What comes to mind when you think of Chinese? Time and time again I’ve heard people saying things like “it’s a picture for every word”, and many a language’s version of “it’s all Greek to me” points to Chinese instead. It’s always this exotic, unknown tongue in a faraway land. In the first article in my new Bel Canton section, I’ll start with the mother of Cantonese – Chinese, breaking it down to you how it’s actually composed, and showing you why it isn’t as mystic as it appears to be.
But before I talk about the structure of Chinese languages, I’d like to briefly describe the structure of the Chinese language family so as to clear up some ambiguities concerning what I’ll be discussing.
The Chinese language family
You won’t believe how many times I’ve had this conversation, but the linguistic status of Chinese languages are pretty much still undefined, especially among Chinese-speaking communities themsleves. The confusion usually comes from the unity in writing: despite the many tongues existing in China, everyone writes the same way, with (mostly) the same set of characters, and can understand one another through the script, even if they don’t share the same speech. This has a long history: for a long time China has used classical Chinese as the written standard, from which the spoken languages deviate, pretty much like Latin and the Romance languages. It isn’t until a century ago that they decided to reform the written standard according to Mandarin, the language of government at the time. Hence to this day, the other spoken languages are still labeled dialects (方言). That’s putting aside the political subtext which clearly influences this choice of terminology, since dialects are subordinate to a language, but this is not the right place for that. Nevertheless, it is indeed said that it’s the “square characters” – our logograms, as opposed to alphabet – that has given us mutual intelligibility in writing and thus engendered a tendency towards unification throughout Chinese history.
Update: due to the release of Glossika AI, which replaces the now-defunct Glossika packages, this review is now outdated. A review of the new system has just been published.
Well I was preparing to begin writing in my new section on Chinese, but an important incident changed my mind: I’ve just completed the entire Glossika GMS course in Polish, all 3000 of the sentences! So, in addition to sharing my sense of achievement and joy on my blog, I’ve decided to also write a brief review on what I thought about and what I got out of this course, seeing as it isn’t one of the most well-known method out there, and there aren’t that many reviews from people having completed it either. So let’s delve in – and allow me to start by introducing the method, in case you haven’t heard of it.
What is Glossika?
Even though you can get a comprehensive introduction to the product on their site, I’ll briefly summarise it from what I know. Glossika, founded by the amazing polyglot and linguist (read more if you don’t know the difference) Michael Campbell, is based on input – a lot of it. The basic idea is to drill a set of 3000 sentences into your mind, in 3 ‘fluency levels’ from simple to complex, each containing 1000 sentences, and the brain will gradually figure out the language.
I said it’s the ‘basic’ idea because the method does not demand you to follow any strict pathway. On the contrary, it’s probably among the most flexible learning materials out there! When you buy it, you get a ton of files. First is a PDF for each level, complete with translation, romanisation (etc, depending on the language), phonetic transcription (more on that later), a complete index and some additional professional advice. These sentences form the basis of the entire course. I got the English to Polish package, so each sentence comes with the English version, the Polish translation, simplified spelling (to ease certain learners into the scary-looking Polish spelling, I suppose) and IPA, as in the sample below.
Sample sentence from Glossika English-Polish, Fluency 3.
Having stepped into independent language studies for a while now, I’m starting to rethink this question. Nowadays with the rise of the online polyglot community, click into any language learning blog and they’ll tell you to turn your back on ‘traditional’ learning methods and learn by speaking, a lot. This sets up some sort of dichohtomy and tells you that if you failed using ‘traditional’ methods, then you gotta go the other way and speak. Probably because language studies in school worked perfectly for me (I gotta say, I still cannot comprehend how bad it could be in foreign school systems, even after reading so much about it), I never felt strongly about this dichotomy nor a necessity to choose. As a relatively introverted person, I even feel naturally a bit inclined against the latter: socalising and interacting people drains my energy. That led me to contemplate on the issue: how does speaking to people help me, particularly in an early stage? They say speaking is one of the basic skills in a language, but I always like to break things down even further. Continue reading
Hejjjjj guys! It’s been a while – indeed, it’s been at least two months since I last posted here. If you didn’t see that post (which I won’t blame you for: I’d be glad to have any actual followers, considering the young age of this blog), my computer got brutally manslaughtered, and being some sort of OCD who hates typing and doing any actual work on mobile devices, I put the blog on hiatus. Oh, and a month-long trip was also part of the reason (or excuse). Anyway, after lots of troubles, I’ve managed to get myself a shiny new laptop to type on a day or two ago, which is now perfectly set up to revive the productive side of me. But before I delve into what I’m going to do, allow me to update you fellas a bit on what I’ve done and been doing: Continue reading
Oh well, just as I was pumped to start writing a lot again, life tripped me and forced yet another hiatus onto my blog. A bit more than a week ago, I brutally murdered my laptop – more like manslaughter maybe – by soaking it with liquid. In a very embarrassing way that I really don’t want to talk about. But you can imagine. Anyhow, since I absolutely hate typing long articles on virtual keyboards (both of my devices’ screens screw up a lot!) it seems like I’ll have to give the blog another rest, at least until I get a replacement (it’s too costly to fix stuff in Scandinavia) or a Bluetooth keyboard maybe. Meanwhile you’re welcome to read all the (few) posts that I’ve written painstakingly! Continue reading
Hot on the heels of my successful Swedish exam (i.e. sitting it…again we’ll get the results later), I’ve decided to do a brief summary of the Swedish learning resources I (honestly) liked the most in the 3 months I’ve learnt it. Each person has their own method of learning and hence preferred resources and materials, but if you happen to be a learner like me, or you just need a good list to get started learning Swedish, varsågoda! By the way, you’ll soon realise that I’m a big fan of electronic means of learning!
Colloquial Swedish: although I’d done some vocab (and other stuff that I don’t remember) beforehand, my Swedish studies didn’t really take off until August, when I found more time to go through this book quickly. (Thanks to writing this post, I now have a sure response when people ask how long I’ve learnt Swedish – fluent in 3 months! I kept saying “several” or “4 or 5” months before.) I don’t like to dwell on this kind of textbook too long, especially the exercises, because I’d rather move on to ‘authentic’ materials as soon as possible, just like Steve Kaufmann. But this gave me a solid foundation to build up on, and particularly helped me find out similarities and differences to German.Continue reading
Hej everyone!!! I’m so sorry I’ve been off the blog for almost an entire month. In my sprint challenge announcement post, I pledged to write at least one article in Swedish every week. And guess what? I failed miserably: not only did I not write more than one Swedish article, but I also didn’t write anything else either. It was the stress of the looming test date/deadline telling me to focus on maximising my vocabulary and boosting my fluency, and ultimately I just let my inner sloth take over and convince my rational self that I didn’t have the time to write that much. In fact I didn’t manage to write one single essay before my test, which might have been bad – who knows?
Jag lovade mig själv att skriva något på svenska åtminstone en gång i veckan, så jag tänker börja med ett av de teman jag är mest bekant med!
Enligt mina upplevelser består ens kunskap om ett språk av flera viktiga men osjälvständiga delar, som var för sig måste jobbas på. Jag tror att den del som avgörens övergripande förmåga är ordförråd. Men ingen tycker om ordlistor, så de gör jag inte längre (fastän jag hade framgång med dem på engelska). Istället väljer jag att lära mig ord genom att se dem flera gånger. Efter att jag läst och slagit upp ett nytt ord så skjuterjag undan det och lägger märke till det endast när jag ser eller hör det igen. Om jag glömt betydelsen så upprepar jag samma steg.Continue reading
At the time of writing, I’ve been in Sweden for around a month and a half. I’ve sure been having a good time, hanging out with friends from all over the world. But what’s been happening language-wise? On surface, not much. I mean I’ve made some Swedish friends, in addition to local students on the same corridor, but they aren’t really someone I say ‘hej’ regularly to. And of course, all the rumours about swedes being ‘too’ proficient in English or difficult to befriend kick in (I mean they aren’t really rumours – just facts), leaving me in this terrible fear of talking to people and trying to make friends.
So so far what I’ve been doing is studying quite intensively: listening and reading on LingQ, going through a quite academic book while copying vocabulary – like the good old days in school – and talking to myself, in hopes of reaching that ‘critical point’ where I can understand what’s said to me and speak something that at least makes sense. I have a feeling that deep under, I’m improving by leaps and bounds, but it just doesn’t come out. I feel defeated whenever I have to ask ‘vad sa du?”, my tongue ties or I receive a reply in English. (From an immigrant!) I decided I have to change this: I have to make a shift from input to output. And I’m giving myself a challenge to do this.
Oh Munich…it’s such an enormous city that my trip there takes two posts to recount! Catch up with what I’d done in the first 2 days here 🙂 At this point (the middle of the Munich stay) I was pretty much halfway through my 26-day journey. I still couldn’t believe this!
With my practical matters settled, I arrived by metro at the Olympiapark, where the tragic 1972 Summer Olympics were held. Except you shouldn’t expect to see much Olympics-related stuff here: there were stadiums, fields and a nice pool yes, but what you’ll be noticing is a tall observation tower of some sort. Nearby stand the BMW World & Museum if you’re interested in cars (I’m not…yet), and an aquarium if you’ve got time for that. There might even be events like performances going on around the area. If not, you could just walk around, maybe go for a swim, and enjoy the relaxing surroundings – I’m no architecture expert, but I found the generally modernistic and simplistic designs, in addition to the greenery, pretty pleasing.