My last day of work. I begin my circuit. The Circuit is the name I give to the language study I engage in. In another post I’ll describe what that is but I want here to talk about how things have gone over this past year.
I’ve been reading a series of school textbooks written in the Soviet period. I began with the second grade reader. A couple of year ago, I worked with a great book by Brown on a frequency list of 10,000 words in Russian. I found I could come up with the Russian word about half the time. The forward said that with 8000 words, one could read 97% of normal text in Russian. Getting the next 3000 shouldn’t be too hard b/c although I missed them at first, they were not unfamiliar or unknown to me. The last 2000 (from 8 to 10K) should allow me to read several pages at a time without stumbling. Eventually I’ll move to the classics and the village writers.
For Spanish, I have my book club. I want to go back over several novels and pull useful vocabulary out of them. But part of my learning has been to read without stopping for unknown words, even underlining them. That’s really hard for me; I want to list them. But I find that somehow they don’t stick like they do when I just keep reading and come across them again. I have a very old (1930s I believe) book of word frequency for Spanish, French and German. I will check the Spanish to see where I am. Attending the book club and speaking Spanish every day at work has helped my spoken language a lot.
French: I have the Champs-Elysees CDs to listen to plus several good textbooks I’m reading (Ortali, Tresors du Tempes, ALM 3 & 4). I speak French quite a bit at work. I am fluent but with a narrow vocabulary range; I hope to vastly improve my vocabulary this summer.
Latin is the language I teach, so I’m constantly reading it and using it. Nevertheless, higher register Latin is still very difficult for me and I intend to keep reading this summer. My problem is that I want to go off on the grammar. I have a textbook that is very good on vocabulary plus a conversational book I’ll be going over this summer.
Urdu: this is the exciting one: I’ve got to the point where I can read at a plodding pace. It’s taken me 30 years to get there and this breakthrough came only less than a year ago. On top of that, I’ve found an extremely literate man, a retired newspaper man, who speaks and reads Urdu as well as Hindi. He likes to talk and has no trouble clarifying for me in English what he is saying. I’m at the end of the textbook that contains, as one Urdu scholar stated, “more than you’ll ever need to know about Urdu grammar,” and switching to another, a newspaper reader, annotated for English-speakers. Another book, annotated for Russian speakers, has a conversational topic approach and provides much needed vocabulary.
Italian is not hard to read, given my Latin, Spanish, and French abilities, but I must read and acquire vocabulary and refine the basics of grammar.
Modern Greek is of great interest to me. Lots can be made of texts through cognates but there’s a ton of vocabulary and grammar I don’t know.