Category Archives: Resources

Reviews of online resources for language learning.

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!

Maliki

I am beginning to struggle with this Nablopomo thing. Today I am not even in the mood for blogging. Heh. But Maliki is worth blogging about.  Maliki is a french webcomic. The art is really good. For the most part, I can’t really tell you what it is about. I don’t understand french (particularly colloquial french) that well. But there are cats. And some odd characters.

I do check it out every now and then and try to read through a comic. But for the most part, I don’t really know what’s going on. But some of the strips, where the joke is more visual, are very enjoyable.

I see the website looks a bit different at the moment, and seems to have some reference to manga. I’m ashamed to say I have no idea what that is about. My only hope is that your french is better than mine and you can appreciate this gorgeous web comic better than I can.

No word on the job yet. If I don’t hear by tomorrow, I think I will begin to lose hope.

Online Newspapers

It is quite common today to be able to get up to date on international news without buying a single newspaper. I am not trying to suggest that anybody buying newspapers should stop doing so. But chances are, you cannot buy much in the way of foreign newspapers anyway.

Reading newspapers in foreign languages really is good practice. The language of the news seldom gets too complex, so while you may have to look up many words, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about weird and wonderful tenses.

You can find online newspapers from anywhere in the world at this site. Just select a country from one of the drop-down boxes and go for it.

Meanwhile, I had a job interview this morning. The job is at a bookstore (heaven). It went pretty well I think. Now I just have to wait and hope they choose me! Please please let them choose me.

The Japanese Page

Just a short (or shorter than usual) post today. Today’s resource is The Japanese Page. This is a community website for people learning Japanese. There is a variety of lessons, cultural information, and of course the community.

I started teaching myself Japanese a while back, but then I stopped after a while. I’m not sure why, I was probably too busy. Of course, I generally practise my language knowledge by reading, and Japanese is difficult to read if you don’t know the Kanji. They have a syllabic alphabet writing system consisting of about 50 characters (if I remember correctly) – actually there are two versions of this same set of syllables, which basically just doubles the number of characters you have to learn, but they use the different versions for different purposes.

Then there is the Kanji, which is the same as the chinese characters – each of them has a specific meaning and there are thousands of them. Unfortunately, Japanese combines the two systems of writing. The Kanji character is used for the root of a word, and modifiers are added in Kana (the syllabic system).

I am speaking from my limited knowledge, but I do know that even in manga you will come across plenty of Kanji. If you are going to tackle the Kanji, good on you! Ganbatte! In fact, they have downloads of lists of Kanji by level based on the standard testing system – as far as I know ‘level 4’ is where you start and ‘level 1’ is the top.

The Japanese Page is not a structured system of lessons; as I said, it is community based, so I would use it as an additional resource to a structured course. As such, it seems very interesting and useful.

A Good Online Dictionary

Online translations can be dodgy. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend it. Even trying to find the meaning of a foreign word online can be difficult, depending on what site you go to. If you come across a verb you don’t know (and don’t realise it’s a verb), you might type it in all unconjugated and goodness knows what you get back, if anything.

I’m sure there are quite a few good references for the popular european languages, though. I’m just recommending one I have found, which works quite well – WordReference.com. Their main dictionary languages are French, Italian, Spanish, German and Russian, but they do seem to have support for further languages. I have mainly used it for the romance languages.

When it comes to the languages with different alphabets, you may have a problem. With Greek and Russian, you could still go the long, painful route of ‘inserting characters’ in MS Word and the copy-pasting to your browser, but what about Korean and Japanese? I really would not know.

However, what I have seen of this site, from my use of it with Italian & French, is pretty impressive.  It knows a conjugation when it sees one, and can generally provide you with a conjugation table for the verb. It also gives many usages of a word in context. So, as far as I’m concerned, this is a solid, useable online dictionary that won’t leave you more confused than when you started.

Idioms and Italian Culture

Day 5 – Viernes, Friday – of Spanish in a Week provided an interesting colloquial phrase. Tengo una hambre que me muero means literally I have a hunger that is killing me. I’m dying of hunger. It could be just me that is amused by the slightly different way of phrasing this. I have to admit I find it interesting the way things are said in different languages.

I remember a little while ago I found a website with some Italian idioms and such. One that really stuck in my mind (well the English stuck apparently, and not the Italian) was a phrase meaning a person is crazy. The Italian phrase describes the person as outside like a balcony. Which I thought very descriptive and imaginative. One can imaging a person’s sanity hanging by a tenuous thread ‘on the outside’.

I have an interesting website bookmarked – Italy Revisited. I’m not sure if this is where I found that phrase. I don’t think so. But there are many interesting things on this website – Italian recipes, Italian proverbs, old photos. Basically a wonderful resource for anyone interested in Italian culture.

Language Resource: UniLang

The UniLang website has so much for you to look through. There are a few basic tutorials for starting to learn a language, but for the most part don’t expect to find a whole solution here. What it does have is myriad resources for helping you to learn. From various phrasebooks, to links to stories you can read.

One interesting link I just checked out today is a website that has a paragraph from The Little Prince read out in multiple languages, so you can hear what many different languages sound like.

I have found many cool resources on UniLang. One of my favourites is a phrasebook called Just Read Phrases. This is not for absolute beginners, as it helps to have a basic idea of how the grammar works before trying this. But this phrasebook consists of 200 phrases, which have been constructed especially to give you a taste of as many different words, and sentence constructions as possible. The phrases are not the usual kind of phrase book thing, an example sentence is “the storm reaches the beach”, which gives you two nouns, a verb, and the basic statement construction. Other sentences will feature different constructions. Very cool, and you learn a little more than “I would like a coffee please”, or “my name is…”.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to get through the Spanish in a Week book and am now on day 4 – Thursday, or jueves. I think this is doable. Just requires a little extra time spent on learning word lists – the worst part!!! What am I doing blogging? I should be learning this stuff!