Greece starting with Thesonlaniki and its White Tower. While it may seem odd to start a program with reference to a Tomb that isn’t actually in the second city; it is the man himself and that of his son Alexander the Great that exerts such a great influence on the development of Greek history that they have to be addressed first.

I have wanted to visit the city for a while due to its historical and cultural pedigree but I haven’t quite been able to manage it yet. It’s a considerable distance from where I usually am in Greece so it’s still on the waiting list. When I will be able to cross it off is still up for debate.

Phillipi is his next stop on his grand tour. This is a place I don’t recall ever hearing about and it’s a set of ruins. It has a Roman amphitheater and many buildings congregated in the shape of a town. As you may have guessed by its name, it was founded by Philip II. It was on the great Roman Road, the Villa Egnatia. As the program explains it was the first Christian colony due to the time the apostle Paul spent incarcerated there. This was because he disagreed with aspects of the Roman way of life as detailed in the Bible in Philippians.

Kavala (Neopolis or new city as it was known) is the port of Philippi and where we must journey next in our odyssey. We are using the Villa Egnatia here as our guide and here you can walk upon it like many others have done before you. Sights to check out are the Acropolis, 10th century castle and 16th century Turkish aqueduct. This was built in the Roman style by Sulliman the Byzantine ruler of the time and was in operation until 1911. The rest of the old town is worth your attention too since there has been a settlement on this site since the 7th century. Sounds like I’m gaining a lot more places to visit in Greece.

He next has a whistle-stop tour of places that were staging posts on the the villa Egnatia that were also used by St Paul.

This being an American program means it has a religious slant to it in addition to the historical context. Another guy annotates all of the religious parts leaving Michael, (who I believe to be English), free to present the historical parts.

You can’t really study the history of Greece without becoming well versed in the religious significance as well. This means the history of the Byzantine empire and Istanbul/Constantinople as well as that of Rome. Hence this can be a tad distracting trying to focus on so many disparate yet connected ideas and areas.

I have stayed in Rome and visited the Vatican but Istanbul remains to be explored.

His path down the east coast of Greece now incorporates Mount Olympus home of the Greek gods and adds in a visit to Meteora. Meteroa (the middle of the sky) and origin of the science that is meteorology(weather); is another famous destination containing a well known Christian monastery. This should be on all travellers bucket lists but I haven’t got there yet. It is another place that may take quite some time before I finally get round to visiting. Too many places and not enough time 😉

Although I have been to his final destination Delphi. Delphi was the home of the world renown Oracle. I have visited the temple to learn more about the history of the place as it is not too far away from the tomb I mentioned at the beginning of this article. The Nekromantium is also in the vicinity of these attractions and should be checked out to complete any excursion to this area.

Best wishes

Angela

Reflection

I have recently been having a look at my old photographs as part of an exercise for photography club and I came across some which really sum me up as a person.

First of course is Greece. I love this view whether it’s in reality, a photograph or a painting I have done. I also love sunsets in case you hadn’t guessed by now. Sorry but I’m slightly addicted and obsessed with this time of day. Just so you know and we’re clear on this point 😉 I just like the simplicity of Greece and how natural and uncomplicated things are there. It is of course a mirage as I’m always on holiday there but we all need a little fantasy in our lives.

This is who runs the restaurant that we go to every week in Greece. You’ll notice that I’m dressed for dinner and for once I actually wearing a dress and jewellery. I look damn good and there is a sunset as well as there being the obligatory glass of alcohol. I’m not sure what we are celebrating but life is there to be enjoyed so why not have some champagne every now and again?

To continue on with the imaginative theme this is my husband on our wedding day. I am Cinderella who has finally been allowed to go to the ball and he is Robin Hood. He is my saviour and in the tradition started by Shrek everyone else who came to the wedding was dressed up in historical or fairytale attire. It was a wonderful day that hasn’t yet been bested in any of the subsequent weddings I have been to.

This is me relaxing outside in Greece at my in laws house. I like to read quite widely on a range of topics to kind my mind active. Also I do like to try new things “the curious kitty aspect as it’s been named” hence I’m reading a book about how to make cocktails because I’m partial to them.

This is also me having a drink surprise, surprise while watching the World Cup. I love watching football or soccer to Americans. I’m neither masculine or feminine really. A combination of both but some days I’m definitely more of one than the other like here I’m indulging my laddie side. This is is also in Greece but you can tell this is only a British thing on this occasion by the people in the background.

This is also me again quite laddie, interested in culture (Pirates week celebration in the Cayman Islands where I used to live), history as it’s a replica ship, being part of a hive of activity but also quite distant. I keep myself to myself while the world carries on with its business. It’s almost like I’m in a separate time zone as I’m able to observe the world around me but unable to fully interact or integrate into it. My husband who I met here helps me enormously with this. I think it’s also sunset here too.

This is my latest sunset picture which shows even in the UK we can have some pretty stunning scenery. It’s good to appreciate the places that you spend time in as that allows you to become settled. Sunsets allow you to notice that everything no matter how beautiful has its time but it can be reborn the next day into a new shape with new possibilities.

This image shows how much I like reflections, symmetry, rivers, parks, nature and while we all have flaws this doesn’t totally obscure who we are. It shows that we all were learners once with room for improvement. It’s up to us whether we actually continue to do that or not. It is also another place I have lived in for a short time. These are however not in chronological order. also my brain doesn’t like to always put everything into the correct order so this is a good representation of what happens in my mind on a regular basis.

This combines my love for travel, history, art and architecture. I like the clean lines that are present in Art Deco but also the idea of form and function as espoused by the Bauhaus movement in Germany of about the same time. There are also sculptures and nature present which is 2 more boxes ticked for me. Lastly this was taken when I went on my best friends hen do when we went to a gay bar as we like to do things slightly differently to usual. See below for more explanation.

This photo shows how absolutely bonkers I can be at times because this was my hen do. I went to the zoo wearing this, got my face painted to match and then came home to drinks while watching Eurovision. This was my maid of honour whose wedding I’m shortly going to and for which I am also maid of honour. I like the reciprocity here.

Sometimes pictures can explain much better than words ever can the things that mean the most to you in your life. Here I am with the people I spend the most time with on a trip to Northern Greece. We were on a wine tasting tour because we wanted to see more of the country to better appreciate the terroir as well as the history and culture. It’s useful for language purposes too. Finally I like to travel to see more of the world so that I can get an understanding of the way others live.

Finally these are people who I thought would be my forever friends as I spent a lot of time with them but due to circumstances in their own lives it wasn’t meant to be. This is good for me to remember that there are many paths in life that we can can take and while some seem very good initially, they don’t all turn out the way we expect them too. Change is an essential part of life and we need to accept the good while also making room for the removal of those things that were not so good in the end.

You might notice a distinct lack of people my own age but I’ve never been very good at socialising due to my Autism; plus when your self employed there is a lack of people to associate with in the first place. You need like minded people and there not generally found in pubs no matter how many you go to or how frequently you visit them. I’m in no way an alcoholic but alcohol allows you to release your inhibitions so it’s easier to try to connect.However, due to not being particularly social due to the anxiety and panic it can cause and not having the usual prerequisites like having a job to talk about; this makes things very difficult for me. There is only so many times you can talk about the weather, what was on TV recently and the drinks in your current establishment.

So the social isolation is quite crushing at times no matter where I am. This is why I’m trying to better myself with languages, art, photography, journaling, philosophy and learning about who I am as well as my place in the world. Neuroscience and psychology are helpful here as well as biochemistry.

I hope you like this insight into my life

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

Linguistic Priorities

I have recently become interested in learning Italian after watching Sky Arts photographer of the year but need to remember that it takes an absolute age for me to learn a language. I still haven’t learnt either Greek, Spanish or Russian.

I do love the Greek language but I have to be super relaxed and happy to use it so that rarely happens. I usually have alcohol in me too. It’s amusing the other day I just started writing in Greek to my husband using the Latin alphabet (he’s dyslexic so can’t read Greek or write it for that matter) which presents extra challenges because of transliteration. I’m amazed he understood then I write something else which was more difficult but then we became unstuck as he didn’t know how to reply in Greek. Therefore I never got an answer to the second query until he turned up which in fact answered it.

Pou eisai?

“English response to Where is he?”

Xaxaxa Lipon? Ratao Itan sou spiti?

“Since he is in the pub he obviously ain’t gonna tell me when he is coming home.”

Apologies for bad grammar and spelling but it got the point across.

Best wishes

Angela

My Progress in Spanish, Greek and Russian

Recently I have been watching Greek Tedx talks and pop videos on YouTube with the subtitles on but the catch here is that the subtitles are in Greek also. It’s amazing the progress I have made by being able to understand more of what they are talking about than just pure listening. Greek pop videos are usually easy to figure out but going from a gist to understanding the idea behind it purely by seeing more than a 10 second countdown clip and reading the words is pretty cool. Pop music repeats the same simple lyrics so there good for learning but the con is that they don’t use proper language so it’s more slang which still can be helpful.

The Tedx talks are for when I want to step it up although that’s several levels up and I’m not quite ready for understanding these yet. I think maybe I have a 50% comprehension level here.

I’m debating how to progress with my Spanish and Russian studies. I like Latin American Spanish far more than European Spanish which is rather problematic for me considering where I live. I’m hoping extensive use of Netflix and maybe Amazon Prime/YouTube will assist here?

I don’t know enough Spanish to be able to watch purely with native subtitles but the American accents are so off putting when they speak in English. I have very sensitive ears and hearing so the stereotypical high pitched whiny American accent really gets to me. They speak their native language so beautifully but then when it’s dubbed into American English OMG!!!!!

I’m the kind of person that gets bored quite easily if I don’t understand things so I’m basically making a rod for my own back as the saying goes. I’m complaining about something while knowing that this is actually the best way to learn a language. A first world problem as it’s now called.

As to the Russian language this can surprisingly sound beautiful if spoken by the right people. If they sound so mellifluous (honeyed from Greek ;)) then I don’t mind the English subtitles. However, I watched a dual English/Russian pop song today and it was horrific. His voice was bad and the translation showed that while the voice matched the words, the song seemed to be in 2 halves like a he said, she said argument. Why?

This was post was inspired by the fact that I watched a video (another yes I know) and this was about the tricks that polyglots used to learn languages. In it the author said the best way to learn was to talk and to make mistakes. I’m deathly afraid of this but that is the subject for another article as this is getting long as is the subject of reading which I’m again addressing.

Best wishes

Angela