Friday, June 21, 2019

--- Language on the Internet ---

I can't say that I'm spectacularly successful in my adventures in Spanish, but, at least, I'm having fun. The core of my coursework is the MIT opencourseware for their first year 21g-701 Spanish class of 2003. I picked up the textbook and workbook for the class and jumped in.

MIT offers course materials for several languages including Chinese, English as a second language, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The Spanish courseware is available online here:

It's structured around a "Spanish soap opera" called "Destinos". In that way, you get to not only see and hear Spanish as it is used in several parts of the Spanish speaking world, but you also learn quite a lot about Spanish culture, history, and art.

I am enjoying the story of a dying Mexican aristocrat trying to find his lost first wife and child through a Los Angeles lawyer. The series is available through the Annenberg Learner site here:

Annenberg provides learning materials for a wide range of subjects. The video series are generally well made and entertaining.

I supplement the coursework with several other resources including the games on the Digital Dialects site. Many commercial Spanish course products use these kinds of "video games" to engage their customers. Digital Dialects offers free learning tools for many (many!) languages. Check them out here:

The last time I tried to learn Spanish, I started with a book by Kato Lomb - Polyglot. Lomb worked in 16 languages and won an exalted reputation as an interpreter and teacher. Although I strongly recommend the book, it didn't lead to me learning Spanish. Still, I attribute my failure more to my own lack of aptitude in acquiring new languages. One of the tips from the book stuck with me though. Ms. Lomb suggests reading books in the new language. That process, of course, is arduous at first and becomes easier and easier as you pick up the language. The problem for me is that it doesn't seem to help me much with conversational Spanish.

I have several Spanish language educational and literary files saved on my computer though. They're easy to find on the Internet, for instance, on sites like The Gutenberg Project and The Internet Archives.

While reading through Spanish materials, I keep Google Translate open on in my Internet browser. It's easy to get to by searching for "translate spanish to english", for instance. You get two boxes. Type a word or phrase in one box and the translation appears in the other box. You can switch languages in process and you can even here the phrase spoken. I counted 99 current languages covered by Google Translate. There are some I have never even heard of.

How many different languages are common in your community? I lived for twenty  years in the small south-central Alabama town of Selma and met many people from their Spanish and Chinese communities. Denver has a vast diversity of cultures and languages.

As one gets older, picking up a new language typically becomes more difficult, but it seems that, if you make it a regular thing when you're young, it's easier. I have a friend in Auburn, Alabama that regularly adds on new languages and surprises exchange students by conversing with them in their own languages. Learning new languages is fun. Start when you are young.

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