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Tips, tutorials and resources to aid you on your path towards fluency.

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  • Monthly Archives: April 2012

    Füße und Beine! (Fun with regional dialects of German)

    In the basic word list, I point out the importance of Googling your images in the target language, and being very careful when you don’t get the results you expect, since languages don’t translate one-to-one.  I point out that German, for example, doesn’t have separate words for “Foot” and “Leg” - they’re all Fuß.

    Several readers pointed out that German does, in fact, have a separate word for leg (das Bein).  This is true, making my example, well, not true. :)  It’s been fixed.

    But!  It does bring up an interesting point about regional dialects and the vagueness of words.  Down here in Austria (and in Southern Germany), the word “Bein” does exist (and does mean leg), but Fuß can mean foot AND leg.  So when someone says “Ich habe mir den Fuß gebrochen” (I broke my Fuß) - you actually have no idea where the break is.  Regional dialects are a tricky thing, because you can speak a language just fine, move to a place, and not understand much of anything for a while.

    Site news: A few cosmetic updates throughout the site.  Many thanks to readers who have sent in bug reports and mistakes and stuff that looks weird on their browsers.  Keep sending in those screenshots!  Surely I’ll get this thing working eventually.

    Hi Lifehacker!!!

    I’ve done just about everything I can to ensure the site will stay up and running, so let me know if something doesn’t work and I’ll try to fix it asap!  Also, feel free to ask questions over here, and I’ll answer them as soon as I can.  I’m not sure if I’ve gotten a Lifehacker login, so I don’t know if I can respond to comments over at the original article.

    Thanks for visiting and happy language learning!


    On dealing with non-phonetic languages like Chinese (And how to deal with homophones in any language)

    I keep addressing this question in various forum/comment discussions, but I should discuss it here, because it addresses a lot of issues in a lot of languages.  The question is:

    How do I deal with a language that uses a pictographic alphabet like Chinese?

    Continue reading

    Huge ridiculous update (New video, new store, new video page, blah blah)

    Wow I’m pooped.  Ok here’s what’s new:

    • The next pronunciation video is done.  Check it out here.  (or here for the direct youtube link)

    • The video page has been completely redone; it’s a lot friendlier.

    The Tower of Babelfish Store is officially open, with its first product. (!)  As a thanks for helping to test out the store and see if I set it up at all correctly, the first 5 people who use the discount code Test_My_Shop will get a 33.33% discount. :) [Update: Store doesn't like being in frames.  I think I've found all the links that put it in frames and killed them - please let me know if you find one I missed! (thank you Mark)]

    • The first product is an English Pronunciation Anki deck, which covers all of the International Phonetic Alphabet symbols that are found in the English language, as well as recordings for each sound.  Here’s a note about the decision to sell Anki decks here. [demo link fixed - thanks David!]

    Contact form has been changed to a WordPress plugin

    • All the social networking buttons now bookmark the individual pages they’re on, so if you click the Facebook share button on the Learn Italian page, it’ll share the Italian page to Facebook.

    • Video tutorial for importing compressed decks with media files into Anki (like the English Pronunciation deck) has been added.

    • CSSEdit is a magical thing!  Wordpress portions of site now look like the rest of the site!

    • Facebook like buttons  e v e r y w h e r e

    • Navigation menu replaced with something that should be a bit more browser/platform compatible

    • Sidebar now works, as does search function.

    If you find something broken, please let me know! I’ve changed at least 2 things on every page of the site and I imagine something got messed up.

    That’s all!  Cheers -Gabe

    How long does making cards take?

    Today I got a chance to try and answer the question - ‘How long does making new cards in Anki take?’

    I’ve tested this out in English before, timing how long it took me to find pictures and add them to Anki for a bunch of color words (cardinal, violet, indigo, etc), and that came out to 12 seconds per word, and 6 seconds per card (One card with a picture on the front, word on the back, and the other card reversed).  You’ll get periods like this in the beginning, when you’re filling in the base vocabulary that’s particularly easy to do in Google images.

    Today I got to time how long it takes when the words are more complex.  I had run out of new Russian cards earlier this week (around 2200 cards learned in a little more than 3 months), and so it was time to make some new ones.  I had already skimmed through my Frequency List and marked the cards I still needed, and put extra marks next to the ones that were relatively easy to portray.

    Continue reading