January 14, 2014 | Review Period

Study Aspirations for 2014

An array of language temptations derail well-laid plans.

According to the 2014 schedule I put up on this website a few months back, I am supposed to be taking a closer look at English right now. The plan was to review a bunch of ESL/EFL materials for non-native speakers, and also to read some of the books about the history/nature of the English language that have been accumulating on my shelves.

That is probably not going to happen right now, because I am too obsessed with Arabic. I will probably post some ESL/EFL reviews, but that will not be a focus. (My sincere apologies to English learners; English materials are a real priority for me down the road.)

As for Arabic: I studied it for just two months in the fall of 2009, and I am really enjoying my return to a language from early in this project. And there are now many new materials that are making my studying easier! Arabic is everywhere.

Memrise's Memory Aids Can Get Pretty Graphic

Memrise’s Memory Aids Can Get Pretty Graphic

I remain completely addicted to the Memrise website—specifically, the Arabic frequency dictionary module that contains 2,750 words. I also have a newer addiction to an Arabic verb module in there. I am practicing my spelling and reading and pronunciation with these modules, and they really work for me. I personally love drills like this, and I believe in them.

Memrise users can contribute memory aids like the one shown here. They are sometimes rather racy, and they work.

Memrise also sucks people in by having videogame-like lists of top scorers. As I write this, for example, I can see that I am the number 5 scorer for the month on the Arabic verbs module. The fact that I know that or paid any attention at all to that list is kind of embarrasing. But it contributes to my addiction. And I’m someone who truly despises videogames! 

Besides indulging Memrise cravings late at night, I recently finished the 30 lessons Pimsleur has available for Modern Standard Arabic and the 30 lessons they offer for the Egyptian dialect. Four years ago I did Pimsleur’s 90 Eastern Arabic (or Levantine) lessons.

It is confusing to pursue multiple versions of Arabic, especially simultaneously, but doing that has given me greater insight into how the dialects differ and how they are the same. Until I explore the actual variations in the nooks and crannies of a language, it is hard to imagine what those variations might be.

Now I am redoing the 90 Levantine lessons. I like the Levantine dialect.

In the coming weeks, alongside the Arabic, I intend to keep making my way through the scarily large stash of unread/unused European language products sitting in my office.

I was planning to study Swahili and Swedish later this year, but I doubt that will happen in 2014. I am inclined to postpone those for now and spend my time testing new materials for previously visited languages.

However, I do consider an African and a Scandinavian language to be absolute musts not too far in the future! The site feels incomplete without them.

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