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Sunday, April 13, 2014

French: True Friends on [COMPLETED!]

Here's the certificate of the first module: True Friends.

Last night I completed the first module of French on called True Friends. It has 11 sub-topics such as food, traveling, nature, everyday life, etc. They're French words that sound similar in English and have the same meaning. I also learned about the silent h in a word, which is similar in Italian: it's not pronounced.

I'm looking forward to the next one which is False Friends. Happy studies!


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Let the French Begin!

I kick-started my French studies with the Berlitz French Vocabulary Handbook (RM29.90). I was reading the newly-bought book today in the LRT. Well, actually, I started learning French about two days ago but it was sporadic. A little bit of the (free) Kindle Onboard French here and For Dummies French Grammar there while I was at the airport in a flight home to Kuala Lumpur yesterday.

Today, I made a random decision to go to Kinokuniya KLCC to source for more French materials. Kino is my favorite bookstore and I KNOW I would be able to find great books for whatever it is that I am looking for.

At Kino, I found the Berlitz book I was talking about in the first paragraph of this post and also my go-to material, the Practice Makes Perfect (PMP) series. I first used the PMP for my Italian studies so I'm already familiar with the format. The only difference is this time, I chose the seven-in-one, Complete French All-in-One. It's a whopping 644-page book. I'm so looking forward to start using it as my main study material. During my Italian studies, I used to take the PMP with me during weekend lunches and studied at the cafeteria until coffee break (four hours of solid studying!).

Tomorrow, I plan to start my first dose of French for Beginner course 1.


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Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Foreign Language Project for the Next Three Months: FRENCH

My second foreign language mission

I have decided. My next foreign language mission is French! As part of the three-month journey I'd be embarking on, I have bought a few books and this time I decided to go on a For Dummies diet. A dictionary is absolutely necessary, so I threw in one mini dictionary in the purchase too. I already have a big Larousse dictionary that I bought during the Big Bad Wolf Book Sale last month (for only RM8!). So the big dictionary stays at home and the small one will go places with me. Happy studying to me!


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Monday, April 07, 2014

Phrase Books are God-sent

Some of the earliest materials I bought when I started studying Italian were phrase books and mini dictionaries. That was before I added books on grammar, vocabulary, verbs and other reading materials to my personal library as I continue to build the foundation of my study.

Some of the phrase books in my collection

The main motivation during the start of my self-study was the intention to visit Italy, and I had wanted to be able to speak the language by the time I landed there. Italian is my very first successful foreign language mission or project.

At that time, my logic was to be able to start the ball rolling in basic conversation. Phrase books came into mind. The beauty about these little guys is that they provide you with the guide to pronunciation, divided into sections by theme, and usually come with mini dictionaries.

The Berlitz Shortcut to Italian was my first phrasebook. I even took it with me on the plane and was revising with it right up to the last minute when I traveled to Italy! (It's part of my study strategy.)

I also know that phrase books alone will not be sufficient to have meaningful exchanges with the locals, because what if they don't answer as scripted in these books? How on earth will I be able to understand what is being said, let alone reply? But they're definitely a great start, and then I aimed higher. How I Learn Italian and Virtual Immersion are the posts where I describe the stuff I do for my Italian.

The Lonely Planet Western Europe Phrasebook & Dictionary (see pic above) is my latest addition and the 455-page small book carries a collection of 11 languages that include Danish, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Greek, Spanish, Swedish, and Turkish. I picked this book because of its standard format (same questions, same phrases) across all languages and that makes it a lot easier for me to compare notes.

For my second language mission, I still have yet to decide which one to go forFrench or Germanbut I have a feeling it would be French...


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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Virtual Immersion (Without Buying a Plane Ticket)

Yesterday I talked about How I Learn Italian and there is one thing I have not mention when I was talking about audio or online or free resources, and that is streaming radio or TV broadcasts from the country of the target language. For that I use RaiTV. Today, I'd like to share a screenshot from my iPhone that shows you what I've been using for my yearlong pursuit of Italian, and how I organize my resources.

RaiTV is an awesome app and I've been streaming TV programs from Rai1, Rai2 and Rai3 without spending a single cent. If I like a certain program, for example, a documentary on Michelangelo, I have the option to download the show for viewing later. Isn't that great?

If you take a look at the bottom of my iPhone screen, you'll see that the icon description is not in English. I've set it to Italian and it's been like that since the day I started learning the language. In the beginning it felt totally weird and hard, but I soon got used to seeing stuff on my screen in Italian.

Two weeks ago, I also invested in an iPad (yay!) after thinking about it for almost two years. I replicated the same apps from my iPhone to the new device. What's missing from the screenshot above is Zinio because I've deleted the app (to save iPhone space), and am now using it with the iPad to read my online magazines such as the Italian editions of Vogue, Elle, Cosmopolitan, etc. The bigger screen on iPad makes reading less strenuous and more enjoyable.

What I've been doing is what Benny Lewis called virtual immersion. I'm going to quote something from Benny's book, FLUENT IN 3 MONTHS (the book arrived in the mail last Friday):

Attitude beats latitude (and longitude) every time. It's more about creating an immersion environment, exposing yourself to native speakers, and doing everything you can in the language.


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Saturday, April 05, 2014

How I Learn Italian

When you love learning a language enough to have it fill your free time, then your passion can truly blossom.

I think I hit the jackpot there with Italian. The quote above was taken from Benny Lewis' newly released book, FLUENT IN 3 MONTHS (page 15). Italian (such a beautiful language!) completely consumed my life for a year and then more. Everything I did and do revolve around it.

Following the "trigger" by my first Italian friend from Milan who also happened  to be my travel buddy to Bangkok, Thailand, (oh yes, if you're into travel, please also visit and follow my updates at The Weekend Traveler) I started by researching online for free materials. I found the BBC Italian language portal and started studying the free online course. Another awesome online resource is Italian portal.

I'm very "audio" when I learn a language because listening to the sound is important to me. I started subscribing to YouTube videos for music and took advantage of my Netflix account to stream Italian movies. At that point in time, everything I sourced for my Italian self-learning were free (except for Netflix because I'm already paying a monthly subscription fee for it).

The more I study, the deeper I fell in love with it. I started buying books. Lots of books. My main reference materials  and workbooks are from the McGraw Hill's "Practice Makes Perfect" series. I kept adding other books including the For Dummies series to my personal library, and formed quite an extensive collection. When I was in Italy for a month last year, I brought home almost a luggage of books and dictionaries, all in 100% Italian. I'm proud to say by that time, I'm already able to understand and read Italian books and magazines. Speaking of magazines, I made great use of my Zinio online magazine subscription so Italian editions of Vogue, L'Impresa, Cosmopolitan, Elle and a few more cater to my leisure reading. All these magazines at super affordable price minus the clutter. I'm talking about a year's subscription for the price of one physical issue if I were to buy them from a bookstore. Foreign magazines are expensive.

Last but not least, communicating with the natives. I started making more friends, especially on Babbel, an online language learning website. It is here I found my regular chat buddy who doesn't know a word of English, so I'm forced to speak only in Italian with him. It works fabulously well as an immersion tactic.

All of the above have been in progress for more than a year now and I assure you, they work marvelously well. At least to me they do. So when I reached page 16 of Benny's book, I was nodding my head like crazy because he, too, speaks of all the methods I've been using! Looks like I'll be redeploying them for my other language projects too. I can't wait to unearth more as I race through his book. Buono studio e buon lavoro!


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Friday, April 04, 2014

New Arrival: FLUENT IN 3 MONTHS by Benny Lewis

Look what came in the mail today: it's Benny Lewis' very new book, FLUENT IN 3 MONTHS! The timing is perfect. I could finish this book over the weekend and start my Project Polyglot on Monday. Or even this Sunday night.

I was just talking about tackling one foreign language every three months in my previous post and the book arrived. I can't wait to dig in and check out what Benny has to offer. Some of the topics are...

  • Destroying twenty common language-learning myths
  • How to learn thousands of words quickly
  • Immersion without being in a foreign country to learn the language
  • Speaking from day one
  • Tips for starting specific languages

... And heaps more.

I bumped into Benny by accident about a year ago and it was a good accident that I stumbled upon his website. He gives lots of great ideas, and my reading of his posts also reaffirmed that the way I've been self-learning a language is good (as in the methods) because most of them resonated with his!

So with confidence I bought Benny's book so that I could include it into my personal library, and also as a show of support to him for his passion.

Sharing more soon when I'm done with the book. Be right back! Meanwhile, do check out

My Languages

My current language portfolio includes English (excellent), Malay (excellent), Chinese Mandarin, Cantonese, Chinese dialect Hokkien, and the latest being Italian (intermediate-good). Of all these languages, the only language group I can’t read and write is Chinese. I intend to fix this in 2015.

With all the clashing priorities—I have so many things I’d like to pursue—I’m putting Chinese in the back burner for now. I’m Chinese and I can’t write or read the language (I do speak it fairly OK), and that’s NOT good. I must satisfy my other curiosities first for I know if I don’t do this, I’ll be ping-ponging back and forth at the back of my head thinking about the one I’m curious about, and not giving Chinese its due respect and attention. And that’s not good.

Also, the Indonesian language seems to be a low-hanging fruit because of its similarity with Malay. I do have in mind to study it for a bit before claiming to speak the language. I was in Bali (twice) during my vacation and attempted to speak it the way it’s supposed to sound in Indonesian. I consider myself to be quite successful because the natives said in excitement, You speak Bahasa Indonesia! I beamed.

A few weeks ago, German caught my eyes (and ears) and I’d like to get to know it better. Maybe I’ll also throw in a bit of Indonesian study along the way. I bought some German study books while I was back home in Kuala Lumpur, the best go-to place to buy such materials. Last week, I signed up for the one-year all-language pack with, so I’m all set with lots of materials to swim in. I hope I won’t drown. For US$126, it’s an awesome deal!


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