Friday, August 26, 2016

Dennis Paoli in Mexico City

Just hanging out in Mexico City with Dennis Paoli, the screenwriter of "Reanimator", and giving him a copy of my book.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Nazca-like humanoid figure somewhere over Texas!

Is this humanoid figure the evidence of some ancient alien civilization that left its mark on the American Southwest?
Or was I just really bored on a plane?

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Only in the South

Only in the South...

A nice big wine display - with a sign telling you that you can't buy any of it, because it's Sunday.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The Jesus billboard

First religious advertisement spotted during this trip to Georgia.

I bet so many people convert to Christianity because of this billboard. They go, "Man, the only thing holding me back was that I just couldn't remember the guy's name!"

Saturday, May 14, 2016

How to learn a language in a day, Part 1: The 200 most important words

What if there was a simple list of the 200 most important words to learn in any language? What if by learning the words on that list, you could have a conversation about almost anything?

What if there was a really smart guy out there who created such a list?

You're in luck pal...there am such a smart guy. And that smart guy am me.

THE 200 MOST IMPORTANT WORDS TO LEARN IN ANY LANGUAGE

A few folks have attempted to compile such a list in the past. One of the most well-known lists was published by Tony Buzan in his book, "Using Your Memory." Unfortunately, Buzan's list of 100 words is very Anglocentric. It includes many words that do not exist in other languages.

As a person who speaks ten languages, I have figured out a thing or two about what words and concepts are the most important.

Of course, it's impossible to claim that this list is universal. That's the beauty of linguistic diversity--certain languages have words, concepts, and structures that don't exist anywhere else in the world. Still, if you can learn how to say these 200 words in a language, you'll be well on your way to speaking it.

It goes without saying, learning these 200 words is just the beginning. It's not enough to just translate an English sentence word-for-word. In addition to basic vocabulary, you'll need to learn:

1. Grammar
How do you conjugate verbs? Do adjectives change? Are there genders? Are there declensions and grammatical cases? (These can make one noun change, depending on where it is in a sentence.) Does the language use certain articles before or after words, to show how the word is being used?

2. Sentence structure
Word order can vastly vary from one language to the next. If you don't believe me, watch an old kung fu movie with a very literal translation.

3. Certain concepts aren't contained in just one word
I've singled one of them out in my list: the idea of possession, "to have." In many languages, there isn't a simple verb to say "to have."
EXAMPLE: In Russian, to say "I have a cat," you literally say, "By me [genitive case] there is a cat."
Many indigenous languages of the Americas are the same.

4. Tonal languages
Some languages, like Mandarin Chinese, Mixtec, Barí, are tonal. The tone (musical note) you give to a word will change its meaning. This means you don't just have to learn the words and grammar--you have to take a music lesson as well.

* * * *

Without further ado, here's the list, with words roughly arranged by category. I'm always open to suggestions for perfecting it.

THE LIST 

Greetings, courtesy 
hello
goodbye
yes
no
not (negation)
please
thank you

Question words
who
what
where
when
why
how
because


Prepositions
with
on
under
in
out
next to
here
there
up
down
before
after
for
from
now


Pronouns

I
you
you (formal)
he
she
you (plural)
we
they (male, female, both)


possessives - my, your


Verbs


use
have
see
hear / listen
be able to (do something)
say
speak
find
to be
to like
love
come
go
take
bring
make / do
to exist, be around ("there is / are" in English, "haber" in Spanish)
think
know
sleep
eat
drink
work


Adjectives
comparisons: more, less

good
bad
large
small
hot
cold
old
new
pretty
ugly
fat
thin
clean
dirty
strong
weak
alive
dead

Basic nouns
person
man
woman
friend
house
town / city
animal
tree
water
food
thing
time
sun
moon
land / earth
sky

Body parts
body
head
eye
mouth
nose
hair
arm / hand
leg / foot
stomach
back

Other random common words
if
also
but
either / or
other
different
same
this
that
all
none
always
often
sometimes
never
more
less
a little bit
much
again
and
almost
only


Basic colors
white
black
green
blue
red
yellow

Numbers, one through ten