i love languages. in school we studied afrikaans as our compulsory second language. it’s a very gutteral language really – often equated to klingon in sound by those who first hear it (no offense to afrikaaners out there, but really you have to admit klingon comes pretty close). it’s a derivative of dutch. although as my dutch friends will point out, it’s like a child-version of dutch itself. the sounds are quite different so speaking dutch (when you speak afrikaans) doesn’t work very well, but reading dutch is easier. i also studied french for a few years and loved it. i know the basics, and when in paris i can get by (you know, saying hello, buying something, ordering food, reading signs etc.) – although no doubt parisians cringe at the bastardised accent that spews from me when i try.
i’m now trying to learn mandarin chinese. i feel a little masochistic, but excited to finally understand such an odd-sounding (obviously odd-sounding to me currently because of all the different sounds and inflections) language. it’s quite a lyrical language with a range of subtleties. sometimes just getting my mouth to do what it needs to do to make the appropriate sound is a challenge. certain sounds are just so different to what i am used to. i found a great section on odeo with all sorts of podcasts for learning various languages. all are free and you can browse hundreds of podcasts in all sorts of languages. from here, i then found chinesepod.com. i’m currently on the trial version and loving it. i have no doubt i will sign up. it’s not a free site, but there is a basic version for only $9/month. worth it i think. for additional features, the price goes up, so it’s something to look into depending on how interested you are (and how much spare cash you may have at the time). what i most love about the lessons i have followed so far is the casual and conversational approach, along with the detail they give you with each word/sound. to top it off, the teachers (in the newbie section they are jenny and ken) are fun and interesting. i feel like i am sitting down with new friends who just happen to know chinese and they are trying to help me learn a few things. there is none of that old-style stodginess of some mundane voice saying something, with the pause for you to repeat it, over and over.
admittedly, i’ve only used chinesepod.com for a short time, but i am very impressed so far. the parent company also offers other languages in the same way such as spanish, italian and french, or just hit odeo and try out a few options.
btw, “ni hau” means “hello” in chinese. “ni hau ma?” means “how are you?“. yes, i’m well on my way now!