Sunday, February 11, 2018

Kató Lomb, Hungarian Translator and Polyglot (1909-2003)

A few days ago, I received Alex Rawlings' book, How to Speak Any Language Fluently, which I ordered from I'm now on page 84 of the book. Kató Lomb was mentioned in the introduction, so I started to research more about her.

My research brought me to this website called TESL-EJ and I found three books by the late Hungarian translator and polyglot. They're available for free on this website in the PDF format. I've downloaded all of them and I'm so grateful to TESL-EJ for making these available to us.

Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, Second Edition

Translated by Ádám Szegi and Kornelia DeKorne (215 Pages, PDF only)

Excerpt from Chapter 1: What Is Language?

There may be no other word in the world that has as many connotations as this noun does with its few letters. For an anatomist, it will recall the set of muscle fibers divided into root, body, blade, and tip. A gourmet will think of tasty morsels in stewed, pickled, and smoked forms on the menu. A theologian will surely be reminded of the day of red Pentecost. A writer will think of a tool that dare not rival Nature, and a poet will imagine a musical instrument. And if spoken by a poet of genius? “You won’t remain with empty hands under the empty sky” (Antal Szerb).

Translated by Ádám Szegi; edited by Scott Alkire (212 Pages, PDF only)

About the Book: Kató Lomb (1909–2003) was one of the great polyglots of the 20th century. A translator and one of the first simultaneous interpreters in the world, Lomb worked in 16 languages for state and business concerns in her native Hungary. She achieved further fame by writing books on languages, interpreting, and polyglots. In With Languages in Mind, originally published in Hungary as Nyelvekről jut eszembe… (1983), Dr. Lomb presents her views on subjects ranging from language differences, language use, the inherent compromises in interpreting, and language learning.

Harmony of Babel: Interviews with Famous Polyglots of Europe

Translated by Ádám Szegi (215 Pgs, PDF only)

About the Book: In the late 1980s the distinguished interpreter and translator Kató Lomb profiled and interviewed 21 of her peers in search of answers to basic but deep questions on the nature of language learning. She asked:

“When can we say we know a language?”
“Which is the most important language skill: grammar, vocabulary, or good pronunciation?”
“What method did you use to learn languages?”
“Has it ever happened to you that you started learning a language, but could not cope with it?”
“What connection do you see between age and language learning?”
“Are there ‘easy’ and ‘difficult,’ ‘rich’ and ‘poor,’ ‘beautiful’ and ‘less beautiful’ languages?”
“What is multilingualism good for?”
The answers Lomb collected from her interlocutors are singular, provocative, and often profound. Grounded in real-world experience, they will be of interest to linguaphiles who are seeking to supplement their theoretical knowledge of language learning.
All the three book above texts are sourced from the TESL-EJ website.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

MORE Book Quote of the Week: HIT REFRESH, by Satya Nadella

The first time I posted about this was in December last year. I'm still creating these little gems of wisdom from the book and would like to share them here. This is posted every Thursday on my company's Yammer group in Microsoft. Continuing from the first two I posted in December, here are quotes #3 through #10 (in reversed order). Enjoy!

I intend to do this for as long as it is possible. If I find the book in another language, for example, Italian or Swedish, I'll create those in Italian and Swedish too!

Have you read this Hit Refresh? Do you have a favorite quote too? Write to me at

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

How to Speak Any Language Fluently, by Alex Rawlings

NEW ARRIVAL! Alex Rawlings' How to Speak Any Language Fluently has landed in my mailbox all the way from the UK to Singapore. Thank you, Can you imagine my excitement? I'm placing this bright yellow book alongside my other books on languages.

I first found out about Alex from Olly Richards' podcast series, I Will Teach You A Language. Listen to the interview on Episode 216 at IWTYAL 216: Alex Rawlings on How To Speak Any Language Fluently.

For a start, this is taken from the "Introduction" and there's no stopping me from reading the whole book after this:
'A nyelv az egyetlen, amit rosszul is érdemes tudni.'
(Language is the only thing worth knowing even poorly.)
—Kató Lomb (1909-2003), Hungarian translator and polyglot

Languages are one of those unique things in life that are always worth learning. Whether you know a lot of just a little, whether you speak them every day or once a year, and whether you speak many or just one, you are better off for knowing what you do than if you didn't know it at all. Even just a few words in a foreign language are better than knowing nothing at all. p.1
About Alex Rawlings: He is a language specialist with professional experience teaching, coaching and designing courses for multiple different languages. He was named Britain's Most Multilingual Student after being tested for fluency in eleven different langauges aged twenty and since then has gone on to study many more, including Russian, Hebrew and Hungarian. Alex has taken part in nationwide campaigns to promote multilingualism, has contributed to blogs run by the British Council and the European Commission, and his skills have been featured by news and media outlets in countries across the world. He is an organiser of the annual Polyglot Conference.

Friday, February 02, 2018

Progress Update: Daily Swedish Reading of 365kgfhå

I have successfully survived a month of daily Swedish reading. I'm reading from 365 korta godnattsagor för hela året (365 Short Bedtime Stories for the Whole Year) which I now code-named 365kgfhå.

Although I'm using a notebook to jot down vocabulary notes, I decided to also create an electronic inventory of words. It's a simple Excel spreadsheet with the word or phrase and story date for easy cross-referencing. I often come across words I thought I've seen somewhere in the previous stories and was flipping my notes back and forth until I developed this system. This list has saved me much time! You can also check out my vocabulary notebook in this post.

This is how my book looks like. It's a fun daily read! I'm glad I've selected this book for this purpose and you'd be surprise how many new words one can learn from a children's book. I learned 277 between January 1 and 31. I feel so good...

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

"Set your goals. Stick to them."

Elsewhere, in the world of Twitter, it's great to receive encouragement!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Swedex Exam Updates

Last year in December, I talked about sitting for the Swedish A2 certification by Swedex in Sweden, which I did on 19 December. The result has been released. I FAILED the linguistic stunt. Below is the breakdown of my results:
  • Comprehension: 19 out of 20
  • Grammar: 7 out of 10
  • Listening: I survived.
  • Oral: I survived. (Surprise, surprise! Especially when they suddenly make it 15 minutes instead of 8 which was the stipulated time in test guideline.)
  • Writing: 0
So what was it that had gone wrong in writing? I emailed Folkuniversitetet to find out. A day later the reply came:

"[...] du fick 0 p är att du använde engelska i din text. Då fungerar inte kommunikationen om någon som inte kan engelska läser ditt mejl."

So in my attempt to be creative by inserting one English word, it has caused me my results. The writing test required that I write a 30-word email reply to my friend. I thought—all right, it's an email to a friend—I can inject a bit of fun, right, by saying something like... "hur säger man det här [engelska ord] på svenska" which means "how does one say [here's where I inserted the English word] in Swedish?"

And just like that, I failed my Swedex. I've learned my lesson: Be a robot—don't be smart, or creative, or different (during the test). Be all of that, later, AFTER the test. It's a rather expensive lesson that costs SEK 1,950 (approximately S$325).

I've appealed and also failed to receive any considerations. It's not the end of the world.

Monday, January 22, 2018

My New Fav Notebook (for Swedish)

I have been using the Five Star spiral notebooks for over a week now and I'm loving it. The paper is lightweight but the quality is good.

I'm using one notebook (sheet size: 8-1/2" x 11") solely for Swedish vocabulary (blue cover) and another for Swedish grammar or scribing (white). I still have one more (black) and I'll be using that for my Italian, which is currently on maintenance mode.

What I particularly like about the Five Star spiral notebooks is that it has a movable or repositionable plastic divider. I can place it anywhere in my notebook. Great for sectioning my notes in whichever way I fancy! I use its transparent pocket to slot in My Weekly Schedule.The cover is so durable and the spiral is strong. I could literally just whack it around and everything stays the way it is.