Month: July 2014

Autoplay your way to L2

The world should probably give the guy who gave Netflix streaming the auto-play feature a Nobel prize because he is a genius. (This might be an exaggeration, but if everyone just calmed down and got a Netflix account who would have time for war?)

Easy to binge and hard to turn off without making an immediate effort to stop it, the autoplay feature is both a welcome and notorious companion to our Netflix experience. If you don’t act fast (and who does?) then you may get sucked in to the next show…. and the next show… and the next. If you want to apply this deceptively simple addiction to your language learning experience, you can, and it’s easy.


Smart Video for Youtube

Get this Chrome extension to set Youtube to autoplay and auto-replay a video.
You can also make a playlist to auto-play several videos. Now find all the L2 themed content your heart desires. Youtube has plenty of it. Make a playlist hours long so you never have to worry about stopping and restarting, and then just run it all day.


This site gives you the option of making playlists of the youtube videos you choose and then will loop that playlist. Tubalr also makes suggestions about other related videos.

Stop binging on Bob’s Burgers and start getting addicted to the language you are studying. Imagine, when your friends or family look down condescendingly at you sitting on the couch and ask, “What did you

Bob's Burgers

Bob’s Burgers (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

do today?” you can respond, “Study.”

To learn a language is to love a language.

To learn a language is to fall in love with that language.
You’ll learn its ways. Its movements. You’ll obsess over its texts. [1]
And being in love is perhaps the best way to learn because in this state learning becomes natural. You naturally devote attention to the things you love. your beloved is no chore or check on a to-do list.
You are never done with your beloved.
And you are never done learning a language, even if you achieve ultimate, maximum, beyond 9000 fluency. If you don’t maintain that language, it will leave you. [2] You have to stay in touch. You have to maintain that relationship. You have to be humble enough to accept your own shortcomings. You’ll have to make sacrifices. You’ll have to pay the cost,
but it’s fun too. Like a relationship, its not all commitment and sacrifice. Sometimes its coffee or movies or traveling.


1. See what I did there?
2. Ask any polyglot.

There is no grammar (as we know it).


“You don’t need to know what the rules are, you just need to obey them. Don’t memorize the penal codes, just stop killing people.” – Khatzumoto

When reflecting on the bewilderment common to Greek students in rapidly shrinking classes, Antony Gorry once commented: “If we taught swimming this way, we would give children a couple talks on hydro-dynamics and throw them into the water.” And I agree. The numbers speak for themselves. In my first beginning Greek class there were over 30 people in attendance. The classroom didn’t even have enough seats for all of us. By the second semester this number was more than halved. By the third semester, halved again. By the fifth semester (the first semester of advanced Greek) there were only three of us, plus a grad student, but by the sixth semester there were no Greek majors left.

Now don’t get me wrong, Attic Greek is very hard. I’ve had many conversations with my Classics professors about just that. I think what makes it harder, however, is that initial transition between the artificial Greek at the beginning to reading real Attic Greek. In Beginning Greek you memorize grammar rules and forms, and every sentence you encounter obeys these rules and forms. The problem is, when you get to reading real Greek it looks like all of these rules have been thrown out the window [1], which is likely to cause any reasonable student to have an existential crisis. [2]

Grammar books do not offer rules but observations.

It can be crushing to arrive at advanced Greek and realize that there are no rules. What did I spend the last 4 semesters learning if there aren’t any rules? I was struggling with these very questions when I stumbled across this passage in Smyth’s Greek Grammar:

Smyth Greek Grammar

Smythe p. 274 on Attributive adjectives

I had to re-read the passage. What? Are you saying, “It does this…. but sometimes this… and occasionally this,”?

It didn’t seem like Smyth was giving me one principle here. He did not write: attributive adjective + substantive = x .

That is because grammar does not work like a math equation. There are peculiarities and exceptions. Therefore, Smyth can’t give me some once and for all rule, he can only give me his observations of Greek.

Some further investigation led me to the understanding that there are two types of grammar: descriptive grammar (how we do speak) vs. prescriptive grammar (how we should speak). It is probably safe to say that most of you reading this blog post have mastered descriptive grammar, whether you realize it or not. Those pesky prescriptive grammar rules, however, are the ones that still trip us up, and many of them make no sense! For example, take the rule: never split infinitives. [3] If we adhered to this prescriptive rule then we would all clearly see the glaring mistake of Capt. Kirk when he said the mission of the Enterprise was “to boldly go where no man has gone before.” He should have said “to go boldly where no man has gone before.”

And yet Kirk said what he said. The quote went down in history, and we all moved on to Next Generation.

Educational activists, here me out. I am not telling you to not heed your English teachers’ lessons, but I am telling you that double negatives are still intelligible and allowed in other languages. Maybe worry about those prescriptive grammar problems after you are fluent?

How do we learn without grammar?

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” – Noam Chomsky

English: Syntax tree for "Colorless green...

English: Syntax tree for “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously” according to P&P model (Principles and Parameters) of GG (Generative Grammar (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here Noam Chomsky gives us an example of a sentence that makes sense grammatically in English, and yet it is not English at all. No one would ever say this. It is an artificially constructed entity. Colorless green? green ideas? ideas sleep? (poetic) sleep furiously? Poetic maybe.

How do we know that this is not English? Well, we happen to not know the rules of English (as demonstrated above), and yet somehow we are (practically) fluent. For instance, I can say, “Marcus Aurelius was an emperor of Rome,” and you can know exactly what I mean without ever going through the logic of needing and employing a genitive. It’s there but you didn’t go through the grammar to get there. I just know how to express it, and you just know how to understand it. You learned the grammar by observing examples, in the same way that you did not learn how to use English vocabulary words by reading the whole dictionary:

“When we select words in the process of constructing an utterance, we by no means always take them from the system of language in their neutral, dictionary form. We usually take them from other utterances, and mainly from utterances that are kindred to ours in genre, that is, in theme, composition, or style.” (From Mikhail Bakhtin, Speech Genres and Other Late Essays. Trans. Vern W. McGee. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1986. p. 87)

How do we learn without grammar, then? This is the wrong question to ask. We still have grammar. It can still be our guide through the murky waters of a new language. It just cannot be our crutch anymore. We cannot depend on it as a lifeboat that will carry us the whole way. We have to get our hair wet. We have to go out make our own observations about the language and lots of them.

Taking Bakhtin out of context again:

“The words of a language belong to nobody, but still we hear those words only in particular individual utterances, we read them in particular individual works, and in such cases the words already have not only a typical, but also (depending on the genre) a more or less clearly reflected individual expression, which is determined by the unrepeatable individual context of the utterance. Neutral dictionary meanings of the words of a language ensure their common features and guarantee that all speakers of a given language will understand one another, but the use of words in live speech communication is always individual and contextual in nature.” (p.88)

Babies (that is, us a couple years ago) don’t learn words. They learn utterances. Sounds. As babies, we didn’t come to the language with any outside or preconceived notions. How could we? Our main social activities were blanket soaking and block stacking. Not much of a intellectual milieu to draw from there. We started from the bottom: basic sounds and noises. Then we began to associate these noises with meaning. We gradually learned to communicate more complex noises by imitating the ones coming out our parents faces so often, and so on and so forth. Now we are here.


notes and other links: (or a transcript of that video:

1. There are still rules and order, I know. there are just whole other worlds of possibilities, exceptions, and inflections. Yes, I do read my Smyth faithfully as you will see

2. Hey, maybe you have to be a little unreasonable to be able to translate ancient Greek

3.If you must know, this rule comes Latin and was clumsily translated over to English.

How to Create A Sustainable Bible Reading Habit

All Bible-readers were once just wannabe-Bible-readers. The truth is, it can be difficult to start a habit of reading the Bible. Even for those natural readers who sprang from their mothers’ wombs reading Chronicles and Habakuk still find themselves in reading ruts from time to time. When faced with this problem, most of us just generally put it off. Let’s be honest with ourselves for a minute, finding that perfect book of the Bible for this “season” of your life, or that perfect reading plan, or that devotional that is just “you” from top to bottom: all of these things are just procrastination. You know and I know that that reading plan did not make your Bible reading habit any easier, at least not for long. Otherwise, you probably would not still be here reading this. So how do we actually create a sustainable Bible reading habit?

Pick Up Your Bible

Bibles / Biblias  (Explore)

Just pick up your Bible. Im not joking. Just make it a habit to literally pick it up everyday. Touch it with both hands. And while you are touching it, you might as well open it and read one verse. Not one chapter. Not one book. Not one devotional. One verse.
Trust me, God will not say, “What? One verse? Is that how important my word is to you? You should’ve at least read the whole chapter.” He would probably say something like: ”One verse! Im so glad you read my word today!”

Get Hooked

Of course, I’m counting on you getting hooked. Maybe you’ll read the next verse because you’re interested, or maybe you’ll just keep on reading through the night because hey, Elisha does some pretty crazy things.
The important thing is that you make your obligation as small and easy as possible. Therefore when you choose to read or read more, you are choosing to do so out of a pure desire for that activity, and not guilt or responsibility. You’re reading habit should be motivated by your desire to read the Bible not the guilt of fulfilling a Christian obligation.
Just keep on picking it up.

Read with Grace

The reading strategy that I am proposing here is one of grace. You cannot earn salvation or righteousness or even wisdom by just reading more of the Bible. If this is your mindset then you are bound to run into trouble. No amount of study or discipline will ever be enough. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Instead, take on a perspective of grace. You don’t have or

need to do anything. God already loves you a ton. In fact, he loves you just as much as he loves those womb-springing-bibliophiles. Therefore, let every verse be a bonus. Read because you want to, not because you have to.

Atomic Blogging

“The atom is a very small thing, yet very powerful when split. The smallest acts are like atoms. They often turn out to be the most important acts of our lives. So once I identify the big, scary, imagined task as a distortion produced by my own worried mind, I want to go small, as small as possible.”
– Steve Chandler

Here is the depository for my unprocessed thoughts. This is the processing. If I had to make every thought perfect and publishable first, then I would never think. It would be too laborious.
When is  a thought completely finished?
Here I write: thought by thought, sentence by sentence, word by word, and even punctuation mark by punction mark.
I’m arranging particles into a substance.
For me, writing is not a process of publication. It is a process of transformation. The substance is not a good post.
Who cares about that?

The substances is me.


Hrvatski: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)