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Posts tagged with: Social Sciences

Language Learning in 2010

Beispiele deutscher Beschilderungen in Namibia. Collage von Bildern aus Windhuk, Outjo, Swakopmund und Lüderitz. Samples of German signs in Namibia. Collage of photos from Windhoek, Outjo, Swakopmund and Lüderitz.Image via Wikipedia

I’ve just received another newsletter from Transparent Language advertising their Video Immersion Software and it got me thinking.

I’ve always been very interested in language learning and finding new ways of doing it more effectively. What I currently see as the main issues of this increasingly important process are:

  • Time consumption – it takes considerable time to make significant process in learning grammar, scripts, pronunciation and building a solid vocabulary
  • Context switching – learning a new language usually means stopping whatever you are doing, sitting down and starting to think about things largely disconnected from your everyday activities – in my opinion, this is a significant »barrier to entry« for most people

The entire process often consists of the following steps (in this or a slightly modified order):

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Learning A Language With The Bible

Picture from Codex GigasImage via Wikipedia

A while ago, when I was beginning my struggle with Finnish, I found it quite difficult to find translations online, since Finnish is a highly inflected language and word roots are not easy to identify for a beginner.

After having googled enough Finnish words, I was starting to see a possibility – almost every search yielded an excerpt from a specific source.

Meet the Bible

I had never read more than a few pages of it before, but I soon saw that the Bible is the perfect language resource:

  • It’s available in almost all languages
  • Text is highly consistent across most languages
  • It’s very well structured
  • The smallest unit of text in many parts is 1-3 sentences long

The last point is very important as it makes the book ideal for being used as a text corpus.

Let’s take the word kansalle, for example.

Google Search - kansalle

If you google for the search term “kansalle finnish bible”, the first result gives you Kings, Chapter 12.

12:6 Kuningas Rehabeam neuvotteli vanhain kanssa, jotka olivat palvelleet hänen isäänsä Salomoa, kun tämä vielä eli, ja kysyi: “Kuinka te neuvotte vastaamaan tälle kansalle?”

And the English version:

12:6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

So, kansalle clearly means to (the) people, the suffix -lle being an indication of the allative case.

It’s that easy.

I am currently working on a system that would automate this.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Bible phrase in both languages pop up whenever you searched for a word? What do you think?


Biblija.net – a magnificent corpus of Slovenian, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan and Euskara (Basque) bible versions

A list of Finnish cases – the best explanation of the cases I could find

Finnish Bible