Words are funny things. We use them on a daily basis, and as far as we can remember they have always been there, meaning that they seem incredibly natural to us (which is, oddly enough, one of the reasons learning a foreign language feels so unnatural. I mean, what do you mean ‘dog’ is ‘perro’, that makes no sense! A dog is a dog, end of story, and breaking that association so that both words feel equally natural in our minds is all but impossible). Sure, from a rational perspective we know that is not the case. We know language makes no sense, which explains why we are stuck with so many of the blasted things, and we have all seen babies learning to talk, but words are so integral to the way we think that it is all but impossible for us to conceive a world without them... and yet language
A huge jumble of bricks does not a house make. That, I believe, is a statement we can all agree on. It is also a good explanation of why is it that most attempts at mastering a foreign language tend to fall short. In a nutshell, we tend to think of words as the building blocks of language, and when trying to master a foreign one our first instinct is to try to gather as many of those blocks as we can. In some instances that is not a bad idea. In others it is a recipe for disaster. The reason is simple enough: different languages are different, but they are not all different in the same way. If the language you are trying to master is close enough to your native one, then that words first approach may work, even if it leaves you with a few unusual linguistic quirks, but the farther afield...
Okay so I figured I might just as well write a short post to introduce what I hope will become one of the main features of this site: a section dedicated to language learning, which is one of my hobbies... and yes, I do realize that, as far as hobbies go, that one really needs to get a hobby. (more…)
Okay, so what could possibly have driven me to try to learn Esperanto out of all things? The short answer is that I'm not actually trying to learn the blasted thing, it's just that in order to check out duolingo (more on that in a future post), I did two things: first I took their placement quiz to see how it would grade me in a language in which I am fully fluent already, and then I signed up for a language I had never studied before. Seeing how Esperanto was conceived to be easy to learn, and hasn't had millions humans mucking up its precious regularity by doing something as unnatural as actually speaking it on a daily basis, it felt like the safest bet. So how's that little experiment going? (more…)