Monday, December 25, 2017

Polyglot Kató Lomb Condones Reading for SLA

Kató Lomb is well-known in the world of polyglots for learning fifteen languages as an adult. In Polyglot: How I Learn Languages, Lomb recommended some unconventional but reportedly effective strategies. For example, she wrote: 

"[...] dare to include reading in your learning program from the very beginning, and second, that you should read actively." (66)

"[...] books [that you find personally engaging], which can be consulted at any time, questioned again and again, and read into scraps, cannot be rivaled as a language-learning tool" (66)

"[...] more efficient means of learning exist [than reading engaging books in a foreign language], [but] more accessible and obliging ones do not." (69)

Lomb recommended buying instead of borrowing. That way the books: "[...] can be spiced with underlines, question marks, and exclamation points [...] and annotated so that they become a mirror of yourself." (69)

"[...] books not only teach grammar but also provide the most painless means of obtaining vocabulary." (74)

Here's Lomb's methodology for using reading as a second-language acquisition (SLA) strategy (69):

So, grab an engaging book in your target language and a (monolingual) dictionary (to be consulted conservatively) to supplement your SLA.

Sunday, November 26, 2017


I recently stopped by the Mid-Manhattan library, which is temporarily housed inside of the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. While perusing the art books, a relative showed me a copy of The Bronx Artist Documentary Project. She didn't realize that I was one of the writers of the tome.

Friday, November 3, 2017

The Secret[s] of Sleep

The October 23, 2017 issue of The New Yorker is packed with interesting articles. For example, Jerome Groopman's review, "The Secret of Sleep", of Meir Kryger's The Mystery of Sleep is particularly intriguing. 

Kryger's question “Why do all forms of life, from plants, insects, sea creatures, amphibians and birds to mammals, need rest or sleep?” is particularly interesting when viewed through the lens of orthodox Muslims who believe that God doesn't get tired, rest or sleep.  

Groopman writes: "[...] after we have been awake for about fourteen hours, and increases in intensity until the eighteen-hour mark, after which we find it hard not to fall asleep." That explains why, no matter how badly one wants to write, it becomes very difficult to write after being awake for 18 hours - especially if one sleeps five hours per night.

In addition, Groopman writes: "Reiss looks to the historian A. Roger Ekirch, who, in 2001, documented that in early-modern Europe and North America the standard pattern for nighttime sleep was “segmented.” There were two periods, sometimes termed “dead sleep” and “morning sleep,” with intervals of an hour or more when the person was awake, sometimes called “the watching,” during which people might pray or read or have sex. In some indigenous societies in Nigeria, Central America, and Brazil, segmented sleep persisted into the twentieth century. Ekirch hypothesized that segmented sleep was our natural, evolutionary heritage, and that it had been disrupted in the West by the demands of industrialization, and by electricity, which made artificial lighting ubiquitous."

Once again, this is particularly interesting to orthodox Muslims who perform Tahajjud [Arabic: تهجد‎‎].

Lastly, Reiss reminds: "Honoré de Balzac [...] was fuelling his writing with twenty to fifty cups of coffee a day, often on an empty stomach. Balzac believed that, with caffeine, “sparks shoot all the way to the brain,” and “forms and shapes and characters rear up; the paper is spread with ink.” Balzac typically wrote between fourteen and sixteen hours a day for two decades, producing sixteen volumes of “La Comédie Humaine” within six years." 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#NoFaceArt Instagram Account

I have an Instragram account. I don't post any personal photos, but I curate. I was inspired by a billboard that I saw on the High Line to collect #nofaceart photos. Interestingly, Picasso said in Life with Picasso, "As long as you paint just a head, it's all right, but when you paint the whole figure, it's often the head that spoils everything." These are some of my finds:

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Writers Are Anitfragile

According to Nassim Taleb's Antifragile, artists and writers are antifragile i.e., they benefit from disorder and controversy. For example, Nabokov's Lolita, his most controversial book, made him rich and famous. (Interestingly, most of Nabokov's books contains nympholepsy.)

Saturday, October 7, 2017

500 Blog Visitors = 1 Book Sold?

I was having dinner at Má Pêche with a New York Times bestselling author when I frustratingly shared that I sell one book per (approximately) 500 unique visitors to my blog. 

Surprisingly, the author shared quite nonchalantly that he got the same results. 

Is this an unspoken rule slash phenomenon or just a coincidence?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Duolingo's French & French in Action: A Clarification

Last fall, we finished Duolingo's French skill tree. Consequently, we received an e-certificate, and we were informed that we're 52% fluent. 

Duolingo's claim that we're 52% fluent should be clarified. We're more like 52% fluent in reading French but not in speaking or writing. For example, about 50% of the time we can read the French that's peppered throughout Nabokov's oeuvre. For example, in Transparent Things, when Armande, who had a grain de beauté, setup a rendez-vous with Hugh prior to their subsequent marriage, she told him, "Now listen, tomorrow I'm occupied, but what about Friday-if you can be ready à sept heures précises?" (43)

Erard related from Krashen in Babel No More: The Search for the World's Most Extraordinary Language Learners that "[Language] [a]cquisition happens [...] when we understand what we read or hear-not when we speak or write it, memorize vocabulary, or study grammar." (102)

Very recently, we watched all fifty-two episodes of Yale University's French in Action. Interestingly, we didn't understand 50% of the dialogue, but we understand over 50% of the transcripts. 

Next up, we'll read Baudelaire's Les Fleurs du Mal and listen to the audio book, and we'll watch listen to twenty-five episodes of French with Victor while reading the French subtitles.