Thursday, May 6, 2010

My interview on LexioPhiles

Over the past several months, LexioPhiles has been conducting a series of written interviews of language learners, with a pretty interesting format:
Please answer five (not all!) out of the following ten questions…
  1. What was the first word you learned in a foreign language and how did you pick it up?

  2. What are your personal top three tricks and tips when learning languages?

  3. What is your favorite word of all times and why?

  4. Which word do you always have trouble spelling?

  5. What was the funniest situation with a linguistic misunderstanding you ever encountered?

  6. What is the worst translation error you have ever made?

  7. Which word is missing in your language and how would you spell it?

  8. In your opinion, what is the sexiest accent and what is the reason for it?

  9. Which language would you like to invent and why?

  10. Which language teaching product / service / method / gadget … has impressed you the most and why?
I recently had the honor of being selected as one of their interviewees. See what questions I answered, either over on LexioPhiles, or after the jump.
  1. What was the first word you learned in a foreign language and how did you pick it up? I can’t say that I’m completely sure, but a good guess would be “mamma” in Italian, as part of the phrase “Mamma mia!”, which was regularly thrown around in my Italian-American family. Close runners up would have been the numbers from one to ten in Spanish and “Mi casa es su casa” (“My home is your home”, also in Spanish), both courtesy of Sesame Street.

  2. What are your personal top three tricks and tips when learning languages? Without doubt my number one tip is to maximize exposure to the language. Pretty much all my other tips just feed into that. But to get you the three tips the question is seeking, I’d also recommend using an ad hoc spaced-repetition system for learning grammar and free, online tools in a single workflow for reading, listening, writing, and speaking.

  3. Which word do you always have trouble spelling? Definitely “accommodate” in English. I can never remember if it’s two Cs, two Ms, or two of both (and the reason I can never remember is probably because Microsoft Word always fixes my errors for me).

  4. Which word is missing in your language and how would you spell it? A shorter word for “convenience store”, like "konbini" in Japanese. Japanese also has the longer "konbiniensu stoa", a direct transliteration of the English term, but everyone just uses the short form "konbini". Likewise, people rarely use “convenience store” in English. “Hey, you wanna go to the convenience store and grab some food?” sounds a little odd to me. Normally we’d say the name of the store: “Hey, you wanna go to 7-11 and grab some food?” The Japanese short form is so convenient that lots of foreigners in Japan use it when speaking English, myself included. Rather than adopt the Japanese term, I’d opt for just shortening they English term, similar to what has been done in Japanese: “conveni” (pronounced con-vee-nee).

  5. Which language teaching product / service / method / gadget… has impressed you the most and why? I would have to say the iPhone (or smartphones generally). With iAnki or another similar program, dictionaries and various other language-learning websites and apps, smartphones can greatly increase your ability to be productive in language learning. With my iPhone always at hand, even a 20-second elevator ride will often mean a number of SRS reviews for me, whereas before that would have just been dead time. And all those little stolen seconds add up!

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