It has been quite a while since updating the mainlymagyar blog. Unfortunately, life has been getting in the way of blogwriting and language study. Nevertheless, I would like to share a new language learning program that I have stumbled upon and how I’m using it for my next challenge. The company Glossika was founded a few years ago by fellow polyglot Mike Campbell. I remember Mike, who went under the username “Glossika”, from several old posts he wrote on the How To Learn Any Language forums. He is a big proponent of learning vocabulary through complete sentences instead of learning isolated words. I believe this is one of the key methods he used to become fluent in Mandarin (and many, many other languages). He then adapted this method to create his Glossika courses which are now available in 20 or so languages (with several more on the way!) http://www.glossika.com Mike’s method is intended to be used as an aid in increasing one’s abilities in comprehension of foreign language conversational speech and establishing fluency in complete sentence production. Each course contains over 3000 (!) sentences. The sentences are broken down into manageable units. Glossika calls these units GMS (Glossika Mass Sentence) files or GSR (Glossika Spaced Repetition) files. The GMS files are meant for more comprehensive study with phonetic and IPA transcriptions and, in some languages, literal word for word translations. The GSR files are meant for review, or abbreviated “on the go” study. They are the equivalent of an audio Anki deck or an audio flashcard deck of all of the sentences. Each day for study is numbered in sequence and prior sentences are reintroduced in subsequent lessons according to the principles of spaced repetition. Thus, over several days the learner gradually “absorbs” the sentences to the point where they can be understood and reproduced effortlessly. The Glossika courses are not meant to be used in isolation or used by pure beginners as there is no language “instruction” per se. I thought about trying Glossika for Thai, a language in which I have very little knowledge. I soon discovered after sampling the trial lessons available on iTunes that it was much too advanced for me as an absolute beginner and I was in way over my head! I noticed that there was a Glossika course for Mandarin Chinese and figured that it has been two years since I had studied any Mandarin. Why not challenge myself to work through the Glossika Mandarin course and see what I’m able to accomplish? Since my free time is very limited I will mainly be using the GSR files in the car on my way to and from work. Conveniently, the GSR lessons average about 15 minutes apiece which also happens to be the length of my commute! I have found it helpful to review the GMS files when I do have free time. Specifically I have found it useful to stay about a week ahead of the GSR lessons with the GMS files. This seems to help me familiarize myself with the sentences so they are easier to reproduce when they emerge on the GSR lessons. So far I have completed about twenty days of the Glossika Mandarin course and these are some of my initial impressions:
- The sound quality is excellent on both the English and Mandarin sides
- The sentences are recorded in Colloquial Dialects (both Beijing and Taipei for Mandarin) and are in common, NOT FORMAL speech, as is the norm in most language programs
- The spaced repetition really does appear to work. I was completely lost for the first few days since I hadn’t studied any Mandarin for two years. Now, three weeks into it, sentences like “What’s you favorite color?” and “What are the children doing?, They’re watching TV.” flow effortlessly.
- The sentences in the first level are at an appropriate difficulty level for an advanced beginner such as myself. They are challenging but not too challenging. Again, this wasn’t the case with Thai. I would not recommend this method unless you have completed at least a beginner level course.
- The written files are very well done. I find the phonetic and the “GLOSS word for word” transcriptions very useful since I can’t yet read Chinese characters.
- There is a wealth of vocabulary to be obtained from each level. Level one alone teaches at least 2000 Mandarin words. I imagine this would total close to 6000 words with all three levels. (someday I’ll count all three levels!) Compare this to three levels of Pimsleur which teaches a paltry 450 words.
- The sentences seem to come from high frequency, “small talk” sorts of conversations which I could see myself actually using. Ten lessons aren’t spent learning how to invite a member of the opposite sex over to “your place” like in the Pimsleur courses.
- The price is very reasonable. Most of the courses are priced between $69 and $85 USD. This is an incredible bargain compared to Pimsleur and Rosetta Stone which are upwards of $500 USD!
- Each language course is uniform which linguists believe aids learning subsequent languages.
My only complaint with Glossika so far is that I’ve become really impatient waiting for them to release other languages such as Japanese, Turkish, Khmer and Tamil! ( a minor complaint no less) In summary, I highly recommend Glossika for advanced beginners and up. It’s like the Pimsleur courses on steroids!! Stay tuned for my results!