In the last couple days I’ve followed the first five Assimil Persian lessons, spending about 30 minutes each day. Each lesson consists of about four sentences about some related topic. My favorite so far is lesson four:
- Pédar bé pesar nân dâd.
- Nân garm ast.
- Pésar nân-é garm doust dârad.
- Pédar raft.
- The father gives bread to the boy (“Father to boy bread gives”).
- The bread is hot (“Bread hot is”).
- The boy likes the hot bread (“Boy bread-that’s-hot liking has”).
- The man leaves.
I didn’t expect this putting the verb at the end business, like Japanese and Korean. I’ve heard people compare Turkish and Japanese grammar, but I’ve never heard Persian compared in this way.
So far I’m relying on the Latin transliterations. If I had more time to dedicate to learning Persian I would want to learn the Arabic script, but it’s been challenging enough for me to just spend the minimum thirty minutes a day working through these lessons.
Motivation and time management
I still feel like I’m spread too thin. Probably because I’m still reluctant to set aside German and Korean. I’ve been getting more inspired to work on these languages the last few weeks.
I sat at the Korean table for an hour — my longest so far — at the polyglot cafe this past Wednesday. I still fumbled just trying to make the simplest statements. The only phrase that came readily to mind was 정말요? (really?). But due in large part to the table leader’s patience, I was able to actually communicate quite a bit despite my speech impediment.
But I also know that I can do better. I have the means to expand my vocabulary, get more fluent, and practice more material. It’s just a matter of allocating the time.
My German is still better than my Korean, but it’s in a similar state: I believe I know how to get better, if I could just spend more time with it.
I have set aside enough time on my calendar, that if I actually stuck to my calendar I probably would be getting better a lot faster. But I still haven’t been taking it seriously, even after reducing each learning entry to 30 minutes or less.
Avoiding doing something either means you’re not motivated to do it, or you’re intimidated by the amount of work it seems to require.
In other words, at least one of two things is happening:
- I’m not really as interested in learning German, Korean, and/or Persian as I thought.
- I’m trying to do too many things at once.
I think at least the second one is certainly true.
Update 2/11: Today I came down with a cold and canceled all my plans. In the afternoon I finished my German and Korean Anki reviews, did a bit of German shadowing, made a few new Korean Anki cards, then went to the park and did some Korean and Persian shadowing. After I got home, I learned another Assimil Persian lesson.
This seems to suggest that I am motivated to learn these languages, if only I have enough time to work on them. Maybe the tasks I’ve been setting myself just take more time than I think, and I’m still trying to do too much every day, with the result that sometimes I do nothing instead.
Question about starting a new language using transcripts
Incidentally, here’s Steve Kaufmann talking about how he starts a new language from scratch:
He stresses starting out with short audio for which there is a transcript. My experience so far with German and Korean have also shown me how useful audio + transcript material can be. But there’s a question that keeps nagging at me.
Sure, a written transcript isn’t a necessary part of natural language acquisition, in theory.
But that doesn’t mean it’s bad to use a transcript, as long as it’s used as a visual aid for remembering the audio, and not as a replacement for the audio material itself. Used this way, it can accelerate the learning process, particularly in the beginning.
Now my question is this. Sure, learning without a transcript, especially in the beginning, can be painfully slow. Using transcripts accelerates things and gives a gratifying sense of tangible improvement. But does it really pay off over time? I’m thinking of the graph from Thierry Hsieh’s class, which shows the learning curves of traditional learning compared to natural language acquisition (NLA). The first starts in a linear way and then I think levels off at some point. The NLA curve starts much slower, but increases exponentially.
In other words, if I choose to learn the NLA way, is a transcript just an unnecessary crutch that only gives the illusion of accelerating in the beginning? Could this crutch even prevent me from doing true NLA? I don’t know if I’ve ever tried “true NLA,” so maybe I need to ask some people who have and see if they can give some insight.