A few days ago, I was working on some Assimil Russian translations, using a computer that didn’t have a Cyrillic keyboard installed (the horror, am I right?) So, I was using the typeit.org site, which lets you type in Russian, as well as a bunch of other languages / alphabets. I noticed a new (to me) link at the top, advertising the TypeIt app for Windows. I took a look, and immediately bought it. For the standard edition, it’s $12.50. It’s basically a little app that sits in your tasktray; click on it, and it lets you select from a bunch of different languages to type in. Specifically: Danish, Esperanto, French, German, IPA for English, IPA for all languages, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Swedish and Turkish.
Here’s what it looks like:
While you can install individual keyboards for foreign languages in Windows (like this), this little app is a whole lot easier to set up.
One note: the $12.50 price tag is for the standard edition, which doesn’t include all of the IPA stuff. I’ve never so much as touched IPA, so I had no need of it. If you’re interested in the IPA stuff as well, the price tag hops up to $17.50; still not a bad deal.
I’ve been continuing to play around with Learning with Texts, and I quite like it. If you have web hosting available to you, I definitely recommend you check it out.
I was just perusing the website for LWT, and saw that it offers a way to export to Anki. It’s not simplistic by any means, but there’s some fine instructions at Living in the Middle Kingdom on how to get your terms, definitions, and sentences into Anki. Certainly a match made in language learning heaven, these two pieces of software.
So, I’ve been a blogger-in-missing for nearly half a year now. Considering my last, depressing post in August, I imagine some readers thought I just gave up altogether. I’ve actually received some emails from random readers, asking if all is well, since I’ve been so quiet. I’ve not given up nor died – just paused for a (long) while. I did toss language learning aside out of frustration for a while, and then other things in my life took over. A new girlfriend, the holidays, followed by a new, full time job. I think I’ve read maybe a paragraph or two of German since last September. Tsk, tsk, right?
But, the siren calls of difficult grammar, unknown words, and streams of unintelligible gibberish are too strong, so I’m starting to get back into it. A news article here, a podcast listen there. I’m planning on focusing on German, French, and (perhaps) Russian for a while. I might dabble a tiny bit with Italian, perhaps doing an Assimil lesson every day or two. We’ll see.
Unrelated to my hiatus from language learning, there’s a cool, new (to me) toy available: Learning with Texts. It is, for all intents and purposes, an open source copy of LingQ. You can run it on your own web host, or you can set up a dummy web server on your computer to run it. Lots of thorough instructions on the site, so do check it out. I’m pretty excited about it personally, as I always liked the idea of LingQ, but just thought the price point was a bit too high.
If you don’t follow the Anki Google group, you might have missed something rather exciting: Damien, developer of Anki, has had the first version of Anki for iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad approved by Apple. Take a look.
I saw a forum post at How To Learn Any Language which caught my interest. Namely, Iversen (who’s word list method I’m still using, by the way) said:
I disagree with Chelovek on one point – his recommandation of cursive writing. You have to learn the printed version of cursive because it pops up in many places, not least in magazines where it serves to emphasize a section of the text. Some dictionaries also use the printed version of cursive for certain purposes. However you will see very little handwritten Russian unless you live in Russia (or certain other places in the former USSR), and there is absolutely no reason that you should care about it. Virtually everything you will ever see is printed stuff, and most printed stuff isn’t written in cursive.
He has a good point, I think. Before seeing it in my language books, guess how many times I’d seen cursive Cyrillic handwriting? Never, actually. Everything in Cyrillic I’d ever seen had been in block letters, as everything I’d ever seen in Cyrillic had been printed.
I think gaining at least a familiarity with the handwritten cursive is worth doing, simply because it doesn’t take much time – you can learn how the letters are made and joined together in an hour or so, two at the most. But after reading Iversen’s post, I question the usefulness of forcing oneself to use cursive Cyrillic in your studies, simply because you’re most likely practicing a skill that you’re not going to use. Now, if you live in Russia or somewhere in the former USSR, then it would be a different matter altogether. But for those of us who don’t live there, is there really any benefit to be had by using cursive Cyrillic handwriting as opposed to just writing with block letters?
I just put in “language learning” at Google, and discovered that the top result is Rosetta Stone. Seeing it made me curious – what do you folks think of the software? I’ve used it before, and didn’t much like it. Perhaps I didn’t spend enough time with it, though. I’m admittedly turned off a bit by the fact that, unless I’m mistaken, you can go through all of the levels for any language they offer, and never see “hello”, “how are you”, etc. If I’m wrong about that, though, someone please correct me!
I forgot to write a quick post on this at the time of it happening, so here’s that post a bit late:
Damien, the maker of Anki, has put out a number of updates over the past weeks. I wrote back in November of ’07 that I had abandoned SuperMemo for Anki, due to its simplicity and cleanness of design (unlike the monumentally cluttered SuperMemo).
One of the updates that Damien released fairly recently added something that I was actually missing from SuperMemo: the ability to change the color of text in the cards. You could do this before for a whole side of a card, like making an entire sentence green or blue, but you couldn’t select individual words or other parts of the card and change their color. I prefer to emphasize what I’m learning in a sentence with a color rather than with bold or underlining; no real reason, just a preference I have.
Now I can do that. 🙂
If you’ve not checked out Anki yet, do so – it’s a great app. And, if you end up liking it, consider donating to the developer – he’s put a lot of time into the app, as well as helping users in the support forum. If you want to donate, there are PayPal buttons on the main Anki page as well as the download page.