Finally Learning Lao Tones - It Just Took a Little Hard Work

Lao is the toughest language I've ever tried to tackle. It has it's own unique alphabet. There are no spaces in between words. The number of cognates with English are pretty low. But the hardest thing for me has been learning the Lao tone rules.

Look ma, I'm talking about Lao tones!
Look ma, I'm talking about Lao tones!

I tried and tried to learn the tone rules, but it was like I had reached a brick wall in my Lao studies. I did eventually break through that wall. Here's how I did it.

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Bislama - The Super Fun Language You've Never Heard Of

His name was Elder Bruce. I only knew him for a couple of months. He was quiet, a little shy, and he spoke a language I've never heard of before.

You've probably never heard of it before, either. And who could blame you? According to Ethnologue there are over 7000 known languages spoken on this planet, and the one Elder Bruce spoke is only spoken by about 10,000 people.

Elder Bruce is the one on the left
Elder Bruce from Vanuatu. He's the one wearing sandals.

The language? Bislama. It is one of over 100 languages spoken in the small Pacific island nation of Vanuatu. It is the main language of most of the urban residents of Vanuatu, and the second language of most of its rural residents.

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Peppa Pig in 21 Languages

YouTube is an awesome resource for people learning languages. Want practice listening to another language, chances are you can find content in your target language.

The problem, most of that content is spoken at full speed and if you are not a native speaker, full speed is just to fast for you. Rumor has it there are websites out there that will slow down YouTube videos for you (I haven't tried any yet).

Peppa Pig is a better polyglot than me.
Over 20 languages! Who knew Peppa Pig was a Hyperpolyglot?

Another solution? Peppa Pig.

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Improving your pronunciation with Forvo

When I lived in Italy, occasionally me and my friends would speak Italian to each other, in public, with the worst American accents we possibly could. It was fun, and occasionally we could get a couple of people of people to laugh at us on the subway in Milan, but in retrospect, I wish I had spent more time learning to sound like an Italian.

Me using Forvo
Me, my balding head, and doing a little language study during break time at work.

A few years after I had returned home, one of my friends, Massimo, who knew me from Italy, came to visit the United States. He complimented me on my Italian accent. My accent had actually improved since I had left Italy. Why? Because when I got home, I actually practiced my pronunciation and accent.

That was over ten years ago. Today, there are many more tools out there that can help us with our pronunciation. In this post, I talk about one of my new favorite one.

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Is Studying More than One Language at a Time Really Such a Bad Idea?

There are a lot of people online giving out free advice (and occasionally, not-so-free advice) about how to learn a new language.

Many of them are saying a lot of the same things. You'd expect that, right? Two people who know what they are talking about would generally say the same things if talking about the same subject.

Hello in Lao, Italian, and French
Hello in Lao, Italian, and French, In Lao it's pronounced Sa-bai-dee.

One of the things I've seen several times from several different bloggers is this: focus on only one language at a time. And I believed them. But my experience during the past two weeks has me questioning this piece of advice.

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