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Victor Leigh

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Everything posted by Victor Leigh

  1. The easiest language to learn that I know of is the Malay language. It uses the same alphabet as English. Old Malay uses the Jawi script which is similar to the Arabic script, but modern Malay uses Rumi which is derived from the English alphabet. The Malay language has a straightforward spelling structure where the words are pronounced exactly as they are spelled. There are no strange forms of pronunciation like the English language. You can actually learn enough Malay to converse in it within 30 days.
  2. No, not for me. That's mainly because I learn a language by living in a community that uses the language. That, for me, is the best way to learn a language. However, I do watch TV to keep myself familiar with a language I have learned. Like now, I am back in Malaysia. I was in Thailand for more than twenty years and I can speak, read and write Thai. However, where I live now, there's hardly anyone who is fluent in Thai, besides my son and my housemate. So the three of us keep up with the Thai language by watching Thai shows TV. Actually what we watch are archived Thai TV shows on Youtube but it's still TV and it's still a good way to keep ourselves familiar with Thai.
  3. Thank you for the heads up. I am going to try this app and see whether it will help me to learn a new language. I will update when I have more information.
  4. Mandarin has the most speakers but most of the speakers of Mandarin are found in China. English is the most widely used language. It is spoken in all the countries that belong to the Commonwealth. On top of that, it is also spoken in countries which had been under US influence, like The Philippines. I believe the English language is popular because it is a very flexible language. There are so many words used in English which are borrowed from other languages. Furthermore, there are so many ways of speaking English. True, it would be good if there is just one standard way of speaking English but, even with so many dialects of English, an English speaker from one side of the planet can still be understood by another English speaker on the other side of the planet.
  5. Yes, I do that very often when I am teaching English as a second language. At the basic level, it's so much easier to just show a picture than to explain what a word means. For example, when I teach numbers, I simply show numbers in the numerical form. That works with whatever the mother tongue of the student might be. No explanation needed. Same with colors. Just a picture of the color plus the word in English for it. Job done. At higher levels, it gets a little bit complicated. I have seen some books which use pictures to explain emotions. I don't think this works too well. Some of the pictures can be ambiguous. For emotions, I find it easy to explain by doing a short sketch. That gives the context to the emotion.
  6. I am not sure if Arabic would count as an ancient language. However, I have been told something very interesting about the language. Apparently, the grammar has not changed since the time of Prophet Muhamed. I was told that the grammar of the Arabic language cannot be changed because to do so would mean that the meaning of the Quran would change as well.
  7. For me, the hardest language to learn is Arabic. There are two reasons for this. One, the script is written from right to left. That's the opposite direction of all the languages I already know. Two, the letters are not written the same way in every word. The same letter can change shape, depending on its position in the word. This is really confusing for me because this doesn't happen in English or in Chinese or in Malay or in Thai. In the languages I already know, all the letters keep the same form wherever they are used in a word.
  8. I believe any knowledge, including that of a language, is somewhat like a knife. If we don't use it for a long time, it will become rusty. We must use it all the time to keep it sharp. Same with a language. We cannot just learn it and put it somewhere at the back of our memory banks, hoping that it will still be there when we need it at some distant point in the future. That wouldn't work. We have to keep on using it. I remember one classroom who went to the US just for six months on a student exchange program. When he came back and saw his mother, he was tongue-tied for a few minutes trying to recall what to say to his mother in his mother tongue.
  9. As a tool to learn another language, I would say children songs are very useful. After all, children learn their native tongues through children songs in their native tongue. So, for a non-native learner, it certainly helps to learn the language through children songs. One, children songs are catchy. We may be adults but that doesn't mean the way we learn must by staid and stuffy. What's wrong with a catchy tune to help us learn? Two, children songs are easy to pick up. The melody is simple. The lyrics are simple. Just a few repetitions and we should be able to sing it. Hey, we are singing in a foreign language! Isn't that simply fantastic?
  10. This is the first time I have heard of it. Sounds weird. However, after some thinking, I believe it's a valid rule. Anything and everything on the Web has a porn equivalent. Nothing is sacred to the creators of porn. I think all the nursery rhymes have already been done. All the classic stories, too. Celebrities, without a doubt. Every religion as well. Now, what's wrong with that? I think it just proves that sex is a very primal force. I suppose it has to be. I mean, without sex, there would be no human beings, right?
  11. Ah, the perennial question. What to do to keep the flame alive and, preferably, roaring? It's actually quite normal. Everything that starts must come to an end, eventually. Everything that lives must die, eventually. Learning something is not exempt from this cardinal rule. However, oftimes, the flame dies out before anything gets cooked, so to speak. So what can we do to keep up our spirit and keep on learning until we succeed? I think the answer lies in innovation and variety. As we study a new language, we should be on the lookout for new ways to learn it. For example, have we been learning it from a particular teacher? How about learning it from one more teacher? Have we been learning it from a particular book? How about learning it from one more book? At the same time, we should be on the looking for new ways to use the language we are learning. Have we been practicing it by talking to someone who speaks the language? How about practicing with one more other person? Have we been practicing it by speaking only? How about practicing it by singing it as well?
  12. There are many westerners who live in Thailand and support themselves by teaching. This has been going on for many years. Many of these westerners have also started families in Thailand and have made Thailand their home. However, the latest changes in government policy may put an end to this situation. For starters, it's now very much more difficult to stay in Thailand indefinitely on just a tourist visa. Previously, many westerners just pop in and out of the country to have their tourist visas renewed. Now they need to apply for a proper working permit if they want to stay longer.
  13. Absolutely. Sure, you can learn a language on your own. However, if you have a good teacher, your learning would be accelerated. This would be even better if your teacher knows his language very well and knows your language very well, too. Then he is in a good position to help you over many of the stumbling blocks when you learn his language. Instead of being perpetually perplexed by how his language can be constructed in such an alien way, the teacher can give you some appropriate background to his language which can demystify his language.
  14. How would you define intelligence? Ability to absorb new knowledge? Ability to apply new knowledge? If so, then intelligence definitely plays a big role in learning a new language. Learning a new language is not just a matter of learning new words and a new grammar. It involves an understanding of the culture which nurtured that language. To understand a new language requires an open mind. If a person is forever thinking that such-and-such a language is so stupid because it says things in such-and-such a stupid way, then that person is fighting a very steep uphill battle in learning that language. I have seen this happening to foreigners who have lived for years in Thailand and yet not be able to speak Thai. Just about every one of them (the ones who cannot speak Thai) has a very low opinion of Thai people and the Thai language. That, in my opinion, is not exactly a very intelligent thing to do when you live and work in Thailand.
  15. British English for me because that's the language I grew up with. However, when I communicate with Americans, I try to change my spelling to the American version, just so that I won't be the odd man out. Actually, I suspect that my American friends must have found my English a bit odd because of certain phrases I use and the structure of my sentences.
  16. It depends on who I am texting to. If it's someone who is used to texting, then I tend to use abbreviations. If it's someone who is not familiar with textinglish, then I will text in full sentences. In some ways, textinglish or textspeak is useful. Some of the abbreviations are legitimate expressions in their own right. Take, for example, LOL. This is short and precise. Gets the meaning across with the minimum of effort. Definitely beats texting 'ha ha ha'.
  17. Yes, I agree with that. The easiest language to learn would be a language which has the same root as your mother tongue. For example, my parents speak Chinese. Chinese is a tonal language. So I am familiar with tones. When I learned Thai, it was not that difficult, because Thai is also a tonal language. The only difficulty is the Thai script which is totally alien to me.
  18. I think this works. I learned my Thai by living in Thailand. It's easy for me because Thailand is only an hour's drive from where I used to live. When you live in the country where the language you want to learn is spoken by the natives, everything falls in place naturally. You can see how the language works in context. There are many words which cannot be explained fully in a dictionary. You have to see the words being used to understand their full meaning. If you cannot move to another country to learn their language, the next best thing is to find a community in your own country where that language is spoken by the people in the community. Considering that there is now a lot more mobility in labor, this may not be too hard to find. Take Thai, for example. I am now back in my own country. However, if I wish to, I can always go and look for places where Thai immigrant workers live and practice my Thai with them.
  19. No, I haven't watched any children's show in another language to learn that language. What I have done is watch the native speakers speaking to each other to learn their language. I remember when I first went to work in Thailand. Every evening, I would have dinner at a restaurant which also had singers to entertain the diners. I would invite two of the singers to join me for dinner. Why two? Well, at that time, I couldn't speak Thai yet, so if I were just to invite one singer to join me for dinner, it would end up like a hen and duck show. So, with two singers, I can just sit back, enjoy my dinner and listen to them talking. Of course, at that time, I didn't understand most of what they said. However, my first objective was to capture the flow of the language. When I could follow the flow of the language, it becomes easier for me to learn to speak the language.
  20. Please do. I have been putting off relearning programming for a few years. I was a programmer before but there has been so many advances in technology that I simply have to start all over again. Putting your progress in learning online, in your blog, is both a commitment and a motivation. When you blog about it, you have told everyone that you are on it. Then to make sure that your blog doesn't die of inactivity, you simply have to keep on learning. And when you blog about it, you get a sense of achievement. That sense of achievement is a very strong motivation to learn more. As someone put it, great success is the cumulation of little successes. If you like, you can see what I have done so far on my blog by just searching for it under the name "Aree Wongwanlee", which is the name I am known by in Thailand. You can also find me on Facebook under the same name.
  21. I consider a person to be fluent in a language when he can look around him and talk about the things he can see without having to struggle to find the right words. He should also be able to talk about himself, his work, his home and his family. Oh, also his country. Is that too much? No, I don't think so. A language is a medium for communications. So when a person is fluent in a language, he can easily convey his thoughts in that language. He can tell you about what he thinks, what he sees and what he feels. Even about what he plans to do. Without struggling to find the right words. That, in my opinion, is fluency in the language.
  22. What language should I learn? If someone asks me that, my automatic answer is English. Never mind that English is a weird language. The main point is that English is a universal language. It's the language of the Web. It's the language of knowledge. Without English, a large portion of the world is beyond comprehension. Is learning English easy? Yes and no. It is easy to learn English when you really want to. It is very difficult to learn English when you are forced to. This is something which I found out when I was teaching English as a second language in Thailand. There are some students who do well. They love the English language and it shows in their dedication to learning English. However, for the majority of the students, it's something which is forced upon them. So they study it with loathing and, accordingly, do very poorly.
  23. Those apps are all just aids to learning. The best way to learn a language, the way I see it, is to live in a community which uses that language natively. If that's not possible, then the next best thing is to surround ourselves with that language. For example, put up posters on the walls in that language. Listen to radio broadcasts in that language. Watch TV programmes in that language. Read newspapers in that language. I call this learning a language by osmosis. It's sort of like absorbing the language through as many of our senses as possible. Maybe even eat food of the people who use that language natively. It gives a better context to the language we are learning.
  24. No, I don't do that. I mean, I don't do that unless I am teaching the language. In everyday life, I don't feel the necessity to correct anyone's pronunciation. It's not my duty to do so and I don't have any right to do so. However, when I am teaching, it's a different kettle of fish altogether. I have committed myself to teaching the language, so I must make sure that my students pronounce the words correctly. By correct pronunciation, I don't mean just the sound. I also insist that the words are spoken with the correct intonation. I do my best to make sure that my students speak English the way it should be spoken. One of the first things I do is teach them the IPA (International Phonetic Alphabet). The IPA goes a long way in showing the right way to pronounce English words.
  25. Of all the languages I know, there's only one which I didn't learn formally. This is Chinese, all three dialects. That's because my parents speak Chinese. The other languages I learned in formal settings ie in a classroom atmosphere. English is what I learned from my very first day in school ie kindergarten. It's now my natural language. Malay is a compulsory subject since it's the national language where I grew up. When I lived in Thailand, I attended adult education classes to study Thai. I even took the government exams. And passed. Would I have the dedication to learn a new language outside the classroom environment? This I will have to find out. Right now, I am learning a computer language. That's a language, too. This I am doing by spending about four to six hours every day studying and doing exercises online. So far, I have managed to finish my basics in HTML and CSS. Yesterday, I started on Javascript. I keep myself on track by blogging about my progress in learning programming. It's sort of like forcing myself to learn every day so that I would have something to blog about every day. Maybe I will try this with learning a human language.
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