Learning languages

My recent trip to Tel Aviv was a good reason to learn a little Hebrew. I listened to the Hebrew I course from the Pimsleur language series (available in the Toronto Public Library!) while I was sewing clothes or doing dishes, and I printed out a few phrase lists I found on the Internet. I didn’t get to the point of being able to have a good conversation in Hebrew, but it was nice not feeling totally lost, and occasionally even recognizing some of the things that people around me were saying.

I like learning different languages. It’s like building with blocks: you collect different kinds of pieces, and the more pieces you collect, the more ways you can combine them and make sense.

W- and I have been watching Heroes. Yes, we’re very much behind the times. ;) My favorite segments are when Masi Oka shows up as Hiro and speaks in Japanese. I miss the rush of semi-understood syllables, the alien familiarity of a learned skill.

Maybe I should take that up again. I probably won’t be able to make much time for conversation practice, but it would be interesting to be able to read foreign blog posts and make occasional comments.

So I’ve bought Japanese Flip for the new iPod Touch (thank you, Slideshare) and I’ll be playing with it on the subway ride. =) I’ll also see about getting back to learning French…

  • Miguel

    Masi Oka is awesome. He still programs funky special effects algorithms for ILM 3 days a week and is pretty much the role model for geeks who want to overcome introvertedness. It must be awesome to be on a talk show and be interviewed about a program you wrote; too bad I can’t see anyone ever saying “why yes Conan, I did fix ticket #53 in the salary tracking software.”

  • There is a glitch in the matrix.

  • Thanks for mentioning Japanese Flip; I use Kanji Flip, which I now see is by the same author (Andre Khromov), and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s wonderfully convenient to always have a stack of (virtual) flashcards in your pocket. I fire up Kanji Flip whenever I can squeeze in even a minute of study (waiting for someone to come out to the car, etc.).

    I also believe that words (and expressions) can serve almost like macros, being signifiers for complex thoughts, and by manipulating these signifiers rather than the signified, underlying, simple thoughts, we make it easier to think at a higher level; much like how using a variable to represent a complex expression in a larger expression can reveal higher-level patterns that we’re easily visible previously. My point being that through language study you learn words and expressions that don’t have direct equivalents in your native tongue, and (I surmise) knowing such expressions increases your reasoning capabilities.