4/100 Learning a new language

Day 4/100 of my 100 days of blogging self set challenge. Today’s update is fresh. I recently decided to learn a bit of Icelandic. I’ve been learning Swedish for a little over 2 years on and off with Duolingo, but as I’m heading off in a few weeks on my seventh trip to Iceland it feels like this is the language I should be working on. I’ve always been interested in languages and that piqued even more after reading Lingo – A Language Spotter’s Guide To Europe, which is an enthralling book about where different languages originated, who borrowed from whom etc. I’d noticed several similarities between Swedish – Icelandic so this has definitely pulled me in a bit more – now I’ve gotten over the fear of pronunciation. Because that’s half the battle – learning the new sounds that your mother tongue doesn’t naturally make, it actually just reminds me of how I felt learning French in school the first time – all those rolling of Rrrrr’s and trying to remember what the different accents did to vowels – it’s really just that on a larger scale (please don’t tell me otherwise! I need to believe it).

So what am I using for language learning? Well Duolingo doesn’t have Icelandic (yet!), so that stays just for the Swedish. Memrise was one frequently mentioned on Facebook (facebook groups are good for something – plenty of language learners very ready and willing to swap tips and offer advice). I like Memrise in some respects, but it can be quite confusing in how they’ve structured it – for example you go from learning basics such as hello, good day, how are you? what are you called? to Are you attending the polyglot conference? I mean this maybe a bit of fun on their part.. but totally unnecessary I feel. And the clue is in the name, it does feel like you are just memorising phrases rather than learning in a usefully structured way – however it’s good for learning how words are pronounced but another downside is the ‘help me learn this’ sometimes it’s just a phonetically written version of the phrase, sometimes it’s some weird sentence that sounds similar but is clear nonsense. In the first 2-3 weeks, I kept with the free version, but it always tries to convince you to upgrade after your time limited session, eventually it will offer you a year’s subscription for not much more than a standard month, so I gave in given that it worked about about £2.50 a month.

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Random image from Drops…

Another app that is popular is Drops – basically a very beautifully designed app where words or phrases are dropped in from the top of the screen, in pictorial format – the voices for these are identical to the voices in the words by the instagram account Every Single Word In Icelandic (who also created the book – Iceland in Icons) – so I’m not sure if there’s a connection there or a generic voice/word bank that can be used. Drops is useful in that you can select what section to choose, ie basic phrases, numbers, foods  – however my only issue is that some of the icons are a little obscure and I can’t remember what they mean – so whilst I can match it to the correct word or phrase, I don’t actually know what it means. Drops gives you 5 minute bite-size sessions, logging in everyday gives you bonus time or you can go pro (also offers discounts like Memrise).

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I’ve also picked up a traditional phrase book (proper paper format) by Lonely Planet – part of their ‘Fast Talk’ series, this was a bargain coming in at under £3 – for almost 90 pocket sized pages. It includes what you’d expect – chatting, reading menus, transport and accommodation but also practicalities such as parts of the body and other healthcare related phrases you might need one day!

Finally there is a slightly more traditional course Icelandic Online run by the University of Iceland which I’ve just signed up to online and completed the first part of the ‘survival Icelandic’ aka level 0 (from a range of 0 – 5, where 5 is reading Icelandic literature).

Review – Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living

Lagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced LivingLagom: The Swedish Art of Balanced Living by Linnea Dunne

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I feel like I was perhaps unfairly influenced whilst reading this, as it was so soon after finishing The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People , as there are many similarities to both the content and the style of the books.
Lagom has many of the same ideas or lifestyle philosophies of the Lykke and it’s predecessor The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well and is published in the same format, a rather small and compact yet beautiful hardback book with a focus on sleek design accompanied by stunning photos.
However I found that Lagom had a lack of.. focus or flow throughout the book, and whilst it too had lovely pictures of homes that were ‘just enough’ and not too showy, that minimalist yet cosy feel of IKEA, there were also several design flaws – mostly dark text on dark backgrounds. As someone with perfect eyesight I struggled reading parts of the book due to this – however this is down really to the publisher rather than the author, I would really have thought that in 2018, accessibility would be an essential component to a professionally published book?

Plus points were really interesting information about community living and facts about the focus on home life/worklife balance and things like shared parental leave. There’s also several recipes that may get used particularly at Christmas.
Overall I gave it a 3/5 because I liked it but didn’t love it, however if you’re a Scandophile like me then it’s probably worth laying your hands on.

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Review: Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe

Lingo: A Language Spotter's Guide to Europe
Lingo: A Language Spotter’s Guide to Europe by Gaston Dorren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t think I can truly express how much I loved this book? It really surprised me – I don’t recall why I downloaded it, probably some Kindle deal day, but it must’ve sat there unread for a year or so, I actually put it in my ‘Holiday Reads’ folder twice, but when it came to the actual holiday thought it would be too much hard work. Silly me.
It’s a witty and interesting whirlwind tour through European languages since the Greeks. Where they came from, how they evolved, languages that died out, languages that have been resurrected. Learned at least what some of those squiggles under and above some letters mean, along with why my Finnish friend Liisa spells her name with two i’s.
If you’ve ever thought to yourself, well why don’t they just spell it like that or why does this language put words in this order? Why are something masculine and feminine and others not – you’ll likely learn all about that in this book.
One of my favourite parts was at the end of each chapter, there was a word English has loaned from each language – along with often a word that doesn’t exist in English that probably should.
As someone who’s learning Swedish, this book was so insightful, as someone who’s had brief dalliances with several other languages through life, I feel again so much more informed – knowing the why not just the how.

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