My Crazy Multi-Lingual Day!

A few posts back I wrote about the virtues of a century-old language method called the Assimil Method.  I am currently using the Assimil course for Norwegian and it seems to be going pretty well.I came across this article on the Freakonomics blog the other day:

The article praises the Assimil method and goes into much better detail about why it works than my brief post was able to.  He goes on to propose that students should be doing a similar method for math and physics.  I can’t say that I disagree with him!
I am currently on Lesson 40 of the Assimil course.  I had my doubts about how much material I was actually retaining until I went back and listened to lessons 10-20.  Unbelievable. I could understand everything perfectly.  It was a nice confidence boost as the dialogues are getting much more complex. The sentences are more like “You won’t be able to make it back to shore. Don’t you remember last year when I had to schlep your mother back to shore and I didn’t even want to swim!” (no joke – lesson 37!!)  I need to work on my verbal skills very badly, but I think this will come in time.

Many people have asked me how I am learning Assimil from a French course when my French is only at a VERY basic level.  The great thing about Norwegian is that it is probably the closest language to the “Germanic-side” of English that I have studied.  I have heard that around 60% of English words come directly from French.  Thus, 60% of Assimil is fairly easy to figure out from French/English cognates.  As for the remaining 40%, most of these are the Germanic words which remained in English.  So even if I can’t figure out the French, by going to the Norwegian side I can almost always figure it out. Example: the French word elan. I have no clue what that is.  But then, I see the Norwegian word is elg, AHA! ELK!  (moose, actually, but close enough).

So back to my crazy, multilingual day.  At work, I spoke some Lao.  What?  You speak Lao? Heck no!  But I do know some survival phrases in Thai, which is closely related to Lao.  There was a Lao gentleman who spoke very little English. I walked up to him, smiled and said in a loud, unapologetic voice “SABAI DII!!” (which means “Hi, good day!” in both Thai and Lao). He looked up, completely shocked with a huge smile and started laughing while vigorously shaking my hand.  He then said something that must have been “Do you speak Lao?”, (I have no clue whatsoever…). I said back in Thai “ I only speak a little Thai, very badly…”. He then tried to teach me some Lao (which, unfortunately,  I immediately forgot).  He said in the years he has in in the US, that was the first time any non-Lao had shown any interest in speaking Lao to him. The experience was fun for me and I’m sure I made his day!

The day continued with me going through my Assimil lesson for the day in Norwegian.  This was followed by listening to some “easy-Norwegian-news” with the Klar-Tale podcast.

Norwegian was followed by some German. My 10 year old daughter has shown interest in learning German so I’m doing a little experiment.  I have the Assimil German course so the two of us are going through the course together.  We are only spending 10 minutes a day on it and we shall see how far she can come in 100 days.

Later that evening I read several pages of Marjane Satrapi‘s Persepolis which had been translated into Spanish. Among other things, I discovered that hijab translates to pañuelo (who knew?)

The evening ended with another Assimil lesson; but this time it was Czech.  Czech?!?  Sigh…. I know, I know.  I got the Assimil Czech course for an absolute steal and it was looking really lonely sitting on my shelf … So I’m taking 15 minutes a day and going through the Czech course in addition to Norwegian.

…I know, I’m a hopeless language geek….

Finished with Pimsleur Norwegian!

Hei alle sammen! 
I dag vil jeg gjerne å skrive på norsk. Jeg skal prøve å skrive mye på norsk i loggen min uten Google Translate eller en ordbok!

Jeg studerer også Assimil Le Norvegien Sans Peine. Jeg er på leksjon 19 nå. Noen av temaene er elg, snø, vær, frokost, en sjømanns betraktninger, samarbeid, ekte vennskap, kaffe og kaker! Det er et veldig underholdende kurs!

I dag har jeg ferdig med Pimsleur kurset!!! 🙂 Synd, jeg kan ikke si mye ennå.
Jeg kan snakke om mat, drikke, reiser til Norge, venner, barn og tall. Ikke så mye!

Hello everyone!
Today I would like to write in Norwegian. I’ll try to write a lot in Norwegian in my log without using Google Translate or a dictionary!


I am also studying Assimil Le Norvegien Sans Peine. I’m on lesson 19 now. Some of the topics are moose, snow, weather, breakfast, a sailor’s reflections, cooperation, true friendship, coffee and cakes!  It is a very entertaining course!


Today I finished the Pimsleur course!! 🙂 Too bad, I can not say much yet.
I can talk about food, drink, travel to Norway, friends, children and numbers. Not so much!


Write 3 sentences where you try to use as many of the words which in English are spelled with capital letters, and in Norwegian (and as far as I know also Swedish and Danish) are spelled with regular letters as possible.

1. Han er en riktig nordmann, men han snakker godt engelsk.
2. Neste fredag​​, vil det være den syttende mai.
3. Jeg liker ikke januar, er det for kaldt og ufyselig.

1. He is a proper Norwegian, but he speaks good English.
2. Next Friday will be the 17th of May.
3. I do not like January, it’s just too cold and nasty.


I am really enjoying learning Norsk. I’m not sure how badly my accent is butchering the language, but it is really fun to get my mouth around a booming, emphatic sentence of Norwegian. It is also fun following my fellow Vikings‘ logs. Even though the majority of you seem to be studying Swedish or Danish, I can definitely follow along with my ground level Norwegian! It is so exciting that by learning one Scandinavian language, it is almost like getting “three for one”

Now that I have finished the Pimsleur course, I’ll plan on concentrating on Assimil full time. Hopefully I will be able to complete a lesson a day, but we shall see… stay tuned!

TAC Challenge for 2013!

As 2013 beckons, I have been drawn in to doing the HTLAL TAC (Total Annihilation Challenge) challenge. I’ve never done one of these before, so I am really looking forward to it. It seems that the gist of the TAC challenge is to study one (or several) language(s) and log one’s progress in his/her TAC log. The main difference between the TAC and what I
have done on my own is that with TAC there is an entire “team” to lend support. I’m hoping that this helps me with my language “flightiness” and keeps me on task for the year.

The language I have chosen for TAC 2013 is Norwegian. 

I wanted to learn a Germanic language with a Latin script and English cognates. Georgian, Farsi, Mandarin, Thai and Arabic were just too difficult with my work schedule and limited time for language study. Plus, I enjoy reading materials in my target language and he above languages proved too difficult. Let’s face it … I’m lazy!

I have always had an interest in Norwegian as a result of several Norwegian friends in Graduate School introducing me to the Norwegian language and culture. I am excited to be part of “TAC Team Viking”. What a great group. You were also a big reason for me choosing a Scandinavian language!

My knowledge of Norwegian is essentially zero. I have gone through the first eight lessons of Pimsleur to get the rhythm and sounds of Norwegian down. My family has been giving me strange looks as I have been strolling around the house reciting phrases in Norwegian.

“Hva vil du å spise?
Jeg vil gjerne ett glass øl.
Kan vi drikke på hus meg?”

Once I finish Pimsleur I plan to either do Teach Yourself Norwegian or Norwegian in Three Months. I also have the Assimil Le Norvegien Sans Peine course coming in the mail. I haven’t decided which of those three I’ll use. From that point on, who knows?? The really cool thing about the Scandinavian languages is their similarity. From the TAC log I
have been able to understand most of what people have written in Swedish and Danish. I know that the spoken language is a whole other matter but still, being able to read them is pretty cool!

As far as my other languages for 2013:
I don’t have any travel plans outside of the US so I don’t think I will be doing too much with my other languages.

 Spanish    /Portuguese   &  Russian 

 I have some Spanish/Portuguese/Russian speaking friends at work so I’ll try to speak with them from time to time to stay somewhat fresh in these.


I’m not sure what I’ll do with Italian in 2013, but every now and then I read the news in Italian just for fun!


Similar to Italian, I probably won’t be actively studying any Hungarian in
2013. I do, however, like picking up a Hungarian comic or children’s book from time to time to keep it somewhat fresh in my mind!


I’ll try to follow along with the TAC Turkish team to keep Turkish in the back of my mind. Time constraints will keep me from a participant on this team however.


Every year I try to learn a little more Arabic and Persian. I’m not making huge progress in either one of these because they both require quite a bit of time and effort to advance. Nevertheless, I did pick up a copy of Kalaam Gamiil, a really good Egyptian Arabic course. So I may try to work through this over the year…

Again, I’m really excited to learn some Norwegian this year. There are no Norwegian speakers in my area so I would love to talk over Skype if any of you are interested!!