December 30, 2011 | Hebrew

Language Games on KLM Airplanes

On seatbacks, you can compete in Hindi, Japanese, Greek, and many other languages.

Yesterday Brandt and I returned to New York from Genoa. I studied hours and hours on the way home, trying to get back into the Hebrew groove.

Bus from Genoa to Milan. No Flash, Because I Didn't Think That Would Be Well Received by Fellow Passengers.

Bus from Genoa to Milan. No Flash, Because I Didn’t Think That Would Be Well Received by Fellow Passengers.

In the pre-dawn hours, I did Pimsleur lessons on a bus from Genoa to the Milan airport.

I did Pimsleur lessons while we waited for our flight in Milan.

I studied from Milan to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, working my way as quickly as I could through Modern Hebrew: An Essential Grammar by Lewis Glinert.

This grammar is published by Routledge and last month was totally inaccessible to me. For it to make any sense I needed to know some Hebrew.

Now I can do okay with it, even though it is still too advanced, I would say. I had one of this series for Polish, too, and it is just not my favorite series—not for my purposes. These are responsible and careful books, and I like the design, but there are few exercises and much explanation.

It’s all about the exercise-to-explanation ratio! I need a really big one!

Seeing Hudson News in Milan Amused Me

Seeing Hudson News in Milan Amused Me

Therefore, I am still without a Hebrew grammar and exercise book I like. Which is significantly impeding my progress.

By the way, I find Pimsleur impossible on airplanes. The noise of the engines makes me have to turn up the volume so high that I get headaches—which is why I stick to grammar books when I am flying.

At Schiphol I dedicated myself to eating rather than studying.

On my KLM airplane from Schiphol to JFK, I kept reading Glinert’s book, for hours, until I needed a break, at which point I discovered Berlitz games on the back of the seat in front of me.

I tried some basic games in Greek, Japanese, Russian, Hindi, Arabic, and I think Korean. The technology is pretty low-rent, but it was entertaining nonetheless.

Berlitz Word Traveler

Berlitz Word Traveler

Russian Dialogue Game

Russian Dialogue Game

My Hindi Is Hopeless

My Hindi Is Hopeless

Reading Greek Again Was Fun

Reading Greek Again Was Fun

Comments (4)

Nick Buijs • Posted on Fri, February 10, 2012 - 8:55 pm EST

So nice that you have been to Schiphol Amsterdam. There are many nice things to do on that airport, they have a casino, a church, a libary and a museum division of the Rijksmuseum (state museum).

Did you understood some Dutch?

Greetings from a Dutch student in Berlin

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, February 10, 2012 - 9:01 pm EST

I don’t remember understanding any Dutch while I was there. But I think everyone spoke to me in English. If I see Dutch in print, I can understand quite a bit (drawing on English and German). Hearing it is another story.

By coincidence, as your post came in, I was just that minute installing Dutch lessons on my iPod, so maybe I will be able to do a little better before too long!

A. J. Yolofsky • Posted on Fri, May 18, 2012 - 1:43 pm EST

Your language adventures are a joy to read. I have learned quite a bit about language study from you. You really should get something from Pimsleur as it was your review that prompted me to check them out. I had previously been using Rosetta Stone, with some success, but nowhere near what I have achieved with Pimsleur. More on that later.

You have written several times about your quest for a Hebrew grammar book. There is a book Ha-yesod, available on Amazon, that while not perfect does have a comprehensive grammar review in each chapter. The chapters are relatively short and more or less present one discrete topic per chapter. I have found this book to be quite helpful in my Hebrew studies. Hope this helps.

Thanks for all your contributions and your extremely informative blog!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Fri, May 18, 2012 - 5:22 pm EST

Thank you, A. J.! I appreciate the comments and the recommendation for the Hebrew book. I would love to hear your comments on Pimsleur versus Rosetta Stone should you have time to share them in the future. For me the question of efficacy in the American language-learning marketplace is an important and interesting one. I have seen quite a few instances where marketing trumps content. I am not a Rosetta Stone fan, but there are far worse offenders (though they are also usually far less expensive ones). As you may or may not know, I am working on a Resources section for this site right now for all the products I have used, in which I will rate and review dozens of offerings, some of which are perfect examples of overpromising and underdelivering. As a language fanatic, I object violently to false promises in this realm.

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