Progress toward solid reading

One of the tenets of CI in SLA is that input results in acquisition. In my situation, input will have to be via reading. Only Spanish offers easily accessible conversational input. A couple of months ago, I realized I had been trying to read in my Circuit. The Circuit is a library of books in ten languages that I’m reading at two levels. The top level is unadulterated but often annotated authentic materials like the poems of Cavaffy for Greek and War and Peace for Russian. The next level is i+1, using various materials like the ALM levels 2, 3, and 4 or other material that offers language only slightly above my pay grade in that I run across a word I don’t know – maybe 2 a page – but it is still comprehensible in context…. or not, and a structure I’m unfamiliar with will present itself now and then.

After a while, I realized I was stuck at a very low level with Greek and Norwegian. I had assigned myself textbooks that would give me carefully graded readings along with grammar information. I want grammar information simply b/c I love grammar and it is one of the reasons I like languages, the main reason, in fact. So I reread the lessons in my Greek book and can read those with total comprehension (four or five readings) and am now doing the same thing with Norwegian.

Taking undiluted text in both languages, I see I am approaching the ability to read them and that is most enjoyable. I’m leaving out one language for now and will report on that one later.

OK, later (next day). Going back to my fourth sentence above: so reading my Circuit, I realized I was getting hopelessly behind in Norwegian and Greek, so I took a few weeks to focus on them, weeks  I was in recovery from surgery. (this may be my last week as I am in withdrawal from pain killers and may no longer go to physical therapy – the former allowing me to drive). They are coming along nicely.

One language left that is near bottom: Dutch. You might notice that a couple of languages, Norwegian and Dutch, are North and West Germanic languages respectively, and are relatively “easy” for English speakers. My pitiful knowledge of German helps a great deal with cognates, but I keep wanting to make the past tense of ‘to be’ in the plural into ‘waren’, like German, rather than the Norwegian ‘var’. The reason I have two Germanic languages in my Circuit is that that language family, esp English, fascinates me. The parallels, sources, matches, etc. are unending. One example: standard Norwegian uses small words in a way they are used only in colloquial English, e.g. Well, where then there are found then those things there, huh? Lots of little words thrown in, but it is literary. At least that’s what I’m getting.

Another problem with Norwegian is the spelling. Lots of silent letters, lots and lots. Worse, the spelling changes over time and among varieties of the language. There are several varieties outside of dialect: the standard language, Riksmal, Ny Norsk, etc. I am using textbooks and texts from the early 20th century, the mid and the later and the spelling is different all along the way. So ‘shulde’ > ‘shulle’, ‘faett’ > ‘fett, etc. ‘jaechter’ >’ jechtar’ is another example. The latter means ‘sloop, one masted’ and also hunter (cf. German jaeger).

The Greek, of course, is loaded with what I call second level cognates (I just called them that): those words which are roots for English borrowings but have no direct cognate in English, e.g. polemos is not equivalent to English ‘war’ but is found in words like ‘polemics’, meaning combat with words, like this blog. Later on I’ll talk more about what motivated me to choose these particular languages.

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