Learning a New Language (or Six)

It started with an Android App[lication] called DuoLingo and a desire to learn Russian. Why Russian? Because I like the sound of the language.

Unfortunately, I was ill-prepared for learning Russian with the (vastly?) different characters and sounds I am used to with my native English. So my efforts lasted about two days.

Second Try

When in high school, I had done a little Italian, and never being able to remember anything other than counting to twenty, I decided to give it a try. Straight away, I felt a lot more comfortable and soon found myself spending more time than I possibly should have going through the lessons put before me.

That was over six months ago, and I am still going strong. I am relatively close to the end of the course, though seem to be making little progress in recent days. Am I am enjoying it. I wouldn't be able to hold a conversation to save myself, but for me that doesn't matter (yet).

And Then Another

For some reason, I decided I wanted to learn another language. Scrolling through the courses Duolingo had to offer, I found Esperanto. I did a little reading about it, behind the original design and purpose of the language and thought it might be nice.

With a little exploring the various keyboard layouts my phone (Nexus 6) has to offer, I found a layout that allowed for the characters that didn't appear on the standard English layout.

Then of course the was the whole pronunciation thing. Different from English, and Italian. But off of went, learning (or at least trying to learn) two different languages at the same time.

I was no longer trying to be bi-lingual but rather multi-lingual.

Yep, I added another.

This time Welsh!

Why? I could say it was something to do with the Welsh blood from my mother's side, or the fact my name is Welsh. And that's probably about the extent of it.

At first it was fun. The sounds, letters, everything, was so far from English, Italian, and Esperanto. I couldn't pronounce words anything like the voice I was listening to. But there I was, now trying to learn three languages.

But it couldn't last. It didn't last. I got to the point where I was writing words for Welsh that were Italian, or Esperanto that were Welsh. Then to started to comprehend less and less of the Welsh. So the decision was made to put Welsh on hold and concentrate more on Esperanto and Italian.

Losing Another

Then I dropped Esperanto for much the same reasons I dropped Welsh. Things stopped making sense. Even my Italian was suffering, and I getting more and more frustrated. So for a time, I focused on Italian only.

But that didn't last. Another Android App[lication] called Memrise kept popping up in the “Recommended for you” section of Google Play and I finally took the plunge and installed it. I didn't want to do Italian as that would only confuse what I was doing with Duolingo, and Welsh, Esperanto and Russian where off the cards too.

I explored the “other languages” section and found Toki Pona, a constructed language (like Esperanto) that contained a minimal vocabulary (around 120 words). I read about it, and soon started a course (Can these things, really be called 'courses' in the sense that one would traditionally take a course at a bricks and mortal education facility?) and was on my way to learning everything.

I trawled the internet for more information on Toki Pona and how to speak it (both from a pronunciation aspect and also from a grammatical aspect) and found little recent writings. I decided I would order pu (the Official Toki Pona Book) and hoped it would answer all my questions.

It didn't.

So I Moved On

Toki Pona takes influence from Tok Pisin an official language of Papua New Guinea. And it just so happened that Memrise had a course on this. So off I went.

Through the first one, I went. Then onto a second. I have even gone as far as purchasing a printed Tok Pisin—English Dictionary and have found some interesting resources at ANU's Asia-Pacific Linguistics page.

Given much of Tok Pisin's influence is from English, I have found it relatively easy to comprehend. I think I am pronouncing things right, but I just don't know. And I like the language. It is (to me) simpler, much simpler than anything else I have looked at.

But It's All Bloody Hard

When you are the only person you know who speaks a language you are learning, there is no opportunity to practice things. All I can do is say things (to myself, or others) and then say what I just said in English so they will understand. But I can never get any feedback on whether I have been understood, or if I maybe used the wrong word, or forgot a predicate marker or other such things.

And so my journey continues. I would like to think that maybe I may become fluent in some language other than English at some time in the future. Or maybe I will just settle for being able to understand what people are saying, and be able to read it.

But it is fun, entertaining, and keeps the mind active. When thinking to myself, I often try to express my thoughts in other languages too. Sometimes it works, sometimes not.

Time to go practice.