green flash
source: sdnews.com (Jim Grant)

I’ve studied a lot of languages to a basic or intermediate level over the years, and for the large part, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed these linguistic flirtations and affairs. However I feel I’ve spread myself a little thin and made few serious commitments along the way. Indeed, I think a change is long overdue. So from now on, I’d like to focus on raising old and new languages up to a more advanced level, one at a time, with a view to making each one I select a more permanent home in my day-to-day life. Using a regular British traffic light as a simple analogy, my languages currently fall into, and will hopefully progress through, three distinct phases on this journey:

RED (languages I’ve studied in the past or have lined up and are currently on hold)
AMBER (the next language I’d like to study and advance up the ranks, i.e., my current focus)
GREEN (languages with a solid vocabulary base that I’d like to develop further or maintain and mature over time)

There are many ways I could try to advance each language, but my current (last edited: Nov 19, 2018) line of thinking is to:

  • Explore and enjoy a variety of interesting L2 resources through a fruitful interplay of intensive and extensive activities (i.e., study/preparation and practice);
  • Review a yielding selection of words over a short time-scale, mined from the above materials as L2 (L1 hint) cloze deletion phrases;
  • Work lightly on grammar or pronunciation from time to time, building on this in a more regular, analytical, and corrective manner throughout the green phase;
  • Focus more on developing productive language skills and listening proficiency, as well as filling in thematic gaps in vocabulary, once able to more consistently understand at least 95-98% of the words in an average adult novel with initial reading speeds in the 100-150wpm range.

[Disclaimer: These steps may well change along the way as I put them into practice and learn more from experience!]

All together, I hope the initial groundwork in the amber phase will be enough at least to serve as a foundation for more extensive and immersive activities during the later green phase.

When I start a new project (i.e., switch my study focus to a new language), I’ll add a link to its introductory post in the sidebar under Language study. I’ll also try to keep a track of my materials and progress in the Language resources and Webspiration sections from time to time.

I extend a warm welcome to anyone kind or curious enough to follow my linguistic escapades and peccadillos here, and wish you all pōmaikaʻi (good luck) in your own language adventures.

Ke aloha, T.


gone fishing
source: pixabay.com (publicdomainpictures)

Weeks 13-14 (Oct 15-28)
– 2h study (ru)

Other issues (namely health) got in the way again. So this is me just touching base for now, harboring hopes for a more productive fortnight to follow.

source: pixabay.com (harutmovsisyan)

Week 11 (Oct 1-7)
– 26h study (24h ru, 1h de, 1h multilingual)

Having completed my first 50 hours of Russian as part of a “Green Flash” project, I find that words and phrases are starting to fit into place and feel more natural than ever. It’s as though I’m beginning to develop a more intuitive feeling for Russian morphology, and as an encouraging consequence, fewer passages come across as impenetrably foreign at first sight. I first noticed this change on Tuesday, having put 6-7 hours into studying Russian the day before and then sleeping on it. I also woke up thinking in Russian following a similar amount of study on Thursday, which I don’t recall having ever happened before. I suspect there may be a magic number of hours per day, given the right combination of study and practice, that leads more noticeably to breakthroughs and quantum leaps in language development. For me, this number seems to be about 5-6 hours.

On a happy note of relief more than anything else, I finished reading and listening to the final book in the Рассказ trilogy (Рассказ-канонизация), and let me say that while I clearly made gains through the experience, the road to get there was far from royal. The story was tedious but forgivable given the challenging task of writing intermediate level material for second language learners. However the accompanying audio literally kept me wincing throughout the second half of the book, especially the narrator’s excruciating impersonations and scores of tone-deaf ditties throughout…sorry if that sounds harsh but I’m simply being honest.

Week 12 (Oct 8-14)
– 20h study (16h ru, 2h de, 2h multilingual)

This week started off much slower due to work and family commitments, but I’m enjoying the materials and process much more. I also usually wake with random Russian words moshing about in my head first thing in the morning or straight after a stolen siesta. Having just about made it through my contrived readers in one piece over the last month, I couldn’t wait to finally grab some native (or at least more natural) resources and let the healing process begin. For starters, I wolfed down all 33 Easy Russian videos to date, which turns out to be an excellent resource for everyday spoken vocabulary and expressions (super useful and something I’d like to revisit!) Then I turned my hand to tackling a fantasy novel that’s been taunting me from the bookshelf (and given me wedgies on multiple random reading tests) for years and whose time has finally come (yes, Ночной дозор – no more mocking my reading vocabulary levels – one of us is going down in this round and I don’t intend it to be me!)

50 hours Summary after first 50 hours of Russian in this project (also added to ongoing Progress tracker):

  • activities: I’ve completed a beginner-intermediate level textbook; read and listened to 3 beginner-intermediate level novels (pp. 400-500); watched and studied 33 “Easy Russian” videos.
  • progress: my reading vocabulary has increased by 2-6% depending on the overall difficulty of the text (e.g., a big leap from 92% to 98% in a political news article from pravda.ru, a small bunny-hop from 91% to 93% in a passage from a children’s book like “Алиса и крестоносцы”, and a more lugubrious lumber from 80% to 83% in a particularly challenging passage taken from “Ночной дозор”); I’ve started thinking in Russian upon waking on occasion; words and phrases feel more natural and less foreign.


poorly teddy
source: pixabay.com (steinchen) and ozon.ru with modification

Week 9 (Sep 17-23)
– 0h study

very ill (fever, meds, rest)

Week 10 (Sep 24-30)
– 4h study (ru)

Despite feeling like death warmed up, I watched an episode of Oрёл и решка, worked a bit on pronouncing hard л, and channeled my inner Elvis on the weekend and summoned up enough mojo to shodan flare-kick the second book in the Рассказ trilogy off stage. Just one more Guadeloupean misadventure left to go …

chocolate covered broccoli
source: balcomsblog.blogspot.com

Week 7 (Sep 3-9)
– 11h study (9h ru, 2h de)

While out shopping for presents this weekend, I made an impulse purchase of my own and bagged Langenscheidt’s “German Grammar in a Nutshell”. My rationale was that refreshing explicit knowledge of German grammar between dalliances with Orwell’s “Keep the Aspidistra Flying” would help me nod off quicker at night. So far, this is working like a charm. I also completed my first book in the Рассказ–сенсация trilogy, although it looks increasingly likely that I’m just not a fan of stories tailored or adapted to the needs of second language learners. For as much as I appreciate the effort to repeat vocabulary throughout a story and bridge the gap between textbooks and native-level reading, these educationally fun results just so often end up tasting like chocolate-dipped broccoli (both being ingredients I love, but just not together).

Week 8 (Sep 10-16)
– 4h study (de)

I was delighted to discover my daughter picked up some new words in daycare this week. These included greetings and colors in Japanese and Hawaiian, and different types of food in ASL. The most amusing new development, however, is that she often begins her replies to questions with あの… (well/er/um…). Papa here, on the other hand, has simply kept the engine ticking over with regards to reviewing new words and stepping through my little yellow German grammar (which I completed by the end of the week!)…あの…not much else to report for now.

source: flickr.com (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

Week 5 (Aug 20-26)
– 1h study (multilingual)

With a category 5 cyclone initially on a collision course with my little oceanfront cubbyhole, week 5 ended up being a bit of a wipeout. My family spent most of the week battening down the hatches, readying ourselves to ride it out in the bathroom with a windup flashlight and a wall of tinned soup. Thankfully some meteorological, divine, or otherwise unseen benevolent force threw a friendly shaka into the path of Hurricane Lane at the last minute, causing her to simmer down and bugger off elsewhere (note: Big Island was still hit pretty hard with flooding, and Maui suffered major brush fires!) All in all, with Homer pressing the wrong button and sending islanders into blind panic earlier this year, our ongoing deluge of tsunami near misses (cowabunga dude!), and Tūtū Pele being in a particularly cranky mood this year (most likely exacerbated by the sacrilegious development of Mauna Kea), 2018 continues to keep Hawaiʻi’s residents on their toes.

Week 6 (Aug 27-Sep 02)
– 13h study (8h ru, 4h de, 1h multilingual)

Урааа…now that this bizarrely-named threat has passed, I can unpack all my books again! 🙂 I know it’s only early days, but having completed a handful of simple reading tests (revisiting articles and novels I’d used to test my vocabulary a year or two ago), I’m pleased to report that my scores for German now fall more consistently in the 95-98% range, while my Russian vocabulary is fast approaching the 90-95% mark (a goal which has always eluded me in the past). Now I just need to learn the Russian words for another dozen types of mushroom I’ve never seen before and I’ll really seal the deal!

source: pixabay.com (pexels)

Week 3 (Aug 06-12)
– 7h study (de)

I focussed on German for about an hour a day, hop-skip-and-jumping through the rest of Assimil’s German With Ease out of an already reluctant sense of “well I bought the book ages ago, so I really should finish it”. And by the end of the week I’d indeed completed the book, however I felt thoroughly bored and less athletically inclined with German, and dearly wished I hadn’t so readily accepted my initial self-deceiving logic. Note to self: if a resource bores or pains you (and you’re not a self-confessed masochist), drop it like a hot potato, or at least (as I must admit, I quite like hot potatoes) sideline it like a condiment well past its sell-by date!

Week 4 (Aug 13-19)
– 0h study

Having ostracized Russian for no good reason, you’d have thought I’d go out to buy an odd number of non-yellow flowers and make it up to her the following week. However when it came to my language studies, I was a wicked lackadaisical creature and disappeared down some other foxhole altogether. I did get a chance to have a short conversation in a mishmash of ASL and NZSL on Sunday, but in spite of my wife’s good advice last month, I’m still proverbially sitting on a train station platform, clutching a crumpled билет, waiting to catch a ride.

source: wiktionary.org (with modification)

Week 1 (Jul 23-29)
– 18h study (9h de, 7h ru, 2h multilingual)

I managed to meet my initial target of an hour of Russian study a day alongside an additional hour or two of German. Things would have probably gone more smoothly if I’d spread my studies throughout the day in more palatable 10 minute bites (as originally planned), but the truth is my studies rolled haphazardly into less-than-idealistic mossy clumps, as and when I found the time and the fancy took me.

Week 2 (Jul 30-Aug 05)
– 2h study (2h multilingual)

With domestic issues eating into my time like ravenous mogwai after midnight, I all but completely sidelined my studies the following week. I was all too ready to beat myself up over dropping the ball so soon into the project, but my wife wisely put me straight, “you don’t need to catch up…you just need to get back on the train”. And besides, the second week didn’t turn out to be a total loss after all, as I made a new (although somewhat unpleasant) discovery – the second locative (hmm…as though 6 cases weren’t enough in Russian…*gentle silent rocking*) – this is something even my wife had never heard of before! I discovered this uninvited guest while trying to ascertain the correct stress placement for the phrase “к двери”, something that raised its head while reading “Колобок” to my daughter one evening (a repetitive story much like “The Gingerbread Man”). In this case, the stress resolved to двери (in the dative), but when I looked at the declension table for this word (see image above), I initially thought I’d miscounted the cases. Sigh…it seems even the simplest of children’s books can reveal all shades of linguistic devilry.