Update

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

 

The struggles of an introverted language learner

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.

Going back to basics with Greek

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?

Mindfulness

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.

Reading ability crossroads

An interesting thing has occurred to me recently. When I try to read Greek and there is English present, my brain either gets lazy and tries to read the English or just gets confused trying to process the Greek. Sometimes, yes, it’s easier to figure out the Greek upon seeing the English and then reverting back to the Greek but I must be at the stage where a new strategy is required. Since Greek has a different way of organizing its sentences, I have to stop thinking in English and trying to translate them as they don’t follow exactly. Continuing to read Greek in English mode needs a lot of cognitive effort as the sentences have to be reconstructed in order to be understood like a dyslexic would and this is therefore quite inefficient, at least for myself. This is no good really as it impedes progress. I am a fantastic reader but I’m approaching this all wrong. I’ve been able to read since I was able 18 months old which is incredibly early. In fact, I couldn’t even talk until 4 months later. This is why it’s so irritating when I try to read Greek. I’ve tried learning the verbs and the joining words but this doesn’t help as it’s a piecemeal approach more akin to pattern recognition ie how a dyslexic reads. In other sentences its more like I’m hyperlexic, ie I read but don’t understand. This is so unbearingly frustrating as I love my ability to consume knowledge in the printed form so very quickly. Reading in Greek at the moment is painful and I generally don’t get past the first couple of sentences. I’ve asked for help and got nowhere so I took to the internet and found 

Book Promotion

I have now published My ebook on lulu.com and its available on other platforms like Amazon, Barnes and Noble nook, Apple and Kobo along with a mention on my Wattpad profile too.

I think my book will be very useful in reforming education especially relating to autistic people who need there own special approach to make sure that their talents are utilised by themselves to the best of their abilities. I believe it will also benefit those that deal with them on a frequent basis. I of course think this because I’m biased since I wrote it therefore I think its good but its the crystallization of my thoughts over about the past 5 years.

I thought to get you interested I would show you the Introduction.

It is well known that autistic children even adults need a different approach to learning to the rest of the neurotypical (NT) i.e. ‘normal’ population as there is a lot autistic children already know and understand but of course they have their own difficulties. I remember reading a school report about myself about 6 years old and it mentioned that I had some difficulties with learning maths but after I had received assistance from my father I was now much better. I can’t recall what exactly he did but it obviously benefited me greatly. Sometimes we need that extra help and tuition to help us grasp a particular concept before we can move on to the next task. In traditional schools they are quite in flexible in the dogma that is applied so that children that need extra support do not receive and therefore fall behind unnecessarily.

Autistic children need structure and a schedule as this helps them make sense of an extremely confusing and chaotic world. If they can have their own little piece of calm then they will be reassured and will perform significantly better with reduced anxiety which will mean smiles all round. It is for this end that I am writing this book with an aim to help autistic children, parents, families and anybody that needs to come into contact with them.

Structures also require planning and autistic children can be extremely stubborn and trying in the fact that things must be done there way so anything can turn into a battle of wills but you don’t need to give in to their every whim as they do need to accept some rules of society. As your child matures the timetables can be more flexible as they will understand the reasons for things better.

Time management is another critical factor here and if there anything like me there time keeping will be terrible. This is not to say that there isn’t perfectly punctual autistics out there, it’s just I have found more often than not this is an area we struggle with hugely due to the fact that we generally have very little concept of time. We are strong willed, obsessional and curious creatures that are fascinated by a lot of things that the average person will just ignore as they don’t appreciate the beauty in the simple things of life.

To get the most out of your autistic child you will need to play to their strengths which may be the stereotypical maths, trains, science fiction etc. or it may be caring for others, the arts or even looking after plants and animals. The range of interests that an autistic can devote themselves to is as broad as the universe is vast. So learn their specific interests, indulge them in it but also be aware that these can change over the years in their intensity but also in their content. They can even abandon them and take up completely new ones just like everybody else. An autistic can do anything and everything a ‘normal’ person can do. The only limits are those that society imposes on them limiting their creative expression and freedom.

 

Words, thoughts and philosophy

It is amazing reading a book I got my bro in law for Christmas (1001 ideas that changed the world) as it demonstrates to me that human nature doesn’t really change. Yes technology improves but ideas don’t generally hence we still use the Greek verb idea which means to see, to show concepts and thought processes. Ideas are constantly being generated but most of the big ones have already happened. There refined to suit that particular era but the nub was conceived eons ago.

I like the fact that philosophy is a Greek word meaning a love of wisdom and therefore people that debate philosophy are highly intelligent and persuing self actualisation which is the highest plane in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. I also like the fact that what I under went in the past year in regards to analysing all my thoughts and everything else can be attributed to a single Greek word – metanoia. For those that do not know this word even though its common on some Pinterest boards, it means the change of mind that over comes someone after they have become extremely introverted in order to examine there mind or intellect i.e. a mid life crisis as it has now become hence you can have them at any age not just as the kids are leaving home.

I can also see where some of the inspiration for Nietzsche’s famous nihilism comes from. If you debate the big questions of life on a regular basis you are going to feel unfulfilled with the world around you and therefore develop world views according to that kind of intellectualism. So a reminder from the ivory towers that while we are fleeting players on earth and in the grand scheme of things may not contribute anything of consequence, we need to involve ourselves with our families so that we do make a difference to them.