Mandarin or Korean? A tough decision!

Hello everyone. This will be a brief post. I have decided that I want to learn either Mandarin or Korean for the new year. There is a language challenge on a forum I frequent and I’m choosing languages I don’t know much about. I don’t know much about Mandarin or Korean. So basically I’m having trouble deciding between the both. Mandarin is extremely useful and there are many people in my town I can practice with. However I love KPOP and Korean dramas. Plus I know a lot of Japanese and I heard Korean grammar is similar. I may just toss a coin 😛 Anyway I am going to post my updates in these languages here and on the forum! Wish me luck 🙂

My Favorite Textbook: Genki Part 1

 

genki-volume-12

 

 

As I wrote my post on why you should learn Japanese, I mentioned how much of a fan I am of Genki. I even refereed to it my review of that atrocity of a book Al-Kitaab. Genki is a triumph of a book and it is hard for me to pinpoint what is great about it. I had to use it in in my Japanese classes and when I first opened I really didn’t think anything of it. It was just a standard language textbook to me. Honestly it took me a long time to see how great this book really is especially when compared to other Japanese textbooks. I actually hadn’t realized just how far Genki takes you until I bought other Japanese textbooks.  I can this is absolutely one of my favorite textbooks I have EVER used. First of all I want to say this book is FUN. It is filled with cute little pictures, cultural notes,  and fun little dialogues.  If you are thinking about learning Japanese I highly recommend this book along with the workbook. It is a MUST HAVE.  Read more

Why Learn Bengali?

bangladesh1

Bengali (বাংলা)

Hello everyone and happy New Year! Before I start this post I want to apologize for the mini hiatus, I was extremely busy with finals! But I have some exciting things coming up this month for this blog. I’m going to be doing posts on Bengali, Nepali and Punjabi. Plus a review of the Genki series and the Teach Yourself Hindi. And some other surprise posts as well. So today I decided to start the New Year with a why you should learn….. post because it is new year and a great time to start learning a new language! So today our language is Bengali!  Bengali is a language that I absolutely adore. It is a beautiful sweet language and in my opinion is extremely underrated. It is a bit harder than Hindi, but still nothing too incredibly difficult. Bengali is a language spoken in Bangladesh and India is a great language to learn. It is the seventh most spoken language in the world and is the second most spoken language in India. It is a very sweet language and is considered very sophisticated in India.  So if you want a new language to study, you should really consider Bengali and here are the reasons why:

This is a Beautiful Bengali Song sung by Shreya Ghoshal. 

 

Read more

Why you should learn Japanese

39135

As I mentioned in my other post, I’m doing a series on why you should do certain languages! And today’s language is…. Japanese! I’m trying to do mostly underrated languages (last time the language was Hindi) and this may surprise you but I consider Japanese to be an underrated language. I hear way too many times that Japanese is useless, that only nerdy “otakus” learn it (don’t even get me started on how offensive this is), that the Japanese economy is lagging, and that it is too hard and people often tell me I should learn a practical language like Spanish. Hindi and Japanese have been the two languages I got the most negative reactions to which is why I decided to do my first two postings on them. Now I have to say, I don’t have as much experience with Japanese as I do with Hindi. I have taken a couple of semesters of Japanese in college and have been officially learning it for only about two years. However I find what many people say about the language to be pretty dismal and untrue. For someone reason Japanese has a bad reputation in the language learning community.  So let me debunk these myths for you, and tell you why you should learn Japanese. Read more

Why You Should Learn Hindi

So I’m going to be doing a series on why you should learn certain languages. Of course every language is good to learn, I encourage anyone to learn any language. But the two I will start out with is Hindi and Japanese. This blog post will be on Hindi.

I have been learning Hindi for over ten years now. And one thing that always baffles me is the reactions I get when I tell people I’m studying Hindi. People often tell me Hindi is useless and that all Indians speak English so why bother? I have noticed that even in the language learning community that there is little interest in Hindi or any other Indian language for that matter. I see people who have never even studied the language often tell people not to learn Hindi because of how hard it is-which is a complete myth! There aren’t many colleges that offer Hindi and there is little interest in the language overall. Which I hope will change soon. So in this blog post I will give reasons of why you should learn Hindi! Hindi and Urdu are pretty much the same language just written in a different script so I will be including Urdu in this list as well.

  • Hindi is the most spoken Indian language and has a huge diaspora. Hindi is the fourth most spoken language in the world, ranking in at 310 million speakers and comes in after English and right before Arabic! Plus the Hindi speaking diaspora is huge and you can probably find a Hindi speaker in every corner of the world. It is true that most Indians have their mother tongue for example Gujarati, Punjabi, Bengali or Marathi. Many of these speakers also know Hindi and I have practiced Hindi with Gujarati speakers, Punjabi speakers and I even once practiced with a Tibetan who lived in Nepal for most of her life. Hindi is less spoken among Bengali speakers and Dravidian language speakers. For example it is true that many Tamil speakers and Malayalam speakers may not know Hindi. However many Indians have learned Hindi from school or more popular from growing up listening to Hindi songs and watching Hindi films. Also knowing Hindi would give you a huge advantage to learning other Indian languages if you are interested in that. After learning Hindi you could easily learn Punjabi (I have never formally studied Punjabi and can still make out some sentences from Hindi). When I studied Bengali knowing Hindi was a huge help especially with Bengali’s complicated case system. The southern Dravidian are a total different language family so it may be more complicated and Hindi may not help you much, but still there are loanwords and cultural similarities. Another huge plus if you know Devanagari (the script Hindi is written in) you can read Nepali and Marathi!
  • Hindi is easy and extremely regular. There are myths that Hindi is a difficult language. I don’t know where these rumors come from. First the script is almost completely phonetic, once you learn it you can read anything in Hindi. If you see a new word even without knowing the meaning you will be able to pronounce it. There are no upper and lower case letters and no cursive letters you have to learn. Next, Hindi is a very regular language. At a beginning stages there are really only six irregular verbs, these are common verbs but they are easily learnt. The rest of the language is pretty much regular and there are very few exceptions to rules. So once you learn a grammar rule the chance is that it will be like 99% of the time. The main exceptions come along with gender or from loanwords from Sanskrit, however many of these exceptions can be learned easily. The main problems for English speakers when learning Hindi would be the pronunciation and the gender. If you are familiar with a romance language then gender shouldn’t be too hard for you. Another problem may arise with the fact that Hindi has three cases, however we have cases in English also. If you didn’t know already Hindi is a part of the Indo-European language branch which means it is distantly related to English. Hindi being portrayed as a super hard language is just ridiculous. I don’t know why people think Hindi is a hard language and my only guess is that they have not studied and just making assumptions. It is not a difficult language to learn.
  • Accessibility! As I mentioned before Hindi has a lot of speakers which may be why the language is so accessible. By accessible I mean that it is not hard to find media. Hindi has one of the world’s largest film industries. If you decided to learn Hindi you have access to nearly thousands of films and most of these films have English subtitles and sometimes subtitled in other languages as well. Besides films, Hindi has a massive music industry and television industry. So even if you don’t feel confident yet practicing with native speakers you will have access to films, television, and music. All these can easily be found with English translations and there are even websites dedicated to Hindi song lyrics. If you really like music you can find a variety of different Hindi music from pop to classical to ghazals to qawwalis and to even hip hop! With Hindi films although they often get a bad reputation, there is also tons of variety. You can watch big over the top Masala productions, to arthouse films, to romance and social dramas. If you rather read news and politics there is a plethora of Hindi news websites out there. Another thing is (at least in the United States and UK) that most cable providers offer premium Hindi programming. At my house I get Star Plus, Zee Tv, Star Gold, APB News and other Hindi channels which is a great asset when trying to learn the language. If you rather practice with Hindi speakers this isn’t very difficult either. Most cities have Indian restaurants and Indian shops. In my own town we have six Indian grocery stores! And many of these grocery stores sell Hindi magazines, DVDS and other things. So it will never be too difficult to practice your Hindi.
  • Did you know if you learn Hindi you are actually learning two languages at once? Hindi and Urdu at a spoken everyday level are completely mutually intelligible. The differences come in at a higher level, when Urdu looks to get its vocabulary from Persian/Arabic, Hindi looks to get its vocab from Sanskrit. The other major difference is that Urdu uses the Perso-Arabic script. But if you learn Hindi and are talking to an Urdu speaker chances are you will understand each other perfectly. You will also be able to watch Pakistani dramas (I highly recommend HumSafar), listen to Urdu songs and films and be able to understand everything. So when you learn Hindi you can speak two languages!

Hindi is listed as a critical language and I believe over the time with the Indian economy expanding, the importance of Hindi will grow rapidly. Learning this language has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. Hindi speakers love it and generally try to help you when show an interest in their language. It is a truly wonderful language to learn.

Al-Kitaab is the worst language book-ever!

51hOyRloGIL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

Ahlan…ana ismi Maha…..

So I am making my very first blog post- a special book review! I am telling you this may become ranty and if you are a fan of this series you will hate this review. I really just have to get this off my chest but Al-Kitaab sucks! It just sucks. It is the worst language textbook I have ever used and I have used a lot. As you know from my first post I am majoring in Arabic and this Al-Kitaab series is the standard for use in college classrooms. Why? I have no idea because the book is so bad. First let me say the first book in the series called Alif Baa that teaches you the alphabet is fine, it is a great book for learning the alphabet the problems start coming in Al-Kitaab Part 1. First of all this book is for beginners, the only thing you know about Arabic before beggining this book is the Arabic script. You might know some few vocabulary words or whatever but still Alif Baa’s main purpose was just to teach you how to read Arabic. So when you first open Al-Kitaab the whole table of contents is completely in Arabic with no English translation. The pages are also numbered in Arabic but Alif Baa only taught you to count to about twenty. So if you have to find a page or look up something in the table of contents you are screwed because you can’t understand anything. Yes you can read it but you can’t understand it!

Okay so let’s move on to the first chapter. You start with a girl named Maha, she tells you in Arabic she is a student studying English literature at the University of New York. Now this is fine, there is a lot of good vocab that beginners need especially for college students. However this is said in a video, which is great, I love the fact it is in the video but no where in the book is the dialogue written down. Actually in all of Al-Kitaab no dialogues are written down ever. You are supposed to guess what they are saying and even the authors tell you in the book that you are supposed guess what they are saying and they don’t give you all the vocab in the videos on purpose! But the reader is supposed to be a beginner! How are we supposed to figure it out?? Also in the first chapter, they teach words for grammar constructions that you are supposed to memorize and then it never shows up again in English so you have to constantly look back in case you forget. And let’s talk about grammar for a second. because Al-Kitaab sure doesn’t talk about grammar. Arabic is very grammar heavy but every grammar lesson in this book is less than a page long and gives you maybe one example with no English translation of the example. In chapter ten they try to explain how to form conditionals but after explaining it, they give you two examples! Just two with no translation! The whole book is extremely vague.  This goes back to the authors wanting you to guess at everything but how are you supposed to guess when you are still a beginner?!  Also, the exercises in this book are just awful. They are mostly fill in the blanks, there are almost no grammar exercises at all. All the reading exercises are way too advanced for beginners. For example in Chapter 9, they want you to read a newspaper article about the government of Jordan but you don’t know more than half of the vocabulary or half of the grammar used in the article. Nobody could understand it, our teacher had to translate it for us. Again in Chapter 10 they give you a biography of the Ayatollah Khomeini which is way too advanced and again our teacher had to translate it for us because no one could understand it.

So each lesson begins with vocabulary and some vocabulary is pretty good but most the vocabulary is not very useful or completely random to the chapter. For example using this book I can say “My mother died in a car accident two years ago” but I can’t say “I would like Tabbouleh please”  or any conversational words at all because this book does not teach high frequency conversational words. It does not even teach you how to tell time until chapter nine! Which it barely teaches you you are again expected just to guess what time it is. Also none of the dialogues in this book are in the least bit interesting. For the first five chapters you have Maha and Nasreen (Nasreen is the girl for the  Syrian dialect). Every story she gives you just talks about how lonely she is, how she only has one friend Laila (who Maha is jealous of because Laila has a swimming pool). And one dialouge is about how she can’t remember her family member’s names and one about how she hates New York and it’s weather. And then we move onto Khalid who is just as depressed as Maha. He talks about how his mother died in a car accident and that his father would no let him go for literature and his girlfriend dumped him for a rich Saudi man. And then you have the other characters in the dialect dialogues which I can barley understand because they aren’t written in the book. The one dialogue is about a husband and wife fighting, one is about going to Paris, seriously I can’t understand the rest of them because we have none of the vocab for it  we are supposed to magically figure it out somehow.

Apparently someone (a friend who took Arabic in Austin) told me  this book is supposed to match the author’s bizarre teaching style of which is total immersion from Day 1. But we know that total immersion really doesn’t work, I know so many people who come back from a foreign country where they were totally immersed in the language come back not being able to say anything in it. How are you supposed to learn any grammar without being able to see it English? How will your  adult mind compare it to anything?

I have used terrible language books before, I have tons of them. I have used some of the bad Teach Yourselves and the bad colloquial books. And there were miles ahead of Al-Kitaab. The idea of guessing just does not work. Everyone in our Arabic class is just so frustrated with this book. Our teacher makes us use Rosetta Stone and made us get an Arabic grammar because this book does not teach you anything. I believe this book is the reason why so many people fail out of Arabic or end up taking Chinese. The positives of this book are the videos and the online but even as I pointed out before there are flaws in the videos too especially because you don’t know what you are hearing.

However if you want to learn Arabic, I strongly recommend these books:

Mastering Arabic:

If I was an Arabic this is the book I would use because this book is excellent! You can even get a workbook with it and it is a very good beginner book.

Living Language Arabic:

If you want learn on your own, this book is great. It comes with three books and tons of audio. I love it, it is helping me a lot with Arabic.

These are my two suggestions for Arabic books, if you guys have any other suggestions I would love that. Also does anyone feel differently about Al-Kitaab? Or has anyone had any similar experiences with it? Or any tips when using this horrible book?  So let me know in the comments. And I hope this review helps you and there will be a lot more language book reviews. Mostly positive, I hope!  I just had to get my hate for this book off my chest.

Welcome to my new blog!

Hey guys! My name is Meera and from my username you can kind of guess I like to learn languages. I’m a college student currently majoring in Arabic but my real loves are Hindi, Indian Languages and Japanese. This blog may be a bit random at times but I will mainly post language learning advice, language book reviews, and  movie reviews (occasionally). My main purpose of this blog is keep track of my progress. So the languages I am currently doing:

Hindi

This is my absolute favorite language and I am not sure my level in it but I can have conversations in it, understand movies without subs and read Hindi articles. Maybe this is at low or high advanced? I’m not sure. But I will still be keeping track here. I also may post about Bengali and other Indian languages frequently.

Arabic

So this is the language I am majoring in college. I am focusing on fus7a and Shaami, although my class requires Egyptian sometimes also. I am currently in Intermediate Arabic 1, but I still feel like a beginner so for the sake of this blog I will say I am a beginner.

Japanese

Very much a beginner with Japanese. Can read Hiragana and Katakana but not Kanji. Took two classes of Japanese and finished book one of Genki.

Of course I will post about other languages too! If anyone has any advice for any of these languages please tell me in the comments 😛