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What to do if audio materials are rare or non-existent?


Audiobooks Rock

Audiobooks Rock (Photo credit: Lester Public Library)

Today’s article is a continuation of the topic we started yesterday, namely the use of listening at graded speeds in order to improve our listening fluency.

There are two times during a large linguistic project when I recommend the use of audio-only all audio-primary approaches.  The first of these is right at the beginning, in order to make sure that when we do open the books and start reading words and writing them out in our Goldlists, we already have an idea hhow the language sounds and how these words and phrases are pronounced.  If we take a course such as Michel Thomas series, Pimsleur, Paul Noble, Innovative Language Learning, or something else of that kind, we equip ourselves with all that we need to end into a Goldlist project of possibly  100, 200, 500 etc hours having done our first maybe 50 hours of language learning without setting pen to paper, and without really reading anything much in the given language.  I’m convinced that this is a natural approach – after all, little kids get to listen before they ever get to read and write, we learned our native language that way.  At least in that order. Of course, babies get to listen for thousands and thousands of hours of speech before they develop the skills that we can develop in a more structured way, we would want to return to the experience of a newborn in the course of our language learning.  Such a “Nicodemus Method”, would have certain drawbacks in terms of cost and also patience on the part of the host family.

However it is entirely unnecessary, since in most cases 50 hours of audio time at the outset is really all you need in order to progress confidently with the reading-and-writing approach that the Goldlist Method is, as long as you have access to quality materials.

These materials need to be some kind of structured course, whereas when you get to the end of the language project on Goldlist and you’re looking at the second time in which I’m recommending using audio-primary materials, namely to induce listening fluency based on an existing passive vocabulary, then you don’t really need to have materials in a structured course.  As I said yesterday, you need to have a book – which may be a novel, a business book, a history book, a Christian book – even the Bible.

In the best situation you will be choosing a book which exists in your target language as the original, especially If we are talking about something like a novel or some other cultural artefact.  I don’t really recommend poetry in most cases this, not at the outset in any case.  Poetry is something to graduate to only at the truly advanced level of command of a foreign language on pain of simply sabotaging your chance to appreciate the fullness of the verse by becoming familiar with it when you do not yet have the apparatus to appreciate it. don’t get me wrong there certainly is a place for using poetry but I think here it would be wise to look at the range of poems available very carefully and to grade you’re reading so that first reading poets who use a language which is more similar to everyday speech.  And by that I mean standard everyday speech.  I am not recommending for example learners of English to kick-off with James Joyce’s Ulysses, even though there are some excellent recordings of that and some excellent translations into other languages.  This is a novel which requires careful study even from native speakers, although that having been said, I did have the pleasure of being acquainted with the person who translated Finnegan’s Wake into Brazilian Portuguese, and that was a Russian lady from Harbin, believe it or not.

Such genii are few and far between, but I like to think that in as much as they are out there, they do read my things, and therefore I would want to put you off ploughing straight into poetry if that’s your thing, however most of us I would go prose first, then drama,  then poetry.

So at this stage you need to select your book, being one in clear language of the sort that you would like to understood when it is spoken and let’s say that you found an accurate translation into your own language.  If that’s not possible and you have to take a book which is either in its original in your language or where the original is in a third language and you’re dealing with translations into both your own language and the language you’re learning, then even though that is not normally the best thing to do, there are circumstances where it’s actually preferable – for instance if you’re setting out to become familiar with the Bible in the language of your study, or if you are going to be working in a field which is simply more developed in your native language and therefore the originals are all in your language but there are good translations into the study of language.  Because you have a utility from simply reading a better book, there are times when it becomes preferable to accept that the translation should be in the learned language.  Then there is also Glossika Method, named for Mike Campbell, in which he simply uses his own favourite English-language novels which he knows so well he could almost recite them verbatim from memory, and he collect them in a language as he wishes to study and simply reads them. Personally I would be bored by such an approach as I like a larger variety of reading, and to get into the particular literature and culture of the country concerned.  In this I have exactly the same view as Steve Kaufman who also has been doing videos about this topic recently. Nevertheless, I can see that a certain languages you simply could run up against a lack of the preferred materials, and then you really have to see what there is and try to adapt that.

My suggestion is, to look first at what’s available as an audio book in the language of your choice.  That’s where the bottleneck is likely to be, if there is a bottleneck.  You can look up audio books in different languages using Google.  You can refer to the Wikipedia article about audio books written in the language you are studying.  Even if you’re not sure how to say audio book in the language you are studying you can go to the English Wikipedia article about them and then choose one of the 36 other languages which at the time of writing this article is being translated into – hopefully this may include the language you’re looking for. Quite a few languages mirroring that article do contain very helpful Web links to repositories of audio books, including free ones.

My first port of call is always to check Audible, but in cases where audible doesn’t have audio for the language concerned, there is still Amazon.  Amazon sells audio on physical media while its subsidiary Audible has its own format which as I said in the above article is a very helpful format for our purposes.  Audible itself contains quite a lot of novels read in the original in such languages as Spanish, Italian and Russian, and there are also French and German entire sites of Audible.  Still it is a problem when we come to a minority languages, but still I would always check there first.

If googling the net in search of novels or other books which are read out in an audio format in the language of your choice does draw a blank, your next option is to select the book of your choice where there is both language versions and where you are motivated to read it in the language you are studying. Once you have selected it and determined that there is no audio version available, you have various options as to how to obtain the audio. There are cases where the author himself might be willing to go to the studio with you and produce the audio version.  In many cases that will be a question to settle with his publisher. This might sound as though you’re getting into quite sizeable cash investments in order to get your audio, but you might be surprised at what can be achieved simply by asking people and giving them ideas, showing that there is demand, and being willing to volunteer at least some  corporation and work on the project even if you cannot put cash into it.

Failing the ability to obtain official audio in the way mentioned above, the means of last resort is simply to get friends to read it.

If you are not in the country where the language is spoken then there is one more idea and that is to go to the Embassy (if it’s a national language) and ask to talk to the cultural attache and see if the Embassy is able to help you put such a project together.

in the case of the audio that you need right at the beginning, just going back to that topic before we close, usually there is not such an issue with this given that there tends to be a lot of beginners courses, and if you can’t find one which is pure audio in the Pimsleur mould then there are always the likes of Teach Yourself and Colloquial.  This means that you’d be doing the audio while already Goldlisting a course, which is of course not ideal, but in these cases – I’m talking about languages like Maltese or Bulgarian which don’t even have a Pimsleur (Pimsleur does about 50 languages – not all at the full 30 lessons it seems – but Maltese, Welsh, Bulgarian and some other surprising ones are not covered when two separate forms of Armenian and languages like Twi and Ojibwe or Swiss German are) – you can either look on their local market and their bookshops if you go there, or try internet bookstores if they have them, or it’s a question of abandoning the audio-only 30 hours at the start of a whole new language and then it’s Goldlisting from the word Go.

Goldlisting may or may not be from the very beginning of learning a language, but it’ll take you on as far as you like!


1st edition (publ. Hodder & Stoughton)

1st edition (publ. Hodder & Stoughton) (Photo credit: Wikipedia) –  But will Hodder and Stoughton manage to make Michel Thomas’ method everlasting?

Neworldgirl78 wrote on my Goldlist lecture in Moscow film the following question:

I am learning Russian and have been using a variety of means such as Pimsleur, various apps, and your you tube videos of course. Should I narrow my studying to this method or add it to my current methods? Thanks, and love your videos :)

Many thanks!

I started to answer this in the comments section but I thought that it needs more space than the comments section there allows.

Here’s the full answer:

I use Michel Thomas and Pimsleur myself, audio only as they are, at the beginning of learning a new language, but they eventually come to an end. You might for example work through MT first and even a very long course with all the available levels in still is only less than 20 hours of material, add on a full Pimsleur course with another 30 hours of material (much of it overlapping with the MT) that gives you 50 hours.

This 50 hours – the maximum currently available of quality audio-only beginners courses – when listened to a few times gives you 150 hours of audio time at the max, and if you use the pause button properly you could stretch that to 250. It’s great to do this at the beginning – use MT first as that method gives you the deep structures of the language and doesn’t shy away from grammatical explanations (which Pimsleur does to the point that it becomes misleading at times) and it gives you a good accent, but that 250 hours of work will only take you so far.

And let’s be clear that for many of the less popular languages there’s still no MT course – Hodder and Stoughton didn’t make much on the ones available so far as the activities of internauts were too impactful on the sales of the material, and so it may well be down to hobbyists rather than businesspeople to take Michel Thomas’ legacy to its full conclusion. So it the best case, something like Russian, you might be lucky and find 250 hours of useful work to do on audio only. If you were looking at Bulgarian you’d be hard pressed to find any – I found some in bookshops in Sofia, from an unknown method and author which I didn’t even start yet, but nothing on Amazon or the net.

So once you have finished with the audio only, or earlier if you are not an auditory learner and feel that you aren’t progressing so well with the audio only methods, you need to progress onto reading and writing. Read the rest of this entry

Karaoke Evening at Home (current video)


It was a quiet winter evening in, and I was singing to my wife a few of her favorite pieces, and then remembered I could be recording it for a few more folk to have some fun and share the moment.

So here we are. Most of them sung not very well, but I haven’t edited it just to keep the better ones in, as that wouldn’t be real and I am all about keeping it real.

If you can, enjoy!

Review of Hotel Centralny, Kedzierzyn-Kozle, for Google.


Kedzierzyn-Kozle - aleje JPII

Kedzierzyn-Kozle on a good day.

(Published to Google Hotpot earlier this evening, and it also gives me my post for the day here. I think that’s fair.)

I’m sitting here writing this actually in the hotel room having found it on the road in Google on my Android phone when I discovered that the place I was really supposed to be going was unexpectedly booked up.

I had a bit of a nightmare getting here from where the GPS said it would be only 9 km. The main bridge in Kedzierzyn-Kozle was shut, the next bridge up on the Oder per the GPS turned out to be some seasonal ferry that wasn’t there, and when I finally found the new road that wasn’t on even google maps and still isn’t, it turned out that there had been a nasty accident so I got caught in the road over the middle of the Odra waiting for the emergency services to do their bit. Read the rest of this entry

ICMTSU #3 Google Translate has put the fun back into Nigerian Scam Spam


The official poster of the movie I produced, &...

Co? Czy nie ładnie mówię po polsku?

For the last year or so the broken English of the scammers has now become so broken once it goes via Google translate into other languages, that sometimes the results are nothing short of hilarious.

Sometimes they send them with the untranslated parts still intact, as they have absolutely no idea of how useless a job the machine has made of translating their anyway often hopeless English into languages where the rigors of correspondence are more conservative and where the resulting mess is nothing short of alarmingly ludicrous.

Just to give you an example, I’ll take the one I received in Polish this evening :

Drogi Przyjacielu,
 
Jak sie dzisiaj i Twojej rodziny? Mam nadzieje, ze dobrze, jestem Mr.Christopher Johnson. Od Haledon, North West London, tutaj w Anglii. Ja pracuje dla NatWest Bank Corporation Londynie. Pisze ci z mojego biura, które beda z ogromna korzyscia dla nas obu. W moim departamencie, jako asystent menedzera (Greater London Regional Office, odkrylem opuszczonej sume 12,5 milionów dolarów USA dolary (dwanascie milionów piecset tysiecy nami dolarów) na koncie nalezacym do jednego z naszych zagranicznych klientów Late Pan Thompson Morrison amerykanskiego obywatela, który niestety stracil zycie w katastrofie samolotu Alaska Airlines Flight 261, który rozbil sie 31 stycznia 2000, w tym jego zona i córka tylko.
 
Wybór jest skontaktowac sie cieszyla z charakteru geograficznego, w którym mieszkasz, w szczególnosci ze wzgledu na starosc z transakcji i poufnosc w niniejszym dokumencie. Teraz nasz bank zostal czeka na którykolwiek z krewnymi, aby sie do roszczenia, ale nikt nie uczynil tego. Ja osobiscie zostal nieudanych odnalezienie krewnych na 2 lat, szukam Twojej zgody, aby zaprezentowac Panstwu jak najblizszych krewnych / Czy beneficjent do zmarlego tak, ze wplywy z tego konta wyceniono na 12,5 mln dolarów moze byc wyplacona do Ciebie.
 
To bedzie wyplacane lub udostepniane w tych procentów, 60% do 40% mnie i dla Ciebie. Mam zabezpieczone wszystkie niezbedne dokumenty, które moga zostac wykorzystane do wykonania kopii zapasowej tego twierdzenia jest uczynienie. Wszystkie w razie potrzeby jest wypelnic swoje nazwiska do dokumentów i zalegalizowac go w sadzie, aby udowodnic Ci za prawowitego beneficjenta. Wszystko, czego wymagaja teraz jest uczciwy wspólpracy, poufnosci i zaufania w celu umozliwienia nas widzi te transakcje. Gwarantuje, ze bedzie to wykonane zgodnie z prawem rozwiazanie, które bedzie chronic komputer z wszelkich przypadków naruszenia law.Please dostarczyc mi nastepujace: jak mamy 7 dni, aby go uruchomic poprzez. Jest to bardzo pilnie prosze.
 
1. Pelna Nazwa:
2. Twoje: Numer telefonu
3. Twój adres kontaktowy.
4. Wiek:
5.Core Praca / Zawód:
6.sex:
 
Po przejsciu przez metodyczna wyszukiwania, postanowilem skontaktowac sie z Toba nadzieje, ze znajdziecie interesujace tej propozycji. Prosze na potwierdzenie tej wiadomosci i wskazujac zainteresowanie, bede dostarczyc Panstwu wiecej informacji. Endeavor do let me know swojej decyzji zamiast trzymac mnie czeka.
 
Pozdrawiam,
Mr.Christopher Johnson
mr.christ_johnson@yahoo.co.uk

This is about as crap Polish as anyone could come up with and still have it recognisable as such. From the use of “Dear Friend” in the salutation, which no Pole is going to write to someone they haven’t spent a “szmat czasu” with all the way through to the use of “nazwa” – the name of a thing – to describe  a person’s full name, it is entirely hopeless. Probably written in poor English at the outset – nobody outside of subsaharan Africa introduces themselves as “Mr” – the style is just so out of synch with what the person claims to be and what they are talking about that only the lowliest naiveling could be led along by it for a second. And then on top of that a display of all the weak points of machine translation, uncritically cut and paste into an email.

I really couldn’t make this s**t up.

A Mediterranean Morning of Misunderstanding (short story in the style of P.G.Wodehouse)


This was another of my entries to the Daily Telegraph Short Story Competition that made it to the Top Six, but didn’t win – I never did. It seems to have been removed maybe on suspicions that P.G. Wodehouse‘s estate might have something to say about me borrowing his characters and putting them to work again 80 years later. But I expect that it will be safe in a readership as small as this blog now is to share it with you, and I’ve been saving it up a bit. As ever there was a limit to the number of words and certain words like Diplodocus and Ginger Beer Plant had to be used in it – there were about five of these words that had to feature somewhere, I can’t remember them all now and My.Telegraph has been through too much of a transformation for me to be able to access that one now. Here goes, enjoy…

I awoke from dreams of performing “Burlington Bertie from Bow” to a packed music hall populated entirely by an audience of Bow Street magistrates of the Sir Watkyn Bassett ilk and kidney – you know, the sort that would fain and gladly hand yours truly down a short sharp sentence of fourteen days inside of one of Her Majesty’s decreed stately pleasure domes, as the fellow said, without the option, to the voice of what at first seemed to be a distant harpy eagle shrieking after its hapless prey, “Bertie! Bertie! Wake up, you cowperian sluggard! It’s already half past ten, you lazy, glassy-eyed nephew of mine, come and get your breakfast before it all goes cold!” Read the rest of this entry

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