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.
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.
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).
Another solution? Peppa Pig.
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.
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.
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.
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.
May 1, 2014: I started learning Esperanto. I studied for six weeks, and got good enough to do a 3-minute video presentation about my hometown.
June 20, 2014: I started learning Lao. I studied for 11 weeks, with the goal of being able to have a five minute conversation by August 31st. That deadline came and went, and I still haven't had my five minute conversation yet. (Though I've had several 20 second conversations.)
What what wrong? Well, there are probably several things I could have done better. But I think the biggest reason is that not all languages are created equal.