I love reading and I have always done so. I am an excellent reader as I can comprehend pretty much anything in English regardless of subject or complexity and I will do it pretty quickly too. People are quite frequently amazed at how quickly I can accomplish reading anything and that I not only understand it but can reiterate what it said too. Now for a person so versed in the ways of the English language you think I would know all about the different ways and methods of learning to read etc but I’m always finding out new things about my abilities that I didn’t know before like the differences between intensive reading which is reading for quality and making sure that you know the meaning of each and every word that you come across and extensive reading. Extensive reading is for quantity and your skim reading an article to get the gist of it but you don’t fully understand the meaning that is contained in the sentences. Both kinds can be for pleasure although the former is more like the style I use and the latter is a more dyslexic style but is also useful in studying. I have found to help my learning style in Greek that I need to practice more extensive reading as its too difficult to intensively read at my current level. I’m not progressing as well as I would like which is disheartening considering the amount of time that I devote to my Greek studies. I have found a new source of reading material the Gutenberg website which was a previous issue as I couldn’t find anywhere to get any literature but there are lots out there. You just have to find out where its located as it’s not easily accessible if you don’t know what you are looking for. I would like to thank Steve Kaufmann for bringing this to my attention but also Kato Lomb as it was her that first advocated this approach of reading to acquire sufficient knowledge in a foreign language to be able to communicate in it.
It’s been a very long time since I have written on this. Too long in fact but a lot of progress has happened in my Greek language learning ability. I have recently undertaken the 3-month challenge that is espoused by Benny the Irish polyglot in his fluent in 3 months scheme. While I don’t think that is a realistic goal anymore then when I was jokingly challenged to become fluent in Greek in 2 weeks; I have improved tremendously and there is a lot more to learning a language than just being a walking dictionary which is my usual not particularly helpful approach. The most useful thing I have found is that LingQ have started doing Greek mini stories and this is good for me as I like reading and this is mainly how I pick things up. I like watching all of Steve Kaufmann’s videos about how he learns languages and his progress in the Greek language. Listening and reading are so very important in order to be able to understand the material that you come across because if you don’t have comprehension then you are not going to get anywhere. There is quite a lack of reading material online if you a) want something free and b) something that doesn’t cover dry boring topics like politics or the economy. If for example, I wanted to read a story book that wasn’t to teach children how to read, I have had to buy some books off Amazon. I choose the series that everyone uses but its difficult to find especially if you have no idea what you are looking for due to the fact they are Greek so don’t normally come up in search results. https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/3190053170/ref=s9u_cartx_gw_i4?ie=UTF8&fpl=fresh&pd_rd_i=3190053170&pd_rd_r=PYCMWVBH0G92X8HNBFP1&pd_rd_w=lnVbP&pd_rd_wg=W9RQv&pf_rd_m=A3P5ROKL5A1OLE&pf_rd_s=&pf_rd_r=JNCC6DCKTMX38GPBKVXA&pf_rd_t=36701&pf_rd_p=16f14aeb-bd11-4e9e-8c26-9ca0139074ee&pf_rd_i=desktop
Today I have been getting back into the language learning saddle after as break to focus on other projects and I came across as a most excellent fellow called Donovan who is very introverted like myself but isn’t afraid to strike up a conversation with a stranger and likes to travel to far flung places to learn languages fluently.
His blog is called Mezzofanti Guild (after a famous 18th c polyglot) and it details his journey towards proficiency in Irish, Russian, Arabic and Korean. These are very hard languages to learn and I admire him for the dedication, time and effort that it requires to go to the lengths that he does to study these to the degree that he does.
Now I’m not personally interested in learning Irish, Arabic or Korean but I do know people that have learnt/are learning those languages so it can be done even if your a mono-lingual English speaker.
Russian is a language I dabble in when I have time but it’s not a priority for me. Same could be said for Spanish. These are interesting (and I’m a very curious, inquisitive person) and it would help me with travel, socialising and my other hobby Eurovision but my main focus is on Greek. Not the biblical or ancient kind but the modern kind. This is so that I can strike up a conversation with a native and actually gain friendships out there (Lefkas) but due to the fact that a) I can’t drive and b) I couldn’t afford a mobile out there that’s never really going to happen as I so very rarely interact with people my own age.
I love words as I may have mentioned a few times before but the spoken word is a bit of a mystery to me as you can interpret the same phrases in so many different ways depending on how they are said. This presents quite a problem for a person learning Greek as there are many word pairs that I have come across that change their meaning depending on how they are pronounced. For a person with issues with their speech, this is quite a nightmare. Some examples are the word for safety and fuse, amusement and theme park, when and never, the most common swear word and straits of Malacca in Indonesia. There are countless more that could be listed as while English has about 1 million words as we steal from a myriad array of languages, Greek tends to be the originator so only has about 650,000 in comparison. This density is useful as you could possibly obtain fluency quicker but also increases the errors you could make as well and for socially anxious types like myself, this is never going to be a good idea.
It’s commonly put about that it’s easiest to learn a language through speech as that’s how we learn our first and while this is true it’s not very helpful if your shy, introverted, or just a person that doesn’t like talking. This is a daily struggle for myself having to get out into the wider world and converse with strangers. I most recently tried with a bunch of computer scientists which was doomed to failure almost from the outset because of the inherent qualities of being a girl meaning I’m was persona no gratis.
Sometimes there is nothing like reading a proper old-school book (Collins Greek phrase book from 1977) to cement certain knowledge into your head that you know because you’ve seen it lots but you haven’t quite grasped it in its entirety. So far I have understood the Lefkas road sign (it wishes you a good voyage instead of welcoming you as your leaving), the reason why I can never say toothpick (οδοντογλυφιδα) correctly, why Bravo and only this is always said to congratulate me on speaking Greek correctly and the ever presence of οριστε (oriste) to mean a variety of things depending on the inflections used.
I know words are used to communicate but with the same phrase meaning so many different things, ποτε (pote) for instance, meaning both when and never depending on where you place the accent, it’s extremely difficult for me to differentiate between them yet alone reproduce them in speech or writing. Yes, I can deal with παρακαλω (parakalo) being please, your welcome but also a person in a shop getting your attention or even you getting theirs. Using it as excuse me too is pushing the boundaries but then there is also γειο σου (yia sou) which literally means your health but is a catch-all for hello, goodbye and goodness knows what else and is why I’m getting rather perplexed with the Greek language as these are just the most basic of phrases. Extend this to the 4 different ways to say my name is με λενε … (me lene …), Ποιο είναι το όνομα σου? (poio einai to onoma sou) etc and you get the picture as to why Greek is such a different language to learn as I haven’t even started on how are you? or anything more complex than an introductory phrase. As you can see I’m not even taking into account the gender changing the ends of words, the form in front of them, whether its single or plural, the formality that is required to be used here or sentence organization which can be rather flexible at the best of times. This is enough to drive any logically minded person like myself insane!
Others may look at that and think well that’s easy there are fewer words for me to remember but its the way you say them to infer the various meanings that gets to me the most and how are you to decipher this in text without the different stresses you can reproduce when talking?
As you may know, April is Autism awareness month and since I have Aspergers Syndrome I wrote a book about our preferred forms of communication. Aspergers and preferred methods of communication
Also my most recent Autistic interest has been learning Modern Greek and I have learnt it sufficiently to write a small ebook about it. How I learnt Greek – An English Introvert’s guide
I published them at the same time as there both related to language and speaking and one helped the other etc.
I think too much and that interferes with my happiness. I’m constantly over thinking and analysing and I need to be at peace with myself and the world. I do sometimes have difficulty switching off as I feel I need to be doing things all the time. This anxiety is always worst in the evenings which is the time you most need to be resting and in a calm state of mind to prepare for bed. I don’t like change much and I’ve recently undertaken quite an overhaul to my current regime as I’ve stopped drinking alcohol but ironically replaced it with a daily coffee and sweet. I’m working more and it’s more physical as its gardening so I’m losing weight but after were done since I don’t have a social life really I spend too much time online and that’s really bad for my eyesight, well being and I’m wasting the opportunity to do something better with the glorious weather that we have been having as it’s not usually this good. I also feel that the internet constantly dropping out and being slow means I’m supposed to be doing something else but I’m generally too tired to read. My attempts at Greek are laughable and if even Greeks tell me not to bother or there leaving their country and going to England what is the point as everybody knows how hard the language is. I just thought that I could learn it if I studied hard enough but it’s proving another thing I tried but simply wasn’t good enough at. Having a confidence crisis in my abilities I think as I was so looking forward to this for months but I think once again I have deluded myself as to the realities of a situation. Rose tinted specs are horrible.
I think I have figured out why I can’t speak very well. I led quite an isolated childhood on a farm with my parents and later on my brother with whom I spoke our own language that we made up. Sure my grandparents et al came to visit me but when all you normally interact with is a cat, a dog, a herd of cows, a litter of pigs, a flock of sheep and fish to keep you company, your not going to learn a lot of human speech regardless of language. Fishermen don’t really count here as they were too infrequent. This could also possibly be why it took me till I was almost 2 to learn English but when I did learn it you couldn’t shut me up. Everybody who knows me understands that I have 2 basic forms of communication, 1st I’m really shy so I don’t say anything and I’m generally just listening and absorbing my current surroundings, 2nd full on verbal diarrhoea. This includes all sorts of inappropriate and personal things (think Aunt Voulla in My Big Fat Greek Wedding 1+2) but I’m trying to get better by having my conversational skills somewhere in the middle. (When the social anxiety has passed away).
The origin of this language inability only just occurred to me today after I’ve spent the day listening to various polyglots talking in about 30 different languages and how some are usually quite distinctive French, Spanish, German, Italian, I’m learning to understand some like Greek and Russian and others I had no idea what they were saying like Farsi, Icelandic, Hungarian. Listening is a key point in acquiring language with or without an accent but if you don’t hear it frequently enough your not going to be able to reproduce it correctly. This is one of the reasons why my Aspergers was never picked up as I can’t do imitations which is a classic autistic trait. I have a lazy mouth according to the speech therapist who treated me at 4 years old. A lot of good they did as I still on a daily basis, come across people who know me well and can’t understand me correctly even if they see me on a regular basis.
I also have quite sensitive ears and hearing and my husband is always amazed when he borrows my headphones to listen to the same music as me at how low the volume is as he can barely hear what I’m listening to. This means that I can quite easily be overwhelmed in social situations as I can be the stereotypical wall-flower but also my speech is very quiet but doesn’t sound anything like I think it does. In fact, to me, it sounds horrid and when I’ve done karaoke, it’s equivalent to nails scraping down a chalkboard it’s that bad. I even hate to leave voice mails as I know the receiver will not be able to decipher my words as my parents never can. My husband, on the other hand, has a beautiful singing voice that he rarely uses as he is too embarrassed most of the time.
Music is also not a thing I’m any good at because as well as being unable to sing nicely, I can’t play any musical instrument which you think I would be capable of with good hearing and a good memory as after all isn’t it just muscle memory? Even hearing or sight is not required as there are famous musicians that have neither. It’s however not a quality I possess so it is another way my speaking ability is impaired and I sound like a robot as I can’t differentiate my voice sufficiently to produce all of the different tones that are required for proper speech. Pronunciation and intonation or diction if you want the posh words that my dad would use to describe my current linguistic problems.
I’m also trying to improve my friendship skills here which is another reason why quite frankly I suck at talking and even my own parents have to tune back in to how I speak if I haven’t spoken to them in a while. I do fear for the millions of people that will have to encounter this from me over the coming years and all those that already have had to suffer, with my constantly changing accent, quiet voice and incoherent voice. It doesn’t seem to matter in which language I speak, the words that I choose or even how there arranged, the same inherent difficulties are there which I ‘m working hard to overcome but it’s an uphill struggle for the majority of the time. I only hope that people continue to have patience with me.