June 1, 2010 | Greek

Modern Greek: Underway!

I begin a new language, and I like it.

Day 1 of Greek began with my being awakened by the sounds of garbage trucks picking up Memorial Day weekend garbage. I didn’t mind as much as I might have on another day—I wanted to get going with the sixth language of this project! 

As usual, I faced some initial administrative headaches. The Greek books I had ordered from Barnes & Noble had not yet arrived, and I couldn’t understand what they were trying to tell me on the order status page. Fortunately, the books showed up by late morning, rendering the reading comprehension problem moot.

Also, I had neglected to order VocabuLearn (these are the oral vocabulary lessons I like), so I had to go do that, too. I realized that there were actually two levels of VocabuLearn available for Greek, but that the second level was inexplicably selling for three-digit sums as high as $282.49.


Me, About to Take Spanish Written Exam

Level 1 was priced normally, so I bought a used copy of it for around $12. I gave up on Level 2 for now, since Level 1 will keep me busy for a long time—but how can the second level cost so much? They are no longer making this VocabuLearn stuff, but can price seriously go up in proportion to the gradual disappearance of the CDs from the market? This is not a limited-edition print by a famous artist.

At 10:30 a.m. I interrupted my Greek administrative tasks to take a Spanish oral exam, administered via phone by ALTA Language Services, the same company that administered my Italian test last winter. There were 20-something questions, and it took about 25 minutes. The examiner was a pleasant and efficient guy. I learned that I am not well equipped to discuss U.S. health-care issues in Spanish.

After that I took ALTA’s written exam. Five questions to answer, thirty minutes, just as with the Italian. Brandt was once again my proctor. I set the microwave timer and finished with six seconds to spare.

Pimsleur and I Run Errands at Columbus Circle

With the Spanish exams behind me, I moved on to the actual studying of Greek. I did the first lesson of Pimsleur, to which I was very happy to be returning after weeks away from it. I instantly liked the sound of the language, which is quite unfamiliar to me. I have rarely heard it, or if I have heard it, I haven’t known what it was.

I also read a few pages in a newly arrived Greek grammar book, a very slim volume I’ll have to look at more closely tomorrow.

Mostly, though, I focused on Pimsleur. I did lessons 1 and 2 twice each, starting on a sofa at home, then taking them onto the subway for an errand to midtown, then ending up on the massage chair in our office, where I ultimately fell asleep.

Mister Softee: Signs of Summer

Despite how it may seem, this habit I have of falling asleep during Pimsleur lessons is in fact a profound compliment to Pimsleur. I am not a very good sleeper, but their stuff makes me feel so happy and relaxed that I can overcome that.

In fact, maybe now that I have Pimsleur to work with again I will actually get more sleep and be better rested. That’s a plus for the larger language-learning goals.

I am excited about the prospect of more naps.

Comments (9)

MartyK • Posted on Wed, June 02, 2010 - 8:08 pm EST

I like the new hairstyle - it appears to me to be the ideal look for an Italian written exam. And congratulations on the new language underway: you certainly are an inspiration. Not that I am going to learn a new language, or learn anything, actually. But I’m happier knowing that somebody is. Happy June!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, June 02, 2010 - 9:43 pm EST

Thank you, MartyK. And I hope you will be available to advise me on hair for my Greek exam in two months.

MartyK • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 5:51 am EST

I’m thinking perm

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 9:25 am EST

I see.

I regret to inform you that the position of hair consultant to language learners has been filled. We wish you well in your future endeavors.

MartyK • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 9:41 am EST

Hah! I’m the one who is going to be laughing when you get your brand new shiny, tight black curly perm - AND YOU LOVE IT!

Katherine • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 9:51 am EST

Please tell, which Greek books did you get!!!!!  Greek sounds are great.  They are soft and beautiful but still have some interesting sounds, like gamma, to keep you challenged.

Edward Alton • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 1:06 pm EST

You keep some pretty severe posture in these exam photos. Is your proctor that much of a hard-ass? Or was it Catholic school?

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 2:10 pm EST

Hi, Katherine. I am still accumulating materials but will report shortly!

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Thu, June 03, 2010 - 2:12 pm EST

Ed, the truth is, the proctor went to take a nap one minute after that photo was taken, but I guess I was on my best behavior for that minute.

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