Book Review: “The Way of the Linguist”

“The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey”
By Steve Kaufmann

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again, Steve Kaufmann is one of my language learning heroes. I’ve always wanted to learn a second language but never really knew how. A few years ago when I turned 50 I found Steve Kaufmann’s videos on YouTube. I found his fresh and supportive approach to language learning very helpful and encouraging and he is an excellent role model.

Steve knows someplace between 9 and 15 languages. (Depending on which Youtube videos you watch as he is always learning more.) He may be up to 16 or 17 by now. It’s hard to tell.

Anyway, I am currently reading his book, “The Way of the Linguist”. It is very well written. I guess if you are going to speak 15 plus languages you know how to get your point across with as few words as possible. The book is very tightly written with just the right amount of detail about his travels to different countries around the world to make it interesting. I’m sure he could have written a book about just his travels and another about the food he’s eaten and anther about doing business in foreign lands, but this book is focused on language.

After college, Kaufmann was work with the Canadian Foreign diplomatic Service.  His first government posting was in Paris where he learned to speak French properly, studying the language under a native speaker. Kaufmann studied in Paris for two years.

His next post was to Hong Kong and also mainland China where he learned Chinese. Next Kaufmann was posted to Japan where he undertook to teach himself Japanese, and so on.

Kaufmann ended up with enough contacts overseas that he was able to set up his own export business in the private sector in Canada. It wasn’t until I read Kaufmann’s book that I realized what a good investment it is for a government to train its diplomats in foreign languages. Even if the diplomats don’t continue to work for the government.

Steve Kaufmann’s language learning website; LingQ.com

Kaufmann took his language training and his overseas contacts and set up a successful export business in Canada. Thus improving Canada’s exports and GDP. Canada got it’s investment back from him.  Kaufmann, whom I believe is in the lumber business, says that he has done business with a number of clients from different countries around the world in the client’s own language. That has to be helpful to a private business owner.

America has a Foreign Service Institute (FSI) that trains Americans with overseas postings on foreign languages. I hope with all the budget cuts and the attacks against so-called “big government” the recently elected party realizes the long-term value of the FSI is to America.

Kaufmann learned his languages one at a time over a period of time, by a combination of;

  • Study of interesting written content
  • Talking to native speakers of his target language
  • and “living in the language”

Living in the Language

For me, Steve Kaufmann was really the first Linguist that I ever heard about that made language learning accessible. Prior to Kaufmann most polyglots I read about or saw interviewed seemed to have some sort of chip on their shoulder. They knew all these other languages and I didn’t blah blah blah. And they never encouraged anyone to emulate them. They were part of an elite group that didn’t seem to want any new members.

Kaufmann shares my frustration with how foreign languages are taught in school. Kaufmann being Canadian was required to take two years of French. He passed the test but. However, he quickly found that he was unable to speak French after he was finished with school.

Kaufmann points out that there are a number of reasons for this. He also talks about this in a few of his videos. Basically, in school, you are taught what you need to know to pass a standardized test. But that test has little to do with fluency or practical use of the language.

To really learn a language, Kaufmann points out, one has to “live in the language”. This doesn’t mean one has to go to France to speak French. But one needs to set aside time, each day (consistency is important) to read and study a language. He also said that it is important to meet and talk with native speakers of that language. This can be done by seeking out native speakers of your target language in your neighborhood, and or via Skype.

Kaufmann says that language is more about food and culture than it is about words and grammar.

In his early days of studying German on his own. Kaufmann went to the second-hand bookstore and bought about nine or ten German books. Many of these books were formally owned by other students of the language so they had helpful notes scribbled on the pages. Now days, we have it easy, with the internet and iPads and iPhone we have a world of books in all languages at our fingertips. Not to mention google translate and other such sites.

The Way of the Linguist: A Language Learning Odyssey

366 Days with Duolingo

I am not the most disciplined person in the world. I tended to start off very excited about a new project and then lose interest about 75% of the way through.

I’ve just completed a year (a leap year even) of doing Duolingo every day. I started Duolingo two years ago, 10 January 2015, after trying a number of other online websites both Free and paid. I had a dream of learning French but wasn’t sure how to get there. Now I can kind of read French Newspapers and can often understand some French conversations. I do have a way to go. But I don’t think I would have come this far without Duolingo.

I have had a dream of learning French for years, but wasn’t sure how to get there. Now I can read and understand French Newspapers and can often understand some French conversations. I do have a way to go. But I don’t think I would have come this far without Duolingo.

Duolingo is Free so this is not a sponsored add. I also use other paid websites including Rocket French, however, it is Duolingo that I come to first every day.

I have written about Duolingo before. But this is the one year mark of a perfect streak so I have something to celebrate. To tell you the truth I did miss a few days from time to time. But Duolingo lets you use your acquired points, called Lingots, to get a one-day streak protection, so that your score doesn’t go back to zero. It is very disheartening to see your score go back to zero, but then I have to remind myself that I am here to learn French and not run up a score.

Interestingly enough it’s the score that keeps me coming back. I’m not overly competitive but I use to be a hardcore gamer back when “Doom” and “Duke Nukem” were new. So there is something about Duolingo’s ‘gamification’ that appeals to me on a deep level.

Steve Kaufman creator of the LingQ.com website.

I guess, by keeping score, it makes me feel like I’m making progress even when I find the language frustrating. But as the experts like Steve Kaufmann say, language learning is about spending time daily with the language. Duolingo has done that for me. It has made me sit down each day and just do a little bit. As you can see from my

As you can see from my screenshot at the top of the page, I am only doing Ten words a day right now. I was doing thirty, but then Duolingo ran out of French and I had to do Italian for a while.

Duolingo’s lessons expire from time to time, so you need to revisit them. So I am back to doing French. I’m doing only 10 again to pace myself. And by only doing 10 a day it gives more time for my completed lessons to expire. I’m doing my real language learning at Rock french these days.

If I were to list the things Duolingo has done for me. They would be, (in no particular order).

  • Made French Learning a habit. (Habits are very important)
  • Kept score – which made me protective of my score. Which made me come back.
  • Gave me a variety of different styles of lessons.
  • Slowly built up my vocabulary over the last two years.
  • Kept me learning during the times I was really over the whole thing. There are some weeks that I just go in a do the minimum. But if you can get through these times you will make progress.
  • Gave me a sense of completion. Last October I completed the last French modules, I felt like I had done something. Yesterday when I completed 365 days and today when I did the whole leap year I felt that way again. As silly as these little feelings of pride are, they are very important in the overall progression of learning French.

I don’t think Duolingo will teach you French, but it will build your vocabulary and your confidence and it’s a great place to start.

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The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business

2017 is here at last! Time to Set New Goals.

It seems like the New Year has crept up on me rather fast. So it is the First of a New Year. Time to start all over again.

I’ve recently read “The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg. I highly recommend it along with the book, “Talent is Overrated” by Geoff Colvin.

Talent is Overrated” takes a look at the science behind getting things done. It looks at people like Mozart and Tiger Woods whom everyone assumes to be born talented but were in fact born into families with fathers who were really good coaches. Geoff Colvin looks at different groups of high achievers and how often it is the case that the Highest achievers are just the ones that practice more while also practicing on their weakest areas. The full name of the book is; “Talent is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else“.

It is a kind of feel good book. I never really thought that I was gifted. But now knowing that all it takes is practice and focusing on my weakest areas I am given new hope.

The Power of Habit” by Charles Duhigg is all about the power of setting up regular habits for greater achievement. The full name of the book is; “The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business“. (Wow all these self-improvement books have such long titles these days.)

These books were recommended to me by the very successful self-publishing author Chris Fox. I wasn’t really going to write about self-improvement in this blog, as this is a French language learning blog, however, these are the things that I am thinking about on the first day of 2017.

My daily dose of French.

This time last year I was interested in setting up new and better habits but didn’t know where to start. I did make myself type out the page from my French Living Language Calendar and do a daily session on Duolingo.com. I am currently on day 362 on Duolingo. So habits do work. However, I realize now that I was just doing fun habits, which is an important way to start, but do really reach French fluency I need to start working on my weaker areas. Grammar rules.

I hated Grammar rules in English (as invented by Grammar-Nazis) however I need to mix them into my regular learning. I can really feel that I am not too far from fluency.

I found the video that I posted of Carrie Fisher speaking French very helpful. I could mostly understand her, although the subtitles helped. But it was also nice to see a fellow American struggling and succeeding with the language. It just goes to show that she was a real princess as princesses were often expected to understand a number of different languages.

I had a boss at one time who was German, her father had been a Count but her mother was Jewish and the family was forced to flee, leaving her families title and castle behind. She always told me that it was important when traveling to at least try and start the conversation in the local language.

My goals for 2017
(Subject to Change)

Learn French Grammar: I will work on the how later.

Speak more French. I know a number of French-owned cafes and restaurants in my area. I am going to go in and make my orders in French. I’ve been a bit shy about this in the past. Put I’m really going to push it. What have I got to lose?

Steve Kaufman creator of the LingQ.com website.

Read more French books. – an Hour a day. Polyglot – Steve Kaufmann recommends reading in a new language. Even if it means going over and over again on the same page.

Rocket French: – I am currently working my way through the Rocket French website. I am going to do a lesson a day.

Duolingo: I ran out of new French content in October last year. But I am just going to continue to do review lessons every day until the language becomes second nature.

Goal: I want to be able to watch French movies and or French TV programs and understand the content. (I’m at a strange point right now where I can kind of follow bits of the conversation and pick up a word or a phrase here and there.)

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Road Testing French Lessons Online – Part I

In this segment, I will be testing different French learning systems. It is important to realize that what works for me may not work for others. The goal of my French learning is to speak and read French I want to be a “practical” French speaker that retains the language and not someone that passes a test on it to get a grade in school.

I’ve done a number of reviews on this page of different learning systems. You can find them in my past posts.

My two current systems that I use daily are;
duolingo-owlDuolingo French. (I have completed the Duolingo French system a few months ago, so currently I use it as a daily review.)
https://www.duolingo.com/

French Living Language calendar
I have a process where I review the French word and phrase of the day. This is a fun part of my day.

I will be starting my own French word of the day (Word du jour) mailing list very soon.

My daily dose of French.
My daily dose of French.

If you are interested in buying a Living Language calendar here is a link. Full disclosure I do make some money from affiliate links (in theory anyway) it does help me to keep this blog going. Thanks for your support.

Living Language: French 2017 Day-to-Day Calendar

 

This week we’re are going to look at Rocket French.

For the Rocket French website Click Here!

rocket-french-ii

Rocket French

Today I’m looking at a new system called Rocket French. I found the Rocket French site online and they appear interesting.

The main presenter of the course is Paul who has a charming English accent. Paul introduces himself as having lived in France as a child. Paul claims to speak fluent French. (This is important. I’ll talk about French accents a little later.)

The other presenter is Claire. Claire is a native French speaker and she does most of the French speaking on the sight. Claire has a lovely and strong French accent when she speaks Engish and demostraight how to say things in both perfect French as well as in “street French” which can be a bit harder to understand.

So far so good. It’s important to learn from a native speaker, or at least someone who has known the language since they were a child. This course appears to have both.

Accents

Pardon me while I digress here for a moment.

Why is it that someone like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have lived most of his life in the United States still has such a strong Austrian accent?

It’s because when we learn a language as a child we learn to listen for and make the little sounds that collectively create the language. I have lived in Australia for many years and yet still have an American accent.

I found out recently that the French have difficulty with the “Th” sound in “Thistle” although a French speaker can quickly learn to make the sound perfectly, it takes a bit longer for the sound to connect with the language center in their mind so that when they make the “th” sound it registers as important meaningful sound and now just a random noise.

There are sounds in French that English speakers have difficulty making. I’ll see if I can find more on this later.

I saw an interview once where Arnold Schwarzenegger said that he had accent reduction classes for years. His accent has been somewhat diminished however it is still quite strong. It should be pointed out that Arnold hasn’t let his accent get in the way of his success, and neither should you.

I must confess that I use to be a little impatient with people who spoke English badly. But now that I’ve seen how difficult it can be to learn a new language I feel a bit of admiration and even kinship with someone that speaks broken English. I can only imagine what I sound like when I speak French.

The Challenge

Rocket French offers a  free seven-day sample of the course. So I’m am going to test it out for seven days and see what I think.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post that I’ve already tried the Pimsleur French (which was presented with American accents) which I tried very early in my French learning undertaking.

Pimsleur was one of the first courses that I bought online, however it was just an audio CD, (I also have the Audible version) and there was no written version of what I was saying.

I found myself wanting to see what the words look like. I think that I would do better with Pimsleur now that I have done Duolingo French for almost two years.

Duolingo is my favorite learning system so far. I started on 10 January 2015. But I think Duolingo has taken me as far as it can go. I’m out of vocabulary and am searching for a new system to take me to the next level.

Targets are important

I graduated high school hating the word “Goals” as I had a teacher that overused the word way too much. So we can replace it with “Targets”.

My Targets French Learning Target

(I stole this from TED talks. I am grateful. I think this ia great way of measuring personal improvement.)

In a hypothetical French Restaurant

  1. Be able to read the menu (in French).
  2. Be able to order from the menu in French.
  3. Be able to understand the waiter when he/she speaks to me in French.
  4. Be able to answer the waiter in return in French.
  5. Be able to listen to French conversation of the people around me.
  6. To be able to join in on the French conversations.

(My own targets)

  1. To be able to read Tintin in French
  2. To be able to read French Newspapers (online) in French.
  3. To be able to read a French book.
  4. To be able to watch French news and movies and understand them.
  5. To be able to hold a conversation in French with native French speakers.

I am starting this seven-day test and will report back on this post with my results.

This is the first language course road test I will have started (I plan to do more in the future) so I am not really sure on what criteria I will be judging the course on.

The real test will be if I like the course or not.

  • Will it work for me?
  • Is it something I can do daily and not get bored or frustrated with?
  • I hope that it’s something that I will look forward to, or at least not dread.

So there will be a Scale of “Dread” to “look forward to”.

  • Dread” being  Zero.
  • Look forward to” being Ten.

Day one – 21 November 2016

  • I like the sound of both Paul’s and Claire’s voices. There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
  • There is a written thing version of everything they say so it is possible to follow them.
  • Paul who is the narrator tries to keep the feeling of the lesson light and positive. (I know this may put some people off, but his he was cynical and uncaring no one would listen to him.)
  • I’m listening to the first lesson a few times and I’m saying the words with them. (I was listening on my laptop in a public place – down at the gym- so I’m pretending that I having a Skype conversation.) Not that I care what people think of me. I just think people will tune me out and leave me alone if they think I’m on a call. So I am repeating most of the dialog to myself in a mumble. The lady next to me is chatting away in her loudest tone of voice.

I’m looking forward to my next lesson.

Day Two – 22 November 2016

Learning the French alphabet.
Learning the French alphabet.

Today I looked at Rocket Lingo’s lesson dealt mainly with the Alphabet. This is something that I’ve been working on for some time. It’s not really covered in Duolingo. Knowing the French Alphabet is extremely important. The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.

The inner snob in me scoffs when thinking that I have to learn the alphabet again. However learning the alphabet teaches you all sounds that you need to make in learning French. It’s a good facial exercise as it helps you to develop the different facial muscles that you need to speak French. It also helps you develop an ear for the language.

Tip: The French use the same Roman Latin Alphabet that the English do. Most of the French letters are pronounce the same as they are in English. There are a handful of exceptions. The Vowels “e”, “i” have exchanged names in French for some reason. Also “g” and “j” have also exchanged names.

As a child I always thought that the “w” looked more like two “v’s” than two “u’s”. The French seem to agree with this and the “w” is called = “dooble vay”.

The last few letters of the French Alphabet.
The last few letters of the French Alphabet.

I didn’t know this before put the letter “y” was borrowed from the Greek alphabet. The French call it “ee-grayk” meaning the “i of the Greeks”.

The French an the British both call the letter “z” = zed.

Day four – 24 November 2016
I’m sorry I have been busy. I have kept up the language learning. I am quite enjoying Rocket French.

The creators of Rocket French seem to have thought of a number of things that have frustrated me with other courses in the past.

The conversation is broken down into parts.
(Screen Cap) The conversation is broken down into parts.

Often I get long conversations and then they are broken down. Rocket French does this as well. But then it has each part of the conversation on a separate line, where you are able to listen to the parts that you choose and play them separately without having to replay the whole conversation.

This is handy as often I find it’s only a few parts of a sentence that I need to work on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

French Quote Fingers

French quotation marks are called – guillemets.
Pronounced (gee-yee-may).
And they look like this – « ».

Quote fingers.
Anglo-American quote fingers are used in France.

I was surprised when my French friends said that the French use quote fingers (or air-quotes) in the same way that they are used by English speakers.

I think it’s time that the French should have their own quote finger sign, or should we say «guillemets des doigts».

 

French quote fingers.
Proposed French quote fingers.

 

Guillemets quote fingers will of course be easier for Star Trek fans to make.

I am thinking of creating a proposal for the Académie française, pertaining to the use of «guillemets des doigts» (quote fingers) or should they be called « guillemets de l’air »” (quotes of the air).

The Académie française (French Academy) is a council that deals with matters concerning the French language. They from time to time vote to make changes in French, recently removing an accent mark.

The Académie française was founded in 1635 by Cardinal Richelieu, whom you might recognize as the antagonist in the Alexander Dumas historical novel «Les Trois Mousquetaires» (The Three Musketeers).

There are forty members on the Académie française are called «les immortels» (the immortals) and hold their positions for life, or until they retire. They are the sort of supreme court of the French language.

quote-fingers-new-english-008

I’m not sure how the Académie française would react to French air quotes. I’ve tried it out on a few of my French friends, none of whom are Star Trek fans, so they had difficulty making the signs. «C’est la vie.»

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On PC’s the short cuts for guillemets are.

ALT + 174 = «

Alt +  174 = »

Mac short cuts for guillemets

 Option+Backslash = «

Option+Shift+Backslash = »

 

 

 

 

French Days of the Week

In this post we will have a quick look at the different French names of the days of the week. There is a strange link between the French and English names and perhaps knowing this link will help you learn the French day names.

Why Seven?

Why do we have seven days of the week? Why is it that the French and other countries that don’t speak English also have seven days in the week? Why is seven such a special number anyway?

In order to understand why seven is so important we have to look back a few thousand years ago, before the internet, TV, movies or even the radio. Back when people sat around campfires in the summer and looked up at the stars.

The sky at night is full of stars. Stars travel uniformly across the sky at night all going the same direction and at the same speed. The few exceptions the ancient Greeks named “wanderers” (in Greek planētēs.) We know them now as planets.

There are seven heavenly bodies that regularly appeared in the sky (and still do) and it is from these seven heavenly bodies that we get the days of the week. The Sun, the Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn.

The first two, the sun and the moon aren’t technically planets under the modern revised definition of the word. And yet they don’t travel with the rest of the stars across the sky so they technically are wanderers under the original Greek meaning of the word.

The names of the days of the week were first introduced into Rome from Egypt in the 1st and 2nd century.

Getting to the point of this post. The days of the week are named after the planets and Greco-Roman gods. The days of the week in French are the French name variations of the Greco-Roman gods. The English (Anglo-Saxon Germanic) versions of the days of the week are actually Germanic translations of the Greco-Roman gods.

It was sometime before 700 A.D. that the Teutonic ancestors of the English renamed the days of the week after the Norse gods.

The French order of the Days

novembre-01
The week starts with lundi (Monday).

Most French calendars start with Monday as the first day of the week. The reason for this may be that in the Bible Sunday is seen as the day of rest which is the seventh day.

French do not capitalize the days of the week unless they appear at the beginning of a sentence.

The French days of the week all contain the syllable ‘di’. Which just means day. Sunday (dimanche) begins with ‘di’ and the rest of the French day names end with it.

Lundi = Monday

Georges Méliès as the Man in the Moon. From his 1902 movie «Le voyage dans la lune » "A Trip to the Moon"
Georges Méliès as the Man in the Moon. From his 1902 movie «Le voyage dans la lune » “A Trip to the Moon”

Lundi comes from “lune”, which is the French word for moon.

Trivia: French Musketeer Cyrano de Bergerac (1619 – 1655) wrote one of the first Science Fiction stories ever recorded about taking a trip to the moon.

The story was a political satire, and was called «Contenant les Estats & Empires de la Lune» “Comical History of the States and Empires of the Moon”, and was published two years after his death in 1657. In the story Cyrano sailed to the moon in a sort of balloon. (The first hot air balloon was invented in France 1783.)

Jules Verne (1828 – 1905) wrote «De la Terre à la Lune» “From the Earth to the Moon” in 1858. Cyrano was truly ahead of his times.

Monday is a shortening of moon-day.

Mardi = Tuesday

Mars
Mars, the Roman god of war.

Mardi is named after the Mars the Roman god of war. Most Roman soldiers were also farmers so Mars was the god of both war and agriculture. Before Rome had a full time professional army the military season, for Roman farmers, began in October. After the harvest, the farmers went into training for war.

The Roman campaigning season ended in March (which is also named after Mars in both French and English). In March all the farmers could go back to their families. The month of March («mars» in French) is when most of the festivals of Mars were held.

 

Tyr god of war
Tyr god of war

Tuesday: is named after Tyr. Tyr was the Norse god of war. It is from “Tyr” that we get the word “Teutonic”.

Tyr had only one hand as his other hand was bitten off by a giant wolf named Fenrir. The wolf Fenrir was said to be the son of Loki, the trickster god.

The story goes that Tyr put his hand in Fenrir’s mouth while Fenrir was bound with unbreakable chains. Tyr lost his hand but was able to save the gods from Fenrir.

Mercredi = Wednesday
(This is a bit of a mismatch)

Mercury
Mercury

Mercredi: Is the day of Mercury.

Mercury is the son of Jupiter, from Jupiter’s affair with the daughter of Atlas. Jupiter’s wife Juno, the queen of the gods, was known for being very cruel to her husband’s bastard children.

Mercury never had a very high standing with the Olympic gods. He is the god of thieves and has the job of taking fallen soldiers to the fields of heaven.

The Roman heaven was called “Elysium” or the “Elysian Fields“. “The fields of {Roman} heaven” translates into French as «les Champs du Elysees». Which is the name of one of the most famous streets in Paris.

 

Odin
Wise Odin had only one eye. He sacrificed the other eye in exchange for knowledge.

Wednesday: is Wodin or Odin’s day. Odin of course was the father of the Teutonic gods. His Roman equivalent should have been Jupiter. However when Julius Caesar first traveled to Gaul and Germany he mistook the widespread worship of Odin as being worship of Mercury.

The ancient Romans believed that all other cultures worshiped the same gods that they did only under different names. When visiting (or invading) a new country a Roman would ask about the nature of the local gods. All gods were given duties, such as god of lightning, or god of the sea, etc. The Roman would then try and figure out which of these barbarian gods corresponded to the Roman gods.

In Teutonic mythology it is Odin that receives soldiers that have fallen in battle to Valhalla. This is why Caesar mistook Odin, who was the king of the gods with Mercury, a lesser servant god.

 

Jeudi = Thursday
(another mismatch)

Jupiter
Jupiter, King of the sky holds lightning bolts in his right hand.

Jeudi: is the day of Jupiter, who was sometimes called Jove. (“By Jove!”)

Jupiter is the Roman father of the gods and King of Olympus. He was also the god of Thunder.

Jupiter’s father was Saturn, whom he did not get along with. Saturn was afraid of his children and so he ate them when they were born.

Jupiter led a rebellion. Because Jupiter and his siblings were immortal they survived being eaten and were set free by Jupiter. They were then able to rule the world.

Thor on his chariot pulled by two goats.
Thor on his chariot pulled by two goats. The word Swedish word for “Billy-goat” is »getabock». Which also is used as an euphemism for “playboy” or “stud” in Ingmar Bergman movies. Thor has a two-stud powered set of wheels!

Thursday: is Thor’s day. Thor the son of Odin and his Olympic equivalent should have been Hercules. (Except Hercules was half human. So Hercules was only a demigod, while Thor was the son of the King and Queen of the gods.)

Thor may have been confused with Jupiter as Thor is also the god of Thunder.

 

 

Vendredi = Friday

Venus
Venus, goddess of love and ancestor of Julius Caesar, who reinvented the Roman Calendar.

Vendredi: is the day of Venus.

Venus is the goddess of love and was said to be the mother of a Trojan man named Aeneas. Aeneas survived the fall of Troy and fled to Italy settling in the area which one day would be known as Rome. Aeneas was a founder of the Roman race. Julius Caesar claimed to be related to Aeneas and therefor Venus.

It should be pointed out that in French (and all the other Romance languages that assign gender to words) that the days of the week are masculine, even vendredi, despite being named after a goddess.

Freyja on her chariot pulled by two cats.
Freya on her chariot pulled by two cats. (She could be the goddess of the internet if she were around today.)

Friday: Friday may be named after one of two goddesses Frigg or Freya Whom may be the same goddess. No one is sure.

Frigg was the wife of Odin. Frigg was the patron of marriage and motherhood, love and fertility.

Freya had many of the same characteristic as Frigg but had a chariot pulled by two cats.

(In the movie “Thor” (2011) the thunder god asks a pet-shop owner if he has any dogs or cats that are big enough to ride.)

 

Samedi = Saturday

Saturn father of Jupiter
Saturn father of Jupiter

Samedi: Comes from the Latin words “dies Saturni”, it was Saturn’s day to the ancient Romans.

Saturn was the father of Jupiter. He was a Titian. Titians were the giants that came before the Olympic gods.

The scythe that Saturn holds may be inspired by the rings of Saturn which might be visible to the naked eye. (I’m not sure).

Saturday – is also named after Saturn.

 

 

Dimanche = Sunday

Sun emblem belonging to Louis XIV of France, the 'Sun King' (1638 - 1715)
Sun emblem belonging to Louis XIV of France, the ‘Sun King’ (1638 – 1715)

Dimanche: The name dimanche comes from its Latin name Dominica, Day of God or Day of our lord.

Sunday: day of the sun comes from the Latin “dies solis” which was the name of a Pagan Roman holiday. The day was renamed Dominica some time after Rome was converted to Christianity, by Constantine the Great (272 AD – 337 AD.)

French Numbers (the Abe Lincoln method)

At first glance the French have a somewhat unusual counting system which seems normal up until the number sixty-nine (soixante-neuf). Then things get a little “Abraham Lincoln”. But I’ll explain what I mean by that in a moment.

But first lets us take a look at the French counting system.

The French write their ones and their sevens slightly differently.
The French write their ‘ones’ and their ‘sevens’ slightly differently than the English speakers. The French number ones can sometimes look like upside down ‘V’s. 

One = un (masculine) or une (feminine). The number one is the only number to really have a gender. Also, the first day of the month is the “premier”.

Two = deux

Three = trois

Four = quatre

Five = cinq

Six = six (exactly the same)

Sept = seven

Eight = huit

Nine = neuf

Ten = dix

Eleven = onze

Twelve = douze (kind of sounds like “dozen”)

Thirteen = Treize (This is the beginning of the Teens (tens) in English. The dix numbers don’t start until 17 in French).

Fourteen = quatorze

Fifteen = quinze

Sixteen = seize

Seventeen = dix-sept (This is the start of the regular patter of the name of the number from the tens followed by the name of the number of the ones).

Eighteen = dix-huit

Nineteen = dix-neuf

Twenty = vingt

Twenty-one = Vingt-et-un.  (The “et” is only used in two digit numbers ending in “one” starting with 21 and ending with 61.)

Twenty-two = Vingt-deux (There is a dash between the numbers linking them. This is the pattern for the rest of the numbers up until 69)

Thirty =  trente

Fourty = quatrante

Fifty = cinquante

Sixty = soixante

Sixty nine = soixante-neuf. (Now a new pattern begins.)

Seventy = soixante-dix ( And so it starts. 70 is 60+10 Soixante-dix. Learning French numbers from this point on will help you with your mathematics skills.)

Seventy one = Soixante-et-onze  60 and 11.

Seventy two = Soixznte-douze (Just add the teen numbers to the end of Soixznte. This pattern continues until 80)

Eighty = quatre-vingt (four twenties) 4 x 20.

Eighty one = quatre-vingt-un. (four twenties one)

Ninety = quatre-vingt-dix (four twenties ten.) It really means 4 X 20 + 10

One hundred = cent

One hundred and one = cent-un

The Honest Abe Lincoln French Counting System

lincoln-006I don’t know if Abe Lincoln spoke French but for some reason he counted like a Frenchman. Looking at the first four words in Lincoln’s most famous speech, the Gettysburg Address the opening line is one of his most quoted and least understood lines in history.
(What’s a score anyway?)

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…”

The word “score” has gone out of fashion in America. “Score” means “twenty”.

“Score” was once quite common in English.

merry-adventures-of-robin-hood “…the Sheriff of Nottingham did cow bold Robin Hood and seven score as fair archers as are in all merry England?”

“The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood”
Published in 1883
By Howard Pyle

 

 

What President Lincoln was really saying in his Gettysburg address was,

‘87 years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation…’

In French the number 87 is «quatre-vingts-sept», which translates as four-twenties-seven or as Lincoln put it, “four score and seven”.

Maybe French numbers after 70 aren’t that far-fetched. For after all they are using the same twenty based counting system that President Lincoln famously used.

My little French Calendar Scrapbook

Making a Living Language French Calendar Scrapbook

I don’t know if I use my French Living Language Calendar the way it was originally intended. My personal scrapbooking system I describe in this post is sort of something I have developed over the last two + years.

I bought my first Living Language French (calendar) in 2014. Back when French was still really just a foreign language to me. I remember opening the box on January 1st and thinking, this is way too advanced for me.

In some ways it was the calendar was too advanced. It used a lot of words that I’ve yet to encounter in my studies, however I have made up a number of games with my little French calendar over the years, and I’m on my third calendar now and still having fun.

Over the past two almost three years I have use my calendar as a way of exploring French culture. It is my escape from learning boring low level French terms like “Good-day, how is it going?” etc. etc. And into the higher levels of French culture. But more on that in a moment.

With my little French calendar I get to play detective and CSI linguistics expert. My little calendar is teaching French terms way beyond my learning level.

The Daily Language Habit

Steve Kaufmann from LingQ.com that the most important part of learning a new language is the daily learning habit. If you can do even a little every day you will be progressing. LingoSteve also encourages you to have fun while you are learning your new language to help avoid burnout.  (Look for LingoSteve Kaufmann’s videos on Youtube.)

Q: So how can I make my French calendar fun?

A: By starting a daily scrapbook.

The calendar features a new French word every day. This word comes with a pronunciation guide. I should point out that this is a readable pronunciation guide (yeah!) And not the fancy “International Phonetic Alphabet” (IPA) guides that I never learned about in school. The whole internet is being taken over by the IPA. It is used to show pronunciation using strange alien characters like; ɯ, ø, œ, ä, ɨ, ʌ, ʉ, ɤ, ɐ, ɞ. (The IPA guide needs to come with a guide.)

The French word or phrase also comes with a definition. Some words have more than one meaning. So often it is handy to look this word up on Google Translate.

Press the speaker icon to hear the word pronounced in French.
Press the speaker icon to hear the word pronounced in French.

Also Most of the translation pages have little speaker icons. If you click the speaker icon the page will read the word or sentence out loud for you. [This is one of the best tools ever created for language learning!]

Next the word or phrase will be used in a French sentence. Below this French sentence is an English translation of this sentence. (Most of the time these translations are fairly accurate but sometimes they are not. This is where the detective work begins.)

When I do my daily French calendar scrapbook. I often see myself as someone trying to break the code. (Believe me in the early days it was all seemed like code to me.) I quickly noticed after using Google translate a few times that the English version weren’t always a 100% word for word translations of the original French sentence.

Take for example the sentence:
«Petit à petit, l’oiseau fait son nid.» (Little by little the bird makes its nest.) I have seen this translated on line as (Every little bit counts.) with no further explanation of the words like oiseau= or nid=nest.

“Every little bit counts” may be the underlying meaning of the proverb but it’s ironic that the translator ignored all the little bits that counted.

In my opinion, it is more important to understand what the words actually mean. Word for word. Even if the proverb is strange. Finding the meaning is an insight into how the French think.

Discover Grammar patterns

I must point out that I hate the whole idea of learning grammar “rules. However I enjoy discovering the natural way in which the French say things. Grammar is really a rhythm and and sort of logic. It is something that you learn to know by ear.

When you put words together in the wrong order in an English sentence the sentence just sounds wrong. It’s not about learning rules. Its about learning to hear pattern. The rules where made up to explain the pattern. Learning to hear the pattern first makes it easier to understand the rules.

The Experts are wrong

What are the French really saying?

I don’t know how many times that I have read that «bonjour» means “good day” and “good morning”. No it doesn’t

«Bonjour» means “good day”. The French may say bonjour in the morning, however «bon» means “good” and «jour» means “day”.

«Matin» means “morning.”

It’s good to know exactly what words mean.

«Ça va» means “It goes”
«Ça» = it
«va» = goes.
«Ça va» doesn’t mean “OK” or “how are you?”
It means “How is it going?” With the words “How” and “is” left off.

Understanding these little details are important.

My Little French Calendar Scrapbook

Here is an example from the digital scrapbook that I keep of my French calendar.

The word (phrase) of the day is «À couper le soufflé» which is given the definition of “breathtaking”.

—————————————————

        À couper le souffle (ah koo-pay luh soo-fluh) = breathtaking

Cette reproduction est à couper le souffle.

This reproduction is breathtaking.

(Bing translate)

Cette reproduction est à couper le souffle. This reproductrion is breathtaking.
Cette
reproductrion
est
à
couper
le souffle.
This
reproductrion
is
to
cut
the breath.

————————————————–

In the table I have inserted on the page above, I have typed in the original French sentence on the left and in this case, I have used the Bing Translator translation on the right.

You can see that Bing translates «à couper le soufflé» as breathtaking. However when I added a enter between each word the Bing translator now translate «à couper le soufflé» as separate element; “to cut the breath.”

I do the same process with Google Translate just to double check. You can see in the sample below that the French word «reproduction» has been translated as “production” by Google.

————————————————–

(Google Translate)

Cette reproduction est à couper le soufflé. This production is breathtaking.
Cette
reproduction
est
à
couper
le souffle.
This
production
is
to
cut
the breath.

————————————————–

But something doesn’t seem quite right here. “Breathtaking” translates as “Cut the breath”.

I try putting «couper» in Google translate by itself. This will give me any alternative translations of this word.

Google translate gives me 33 new meanings for the word couper. But which one is the right one?

cut, turn off, cut off, disconnect, shut off, break, stop, chop, cut down, slash, sever, break up, intersect, clip, crop, cut back, snip, lop, switch, cut away, hew, undercut, ax, axe, bite, pare, cease, shear off, whack, haggle, adze, intermit, fritter,

To be left breathless is describing a feeling. It’s not really like being cut.

When you see something that leaves you breathless. It can feel like your breath has been “turned off”, or “breath cease” or maybe the breath knocked or “breath whacked” out of you.

The French word «couper» reminds me of the French word «coups».

The 400 Blows. Directed François Truffaut
The 400 Blows. Directed François Truffaut

There is a famous French movie called “The 400 Blows” The French title is «Les Quatre Cents Coups»(1959). The title sounds like the movie is about corporal punishment as the poster depicts a young boy.

But there is nothing in the movie about corporal punishment or any type of blows. The name “Les Quatre Cents Coups” is really difficult to translate into English as «coups» means both “blows” and “cuts”. The  French title refers to an old French idiom “faire les quatre cents coups”, (make the 400 coups) which means “to raise hell”.

Somethings don’t translate. The English distributes might have been better off with a title like “Wild Oats” which had been proposed at the time.

I’ve tried to find more details about the meaning of the 400 blows idiom. One French friend suggested that it might come from French theater. When a play is about to begin the usher holds a long staff and stamps it on the ground three times. The noise the staff makes are called coups. The coups signal that the show is about to begin. The 400 coups may mean that a really big show is about it begin.  (This case it still open.)

 

How to to make a French Calendar Scrapbook

My daily dose of French.
My daily dose of French.

At the top of the page I write the date in French and then English

Vingt-quatre octobre deux-mille-seize
 24 October 2016
Monday – lundi

  1. Open your French Calendar to today’s date.
  2. Open a new MS Word documents and named it French Calendar 2016 or 2017 or whatever year it is when you start this scrapbook.
  3. At the top of the page type today’s date in French (See the example above. Right justify the date to keep it out of the way.)
    Make sure to spell the numbers
    Vingt-quatre octobre deux-mille-seize. The first of the month is written as «premier» and not «un».(this is a great way to learn your numbers 1 to 31.)
  4. On the next line I write the date in English using number 24 October 2016. (the French use the dd/mm/yyyy format.)
  5. On the next line write the day in both languages. Monday – lundi (French day and month names are NOT capitalized unless they at the beginning of a sentence. To remind me of this I write them second.)
    img_9192
  6. Next type the word of the day and its pronunciation and its meaning.
    Many French words contain letters that have accents. I used to skip these but then I found a pages with all the keystroke shortcuts for writing French accents. I made a little chart of these and paste it at the end of my Word document, so it always just below where I need it.
  7. Next type the French Sentence. (Try and pronounce it while you type. Google translate will pronounce French sentences for you.)
  8. Then type the English translation. (Remember not to trust these translations. They can be misleading.)
  9. This is where I start my investigation I open two online translation pages.
    https://translate.google.com.au/ (my favorite)
    http://www.bing.com/translator
  10. Type the French sentence into each translator page. (Make sure the language is selected to translate French to English.)
  11. Press the speaker icon and repeat the sentence out loud a few times. If the sentence is too long to remember, then remove a few words. You can add them back later.
  12. Are there any words in the sentence that you don’t understand? If you put your cursor between each word and click [Enter]. This will put the words on separate lines and the words will be translated separately.
  13. When I have translated a sentence I copy it back to my Word Scrapbook document.
  14. If I’ve translated each word separately I copy and paste those words onto my table as well.
  15. If you type a single word into Google Translate then all the different definitions of the word will appear in the lower right hand side of the page. Sometimes words have more than one meaning and it’s interesting to understand these different meanings. I copy and paste these words onto my Scrapbook doc as well.
  16. Save your work.

                    How to use French Accent Alt codes for PCs.
Hold down the Alt key and then type the numbers. Then let go of the Alt key and the accented letter will appear.

French Accent ALT Codes For PCs

 

à = ALT + 133

â = ALT + 131

ä  = ALT + 132

æ = ALT + 145

ç  = ALT + 135

é  = ALT + 130

è  = ALT + 138

ê  = ALT + 136

ë = ALT + 137

 

À  = ALT +  0192

  = ALT +  0194

Ä  = ALT +  142

Æ  = ALT +  146

Ç  = ALT +  128

É  = ALT +  144

È  = ALT +  0200

Ê  = ALT +  0202

Ë  = ALT +  0203

 

î = ALT + 140

ï = ALT + 139

ô = ALT + 147

œ = ALT + 0156

ù = ALT + 151

û = ALT + 150

ü = ALT + 129

« = 174

€ = ALT + 0128

 

Î = ALT + 0206

Ï  = ALT + 0207

Ô  = ALT + 0212

Π= ALT + 0140

Ù  = ALT + 0217

Û  = ALT + 0219

Ü  = ALT + 154

»  = ALT + 175

 

 

Option codes for Mac

•Euro symbol (€) Press [Option] + [Shift] + [2]

•Acute Accent ( é ): Press the [E] key while holding the [Option] key, take your finger off the option key then press [E] again.

•Grave Accent ( à, è, ù ): Press [ ` ] while holding down the [Option] key, then press either [A], [E] or [U]. to put a Grave accent above the appropriate letter.

•Cedilla ( ç ): Simply press [C] while holding down the [option] key.

•Circumflex ( â, ê, î, ô, ü ): Press [I] while holding down [Option], then press either [A], [E], [I], [O] or [U].

•Tréma ( ë, ï, ü ): Press [U] while holding down [Option], then press either [E], [I] or [U].

•OE Ligature ( œ ): Simply press [Q] while holding down the [Option] key.

 

A Picture is worth a thousand words.

Next I copy the original French sentence into Google Search and do first a normal search and then an image search.

attention-a-la-marcheI like to illustrate my calendar scrapbook. This is often the most interesting part of the process as I often find that the sentence was taken from a French saying or part of a famous French song, or a quote or it might even be a catch phrase from a French game show. (I didn’t know that the French had game shows).

I record all this information. I usually try and write a quick biography of the author, painter or game show in question.

A lot of this information can be found on Wikipedia.

If the author doesn’t appear in the English version of Wikipedia then look on the left hand side of the Wikipedia home page. There is a “Languages” heading. Find and click on “Français”.

The Français page will be in French, but you can copy and paste the page into Google Translate.

Once a month my French calendar has short biographies of French painters or authors or other famous French people or places.

symbolism

In this case I type out these biographies onto my Word scrapbook and then look for pictures on Google.

This is a whole cultural and history lesson that I look forward to every day. I’ve been introduced to several different art movements as well as the works of a number of different authors that I had never heard of.

chateau-de-chambordI remember the first time I did an image search was when the French calendar was when there was an article about a French Château (castle) that I’d never heard of before.

So I looked up Le Château de Chambordthat. And I included some pictures of the Château and a map of where it is located.

Living Language: French 2017

My Personal Journal of Language Learning – Part 1

A look at different language learning systems.

I’m looking at a number of different ways to Lean French and Improve what I already know.

The systems that are am currently using for language learning are;

youtubeYouTube: there were a number of Youtube videos that I looked at before I started serious language learning. https://www.youtube.com/user/lingosteve

Steve Kaufman creator of the LingQ.com website.
Steve Kaufmann creator of the LingQ.com website.

I found Steve Kaufmann’s approach to language learning very refreshing. He knows around 15 languages and he his always learning more. From time to time he has 90 day challenges. Where he focuses on one language for 90 days to see if he can crack it. He encourages other people to join him on his 90 challengers. My favorite part about Mr. Steve Kaufmann is how it does not like traditional academic language teaching techniques. He (like myself) found that he learned little in his high school language classes. Steven Kaufmann is very much for the idea that we should all design our own language learning program to fit our needs. He interviews other polyglots from time to time and they discuss their personal styles. Most importantly Steve Kaufmann taught me that it might be possible for me to learn French even though I was over 50. He also has a language learning page called https://www.lingq.com. There is a free version a subscription version to www.lingq.com. I am a member. It’s a very useful sight once you get to use it.

My daily dose of French.
My daily dose of French.

Living Language French (Calendar): I bought my first Living Language French (calendar) in 2014. I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Each day it has a new French word and uses that word in a sentence. In the early days I found this difficult as the sentence often contained words that I did not understand. So I came up with a system. (I have written a lot more about my Living Language French calendar but this post is getting a bit long so I will post it separately.)

duolingo-owlDuolingo.com: There is no cost for using Duolingo. I started Duolingo 10 January 2016. I think it’s a very effective system. I have written a review of it a few days ago. I’m very glad Duolingo exists. I now have a vocabulary in French of roughly 2600+ words. Duolingo tells me I have about 56% fluency level. (Which would go up if I liked doing flashcards)

I have reached my limit on Duolingo French. And because Duolingo is so addictive as a daily dose of language I have started Italian* so I can maintain my score.

Habits are important

Duolingo is very good for helping one to develop the habit of daily language learning. Habits are important. If you get into a daily habit of language learning you will progress.

[*On a side note I was thinking that if I started to learn Italian as a French speaker, instead of as an English speaker, that I could get a dose of both languages every day. But I haven’t had time to look into this.]

Private Tutor: This is a good idea. I started taking lessons a few months ago. Duolingo and LingQ are very good ways of learning vocabulary but if you want to speak the language you will need lessons hopefully from a native speaker. LingQ does offer an exchange where you can find a tutor on line, and then arrange an time to practice with them.

italki_logo_2016_200pxiTalki: iTalki is a website where you can find a tutor. https://www.italki.com/. The tutor’s charge. Some a little and some a lot. It is a very simple system to use. I took several lessons on iTalki but as I wasn’t very good at using Skype, (which is very simple to use) I had a number of problems in the early days.

How iTalki works:

1. Create an account with iTalki.

2. Add money into iTalki system. You will be given a number of iTalki Credits (ITC). The reason of the ITC is you might be dealing with a person from another culture who has a different currency. The ITC takes into account the fluctuation of the different currencies. Make sure you make a note of the conversion rate with your local currency so that you know how much you will be paying for lessons.

2. Search for a Teacher on the iTalki website.Find a teacher who is available at a time that you are available. Different teachers charge different amounts for their time.

3. You can contact the teacher through iTalki. The teacher then has to accept you (sometimes they are busy with other clients). If and when the teacher accepts you they will email you through iTalki.

4. For those unfamiliar with Skype you will need to set it up on your computer. It is a simple system. You will need to send your Skype number to your teacher.
[You will most likely need headphones. My Dell computer doesn’t give me an option to plug in a microphone. (Thanks Dell). Dell has hidden a mic in my keyboard somewhere and hasn’t bothered to tell me where. It works, so don’t stress out if you have a computer created by the Dell.]
Video Camera. Skype uses a video camera so you can see your teacher and they can see you. Most computers these days have video cameras. [until the people at Dell decide not to put them on any more.]

5. Before the scheduled time of your call your teacher will send you their Skype number through Skype’s email, (yes Skype has it’s on texting email system) for you to accept. You need to accept their number in order to receive a call from them.

6. At your scheduled time your teacher will call you. Accept your Skype call.
You will be able to see teacher and they will be able to see you, unless you are shy. They can show you flash cards on the screen and they can text you the spelling of words as you talk.

7. When you are done you can save all the Texts and uses this as your learning notes.

8. iTalki will then ask you to settle your account by transfering some ITCs to your teachers account.

Tutor tips. You want to get your money’s worth from your tutor whether they be on Skype from LingQ or iTalki or in person, so study what they ask you to study so that you are ready on the day. Different tutors are going to have different styles. Me personally I didn’t want to know about grammar rules I wanted to have conversations. Practicing the alphabet with a tutor is useful as you are practicing the sounds that you need to make with your mouth. Later after you can hold a short conversation it is important to learn some grammar rules. But the rules should come after some understanding. If you learn a bunch of rules before you get a feell for the language you will just be confused.

pimsleur-french-levels-1-5-mp3-9781442381827Pimsleur French Method: Dr. Paul Pimsleur was a language teacher that came up with the theory that the best way to learn a language was to hear a new word or short sentence, as spoken by a native French speaker, and then learner is asked to repeat the word, or sentence shortly after it has been spoken. This process is repeated again and again.

The learn works their way through the course learning a few new words and sentences every day.

I was still a nervous new language learning when I bought the Pimsleur French lesson #1 on CD series. I played one lesson a day, but as I progressed I had deep insecurities about how well I was doing. The Pimsleur system is a good system but it’s not interactive like Duolingo where you are scoring points as you progress.

I gone back to using Pimsleur now that I am a little more secure in my knowledge of the French language.

For some people the Pimsleur method will work well. Others may not like it so much. If you can create a daily habit of listening to them they will work well. They are idea for someone who drives to work and has a CD player in their car. You can also get them at Audible.com. (I love Audible by the way. When I use to take public transport to work I used to read books all the time. But now that I have a car I don’t have as much reading time and I’ve started listening to audio-books.)

So a program like Duolingo or the Living Language calendar are good for starters to get you into the daily learning habit. Once you are in the habit and have built you vocabulary and confidence up I found it good to use CD systems like Pimsleur. This is also a good time to start thinking of getting a teacher either in real life or on LingQ.com or iTalki.com.

People are going to learn at different speeds so it’s hard to say how fast you should be progressing. Just make sure that at all times you are having fun. Make your learning system your own.

Pimsleur French

What is next.

I’m always looking for new systems to play with. I have the French for Dummies book but I didn’t find it all that useful so I only read a few pages. I have bought a few other courses and will look at those in a future post.

[Full disclosure: I’ve included links to the different
language learning systems mentioned on this post.
Many are free but a few of them pay commission
which will go towards paying for upkeep of this blog.]