Category Archives: Language

My experiences learning new languages.

Brief Review of “Take Off In Spanish”

I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the language books I have bought over the years, starting today with Take off in Spanish.

While I have always liked the Teach Yourself series for its comprehensive teaching, the sad fact is that these books are expensive – in South Africa at least – and I have never been able to afford one with the audio. Needless to say, the Colloquial series is way beyond my budget. Which is why I was so pleased to discover the Take off in series – the whole pack cost less than a Teach Yourself paperback, if I recall correctly.

The pack consists of a book, 5 audio CDs, plus a little bonus book with lists of vocab divided by topic with example sentences. I believe the audio could also be downloaded.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I must admit, it has been a while since I bought and used the book. I also don’t think I finished it, and I do intend to go back to it when I get back to Spanish.
But I will say it was a book I was happy with. One of my pain points with Teach Yourself is that it is actually quite a steep learning curve. You really need to have time to sit down and work through even just the dialogue at the beginning of each chapter, never mind the rest of it. A major plus point for this Take off in Spanish book is that it’s broken into bite-sized chunks. Every two-page spread is a self-contained section. So if you work full day and can only manage a short study session at the end of each day, it works well for that.

It includes little dialogues with audio, short grammar points with examples, reading comprehension, and listening comprehension. So I think it’s a decent all-rounder.

I have included a few pictures of sample pages from the books, because I hate to buy language learning books without seeing sample pages. It helps me get a sense of whether or not I would enjoy learning from the book. I hope this helps if you are looking for a book to learn a language. I would recommend it.


Lära mig svenska

Jag har läst mig svenska ganska allvarligt i en månad nu och jag ska lära det för en annan månad.

I have been learning Swedish fairly seriously for one month now and will learn it for one more month.

Jag har hittat ett par roliga kanaler och serier på Youtube. En av dem är en humorserie som heter Grotesco. Men tyvärr var bara en ansnitt översattad. Min svenska är inte tillräckligt bra än att förstå det.

I have found a couple of funny channels and series on YouTube. One of them is a comedy series called Grotesco. But unfortunately only one episode was translated. My Swedish is not yet good enough to understand it.

Svenska är inte svår att lära för en engelsktalande, och därför kan jag mer säga efter lite tid än med vietnamesiska, till exempel.

Swedish is not difficult to learn for an English speaker, and so I can say more after a short time than with Vietnamese, for example.

Jag ser fram emot att lära mig asiatiskt språk från nästa månad. Jag är intresserad av japansk, kinesiska, koreanska och vietnamesiska.

I look forward to learning Asian languages from next month. I am interested in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.

This blog post has been Swedish practice for me as much as it was a brief update, and I had to look up a number of things. Writing to learn, as it were. Your corrections are welcome.

Why I’m taking a break from Vietnamese

I recently posted a video of myself speaking Vietnamese. These few sentences came after quite a fair amount of time. And now I feel like I am going nowhere slowly. There are a few reasons for this. 

Firstly, Vietnamese is a language that is vastly different from other languages I have studied. So I’m finding it quite difficult to retain vocabulary. Secondly, I don’t have a lot of time for learning in the evening, and at the moment an additional burden on my time is that I am nursing my very old pet rat who cannot do too much for himself anymore. Sadly, in a month or so he may not be around any longer, but for now it’s an added pressure on my schedule as well as being a bit emotionally draining at times. The third problem is that I am currently only learning from Duolingo. I’m trying to maximise what I get out of it by writing down the sentences. But here’s where the time issue comes in: I am only getting through one or two lessons per evening and I am finding it a slog with not much to show for it.

The good news: I made the decision to buy a Vietnamese book to learn from, along with some other Asian language resources, with some a virtual currency I get through my bank’s rewards program. It will probably be a few weeks though before I have these in hand though. I think having a book will allow me to see things at a glance and hopefully speed up my progress a little. Whereas Duolingo is pretty linear. I think the two resources would probably complement each other.

But until then, I want to enjoy my language learning. So I am going to pursue a language I think is fairly easy (I am already part-way through the Duolingo tree), and which I am also really keen to learn: Swedish. I am going to use Duolingo, the FSI course text, and a website I just discovered which looks great:

I will still continue reading the Italian novel I mentioned. But my Kanji learning was pretty much already starting to take a back seat to the Vietnamese, and I am ordering a Japanese book as well in the same batch, so I will put that aside for this month too.

So, a brief Swedish interlude… I am looking forward to it. I hope I don’t forget too much Vietnamese. But I think once I am a bit better equipped with resources, I will be able to make better use of my time and progress faster.

My speaking videos: the why and how

Me speaking #Vietnamese! #languagelearning. At last I feel I can manage a few sentences. How did I do? This is what I am attempting to say: Xin chào – Hello Tên tôi là Kate. – My name is Kate. Tôi là người Nam Phì. – I am South African. Tôi đang học tiếng Việt. – I am learning Vietnamese. Tôi thích đọc quyền sách. I like to read books. Tôi có bo con chuột. – I have 3 rats. Tôi yêu con chuột của tôi. – I love my rats. Họ thích ăn, – They like to eat, họ thích ngủ và – they like to sleep and, họ thích chơi. – they like to play. Cảm ơn. – Thank you.

A post shared by Kate (@thesilentperiod) on Jul 1, 2017 at 2:33am PDT


So I recently started recording myself speaking in different languages and posting on Instagram. I have only done one of each language so far. Because I don’t speak much, my speaking ability is terrible. So I don’t know quite how to proceed really; I will only really be able to show some progress in the languages I am focusing on. I feel might have to stick to those for the time being. 


Why am I doing it? I want to be a bit more present in this awesome community. I want to speak. I currently don’t really speak at all. I don’t learn with a teacher or language partner. That’s just me, and I mostly focus on reading. So the videos are partly a way for me to do some “oral homework”. Another thing is that I want to stand up and say, “I am a woman and an intovert who loves learning languages and wants to be a polyglot.” It is sometimes said that women are under-represented in the polyglot community.

Why did I choose Instagram instead of YouTube? For a few reasons: 1. I am doing this from my phone. 2. I don’t really want to get into any hectic video editing because I don’t have much time. And 3. Instagram allows only a 1-minute video at a time. This is less terrifying than the open-endedness of YouTube. Which leads me to the “how”…


I mentally plan and rehearse a few lines that I want to say. I literally don’t think I would be able to simply speak ‘off the cuff’, but I don’t want my videos to be too well prepared. So, nothing I am saying is really beyond what I am able to say out of my own head. I have just looked up or double-checked one or two words per video before speaking. That is my disclaimer, then.


If you are interested in joining me on Instagram, this is the account I started for my language learning interests: thesilentperiod, and on Twitter: thesilentperiod. Hope to see you there!

Many (Language) Loves

Today I want to do in blog form what many people have done on video: introduce the languages I am learning or have spent time learning, as far as possible in those languages.

Since I really don’t focus on output at all, this blog post is intended to be a start in that direction. I think the fact that I am writing this to be read by others is more motivating to me than the idea of keeping a journal. I have never been much of a journal writer – even in English. However, because I am not in the habit of writing in foreign languages, I have struggled with writing the below, and I am certain that it is full of errors. But it’s a first step of hopefully more to come.


Afrikaans is my ‘eerste’ tweede taal. As Suid Afrikaner, het ek ‘natuurlik’ Afrikaans as tweede taal op skool geleer. Ek dink dit was miskien vanaf die derde graad, toe ek so tien jaar oud was. Maar ek gebruik die taal eintlik nie gereeld nie.


Ich habe Deutsch zwei Jahre auf Universität studiert, und danach das Zertifikat Deutsch besteht. Seid dann, habe ich noch manchmal Nachrichten gelesen usw. Deshalb ist meine Verständnis, ich glaube, nicht zu viel vermindert in die vergangenen Jahren.


J’ai aussi Français en université appris, mais seulement un an. Je trouve Français un peu difficile – de comprendre ce que j’écoute, et aussi le grammaire. Mais, j’ai besoin d’étude!


Ho imparato un po’ italiano in una classe di Scuola Italiana. ‘E stato molto lentamente. Ma io sono continuato con il mio studio da solo. Come ho detto, io leggo un libro in italiano al momento.


No habla mucho español, mas lo es similar al italiano, y ese ajuda con comprensión.


Eu ‘falo’ pouco português, mais entende mas que eu posso falar (quando eu leio). I have pretty much only used Duolingo for Portuguese, which was a really helpful start, but it needs a lot of work.


私夫は大学に1年日本語ならった。 私もひとりでべんきょうしました。アニミからたくさんことばおもいました。 かんじはたいへんむずかしいとおもうけど,がんばります!今はMEMRISEでべんきょうします。

Tiếng Việt

Tôi đang học tiếng Việt. Nó là kho làm. 

Other languages

Other languages I have dabbled in / studied and mostly forgotten, but I fully intend to continue learning in the future, include:

Русский язык: Здравствуйте. Я говорю по русски (So I can lie. In Russian! I think…?)

Ελληνικά: really can’t remember a thing in Greek, sadly, but it’s sitting there on my Duolingo list, waiting to be reactivated. I used the FSI course to learn a little of it a few years ago.

Xhosa. Molo. Igama lam nguKate. Ndisazama ukufunda isiXhosa. I actually had a year or two of Xhosa study in primary school. It’s actually frightening how little one can learn of a languages in a classroom situation in one or two years. Nowadays, I have a Teach Yourself book that I dip into from time to time.

Korean. I was delving into this and Mandarin Chinese a year or two ago. I am not quite ‘fluent’ with the writing system, and I only really remember a few words. My favorite word is from Korean dramas: “jinjja!”. 

Mandarin Chinese. Same story as Korean, only the writing is WAY more of a barrier, especially for someone like me, who focuses more on reading.

Well, it’s been fun. Until next time!

“Summer language learning goals”… or not

…because it’s winter here in the southern hemisphere. Also, my university days, with those amazing 2-month long summer holidays are, sadly, long gone. But I have discovered some new pologlots online lately and have been quite inspired to:

  1. Really try and give this language blogging thing a proper go, and hopefully do some blogging in other languages too – practising that output!
  2. Get more structured with my learning!

You can find the very inspiring Polyglot Progress and DevenirPolygotte on Youtube. They’re also on Twitter and elswehere and DevenirPolyglotte has a WordPress blog, which I have browsed through and plan to keep reading more of. They have both recently done the ‘Summer language goals’ thing. As for me, this is just my ‘general language goals for the interim’.

So, onto my language learning goals for the next while. I do know that goals are supposed to be a bit more specific and mine aren’t really, but anyway…


This is the main language I am focusing on at the moment. I think I started it this year. I have some Vietnames friends, so I might be able to get a little practice in, once I have got to a reasonable level for trying to talk. So far I am finding the grammar fairly simple, but I need to work on tones! I also struggle to remember which diacritics to apply to each word, but that is probably because I am not properly distinguishing tones and pronunciation.


I do have a bit of Japanese vocabulary already, but it needs some grammar study, filling in gaps and, very importantly, learning to read some Kanji! At the moment Memrise is my main tool for attempting to learn Kanji. I’ve chosen a set that teaches kanji and vocabulary built from kanji, alternating kani-english and then kanji-pronunciation, so that each portion is taught twice. I’m feeling positive about it. So I’ll see how that goes!


I have a novel in Italian that I found at a second hand book store some years ago. It’s called “Il Romanzo di Ramses: La Battaglia di Qadesh” by Christian Jacq (it’s a translation from French actually). Where I live, you are more likely to find second hand Dutch, German and French books, so this Italian book was a rare find. I have also recently aquired a book of Spanish poetry – equally rare! I think I tried to start reading this novel back then but didn’t get past the first chapter. Now I am five chapters in and managing okay – progress! The chapters are each quite short luckily – nice for one or two sittings per chapter. It is going slowly though, and needless to say, it is going to take a long time to get through the whole 400-odd-page book. But my goal here is to persevere through it.

Well those are my main goals for now. I don’t have much more than an hour or so each workday evening, though the weekends give me a bit more time. So if I want to get serious about the above goals, I will have to try to avoid the tempatation of other languages for now. But I will no doubt dabble from time to time.

Perhaps in another post I will talk about my ‘hit list’, as I have heard it called, and more about myself. But to be honest, it has been so long since I last wrote on this blog, that I actually am not sure what all I have said before. Shocking! And I really would like to do some blogging in my other languages – at least German to start with.

Good-bye for now.


Beginning the new year with Korean

Well, it has been a long time since I last posted here. It’s been one of those ‘figure out the meaning of my life’ breaks – a life-long thought process to be sure – but I might be ready to do a bit of blogging again.

Over the christmas holidays, I dabbled a bit in Chinese and Korean, and I think I would like to focus on those two and work more on my patchy Japanese knowledge this year. I hope I can continue to focus on that goal and not have my head turned by the next language that walks by.

Inevitably, it turns out that finding a truly awesome free resource was what got me excited about Korean and so now I am focusing on that first and keeping the Chinese for later…

TalkToMeInKorean is just fantastic. The lessons take the form of an audio file with an accompanying pdf. The people who present it do so in a fun, engaging way (to be honest their reparté reminds me a bit of two deejays who do the afternoon show on a local radio station in my city), the lessons are short and digestible, and I feel they give a nice amount of vocabulary along with the grammatical concepts. They also say sentences slowly as well as at normal talking speed. These are my impressions after completing level one of the lessons.

There is a dialogue based on level 1’s lessons, so I am taking a break from doing more lessons this week to try and review and memorise everything I’ve learned in level one – then I will listen to the dialogue and hopefully understand it! Wish me luck.

TTMIK meosisseoyo!