Language Learning

Jun 6, 2011

I’m working on an editorial piece for my hometown newspaper on why we (all) should learn a second (or third, or fourth) language. The first draft is done-ish, and I’m about to mail it to my contact for suggestions. There’s still a lot in there that I’m sure I can cut out.

If they publish it, I’ll post a link here.

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Mar 26, 2011

"In my world there are only ponies. They eat rainbows and poop butterflies."

If you’re a Russian learner, but bored with textbooks, why not check out the Russian version of LOLCats?  Don’t expect to see Vanya asking for directions to the movie theater, though.  Some of these pictures do to the Russian language what LOLCats did (and continues to do) to English.  If your Russian slang helmet is a bit rusty, fear not.  Each comes with its own English translation and, if it exists, a cultural or historical explanation.

The United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights holds the Guinness World Record for the most translated document, the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” which has been translated into over 300 languages and dialects. How many of them can you read?

Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

If you’d like to hear some of these translations read by native speakers, point your browser to Omniglot.  [Note: I found a couple of apparent errors in the Japanese version and have apprised Omniglot.  These minor errors may have already been corrected by the time you read this.]

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Learn the Lingo

Feb 14, 2011

The moral of the story: learning the local language is a first step toward building bridges of friendship.

Alberta soldier who speaks Pashto draws stares in Afghanistan.

European (Whoa) Radio

Feb 2, 2011

Do you study (or speak) a European language?  Are you worried about losing it?  Why not try listening to radio broadcasts your target language?

Countless radio stations all over the world stream their content over the internet, but it can be hard to find some of them if your Search Fu isn’t strong.  Well, the folks as have taken care of that.  Need to work on your Russian?  French?  Italian?  Icelandic?  All you have to do is go to their website and search by country.  (They even have Vatican State!)


As I mentioned in Learning Languages Tip #1, watching videos can be a great way to supplement your language learning experience.  Here’s one of my favorites from a German band called “Farin Urlaub Racing Team.”  The song is “Niemals (Nothing).”  Both the original German lyrics and an English translation are below the video.  Enjoy!


Ich wünsch mir, dass ich dich vergessen kann,
Ich würd dich gerne einfach ignorieren.
Ich bin mir sicher, irgendwann,
Wird das auch einfach über Nacht passieren.
Bis dahin wird einige Zeit vergehen,
Bis dahin muss ich noch geduldig warten.
Ich werd versuchen dich nicht anzusehen,
Weil meine Blicke mich verraten.

Doch mir ist klar,
Dass da niemals etwas sein wird,
Weil da niemals etwas war.

Vielleicht liegts daran,
Dass ich zu oft allein war,
Als ich klein war.
Oder dass mein Vater gemein war.
Nein, dass soll keine Verteidigung sein,
Ich wüsste nur selber gern,
Woran es eigentlich liegt,
Dass ich auf Wolken geh,
Wenn ich dich seh.
Mein Kopf ist JWD,
Und es tut mir weh,
Dass du nicht weißt,
Wie es in mir aussieht.

Ich lege dir mein Herz zu Füßen,
Was soll ich noch damit,
Bitte tritt es nicht kaputt,
Es litt bereits genug.

Mir ist klar,
Dass da niemals etwas sein wird,
Weil da niemals etwas war.

Du sagst du willst nichts von mir,
Ich träume trotzdem von dir,
Was ich nicht habe,
Kann ich auch nicht verlieren.
Du sagst es hat keinen Sinn,
Wenn wir zwei etwas beginnen,
Zu spät, denn ich steck mittendrin.

Die Zeit vergeht langsam,
Es vergeht kein Tag,
An dem ich nicht an dich denke,
Mit jedem Herzschlag.
Es vergeht kein Tag,
Es vergeht keine Stunde,
Ich denk jetzt an dich,
Jetzt, in dieser Sekunde.
Und immer und ständig,
Bei Tag und bei Nacht,
Was ist bloß mit mir los,
Was hast du mit mir gemacht?

Mir ist klar,
Dass da niemals etwas sein wird,
Weil da niemals etwas war.


I wish that I’m able to forget you,
I’d simply like to ignore you.
I’m sure, some time
This will simply happen overnight.
Until then some time will pass,
Until then I still have to wait patiently.
I’ll try not to look at you,
’cause my glances will betray me.

But I’m aware of it
That there will never be anything,
’cause there was never anything.

Maybe it depends on the fact
That I was too often alone
When I was a child.
Or that my father was mean.
No, that shall not be any defense,
I’d like to know myself,
What actually the reason is
That I have my head in the clouds,
Whenever I see you
My mind is far away,
And it aches
That you don’t know
How it’s like within me.

I lie my heart down at your feet,
What else shall I do with it,
Please don’t tread on it to smash it,
It had been already suffering enough.

I’m aware of it
That there will never be anything,
’cause there was never anything.

You tell me that you don’t want anything from me,
Nevertheless I dream of you,
What I don’t have,
I also cannot lose.
You say that it makes no sense,
If the two of us have an affair,
Too late, ’cause I’m right in the middle of it.

Time is passing slowly,
No day is passing,
On which I’m not thinking of you,
With every heartbeat.
No day is passing,
No hour is passing,
I’m thinking of you now,
Now, in the very second.
Always and permanently,
By day and by night,
What’s going on with me,
What have you done to me?

I’m aware of it
That there will never be anything,
’cause there was never anything.

[Lyrics courtesy of]

Even if you don’t live in a country where your target language is spoken natively, you can still emulate some of the benefits you can get from such a situation.

Thanks to technology, the world is more connected than ever before.  For today’s tip, you don’t need much more than you already obviously have (seeing as you’re reading this right now): a computer and a web connection.

Go to (or any other online streaming service) and search for a topic you are very interested in or already know a lot about.  Watch videos pertaining to that topic and see how much of your existing knowledge helps you understand the context of what is happening.  Don’t worry about picking up individual words.  Don’t worry about how much you understand.  Just engage all available senses and allow the input to soak in and synergize.

Couple this with your existing language study plan, and I think you’ll find yourself learning much more quickly and deeply than you would through books or classes alone.  Try it out!  Leave a comment below and let everyone know how you’re fairing.

Happy New Year

Jan 1, 2011

سنة جديدة سعيدة!



Bonne année et bonne santé!

Ein glückliches neues Jahr!

Ευτυχισμένο το Νέο Έτος!

해피 뉴 이어!

С Новым Годом!

Felix sit annus novus!

Status Update

Dec 3, 2010

This semester is finally winding down.  Or, rather, “winding up.”  Multiple papers due, studying, finals, etc.  If you’ve been to graduate school, you know what I’m talking about.  I’ll write more after all the madness has passed.

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