Monday, December 14, 2009

Tavasszal minden felébred téli álmából.

(In spring, everything wakes up from its winter sleep (hibernation).)

The other day I was trying my luck with Anne az élet iskolájában, but it was a bit tiresome. I am really not able to read a real text in Hungarian yet, but I will keep trying. As a warm-up, I worked with the third text from the FSI Easy Reader today, and it made me fall in love with Hungarian all over again. The overly enthusiastic voice of the woman on the recording almost took away part of the beauty of it, but after I had listened to her a couple of times, I got used to it. When I'm looking up things in the dictionary in Hungarian, I am often struck by how beautiful words are, or how different, harmonic, symmetric they are. This never happens with Russian. Russian words are just Russian. Hungarian words are small wonders all on their own.

How about ibolya (Violet)? For some reason, I always enjoy learning the names of flowers or trees in foreign languages, and I probably know more names for trees in Russian than in French or perhaps even English. Another word that struck me was zümmög, in méhek zümmögnek (the bees are humming). Kizöldülni (come into leaf, become green), megsárgulni (turn yellow). Perfectly logical and lovely words, even though they may not be extremely useful.

Az erdei utak szélén feltűnik a hóvirág, majd a szerény ibolya. Méhek zümmögnek, pillangók röpködnek. Lassan csupa virág, csupa illat lesz minden. A tavasz a legszebb évszak.

(My attempt at a translation: Along the edges of the forest roads snow flowers appear, then the modest violet. The bees are humming, the butterflies are flying around. Slowly everything becomes a pure flower, a pure fragrance. Spring is the most beautiful season.)

To continue my Hungarian afternoon, I thought I would start making my Hungarian verb book.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Я свободна!

I have no more exams, I am free for quite a long time, and naturally I should make as good use as possible of that time. I have many plans, probably way too many. As usual.

Yesterday I started reading another Norwegian book, or rather a book in Norwegian, Døren by Magda Szabó. The original is Hungarian, and I thought I should get some more exposure to Hungarian literature without necessarily waiting to read it in Hungarian. I very recently finished Jeg skal vise dere frykten by Nikolaj Frobenius, which I liked, but I was not absolutely thrilled about it. I fell in love with this new book from the first couple of pages though, so all is looking good.

But there are more books, there always are.

I am also going to start reading Russland og russere, Russia and Russians, a book about... well it's rather obvious. I am very much looking forward to it, since I usually like these kinds of books very much. Shortly I will make a post on books on culture that I have found very useful. It's also in Norwegian, which is great since this gives me increased literary Norwegian influence.

Furthermore, I am taking a class on the history of nationalism this spring at a Swedish University, and I plan to at least skim through the two books I have ordered for it. There are three books on the curriculum, but the third one was sold out, which is a bit troublesome. Swedish books! Or at least one of them was Swedish...

Russian then? Of course, there's always a Russian book! I started reading Dostoyevsky's Бедные Люди (Poor Folks) the day before yesterday. It's very short; I have already read 13% of it on my Kindle, and I am looking forward to reading the rest! I really wanted to read the Brothers Karamazov or the Idiot, but I didn't feel like starting on a huge book just yet.

Finally, I also have ambitious plans about reading a little bit of Anne az élet iskolájában (L.M. Montgomery). I really don't have any idea about how much comprehension I am aiming at and what degree of dictionary use I am going to allow myself. I am really going to try to read it in a highly relaxed way and tried to get through as many pages as possible instead of as many understood words as possible.

And I am very well aware that French is missing. I will see if that can't be fixed.

I would say those are my reading plans for Christmas. Add to that ambitious grammar study and big amounts of wine and chocolate. And ridiculous amounts of Christmas cookies when I go home to Sweden, cause you know... mothers and so on...

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Swedish culture and mentality.

I read something today that annoyed me quite a lot. This is nothing spectacular, I'm very easily annoyed, but I thought I'd mention it anyway. In Sweden we have this highly unpopular person or phenomenon called "Blondinbella". She is a 19-year-old girl from Stockholm who has been writing a blog of her own for a couple of years, and who turned it into a company, making quite some money off of it, and who has consequently been seen all over the newspapers and on television. All good, you say? Well it does sound quite ideal! But no...

The problem is that she writes a blog about her life (how dare she?) and about feminine stuff (HOW dare she??). You know, makeup, clothes, fashion... and she gets merchandise from companies who want her to write about them on her blog. Her blog gets an incredible amount of visits, mainly from teenage girls and from jealous Jante-lag infected women and men. This infuriates people something awful. As a result, she gets murder and rape (and mutilation...) threats, stuff thrown on her in public (like a bottle, a skinned mink...?), unpleasant phone calls, and has to live at a fake address, change her phone number all the time, and so on.

But now, how can we blame people? I mean, she's 19, rich and famous. And female! And how dare she become famous for writing about nothing? Of course "girly stuff" qualifies as nothing, since it is of no interest to anyone, the norm of "anyone" of course being male. If this had been a 19-year-old guy writing about sports, there would of course have been no problem at all. If he had received fancy shoes from Nike I'm quite sure no one would have had anything against it. But unfortunately for Blondinbella, she's female. And ugly (really, how can people stand to look at her?), and stupid (I'm not really sure why, but people say so, so I guess they must be right and they must know what they're talking about) and surely not successful, since she's famous for nothing. She therefore deserves to be stalked, ridiculed, threatened, and so on.

Wait, what was that we said about gender equality in Sweden?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Un morceau de Pouchkine.

Tout d'un coup, j'ai très envie d'écrire. La semaine dernière, j'ai eu mal aux mains et je fais donc un peu gaffe maintenant pour ne pas trop écrire. Cela veut donc dire que je ne peux pas utiliser lang-8 pour le moment et que je suis donc limitée à m'exprimer en anglais ou en français, et vu que je n'utilise presque jamais le français de ces jours...

Pendant que je fais plaisir à mes oreilles avec une cavalcade d'Einaudi, je vais essayer d'écrire quelque chose qui ait au moins un peu de sens ou d'intérêt. Ce n'est pas tout à fait facile. Est-ce que quelqu'un a l'impression d'avoir moins à dire dans une langue que dans une autre ? Oublions maintenant la question de différents niveaux de langue ; comparez deux ou trois (ou quatre ou cinq...) de vos meilleures langues, celles que vous connaissez très bien. Réfléchissez un tout petit peu sur la facilité, ou le manque de facilité, avec laquelle (lequel) vous vous exprimez dans cette langue. Ou disons la facilité relative avec laquelle vous trouvez les mots ou qui enchaîne en vous une suite de pensées. Cela m'arrive très facilement en anglais, peut-être tout simplement parce que je l'utilise tout le temps. Le suédois, je ne l'utilise presque pas du tout ; au moins pas dans sa forme pure, et je n'écris presque jamais en suédois pour des raisons évidentes. Mais cela m'inquiète un peu que le français soit si peu accommodant. Manque d'attention peut-être ?

En parlant d'autre chose, aujourd'hui notre professeur de russe nous a apporté trois caisses pleines de livres, de journaux et de disques (russes et parlant de la Russie ). Je me suis trouvé quelques choses, par exemple des cartes de l'URSS et de Moscou, des livrets sur l'Estonie et la Géorgie, des cartes postales de l'Arménie et quelques livres en russe. Celui dont je suis le plus fière, c'est une édition de « Le Cavalier De Bronze » de Pouchkine, avec des commentaires et un glossaire, d'une série appelée "Russian Readers with Explanatory Notes" de 1980. J'en suis très contente - il y a en plus des lithographies et des poèmes à la fin. J'ai aussi trouvé quelques classiques, de courtes histoires, que j'ai malheureusement déjà lues.
Ehm… en parlant de la Russie, je devrais peut-être me mettre à lire quelque chose là-dessus ^^

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Nothing of substance.

I get more inclined to sin the closer I get to my exams. I probably should be reviewing something, but I know everything a little bit too well to actually get around to doing it. I think this may be bad.

While searching for something Hungarian to read today, I stumbled upon this blog, where I read this:

"Aki azt hiszi, a tündérkék picik, cukik, pillangószárnyaik vannak és virágot hoznak az ablakodba, az nagyon téved. A mi tündéreink két méter magasak, dagadó izmokkal és mély hanggal... és azok csak a nők..."

Since that was absolutely charming, I just have to decipher the rest. As soon as my conscience is okay with it, I am going to start reading Anne az élet iskolájaban. I have read a page or something like that, and even though I don't understand all that much, it feels rather okay. Understanding "a nyárfák levelei közt" gave me a small thrill and this time I am going to just read.

Otherwise when it comes to reading, I recently finished Отцы и Дети and thought it was time for a Norwegian book, so today I started reading Jeg skal vise dere frykten. It's about time my Norwegian stopped being so colloquial.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


(This post was really much more interesting and better formulated before I wrote it down, but unfortunately it has been traveling around in my head for over a week and bits and pieces got lost whereas other just became muddled.)

When I was still rather new to language learning, I used to have periods when I was extremely motivated and then periods when I wasn't the slightest bit interested in languages. Perhaps this was due to the rather low level I was at in both of my languages (Russian and Arabic), or just due to lack of experience. I really do believe that you learn how to learn, and that I partly did learn after lots of trial and error.

I would really be interested in hearing from you other folks how this works for you personally. Do you ever - or often - lose interest in your languages? I never lose interest anymore. I think the last time I lost interest was last summer; since then I have had no unproductive periods (and since I always used to get quite depressed during such times I guess it's uniquely a good thing, just so that SOMEONE doesn't start talking about how we all need to rest and so on - we don't).

I was engaged in some other things back in the up-and-down days as well; I used to be a very ferocious knitter, and anyone who has ever been into knitting knows that this is (or can be) an extremely time-consuming activity, especially when you are working on 12 simultaneous projects, something that all hard-core knitters naturally do. I also used to go to the gym quite a lot (yes I know, weight lifting and knitting... I have always liked weird combinations) and that is surely a very tiring activity. I do neither of those these days, both due to inability and lack of opportunity/time/money... the positive effect of this has been a concentration of my interest and energy on foreign languages. This concentration could however just as well have been applied to knitting instead. I can very well imagine a situation where it is completely unimaginable to not knit during any free moment of the day (yes, that's how serious you get) since that was practically what I was like when I was not in my language learning mode, just like it is now completely unimaginable for me to not constantly try to improve my languages. It doesn't really require an effort; not doing anything is more of a task than just naturally keeping myself busy. It is usually not worth pointing out such things to people who have no interest in anything and who don't spend ridiculous amounts of time doing something most people wouldn't even think twice about since you just get weird looks. It is much easier to just go along with their "oh, you are so talented with languages"-excuse or the "wow, your knitting is so even, that surely is the result of TALENT and not hard work!". Talent is a lame excuse, and an extremely annoying one when you don't have any.

Oh oh, I almost forgot. I think (know) that the language learning community (dear Skypers/IRCers, dear Forum folks!) has also helped me a lot. I just can't bear seeing other people hard at work, or speaking about being hard at work at least, while just sitting there myself.


The other day Jack sent me a link to a song that was just incredibly beautiful and ever since I have been listening to Ludovico Einaudi. I will provide you with the very same song that he gave me. I have the feeling it was made for my very own little world of classic literary.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Using Kindle

Due to lack of time haven't been able to use my Kindle as much as I would have liked. I have, however, tried it out and I am very satisfied with how it works! Reading is painless, just like reading a normal book, and looking up words and taking notes is extremely easy. Yesterday I read a French book and decided to check out if there were any French dictionaries available for the Kindle. There was one, however it was quite small and got bad reviews, so I decided to not buy it. I'll just have to wait and see, perhaps they will make another one available. I also noticed that there were actually some French books available in the store. Shocking!

Another good thing that happened was that the Unicode hack for the international Kindle was "released". I can now read Russian on it! However, it doesn't display Swedish and French letters anymore. I am counting on this being fixed, or I'm screwed ^^

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Spreading the word

There is a new (highly friendly) language forum that anyone with an interest in languages and language studies should join and contribute to! Except for a general language discussion room and plenty of resources for different languages there is also an off-topic area as well as a language journal sub forum where you can write your own language journal and track your progress (I have moved my two logs there). Hop onboard!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Christmas came early this year.

I received my Christmas present from my boyfriend very early this year. When the Kindle went international, he decided to buy me one! It is an incredibly elegant little thing and the electronic ink is truly impressive. The only thing I am now waiting for is the Unicode hack for the international Kindle! It is incredible that they would release an international version and still not include Unicode on it. Scandalous even, but I guess that's what Anglo-mania is all about. I mean seriously, who needs any other language than English?

Once I get this high tech toy to read Cyrillic, my literary exploits shall know no limits! I really want to read all the huge Russian classics, but finding the actual books is always an obstacle and everyone who knows me knows that I don't really like to read on the computer. Of course Amazon has no e-books in any other languages than English available, but since the Kindle can read simple text documents and since you can't convert files, nothing is easier than acquiring all the old Russian classics. Right now I have a large number of works by Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky in English on my Kindle (the very kind boyfriend was thoughtful enough to load it with those) and as soon as I get some free time I am going to read something :-)

One really neat feature is that with the inbuilt English dictionary you can look up any word in the text you are reading by somehow clicking on it (I'm not really sure exactly how it works, sometimes I have to click around a bit before I get the translation, but once I get it going it seems to be working just fine... perhaps I should stop playing "male" and actually read some instructions on how to use it :-)) and this just opens up extremely interesting possibilities for the future. You know, that future when this thing is actually international and not just pseudo-international. Reading Russian texts with an inbuilt Russian dictionary... a girl can always dream!

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Virginie Despentes.

One of my favorite authors is undoubtedly the French Virginie Despentes, even though I have only read two of her books. This may seem like a somewhat unexpected choice, but it does put me at a safe distance from the term "literature snob". Despentes writes a highly provocative books that are harder to read than any French classic you may ever throw at me, and I wouldn't have thought that I'd like her so much from only reading what her books are about. But that's the point, it doesn't really matter what her books are about.

What surprises me the most with the amazing Virginie Despentes is that she seems to appeal to men. The first book by her that I read was "Bye Bye Blondie" (a title that would never have made me pick up the book by myself) and it was given to me by a young Frenchman who came to visit Oslo and who stayed at our place. He just gave me the book, like that. It was his personal book I believe, not something he had picked up especially for me. I was a bit surprised since guys usually avoids female authors, and that also made me a bit intrigued. I have so many books that I haven't read yet that new additions to my collection usually have to wait a couple of years to be read, but I actually started reading this book straight away. And from a certain point on, I couldn't stop reading it. This happens extremely rarely for me, perhaps once every three years, and it is naturally a very good sign.

When I was last in France, I bought another one of her books: "Les chiennes savantes" (and now I feel really stupid about not buying more of them...). While still in France, one of the guys who lived in the apartment where we stayed picked up this book and started reading it, and he found it very interesting. Very captivating. Just like "Bye Bye Blondie", this book is about a woman with a highy screwed up life - something neither I nor these guys can really relate to. And yet we seemingly do. Yes, amazingly enough, Despentes seems to be able to make men read about women!

I did not like this second book as much as the first, and I actually only started liking it for real once the general plot was "pushed to the back". I don't really care for the story of the book, and I think Despentes did a better job with "Bye Bye Blondie" which has a simpler storyline. Complex stories, dealing with many people, is not Despente's forte. Her forte is on the other hand describing the psychology of messed up women. She has the ability to make what seems like a completely unsympathetic woman become incredibly captivating, and she makes you see things completely through her eyes, to the point where you are fooled together with the poor main character. Some of her descriptions of what goes on inside a woman's mind are uncannily spot on. It is also highly provocative and not very feministic, and it all makes for very engaging reading.

To get an idea of who Despentes is, I can add that she is the author of the book "Baise-moi". However bad the movie may have been, that's at least her field of expertise.

And speaking of the language of the book, why not have a small sample of it? With an appropriate passage ON that said language, of course:

- Pourquoi tu fais pas un effort quand tu parles ? Tu fais racaille, c'est insupportable. T'as vu où t'habites maintenant ? Et ça fait des années que t'es dans des endroits classes...
- Je la parle couramment leur langue de tapette, mais tu causes pas avec ça, c'est pas une langue vivante, c'est du cafouillage de cerveau broyé pour cerveaux de tafiole, tu vois de quoi je parle ? Fesses bien serrées, le ton qui monte pas, rien qui sort. Autant fermer sa gueule, tu vois... Moi, mieux je la parle, moins je la sens leur langue.

Friday, September 18, 2009


The reasons for the neglect of this blog can be seen below:

Since I became an ordinary university student, I have had precious little amounts of free time to dedicate to my language studies. The speed-reading project is sadly on hold since I simply do not have that much time to spare each day. If I were a less serious student, I could pull it off, but right now I am in the process of writing some essays and even though these essays are in no way important, I want to use the opportunity to learn as much as I can about my field of study. That is to say, Russia.

Since I am mostly into Russian related things these days, I thought I'd share parts of a poem with you. I had some trouble understanding parts of it, but I got some help over at the HTLAL forums. The poem was written by Alexander Blok in 1918 and it fits in rather nicely with the Eurasianist movement of the 1920s in Russia. The Eurasianists considered Russia to be a part of Asia and embraced the Asian heritage that had for so long been neglected or denied. They had in common with the Bolsheviks that they believe that the West was on its way down and Russia would take the lead and show the world how it's done.

A general idea at the time, first voiced by among others Nikolai Danilevskii and Konstantin Leontev, was that Russia had saved Europe over and over whereas Europe never showed any gratitude. Europe wouldn't even recognize Russia as a European country. Russia must therefore stop protecting Europe and instead join the East in an alliance against the West.

Идите все, идите на Урал!
Мы очищаем место бою
Стальных машин, где дышит интеграл,
С монгольской дикою ордою!

Но сами мы - отныне вам не щит,
Отныне в бой не вступим сами,
Мы поглядим, как смертный бой кипит,
Своими узкими глазами.

Не сдвинемся, когда свирепый гунн
В карманах трупов будет шарить,
Жечь города, и в церковь гнать табун,
И мясо белых братьев жарить!...

В последний раз - опомнись, старый мир!
На братский пир труда и мира,
В последний раз на светлый братский пир
Сзывает варварская лира!

Here's the entire poem, read in the movie У озера.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

More funny stuff.

I got this comment today on a blog post, and I thought I'd share it with all the rest of you (even though I first considered deleting it due to the outrageous stupidity of it). In some ways, it is great. It kind of reminds me of that creepy inferioirty complex Swedes seem to suffer from. Enjoy!

"Вот не пойму: ну какой смысл в том, чтобы изучать местечковые языки, у которых нет ни практического применения, ни обширной базы носителей, как, например, у английского или китайского?

Чтобы читать книги на этих языках в подлиннике? Сомнительное удовольствие, если учесть, что 90% русских классиков — унылое говно.

Кстати, что касается русских классиков. Не понимаю, почему большинство садомазохистов, обрекших себя на изучение русского недоязыка, начинают именно с них — язык у них сухой, скучный и бесцветный, как в учебнике по физике, и зачастую полон архаизмов. Я молчу уж про антураж — мало кому будет интересно читать о событиях, которые якобы произошли в позапрошлом столетии с каким-нибудь вымышленным опричником или дворянином. Так что то, чем Вы занимаетесь, — полнейший мазохизм, а следовательно, вся Ваша затея с изучением быдлорусского копронедоязычка не только бессмысленна, но и обречена на неудачу.

До скорого."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Small speed-reading update.

All of a sudden, I got very busy. University starts extremely early here, two weeks before the summer term ends in Sweden, so I'm doubly busy. I haven't stopped with my speed-reading though, I'm just not able to do as much of it as I used to. The exercises have become different now, they focus on visual reading at over 1600 words per minute and progress is not as easy to measure anymore. On average, when making an effort I think I read at somewhere between 800 to 900 words per minute. Every time I feel like I am reading extremely slowly, I end up at over 700 words per minute anyway. I'm guessing this is good. I can't really practice read a whole lot right now though since I am reading philosophy and other more difficult texts that need to be read more slowly. I am hoping to get some time over for my speed-reading soon -_-

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Russian audio books.

I wrote in one of my HTLAL logs that I didn't know what Russian audio book to listen to after I finish Anna Karenina, but now I realize that it is perhaps a better idea to write about it here since more Russians probably read this blog. I will just copy what I wrote in the log.

What I am mostly thinking about right now is what book I will listen to after this one. I would really like to listen to a book that I can become passionate about. Can anyone recommend any classic in particular? Classics are so much easier to understand so I would prefer that when it comes to audio books.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Things to keep in mind.

From reading the speed reading books, I have picked up a couple of techniques that are so to say universal. These things are not about technically reading faster, for those things you have to look up these books yourselves, but rather things to facilitate your reading and recollection in general. One important thing to keep in mind - and something I often forget - is that you have to develop the two skills of reading fast and remembering what you read separately. I'm no expert yet, but I intend to apply these ideas in the future.

1. Always ask yourself why you are going to read something, what your purpose of reading is. Is it important to remember something? Are you looking for something in particular? (In that case, formulate a question that should keep in mind while reading.) Are you just reading to pass time?

2. Always browse through your material before starting to read it. Look at every page for four seconds, noting the different chapters and so on. This is not something I would do for fiction :-) And, it is way easier to do for separate chapters. I guess you could say you that you are preparing your mind for what you are going to read.

3. When you have read something, always take a couple of seconds to think back on the chapter, article or whatever it was, noting in your minds or on a piece of paper what it was about - without looking back! This is intended to improve your memory.

4. When taking notes, don't write blocks of text or lists; make mind maps. Try to avoid using full sentences and avoid using the words of the author. One good mind map pattern is a treelike structure. Draw a horizontal line on a piece of paper and write the topic of whatever you just read on this line. Draw branches coming out from this line for every main thought and smaller branches coming out from the main branches on which you add information. Always write from memory, don't copy from the book.

I think these were the main points but I have a feeling I've left something out...

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Unfortunate encounters with Swedish literature.

For my speed reading experiment I finally got the opportunity to read some Swedish fiction. I actually never read any Swedish books anymore, I simply don't have the time what with keeping up with French, Russian and English literature. I was therefore very happy to finally pick up a Swedish book! I really don't think native speakers have any right to neglect their own language; I am not good at Swedish simply because I am Swedish, I should also work on my Swedish skills.

However, the two Swedish books that I have read in the last year have both disappointed me greatly. I must therefore un-recommend them. The first one was a book my mother gave me, a very new book from 2008 (and I'm really no good at all at modern literature, I'm too preoccupied with classics): Myrrha by Ulrika Kärnborg. It should really be a good, intriguing read, the story being that of a simple woman and her relationship with a Victorian gentleman, of her absolute love for dirty work (the dirtiest possible) and his love for women doing dirty work. Yes. And this is based on true events. I was greatly disappointed because this book bored me more than anything else, except for a couple of pages somewhere in the beginning.

The other book that I read, the one I have been using for my speed-reading experiment, is Livläkarens besök by Per Olov Enquist. It is also a historic novel treating the subject of Christian the seventh, the mentally ill 18th-century Danish king, his English wife and his doctor, the latter two of course having an affair while the said doctor tries to reform Denmark. It's also based on true events, but I really know nothing of them, just like I know practically nothing about Danish history. However, this book was written in far too pretentious Swedish and with too little elegance. I didn't like it.

Now however, I have decided to finally read a book that I bought in the metropole Glommersträsk quite a couple of years ago for a euro or less. The first time I encountered this story was in junior high school when I saw a play based on it. It was amazing, just one guy on a scene with no props, telling the story of how he ended up on death row, and all the 15 year olds were mesmerized. The book is Cell 2455 Death Row by Caryl Chessman. When I saw the book in the depths of Northern Sweden I immediately bought it, but since it has been collecting dust in various bookshelves. I started reading it yesterday and read a hundred pages before going to bed (I read it in bed however, and according to the author of the speed- reading book you read slower in bed), and another 60 pages today while doing exercises. This is an excellent book for an easy read, and on top of that they Swedish is rather lively and interesting (modern day literary Swedish is mostly just weird) - it's a translation from 1954. For a learner of Swedish, the dialogue would be hell, spoken Swedish from the 50s :-) I am however very happy with the book so far and look forward to continue working with it. The story is rather excellent, I really recommend it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Russian podcast.

This is a short podcast in Russian, my first one. It's full of mistakes and mispronunciations, but I hope it's understandable.

Comment | Copy This

Friday, July 31, 2009

And some more!

I must say I have been quite good at doing my speed-reading exercises, except for the paragraph exercise where you are supposed to find the topic on as many paragraphs as possible in five minutes and note it down. I find that incredibly boring a stressful. I have been doing the other ones though, and yesterday I read the book "The Evilyn Wood Seven-Day Speed Reading Program”. I think these two books are excellent together. You can read the second one through quickly and pick up a lot of things that you also find in the first book, but the first book is more structured like a course that you follow by doing this and that every day. Today I am going to start trying out some of the hand movements from the second book. Wide reading it yesterday, I read perhaps half of it, or a third, by reading two lines at once. I'm not sure if this is quicker or not, but I intend to do some tests today. Like all techniques, this one also needs practicing, and I haven't done that much practicing with it yet, so it may still be slower.

New records? I have managed Swedish fiction at a good recall rate of 740 words a minute (833 as well, but then I wasn't satisfied with my recall) , and somehow English nonfiction at 884... O_o I think I am rather comfortable with 500 now.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Spot on.


Swedes are very often subject to an inferiority complex towards English. I guess this is pretty common in many countries where English is seen as something new and cool compared to the native language. But really, do the politicians have to engage in this as well? The article is about the spreading of English all around Sweden, for example by giving instances in Stockholm English names. I will translate some of my favorite quotes.

"You can start to wonder if our pathetic Stockholm politicians have time to do anything else than hang around at Google translate."

"Young people use English words even when there are perfectly good Swedish ones, perhaps because they haven't read enough Swedish literature in order to master and play around with their native tongue."

"... instead a lot of politicians act precisely like those teenagers who think that Swedish is just sooo boring."

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Speed-reading update.

I have been trying to follow the book in the designated pace and although I can show some more impressive numbers already, I’m not sure I’ve become a better reader just yet. :) I'm experiencing some slight problems with the main technique, which is to use your hand as a pacer as you go down the lines. That is, your hand should stop you from looking back and forcing you to continue ahead. For me, this is rather painful, even though I use a pen instead to minimize the movement. Because of this, I don't practice as much as I probably should. After today's exercises, I do seem to have improved my reading of easier material. The book tells you what sort of material you should use for different exercises, and right now you are supposed to use easier material, so I am using historical Swedish fiction, a book called "Livläkarens besök" by Per Olov Enquist, which deals with Denmark. The first time I read in this book, I managed 350 words per minute, while making an effort. I did not make a great effort for my 240 words of English nonfiction. Now, when reading this easier book and making an effort, I'm at 530 words per minute.

There is of course a great difference between reading in a relaxed manner and reading while making an effort to speed things up. I am Evidently not only interested in reading fast, I also want to understand what I read and I am definitely interested in actually remembering it. Right now, I don't see how those things are supposed to improve by reading faster, but I guess that will come later in the book. This is, after all, just lesson four or something like that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Overheard Swedish conversations.

Tjuvlyssnat is an excellent site for colloquial FUNNY Swedish. I love this one:

Buss 176, Stenhamra

Två fjortistjejer sitter på bussen och diskuterar en kille.
Tjej 1: Asså, typ igår kväll när jag pratade med Jesper på MSN så skrev han värsta weird!
Tjej 2: Asså, typ som på bilddagboken då eller?
Tjej 1: Ah! Han skriver som värsta läraren! Han skrev med stor bokstav i början på varje ord! Typ: Hej Jessika. Asså! Han skrev hej med stort H och Jessika med stort J! Så jäkla störande, kändes som om det var ett jävla prov.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Charming ladies back in the days.

I have spoken about Peer Gynt earlier on this blog, but now I have actually started reading it together with my boyfriend. Parts of it are just excellent.

-- Peer is trying to seduce the woman in green, the daughter of the mountain king. --

(En grennkledd kvinne går i lien. Peer Gynt folger efter under alle slags forelskede fakter.)

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE (stanser og vender seg). Ег det sant?

PEER GYNT (skjærer med fingeren over strupen). Så sant som jeg heter Peer; -
Så sant som du er en deilig kvinne!
Vil du ha meg? Du skal se hvor fint jeg meg ter;
Du skal hverken trede veven eller spinne.
Mat skal du få så du er ferdig å sprekke.
Aldri skal jeg deg i håret trekke – (I'm never going to pull your hair)

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Ikke slå meg heller? (And not beat me either?)

PEER GYNT. Nei, var det likt?
Vi kongssønner slår ikke kvinnfolk og slikt.

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Ег du kongssønn?


DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Jeg ег Dovrekongens datter.

PEER GYNT. Er du det? Se, se; det treffer jo godt.

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Inne i Ronden har far min sitt slott.

PEER GYNT. Da har mor min et større så vidt jeg fatter.

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Kjenner du far min? Han heter kong Brose.

PEER GYNT. Kjenner du mor min? Hun heter dronning Åse.

DEN GRØNNKLEDDE. Når far min er sint, så sprekker fjelle.

PEER GYNT. De raper bare mor min tar på å skjelle.

This is some of the accompanying music by Grieg.

-- Peer is talking to the Mountain King who has agreed to give him his daughter. The King wants Peer to lay off his Christian clothing and wear a tail. --

DOVREGUBBEN. Demest må du kaste dine kristenmannskleder ;
Ti det skal du vite til vårt Dovres heder:
Her er allting fjellvirket, ingenting fra dalen,
unntagen silkesløyfen ytterst på halen.

PEER GYNT (vred). Jeg har ingen hale!

DOVREGUBBEN. Så kanst du få.
Hofftroll, bind ham min søndagshale på.

PEER GYNT. Nei, om du får! Vil I gjøre meg
Til nar?

DOVREGUBBEN. Beil aldri til datter min med
Baken bar. (Never propose to my daugther with a bare rear end.)

PEER GYNT. Gjøre menneske til dyr!

DOVREGUBBEN. Min sønn, du feiler;
Jeg gjør deg bare til en høvelig beiler.
Du skal få en branngul sløyfe å bære.
Og det gjelder her for den høyeste ære.

PEER GYNT (betenksomt).
Der sies jo mennesket er kun et fnug.
Og litt får en lempes efter skikk og brug.
Bind vekk!

DOVREGUBBEN. Du est еn medgjørlig fyr.

HOFFTROLLET. Prøv nu hvor fint du каn svanse
Og svinge !

PEER GYNT (arrig).
Hå, vil I ennu til mere meg tvinge?
Krever I også min kristenmanns-tro? (Do you also demand my Christian faith?)

DOVREGUBBEN. Nei, den kan du gjerne beholde
I ro.
Troen går fritt; den legges ingen toll på;
Det er skorpen og snittet en skal kjenne et troll på.
Ваге vi er ens i lader og kledsel,
Kan du gjerne kalle tro hva vi kaller redsel. (As long as we are the same in manners and dress you are free to call faith what we call fear.)

Reading somewhat faster.

I have always been concerned about my reading rate. I have always wanted to improve it, I have always been very jealous of rapid readers. I did actually read rather fast when I was 15 and mainly read fantasy; back then I had way more confidence when it came to my intellectual capacities than I do now and I often read one book in a day. I even had more confidence when it came to my language abilities, which is quite funny since I was merely bilingual back then.

When I was 16 or 17, my boyfriend at the time gave me a speed-reading book. By that respectable age, I was already a nervous wreck when it came to my reading speed. I was almost a bit reluctant to start the book since I was convinced I would just fail at it – which I also did. It’s hard to say why exactly (except for bad attitude) because I worked rather hard with it (the method included making texts with columns and increasing your eye span ), but I think that in the end the whole thing is made me feel stressed and reluctant about reading which was really not the point to begin with… however, Thom recommended this site to me and on it you can find another speed-reading book. Since I do a lot of reading and since I am soon to become a student at the University of Oslo I thought it would be too silly to not even give it a try. So that’s exactly what I’ll do and I will evaluate the progress here on my blog.

My starting point seems to be a good one, my reading speed is rather average and according to the book I should be able to make a lot of progress. In case anyone was wondering, I can manage 240 words per minute when reading English nonfiction at the moment. I know very well that I do a lot of conscious regression when reading, but I’ve always felt incapable of stopping this bad habit. I did not, however, know that you should be sitting up all the time! I don't even have a desk to sit at, nor a normal table, so I'm not sure what I'll do about that.

Oh well, here we go!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nonfiction books.

Not everyone likes to read fiction, something which can be very unfortunate of course, but that's just the way it is. It seems that a lot of the people who do not like great literature can on the other hand enjoy some science fiction or fantasy, so even if they cannot be made to read Dostoyevsky, they may accept Douglas Adams (and why not in a Russian English edition with pictures?) or Terry Pratchett, just to take some examples. However, if you are into a bigger language, such as Russian, you can use reading extensively in your studies without ever touching any filthy fiction, and without having to go to Russia in order to find books (even though that is much nicer than reading something off a screen).

AvaxHome is here to save us, or them, since I for one do not mind fiction. At this extraordinary, albeit ugly and slightly impractical, site, you can find books about everything. For Russian, that is actually true: cooking, airplanes, programming, maths, physics, chess, makeup, history, literature, languages, aviation, health... this could continue forever. I haven't browsed the site for other languages that very much, but I suppose that their categories aren't that bad either.

These are the books I found today while going through the feeds in my RSS reader:

Неизвестный СССР. Противостояние народа и власти 1953-1985 (The unknown USSR. The opposition of the people and the authorities 1953-1985)
Сказания о начале славянской письменности (The story of the beginning of the Slavic written language.)
Русские обряды и традиции - Народная кукла (Russian ceremonies and traditions -the folk doll)
Быт и нравы Древней Руси (Way of life and customs of the ancient Rus')
Русские руны (Russian runes)

All this is excellent, now I just have to find some time in order to read them.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Saami music.

The Saami languages are some of the most awesome sounding languages in the world, in my opinion. They are also quite hidden away and rarely heard outside of Scandinavia (and perhaps Russia, but I'm not sure how big a part the Saamis are of Russian society). Anyway, Norway has a quite famous Saami singer, Mari Boine, who has made some quite awesome songs and I thought I'd share her with you.

My all time favourite:

And here's another Saami artist (Swedish) for those of you who like pretty blondes.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A song we all grew up with.

In Sweden, that is. Ah, such a classic. (With lyrics.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Français et autres.

J'ai trouvé deux choses qui pourraient être intéressantes pour ceux qui apprennent le français, mais aussi pour ceux qui apprennent d'autres langues. D'abord, une collection de liens pour la prononciation française, la liaison, les fautes habituelles des anglophones (vous êtes assez chanceux en fait, nous qui avons des « petites » langues maternelles n'avons pas très souvent accès à de telles listes), la phonologie générale, des exercices... Je vais aller les regarder d'un peu plus près un de ces jours. Comme d'habitude. C'est donc ici.

Le deuxième lien, c'est pour un machin qui prononce des mots en une variété de langues avec une variété de voix. Je ne sais pas encore si c'est toujours exact, mais si vous trouvez des choses bizarres, dites-moi. Et voilà.

Saturday, July 4, 2009


Yandex is great, you can make your own wordlists while using their dictionary, and then test yourself on the words.

Ваш результат: 5/5.
Ваш уровень — Мудрый Каа.

Иностранные слова для вас – легкая добыча. Еще бы, охота на кроликов и мышей сделала вас точным и сообразительным. Да пребудет с вами сила.

Friday, July 3, 2009


So, this is my first Hungarian recording, inspired by Cathy.
It was damned hard, I so am not used to speaking this language -_-

Comment | Copy This

L'arabe et moi.

Il n'y a pas très longtemps, j'ai voulu organiser mes documents hongrois. Ces derniers ans, j'ai un peu perdu mon sens d'organisation : je mets mes papiers un peu partout sans ordre, dans des tas qui grandissent sans cesse. Auparavant, en revenant de la France, je tenais tout en ordre, dans des classeurs bien structurés. Donc, l'autre jour, j'ai de nouveau senti le besoin de retrouver cet esprit maniaque de ma jeunesse. Je suis allée regarder dans ma bibliothèque afin de trouver quelque chose correspondant à mes besoins, et je me suis dit que vu l'échec qui était mes études de l'arabe, mon beau classeur d'arabe pourrait bien sûr devenir classeur de hongrois ! J'ouvre le classeur et je suis immédiatement déprimée. Là-dedans se trouvent des centaines de feuilles pleines de notes (beaucoup plus que dans mon classeur de russe que je n'utilise plus depuis deux ans), d'explications, de conjugaisons, etc. Je me souviens vaguement d'un travail énorme sur cette langue, et qu'en est-il du résultat aujourd'hui ? Absolument rien, peut-être même moins que rien. Comment est-ce même possible ?

L'arabe et moi. Histoire d'échec, d'amour malheureux... Mon problème avec l'arabe, c'est en fait que je veux l'aimer, mais je n'y arrive pas vraiment. Ce n'est donc pas super étonnant que j'ai arrêté de l'étudier il y a deux ans, tandis que j'ai continué avec le russe (après une pause de six mois, mon premier temps en Norvège avec trois boulots et un nouveau copain), dont je ne me lasse jamais. J'aime la langue arabe en soi, c'est une langue très intéressant grammaticalement. Je n'aime pas, par contre, le son de la langue, ni vraiment la culture arabe. Si j'avais été un homme, j'aurais déjà été capable de parler la langue, mais malheureusement, je n'en suis pas un... Alors quand j'ai vu toutes ces feuilles, je me suis dit pour de vrai, « si je recommençais... ? » et je n'y pense pas pour la première fois ; cette idée me vient en esprit quelquefois chaque an. Quand j'écoute Mira Awad j'ai vraiment envie de l'apprendre ; quand j'entends mes clients au travail, ce n'est plus le cas... Et d'ailleurs, pourquoi faut-il toujours que je m'intéresse aux langues les plus compliquées ? L'arabe, me semble-t-il, ne me paraîtrait plus aussi difficile maintenant qu'à l'époque, quand je ne savais pas encore très bien la grammaire russe, mais quand-même...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Seriously, how could I miss that Magyaróra has an English interface and that it's full of useful stuff like this? I'm currently reading about coffee, appropriately enough at my coffee job! If my hands were normal I would write loads, but they aren't so... I'll be back later with more French posts.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Look what I found today at the best immigrant shop in this part of town! They must be new imports, and the guy in the cash register even asked us what the гречка was used for.
Somewhat pricey, yes, but who cares, квас! Yay! (I must start making my own...)

Now, cooking suggestions?

Mes lectures

Cette fois j'aimerais, de façon tout à fait désordonnée, parler de deux de mes lectures qui me plaisent beaucoup. C'est uniquement en écrivant cela que je me rends compte qu'il s'agit en fait de deux des livres des soeurs Brontë ! Je n’y avais même pas pensé.

Quand j'avais 15 ans, j'ai lu « Les Hauts De Hurlevent » en anglais : c'était pour moi quelque chose de nécessaire, car je pensais que c'était un livre que tout le monde avait lu et dont tous connaissaient l'histoire. J’avais toujours entendu les noms des grands classiques anglais, c’était la même chose que de savoir le nom de la reine du pays. Oui, je vivais dans un tout autre monde (celui de ma mère professeur d'anglais et de suédois) et j'allais être très déçue avec l'autre monde par la suite. Je le suis toujours, et le fait que je suis un genre de misanthrope rend probablement ce livre encore plus parfait pour moi (comme tous les livres des Brontës). De toute façon, et cela est même un peu drôle, je le lisais pour la première fois quand mes mains commençaient à me poser des problèmes (tendinite), ce qui est aussi le cas maintenant.

À l'époque, je considérais que c'était très important de lire les classiques. Je ne les considérais pas comme des livres ordinaires et ce n'était pas très important qu'ils soient tout le temps super intéressants ; ils avaient le droit d'être légèrement ennuyeux ! Je me souviens que je trouvais que le livre était quelque peu lent, mais je m'attendais à cela, ce n'était rien d'étonnant. Par contre, je ne pensais jamais à la langue, je ne pensais jamais à des mots inconnus (quoiqu'il y en avait certainement), je le lisais tout simplement, et au milieu vient ce chapitre, dont certainement tous qui ont lu le livre se souviennent, qui m’a complètement emportée et qui m'emporte toujours. Par la suite, je n'ai pas pu ne pas aimer ce roman. Complètement impossible. Désormais, c'était mon livre :-)

Maintenant je lis ce livre en russe - et j'ai l'impression de le lire depuis toujours (probablement parce que je lis un grand nombre de livres en même temps et il me faut beaucoup de temps pour les finir tous) - et j'arrive de nouveau à ce passage. Je comprends très bien que cette histoire m'a impressionnée quand j'avais 15 ans ; elle me laisse toujours dans un état... je ne sais quoi.

Je ne pense pas, par contre, que ce livre serait le même en suédois. Il y a quelque chose qui le rend plus puissant en langue étrangère. Quand j'ai commencé à le lire il y plus que 7 mois, j'ai fréquemment eu besoin de consulter le dictionnaire, mais maintenant, arrivée au milieu, il me suffit de m'y tourner deux fois par page ou même pas du tout. La lecture est très agréable et je suis tellement contente d'avoir décidé de lire « Les Hauts De Hurlevent » en russe.

Depuis quelques jours, je lis aussi « Jane Eyre » en texte parallèle hongrois -- anglais. Je ne sais pas exactement quand je l'ai lu, mais probablement à l'âge de 16 ans. Je ne l'ai pas du tout aimé comme le livre d'Emily, c'était beaucoup trop romantique, parfait et, à mon avis à l'époque, ridicule. Maintenant, je suis un peu plus cultivée et je sais apprécier le livre plus – ou disons que j’apprécie l'histoire ; je n'ai lu ce livre qu'une fois, mais j'ai vu le film plusieurs fois. Mais alors, je suis maintenant en train de le lire en hongrois ! En le lisant, c'est-à-dire en lisant les premières pages car c'est un procès très long, j'ai retrouvé beaucoup du plaisir de la lecture et de l'apprentissage des langues.

Quand je lis «Jane Eyre», je procède phrase par phrase. Je regarde la phrase hongroise pour voir si je peux comprendre quelque chose. D'habitude, je comprends quelques mots, mais c'est très rare que je comprenne la phrase entière. Ensuite, je regarde la phrase anglaise et je les compare : j'essaye de faire correspondre les adjectifs, les verbes, les noms. S'il y a plusieurs, c'est-à-dire s'il y a plusieurs adjectifs, j'utilise mon dictionnaire (et ça me rend très heureuse, je ne l'ai pas acheté pour rien :-)) et pour finir je souligne les mots correspondants dans les deux colonnes. J'utilise un autre stylo fluo pour souligner les faits grammaticaux dont je m'aperçois mais qui ne sont pas toujours très évidents pour moi : les suffixes, les affixes, les infixes... Je vais peut-être faire un effort pour apprendre ces mots aussi, mais je ne sais pas encore ;-)

Quel bonheur que les soeurs Brontë aient existé ! Elles m'aident à apprendre et le russe, et le hongrois !

Monday, June 22, 2009

Another link...

For those of you interested in reading as a means of learning a language, doooo check out this thread and download all the parallel text (complete books) that are of interest to you before the person who is uploading them gets banned from the Forum again. There are lots of different languages, Spanish, Russian, Polish, Italian, German, Japanese, Hungarian, French, Chinese, Csezh...

These texts are intended for Listening-Reading, but you can just read them on their own as well ;)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

For those learning Russian.

In July there will be a Russian Book Club at the HTLAL Forums. We are going to read short stories by Teffi. You can read more about it here and sign up on the Forum if you are not already a member ;) You needn't be very advanced to participate!

A funny article on Swedish pronunciation.

I really recommend everyone who studies Swedish, who is thinking about studying it or who has Swedish friends who speak funny English to read this very easy going article.

Some random extracts:

"Like Chinese, but mostly meaningless"

"To master the art of applying tones correctly in Swedish is not an easy task, and incorrect tonality sounds extremely ridiculous. For a foreign learner of Swedish it is better not even to try, but to apply the "flat" tone of Finland-Swedish, which is an accepted, easily understandable and well regarded Swedish dialect."

"As good as on the job --- Ass, good ass, on the yob."

Friday, June 19, 2009

Pronunciation & ambiguity.

Pronunciation is always a hot topic. Most people have very strong views on it, and it's often a very important and difficult part of any language. Since I'm not really a big speaker, I find pronunciation a bit tedious, not to mention boring. But, I do realize the importance of it, and just like anyone else, I like a bit of self-torture, so by no means do I ignore the matter. However, I have been thinking about how good different people are at understanding people with shaky pronunciation (and I'd really like some comments on this matter, cause these are just speculations), so that's the matter I will discuss today: pronunciation, grammar vs. no grammar and ambiguity. I will do a more hardcore Pronunciation Exclusively post later.

Let's start with English speakers. Aren't they quite good at understanding various sorts of mistreated, bastardized versions of their language? Even if a word is pronounced wrong (which can, after all, easily happen in English), don't people usually understand which word it is? Or is it just non-natives who are good at this with other non-natives? When someone says a word to me in Swedish that sounds wrong, I think I automatically rely on spelling to find out what word he/she really meant. If the person said /kyrka/ I would realize that the intended word was /shyrka/, since it is after all spelled "kyrka".

Another possible factor in this is the difference between languages that rely on grammar for meaning, and languages that rely on context for it. Are those who speak grammar poor languages and who have to look to context a whole lot more apt at analysing the entire sentence to find the sense of it, rather than relying on perfect caption of the words? Now, take Russians. Their language is extremely clear in its structure, everything has it's specific shape in a specific function, you don't go around wondering "wait, who the hell is the subject really? and whose what are we talking about??" - if the sentence is correct, it is usually all understandable to begin with. Even I can understand tricky texts! The grammar makes it all possible, whereas in Swedish (and possibly in English too, although I have the impression that it is often punctuation which muddles things in English), you have to watch your tongue and make sure not to lose your interlocutor among your subordinate clauses.

Just to not lose everyone, let's take some examples from Wikipedia on Swedish "phrase braids" ;).

Chefen tycker jag är konstig. (Word to word: The boss thinks I am weird)
This can mean "The boss thinks I am weird" and "I think the boss is weird".
Imorgon vet jag vilken dag det är. (Word to word: Tomorrow I know what day it is)
This can mean "Tomorrow I will know what day it is" and "I know what day it is tomorrow".

Or this one from another source:
En ponny äter inte mer än en schäfer per dag.
A pony doesn't eat more than a german shepherd does every day.
A pony doesn't eat more than one german shepherd a day.

So, what I am trying to get at is that people whose native languages are ambigous ones, may be more attentive to context and logic to figure out the sens of sentences, than those who speak more strict languages. What do you think?

And here of course pronunciation plays a great role as well. Do you understand a sentence in your native language if something important in it is mispronounced? If the emphasis falls on the wrong syllable of a word or if the wrong tone/vowel length (for Swedish) is used, giving a whole other word? I think English folks are good at it since English is so widely spoken and exists in so many different variants. From what I can remember of my first time in France, the French were awful at it. I had the impression that if I said [e] instead of [ə] the word was completely incomprehensible for them.

Does anyone have any interesting experiences with this? From what I remember in Russia, I think people were quite good at understanding me despite my faulty emphasises, but then I did also mostly speak with someone I knew well, and who knew "my Russian" well, so it's hard to say.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Hungarian song.

Napoleon Boulevard is a cozy old Hungarian group that I like and listen to a lot (even though I can't follow the lyrics like... at all), and I thought I'd share one song here. I also thought it would be interesting to see how many words out of the lyrics I actually know, so I have put those in bold.


Egy játék megesett, jókat nevetett rajta egy tucat ember
Falnak szegezett arccal gyerekek várták ki esik el
Jó játék, hiszen nem volt tét, csak a sorrend nem dőlt el
Ha mégis volt, az az egy szempont: milyen a színe

Göndör hajadat, ében fekete bőröd ne takard el
Sárga a kezed, játszom veled is, kérlek ne szaladj el!
Ha Lou sírna, Johny elringat, Eduard majd énekel
Ha Ráhel fél ugye megbékél vele Michael.

Menekülnél, játszani kell
Szól a parancs: "Hajtsd végre!"
Menekülnél, túl nagy a tét
Mondd ki marad majd élve?

Láttam sebeket, asszony kezeket fegyvernehezékkel
Hosszú sorokon, fából faragott sírokon neve sincsen
Ha Lou sírna, Johny elringat, Eduard majd énekel
Ha Ráhel fél ugye megbékél vele Michael.


Szép tömött sorrendben jönnek a katonák, zöld színű jelmezben
Kőkemény arccal, hogy mindenki megijed, látták a filmekben.

Refr. 2x

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Un manque de français...

Sorry folks ! I didn't get any notifications when I got comments (I thought that was automatic), so I never noticed them. I have replied to all comments now though ;)


Je dois admettre que pour écrire en français ici, il faut vraiment que je fasse un effort. L'envie ne me prend presque jamais d'écrire en français et si je dois écrire quelque chose confortablement, je choisirai toujours l'anglais... C'est en fait assez curieux que j'ai commencé à étudier les langues à un tel degré, étant donné que je n'ai jamais véritablement aimé la langue française, ma première langue « apprise ». Quand je fais du russe, du hongrois, c'est souvent avec grand intérêt et avec passion ; je veux apprendre de nouveaux mots, de nouvelles tournures, je veux lire plus de textes, etc. Pour le français, ça tombe bien que je le connaisse déjà, car comme ça je peux lire des classiques français dans l'original (la littérature contemporaine française ne m'intéresse presque pas du tout) et un tas de littérature francophone. Mais je n'aime pas la langue. Je pense que je l'aimais peut-être avant de partir en France, mais dix mois dans le pays ont vite tué cette flamme ;)

Je vois très rarement des films français, je ne regarde pas la télévision française, je n'écoute pas la radio française, je ne lis pas les nouvelles en français, etc. Les Français sont mystérieusement difficiles à trouver sur Internet, c'est comme s'ils n'existaient pas. J'ai finalement fini mes études de français à l'université... alors, quoi faire maintenant ? Comment (re)trouver un intérêt pour une langue?

Tout de même, c'est comme avec les enfants, si tu en as, tu en as. Il n'y a rien à faire, et il faut faire ce que tu peux de la situation. Après tout, le français est une langue qui est largement appréciée dans le monde. Ça ne doit pas être tellement difficile que ça de s'y intéresser !

D'ailleurs, sur le Forum il y a un sujet de discussion à propos de regretter d'avoir appris une langue. Heureusement, il n'y a pas trop de personnes qui regrettent avoir appris quelque chose et ce n'est pas vraiment le cas pour moi. Sans le français je n'aurai pas un Baccalauréat et je ne pourrais pas lire mes livres!

Breathe in.

In the new number of the Swedish language magazine Språktidningen ("the language magazine") there is an article on the Northern Swedish [shoo], the "yes" that is pronounced while breathing in. It's a popular thing to use when parodizing northerners, for example saying that Northerners are so silent and economize their words to such a degree that they even use their inhalations in speech, but the article explains that people all over Sweden, Scandinavia and the World speak while breathing in. It's called "ingressive speech" and there's even a website about it, made by a Swedish linguist,

The article explains that this feature is especially common in Scandinavia (but [shoo] is only found in the North), and they mention a sound clip on the aforementioned site with a Faroese person pronouncing the whole phrase "I don't know" while breathing in. This felt very familiar, I do the exact same thing! And, being from the north, I have always used [shoo] (although mostly when I am in that environment), and it should really be written .jo.

Further, the article explains that .jo is really a variant of ja (Swedish "yes"), since Northerners use jo (equivalent of French "si", a "yes" reply to a negative question -- I find languages that lack that word really odd!) when they really mean ja. I had no idea I was doing this until a person from Stockholm remarked that I used the wrong word! But in the end, it's normal, it's dialect. And thus sacred, of course; dialects are like religions.

ja = yes, reply to a positive question ("Do you like soup?")
jo = yes, reply to a negative question ("Don't you like soup?")
.jo = yes, reply to a positive question, and a little bit more...

However, it's not really that simple. You can't use .jo in all places where you could use ja, since it simply isn't powerful enough of a word. It's a word (or sound) that is used to show that you are listening, that you agree, and that you don't want to continue the conversation. It's a closing word (although I'm not sure I've ever used it as such). The article points out that it could be dangerous to answer .jo to "Do you love me?". It would, in my opinion, feel rather like you answered "yeah, I guess I do".

Whereas people in other places in Sweden don't use .jo, they still breathe in while speaking, notably when saying yes, thus .ja. I do remember listening to an Australian comedian who had some shows in Oslo last years and who found this hilarious (both for yes and no I think), so that proves that Norwegians sure do use it as well!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Norwegian women - dying for attention?

Someone made me aware of the fact that it was impossible to comment on my blog without having some sort of account, but now anonymous comments should also be possible. So go ahead, leave a comment!


Lately in Norway two rather... colourful women have shown up. They express what is seen (from a mainstream point of view) as outrageous opinions and I must admit that they are pretty courageous. Of course, they get picked on quite a lot, but what better way to get attention when you have no real skills?

First out was a charming lady named Nina Karin Monsen who is against homosexuals, non Christian living, etc. She claims that all children are born religious and that keeping them away from God (through, for example, god awful homosexual parents) is a sin. She actually got a 400 000 NOK (44 000€) price for her "contribution to a freer debate" in Norway, and she calls herself a "philosopher" and an "author", although judging from this review, she really is neither. (The title of the review is "Awarded impartiality" and it mainly deals with how incredibly poorly written her book is.)

Now, in Godless Norway, claiming that standardized Christian families is the norm and that all the rest are sinful libertines (or something like that) is most likely just going to make people laugh. However, for me it is quite offensive that she got such a large sum of money for something that anyone could have put together by just deciding to go against all modern day values in an open minded society. If it had been a well written, well presented - I saw her on TV once, she couldn't discuss or present anything in a coherent, concise way for the life of her - I would have been able to accept it. But dammit, we were better at these things in high school when we were assigned "opposite opinions" (from our own) and were made to speak against abortion or for death punishment, etc.

I do wonder how she would have been "greeted" in Sweden. I really, really doubt she would have gotten anywhere there. Norway is more conservative than Sweden, for those of you who thought the Scandinavian countries were all just one big country.

That's today's first outspoken Norwegian woman, let's continue with the second one.

It was actually today that we got the pleasure of discovering yet another such lady. Not the same opinions of course, this one is not really that blatantly religious and intolerant, but the idea is the same. Perhaps she also wants 44 000€ and decided to just change the message a bit? Her name is Hanne Nabintu Herland, she is Norwegian but grew up in different parts of Africa, and she is a [something] in Religious History with a focus on Islam. Do just click her name to see the picture, that alone would make most people a bit scared.

So, what is she talking about? Well, she completely understands why Norwegian men prefer Thai women or Russian women to Norwegian women; those women like sex and know how to cook! Let's take some quotes from the article (she said these things at a Christian meeting...):

"It's about time to give up the feminist struggle. There are so many horrible Norwegian women. Sometimes women should just be quiet and do what the man tells them to."

"Other cultures are better at training the women to satisfy the man sexually. Men need their sex, and women should take care to satisfy them."

Let's just say other religious people do not really support her whole heartedly, but at least a fair share of men who read that article of course thought she was spot on!

Monday, June 8, 2009

English in Scandinavia.

Everyone in Scandinavia speaks English. Does that automatically mean you must or should use it whenever and wherever? I am rather unsure how common this is in other parts of the world, but whenever Scandinavians spend a fair amount of time in an English speaking environment and then come home, they always insist on using English in every other sentence. Victoria Silvstedt is a glorious example of this, and listening to her on TV is pure torture. She is, consequently, also parodized every now and then by other people on TV, notably by Christine Meltzer.

Anyway, the problem as I see it is that throwing English into your Swedish/Other Scandinavian language conversations with natives is a bit rude. Having half a sentence of English thrown at you all of a sudden may be a bit destabilizing (since you were after all expecting to hear another language with another set of sounds) and what are you supposed to reply anyway? I think it feels extremely weird to speak Swedish to someone who insists on speaking Swenglish, and what if your English isn't all that fabulous and you actually don't get what the person just said?

And how come Scandinavians always forget their native tongue as soon as they learn English? Do people of other nationalities do this as well? Or is it this eternal inferiority complex that seems to be rather unique to Scandinavia and that makes so many Swedes and Norwegians claim that they feel much "freer" when speaking English, that English is a much more practical language, that our Scandinavian languages just aren't good enough to really express oneself cause there are so few words. (Surely, this is something most people do much better in their second language in which they most certainly have a better command of the vocabulary! Actually I think the freedom of writing in another language is more a question of distancing oneself from the written text, making it feel less personal... )

Well, anyway, that was just a mini-rant to kick of my studying of the history of the Arab peoples. Totally unrelated, yes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Something a bit more fun.

A bottle of Marques de Monistrol 2004 (the kind of slightly more expensive wine that I can only afford at TaxFree) and My First Dictionary could keep me amused for a very long time. Enjoy!

Mini immersion.

My book acquisitions (plus two books I already had), my lovely матрушка and the adorable notebook Aleksey and Lilja (if I'm not mistaken) made.

So I spent two weeks in the splendid country of Russia. I will make a post later on about the things I love about it, but today it's about the language immersion I got.

I have never actually been on a mini immersion before. I was in the US for two weeks twice when I was 7 and 10 and I do believe that greatly helped my English, but it was too long ago to remember much and I was very unconscious about the whole language aspect since English was never a difficulty back then. Then I was in France for ten months in 2004/2005 and for two weeks in 2007, but that second period was of no importance since the long immersion did all the work. I had never visited a Russian speaking country before though, nor truly spoken to "real" Russians.

When I studied French and first went to France, I thought the whole having to accord adjectives to nouns and conjugate verbs thing was a hassle. In Swedish, you just need to know the words in order to use them, there are practically no things that need changing! Well, Russian is somewhat worse, it's quite a feat to try to put together a correct sentence while remembering all the cases. In writing that is not such a big problem for me, I am more of a visual "text person", I see the case endings and the grammar structures, but I do not feel them when I speak. Also, when writing you have more time to accord things, even if you write fast ;) Speaking is… well… difficult. I'm not really at the point where I can use cases comfortably in speech yet; I have to constantly correct myself as I go along and realize that whoops, no, that feminine word should have no ending in plural genitive, or just simply damn, how on earth is this word declined in plural dative?? Sometimes, I just decide to drop trying to use the correct case for a word and just employ the nominative form in order to actually say something and not just stand there thinking about declination tables while the other person confusedly waits…

However, I'm really bad at the whole speaking part of languages. Mainly, I guess, because I never really liked talking at all and I have always talked very, very fast, most likely from fear of being interrupted (something that is a bad thing in Sweden, interrupting is impolite, it doesn't work as in France where you just cut people off all the time). And as I have always been told in school and elsewhere to "SLOW DOWN!" I think I ended up feeling uncomfortable speaking and preferred to just shut up instead. When I speak French and English I also speak very fast, and when I try to speak Russian, I automatically go into a too high gear and make things harder for myself since that gives me less time for conscious grammar coordination. When I've had a couple of beers, my language self-awareness goes down a notch, like for everyone else, and I feel much more comfortable speaking. So, in that way, Russia being like Russia is is a good thing.

So, what can two weeks do? It surely makes the language feel much more familiar and "normal", not like an oddity that you only listen to at home. I'm not sure I got very, very far as far as it comes to speaking abilities, simply because I didn't speak all that much. It rather felt as if I was getting worse as time went by, because some people seemed to think I understood nothing of what they said and then that made me nervous about speaking to them. I spoke with much more ease with certain people (some are so easy to understand, others just emit Russian sounds), and with some others, I more or less felt retarded language wise. It is also quite hard to speak to people who have no conception at all of language learning. They don't understand why you mix up cases and they don't understand when you are trying to find the right case. Such people also tend to complete your sentences once they have understood what you are trying to say, and of course that makes for less speaking practice ;) Those who have ever looked at their language from the viewpoint of someone learning it will react in a whole different way.

Another aspect of Russian that made things trickier in "real life" situations, are all (and there are quite a lot of them) the small words they use that don't really mean that very much. Так, вот, там etc. Once I just stopped listening when one person was talking and started counting "там" or "так":s (I can't remember which one it was), and there were at least 2 per sentence. Some people naturally use more such words than others, and they break up the logic of the phrase, making it harder to understand.

Most people say that you need to wait a bit to get the full effect after an immersion, so I'll wait and see what happens. Russian sure does feel more comfortable than before I left. In my head, it is very clear. I can hold long conversations with myself in my head and I don't screw up a whole lot at all, but as soon as I have to open my mouth, I start to stumble on syllables that seemed absolutely clear and simple. Not because they are necessarily hard to pronounce, but my speech rhythm and everything get completely thrown off when I have to produce the actual words. I always wonder why on earth did that phrase turn out that chopped up and weird, paused and awkward, when it seemed to easy and clear in my head? I think my main pronunciation problem is caused by the soft consonants, that I can often pronounce when isolated, but that I forget aaaaall about when I'm in panic about trying to tell someone about something before they lose interest. I do not mind at all having a different intonation pattern or an accent, but I do mind when I think I should be able to say something in a certain way, and then it turns out just… weird.

Well. Go Russia!

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The pearls of literature.

If you like to read and have already understood that reading is an excellent way to learn languages, then classics are really good choices. They needn't necessarily be classics of your target language, in case they are hard to find (or if you haven’t got a clue about Slovak literature); you can just as well read Jane Austen in Hungarian. Since it's a classic you can probably count on the translation being decent. If it was poor, someone else would probably have re-translated it. There are a couple of other advantages with classics:

  • You may already know the story (if not from reading the book, then at least from having seen the movie/tv series)
  • If you want to find a copy of it in your own language it shouldn't be very hard
  • There is certainly an audio book available for it
  • The text itself is most likely untouched by copyright
  • They are easy to get your hands on in any major language and are often cheap to buy
  • The language is very “correct” and often easier to understand than the slang infested language in modern books (which can be dealt with later)
  • They are classics for a reason; most of them are worth reading
  • Having read classic literature is good for understanding cultural references, intertextuality in modern books, etc.
  • It's another version of studying History

  • There is one small problem with classics though: they may contain old words. However, a 10 year old book may also contain “old” words, so that lazy argument is rather pointless. In case you are going to read Swedish books (in Swedish) from the early 19th century, you may have some issues with old spelling, plural verb conjugations and other things, but for French, English and Russian, the differences aren't very big. And if you read a modern translation of an English classic (for example), you aren’t that likely to run into ancient spelling.

    There is, however, another issue to take into consideration. Classics are classics because they weren't written last year and because they had an impact on the readers, on the society, of their time. Jane Eyre may not seem very outrageous today, but it was in the middle of the 19th century. In order to fully enjoy stories that deal with society, it is often a good idea to read up on the historical context while reading. Or if that is too much trouble, you can just state that “naah, the book was boring”. Classic books can be a bit slow, especially if your primary source of culture is 1,5h long movies where everything happens incredibly fast. For anyone used to reading, it shouldn't be a big deal though.

    French classics very often have sections at the end of the book that explain concepts, symbolisms, etc., and those should definitely not be overlooked. I think my reading of Le Cid would have been partly pointless without the notes that accompanied it. Some books do just fine on their own and people read and enjoy them no matter what their previous level of knowledge is, but I think a large number of classics improve significantly if you try to go back a bit in time.

    Some awesome classics:


    Pär Lagerkvist – Barabbas (the first book I read in French)
    Hjalmar Söderberg – Doktor Glas
    Victoria Benedictsson – Pengar


    Beaumarchais – Le Mariage de Figaro
    Choderlos de Laclos – Les Liaisons Dangereuses
    Guy de Maupassant – His short stories


    Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
    Jane Austen – Pride & Prejudice
    Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol


    Feodor Dostoevsky – The Idiot
    Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master and Margarita
    Chekov – His short stories

    I haven't read enough Norwegian classics to be able to recommend any, and for the above languages that's just a small selection. What are your favourite classics?