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Opinion | How to Say What You Need to Say in Another Language

Glossika isn’t flashy. You don’t get much by way of games (or “gamification” as one apparently says these days). Culture is not the point, either; it is assumed you will take in that kind of information elsewhere. Glossika is about doing the work. And do it for some months, getting in all the sentences … and one fine day, it’s like going from the black and white to the color part of “The Wizard of Oz.”

Suddenly you can understand what native speakers are saying, because now the language is in your ear for real. I’ll never forget the day I walked by some Chinese people and heard one of them saying in Mandarin, “Wait, take a picture of that statue,” when just a few months earlier I would have heard nothing but a stream of sounds.

This, then, is the handiest way I know of to get past “That is my neighbor’s pencil” on your own. And by the way, no, I am not connected with the company in any way. I just want to share something really useful.

Glossika includes some other activities to help you learn to write in the language and allow you to listen to yourself speak. I find those less important than just getting the language poured into my ear daily, with a kind of repetition that no actual human would be patient enough for — even for pay.

I also want more people to know about Glossika because its creator, Michael Campbell, is a sterling citizen of the world’s languages. Of the roughly 7,000 languages that are currently spoken, only about 500 or 600 may still be in use a hundred years from now. Globalization and urbanization focus people on speaking the big lingua francas, such that languages spoken by small Indigenous groups stop being passed on to children. Also, in countless cases in the past, Native Americans and Australian Aboriginals were discouraged from using their languages, with children physically abused in schools for doing so. There is now a language diversity crisis akin to the one facing so much of the world’s flora and fauna.

As one response to this, Glossika helps you learn some struggling languages, such as Welsh and Taiwanese, free. Campbell is encouraging the last speakers of various Indigenous languages to record Glossika sets in their languages. The chance that many of these languages, such as Native American ones of the Pacific Northwest and indigenous ones of Taiwan, will survive as spoken languages is small. However, having them recorded in the Glossika format will be an invaluable way to at least preserve them for posterity.

Campbell intends Glossika as a way to learn a language from the ground up. However, it’s really a set for going intermediate. With all due respect for the platform, few adults are really up for piecing out how a language works by just jumping into idiomatic sentences without knowing any vocabulary or grammar at all, like babies.

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