Beginning steps in Swedish

A few weeks ago, I received my copy of Schwedisch ohne Mühe. This was very much a spur of the moment purchase, based largely on this train of thought: I’ve long been interested in Viking history; I’m interested in Old Norse; I should check out a modern North Germanic language; Swedish looks good. And so I leapt to my favorite line of courses. 

Wanderlust strikes again, but I’m okay with it.

I’m only up to lesson 5 so far, but it’s going well and I’m enjoying it. Some of it seems fairly transparent due to my English and German skills (besök -> Besuch, flytande -> fließend, not to mention things like syster -> sister).

My biggest hurdle right now is pronunciation. There are a few obstacles here: one, my brain keeps trying to read ‘ä’ as it’s pronounced in German. Two, there seem to be some tricky instances of letters being silent, and at least as far as I’ve seen so far, there aren’t hard and fast rules for when that happens. And three, for some words, it seems the voice actors just have different ideas about the pronunciation. For example, in ‘det,’ the ‘t’ seems to be silent sometimes, but other times it is clearly pronounced, depending on which voice actor is speaking the line. I’m sure (much) more exposure will help me sort this out.

One last note for now: for some awful reason, this particular Assimil book doesn’t have a glossary in the back. I was very disappointed to find this when I received the book. For now, I’ve bought a Berlitz pocket dictionary, but I’ll have to upgrade at some point or another. Sadly, a cursory search shows there aren’t a great deal of high quality Swedish-English / English-Swedish dictionaries. Who would have guessed that?

Assimil Russian

I’ve written many times about using the German Russisch ohne Mühe, as well as the relatively old Russian Without Toil. If you’re interested in learning Russian with Assimil and don’t speak German, and would like something a bit newer than the Soviet era, you’re in luck: Assimil has recently published Assimil Russian, a translation of the French Le Russe. It’s not available through, but I ordered it from Assimil, and received it within a few days (in the United States).

Have I learned anything?

I recently had a rather frustrating experience:

In the middle of July, I was in Florida with a couple of people to see the last shuttle launch. While we were in Florida, we also visited Universal Studies for two days. Somewhat surprisingly to me, Universal Studios was absolutely flooded with people from foreign countries. I would probably estimate that out of 10 people, perhaps 2 were speaking English.

It just so happened that there was a German family behind us when we were in line for the Harry Potter ride. We were in this line for nearly an hour and a half, so I had plenty of time to covertly listen in on their conversations. (You know you’ve done it before, so don’t act like you haven’t.) The frustrating bit, however, was that despite untold hours of learning German, listening to German, reading German, I could understand nearly nothing of what they said. I’d occasionally catch a word here and there, but mostly it was like listening to a language I’d never studied at all. Their accent was one I wasn’t entirely accustomed to, but even with that in mind, I found the experience to be really, really frustrating. Living in southern Ohio, it’s not often that I get to hear German spoken on the fly by people in “real life” (okay, so it basically never happens). Hitting a brick wall while in Florida has me thinking that I need to be listening to less “news” type materials and more stuff similar to how people really talk, like in movies and T.V. shows.

Have you had any similar experiences where you thought, alright, have I learned anything in all this time? The whole thing had me seriously considering throwing my hands up in the air and calling it quits. But I’m far too stubborn for that.

Grimm Grammar for German

The Texas Language Technology Center of the University of Texas has a very nice online grammar of German, Grimm Grammar.

A snippet from their about page:

Welcome to Grimm Grammar, an irreverent revival and shameless exploitation of 19th-century Grimm Fairy Tales for honorable pedagogical purposes.  Fortunately for you, Dear Reader, thirty-six characters from these fairy tales have returned to 21st century Germany (their precise location cannot be revealed for privacy reasons) to model all things grammatical … anything the most eager language learner may wish to know about the German language.

This online grammar reference was created for lower-division language courses at the University of Texas, but any beginning or intermediate learner of German may use it completely free of charge, as long as he or she is willing to take a trip to the imaginary world of Grimm Grammar … the characters of which are grumpy and gorgeous, scary and smarmy, witty and wicked!

If you’re getting started in German, check it out; you could probably skip the introductory German grammar book, and instead just wait until you need a copy Hammer’s.

Searching for Russian books online

A quick tip regarding searching for Russian books online: when you’re searching, try the transliterated spelling of the title / author as well as the original Cyrillic version. I was recently trying to find a Russian history book for learners of Russian, Страницы истории by С.Н. Сыров. I had found a few copies from sellers in Russia, but payment methods were a problem. However, a few more copies popped up when I switched to searching for Stranitsy istorii by Syrov. I guess it’s logical enough that a book seller listing stuff on an English-based website wouldn’t list things in Cyrillic. Abebooks in particular won’t even accept searches in Cyrillic; if you enter Cyrillic into their search box, it comes up as having searched for a bunch of nonsense characters.