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The Language Learning Advisor Newsletter, Issue #008
July 05, 2009
Welcome to Issue #008! There hasn't been a new newsletter in far too long, but I'm getting back in the newsletter publishing game! In this issue :
In The Language Requirement of a World Citizen I talk about what languages we should be learning in order to participate as citizens of the Global Village. Of course, I have some Recent Additions and New Language pages on the site to report as well.
Of the 7000 languages in the world today, most people have only heard of the most common few dozen or so. In my quest for something new and different for the newsletter, I have written a small profile for Taki Taki, a fascinating creole language of South America.
There are links for some New Resources that you may not have heard of, and of course, the Language Learning Tip of the Month, which is about text and voice chats this time.
The Language Requirement of a World Citizen
Over the last year or so I remember reading about the recommended languages to learn for 'world citizenship.' One such article recommend learning (in addition to your native language) one language from a neighboring country and an international language.
I have also read a similar recommendation in another article that added a heritage language, either a language from your own heritage or ancestry, or a local language from your country.
We could narrow down international languages to include the Official UN languages (English, Spanish, French, Arabic, Chinese (Mandarin), Russian) plus a few key languages like German (surprisingly not one of the UN official languages), Portuguese, Dutch, and other regional influential languages like Farsi and Swahili. I think I would even include Esperanto in this list of international languages.
For an American like myself, that would mean my native language of English, plus a language from a neighboring country - Spanish (Mexico, other Central American and Caribbean countries) or French (Canada, Haiti). And then one from the remaining short list of international languages. The fact that the neighboring language, whichever we choose, is also on the short list of international languages is a bonus, or we could maybe substitute some other language.
I think people in most countries are already doing this. English is obviously the international language of choice for many people, but Spanish, French and Arabic are also significant in different regions. I also like the requirements of neighboring language and heritage language, as that adds the possibility that people would learn more local and endangered languages.
Of course, this isn't really a 'requirement' that anyone is enforcing. But it is one aspect of the definition of World Citizenship. It is often an uphill struggle for me to encourage my countrymen (and other native English speakers) to learn other languages at all, but this is rougly the blueprint that I like to promote to people to follow, as far as which languages to learn.
Recent Additions and New Language Pages
One language that maintains an intimidating reputation for language learners is Hungarian. On the Hardest Language to Learn Survey, it is always one of the most popular choices.
In an effort to finish off the Celtic languages (only Manx is left for me to do), I have added Breton which is a sort-of 'Frenchified' Celtic language spoken on the French Atlantic coast.
Swahili is probably the most often asked for African language and I'm glad to announce that finally I have a page for it.
Aside from these new language pages, I have focused on expanding options for visitors to add their opinions to the site. There is a Language Reviews page so you can post your opinions or experiences with any language you have learned, are learning, are interested in learning or just want to talk about! There is also a separate page for French Reviews as that seems to be a language that inspires opinions!
It's hard to call a language spoken by 400,000 people 'obscure' but how many of us have ever even heard of Taki Taki, also called Sranan or Sranantongo?
Taki Taki is an English-based Creole spoken by approximately 400,000 people in the South American country of Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). It is spoken by almost the entire population of Suriname as either a first or a second language, as well as by a large emigrant population in The Netherlands and Aruba.
Taki Taki is a local lingua franca that is based on English and Dutch, but with influence from Portuguese and some African languages. It developed as a pidgin between African slaves, who did not have a common language, and for communication with their owners who prohibited them from speaking Dutch.
I found out about Taki Taki while searching for languages with very few words. I thought it might be fun to learn an exotic language with very few words and little grammar. Many creoles fit the bill. One source listed this as the language with the fewest words - 340. Actually, it turns out that there are a few thousand words, but compare that to most other languages which have tens of thousands and even hundreds of thousands of words.
Resources to learn Taki Taki are few and far between, (but there are more if you understand Dutch) :
Sil.org If you poke around this site a little, you'll find an index of terms, a dictionary and an interactive library of stories in Sranan. Elsewhere on the internet there are some dictionaries, the Peace Corps has some downloadable files, and there is a radio station or two with shows and music in Sranan.
An excellent resource I recently found was AllJapaneseAlltheTime.com Not only is this blog a great resource for learning Japanese, but it also happens to be an interesting source of information on the 10,000 Sentence method of language learning.
We can sum up the 10,000 Sentence method as follows : Get lots of input, presumably good-quality input, in the target language. Use lots of model sentences and memorize and familiarize yourself with their content and structure. Reinforce with plenty of passive input - listening to audiobooks, reading etc. Get tons of input before you begin to output. By then, you will have good feel for what is correct and what is not.
Balingua.com is an interesting idea. This is a language course designed for people who have not yet really started learning their target language, or have not progressed well with regards to speaking. It complements whatever method you are already using, and claims to dramatically and quickly improve your ability with the new language.
The course focuses on the structure of your target language and stresses what languages have in common rather than what is different. It has a free trial and is available for :
English, Chinese, French, Spanish, Dutch, German, Japanese, Lithuanian, Portuguese (Continental), Portuguese (Brazilian) and Italian.
Language Learning Tip of the Month - Chats
One great way for you to start actually using the language you're studying is with chats. When you have had a few email buddies and you think you're ready to up your game a bit, chats are the way to go. Why?
Text Chats - this is a step up from emails. Since it is live, you don't have as much time to prepare your answers and responses for your chat partners. You have to think a little quicker. You are more likely to make mistakes, but this is good preparation for live conversations. Also, you are more likely to get slang and idioms as it is more real-life vocabulary. This is great practice. I think the text chat is a big step forward in your active use of a new language and can be one of the most rewarding parts of your language learning journey.
Voice Chats - this is a great way to begin to use the language for real. Real people, real conversations at the speed of life. The real deal. When you are confident enough with your text chats, this is the next logical step. It's great for all the same reasons as text chats, but now you can focus on listening and improving and perfecting your speaking skills.
There are a number of sites that facilitate this kind of language exchange that are easy and safe to use. You can find some of the most popular ones on my language penpal resources page.
Until Next Time
Remember to keep working at it. Do something with or in your new languages every day. Keep practicing, reading, listening and studying. Remember to set goals and re-evaluate often.
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