Archive for the ‘Irish’ Category

As with every end of term, chaos surely ensues, and the skyline quickly fills with snowcapped piles of paperwork that need surmounting in record time. Despite this perilous time of year, I still managed to get my grappling hooks into plenty of Hawaiian (which is made that much easier for taking a class at university). I can’t say the same thing for my other sad and neglected languages, but once this next fortnight is over, I hope to find time to get into a more regular schedule and do all the other languages listed below some justice.

Major Language Russian (0.9h)

I bought the Penguin “Russian course” as a supplement text for grammar, and also, just out of sheer curiosity, pre-ordered a pronunciation trainer video and wordlist for Russian from the Fluent Forever website. I’d like to start reading and listening to some “Taste of Russian” podcasts over summer, as they look like an excellent resource, and I learned that a “шапка” extends to many more types of head covering than I had previously thought!

Minor Language French (0.1h)

My wife bought a whole bunch of French easy readers recently, including a parallel text of “Le Petit Prince” with audio. So I look forward to pinching these at some point to kick off my French reading this summer. Iʻm sure she won’t mind…

Minor Language German (0.3h)

My German is still languishing in some dark, dank corner of what I call my brain, but I did at least watch a short video or two online to keep it from falling into a full coma.

Minor Language Hawaiian (30h)

Hawaiian has been the main protagonist in my studies this past fortnight, for which I’ve been working whirling dervishly hard. I drank kava from Tonga and Fiji for the first time (a ceremonial Polynesian drink made from the crushed ʻawa root) which made my tongue go numb, wrote my first big essay in Hawaiian (see post below), and spent untold hours producing a video in Hawaiian for my end of term group project.

I also signed up for Hawaiian 201 over summer, and 202 in the Fall, and now that classes are pau (i.e., finished), I’ve also signed up for the 6 Week Challenge to keep me focused on Hawaiian till the end of the month (when my 5 week summer course begins). So far I’m leading the 6WC board (which is a first!), but I’m sure others are hot on my trail…

Most importantly, I think I’ve made my first big breakthrough in Hawaiian, as I can now talk continuously in Hawaiian, albeit very slowly, for 20 minutes, and I can do this without too much searching for vocabulary or grammar. This means I can write, translate, and understand a lot of the core grammatical principles, and my last reading score for “Ke Keiki Ali’i Li’ili’i” (The Little Prince) has risen from 84% to 92% in the last 3 months. So I’m getting there…

The main issue I have right right now is listening comprehension, which still hasn’t caught up with the rest of my blossoming skills. I know this is a common obstacle for most learners, so I hope to work on it this month, once my looming mountains of project work and grading are behind me.

Minor Language Irish (1h)

Wow, I think every one of my Irish skill sets in Duolingo hates me now! I’ve left them for so long that they just emaciated down to bare slivers of gold. I’ve started feeding them again, but I find the process so boring…maybe if I were fed treats myself for getting translations right, like a little marmoset in a behaviourist experiment, I would feel a tad more motivated. All the same, I guess it’s a handy activity to squeeze into 5 or 10 free minutes whilst waiting for a student in my office or lining up in the canteen for something utterly unhealthy (simply because it has an exotic foreign name).

Other language flirtations Other (Japanese 0.1h; Tagalog 0.2h)

I watched an episode of “The Tim Ferris Experiment” where he had to learn Tagalog in 3 days for a short live tv interview. This got me sorely tempted once again to learn a wee dram of Tagalog (there’s a big Filipino community here in Oʻahu). I also spoke to someone in broken Japanese for about 5 minutes; well, every little bit counts! 😉

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last fortnight: 32.5 hours)


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I’ve been very ill over last fortnight, and am only just starting to recover a little bit, so I’ll keep my update brief today…

Minor Language French (1h)

I’ve started checking out some new popular YouTube channels (e.g., Cyprien, Parole de chat), and also watched a couple of episodes of South Park dubbed into French (such a bizarre experience, I still feel slightly scarred!)

Minor Language Hawaiian (15h)

I also attended a big rally in support of Mauna Kea just before I fell ill, and ended up (very briefly *lol*) in the local news on tv! It was wonderful to see so many come together in respect and support of native Hawaiian culture, and add to the growing voice and body of people unafraid to stand up for their indigenous rights in the face of corporate injustice and mainland cultural indifference. Most of the event was in the Hawaiian language, with many of the key speakers and those building the “ahu” (a spiritual shrine, largely made of rocks collected from the shores of O’ahu and the other islands) in traditional Hawaiian dress (e.g., malo). We were also joined by several busloads of schoolchildren chanting in Hawaiian, who helped us pass the rocks along a line of around 1,000 people from the local Hawaiian Studies taro patch all the way up to Bachman Lawn on university campus!

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last fortnight: 16 hours)

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The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy workwise, and it looks like the coming fortnight may prove even more of a challenge. This means I’ve let my language learning take a back seat for a short while whilst I answer to other responsibilities and deadlines. All the same, I continue to dabble where I can…

Major Language Russian (1h)

No Кухня this fortnight, which leaves me standing on episode 51 (Season 3). However I did have a very brief chat in Russian with a visiting Ukrainian tourist who mistook me for a Russian teacher *lol* (I wish!).

Minor Language French (5h)

I’ve gathered some more resources for French (not included in my hours), and am up to lesson 9 in Assimil’s “New French with Ease”. Whilst my wife has already eclipsed my petty efforts by finishing lesson 10, and is making really great progress. We’ve changed our strategy now to watching “Les Revenants” without subtitles one day, and then with subtitles the next, and are up to episode 3 (Season 1). And I’ve got to say, it’s good fun studying French together this year!

Minor Language German (20m)

I had a 15 minute conversation with a German tourist the other day, and learned the word “die Flitterwochen” (honeymoon) in the process. I also tried to talk to some members of the university German club whilst buying lunch to support their cause. Sadly they looked like petrified rabbits in the headlights when I leapt into speaking German, so I swiftly took my leave along with a plate of bratwurst, senf, and sauerkraut.

Minor Language Hawaiian (7h)

Our class had a mid-term oral exam last week. This involved learning off a short speech in Hawaiian about one of our classmates, and then presenting it to our kumu (teacher) and the rest of the class. Although most of us were as nervous as a junebug in a henhouse, I quite enjoyed this alternative form of assessment (not being a fan of long written exams 😉 ). We’ll all find out our results after the spring break…

Minor Language Irish (20m)

A few reviews in Duolingo; no big surprises here. However I have a new addition to my little library of Irish fiction: “An Fhondúireacht” (a translation of Isaac Asimov’s sci-fi classic: “Foundation”). I’m really excited about reading this translation once my proficiency in Irish has likewise propelled itself into the future.

Side projects Ancient Egyptian (-)
Side Project: “Paddling down the Nile”

Ok, confession time…I haven’t actually started down this historic river just yet, but I hope to find my paddle soon (for fear of the mummyglot’s curse).

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last fortnight: 13.7 hours)

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I’ve tried out a few things, reformulated my study plan on the basis of how these fared, and am ready to begin my new schedule again. One noticeable addition to the list below is my slow-burning side project in Ancient Egyptian (“Paddling down the Nile”), which is described in more detail towards the end of this post. Hence the change in title to “Five Little Birds + 1”, where the “+1” stands for “one old chick” 😉 Having previously made good progress in “Champollion’s Challenge“, I just had to fit it in somewhere.

Another tweak to the schedule is that I plan to study my key languages for only 4 weeks each month (excluding reviews), and reserve whatever days remain for satisfying recurrent “wanderlust” urges. Hopefully this will keep any distracting language flirtations at bay, as well as provide short breaks on both a weekly (i.e., Sundays) and monthly basis, which will help avoid potential burn-out.

Major Language Russian (3h15m)

I’ve watched 3 more episodes (49-51) of Кухня, studied and reviewed 10 chapters of Russian Assimil, practiced talking to myself in Russian during walks home from work, and submitted some free writing for correction. I only did this halfheartedly over a stretch of 4 days, so it’s not a lot, but it’s a start.

Minor Language French (3h50m)

I found a cool new spooky series called “Les revenants”, and have already watched a couple of episodes with my wife (the context is relatively easy for us both to follow so far). Although we initially intended to start Assimil together last fortnight, my wife and I have rescheduled to start again tomorrow. In the meantime, she’s been reading “Parisienne French” on the bus to work, and I’ve submitted a couple of pieces of free writing for correction, and had a chat with a French taxi driver and a chef at my local organic supermarket.

Minor Language German (1h)

Dipping my toes into the water, I reviewed German Assimil up to lesson 6, and practiced speaking to myself a couple of times by describing the moving landscape and any features in the environment that peaked my interest during transit. My main goal with German is to blow the cobwebs off my vocabulary and get back into using it on a more regular basis. Going through a basic textbook like Assimil is perhaps overkill, but as I’ve never actually completed any course books in German before (I mainly just used native materials whilst living in Germany, and worksheets way back in high school), I might as well try to fill as many gaps in my knowledge as I can.

Minor Language Hawaiian (18h)

Between preparing for quizzes, haʻi ʻōlelo (short oral presentations in class), and other assignments, it’s been a busy fortnight for Hawaiian.  The big highlight, however, was attending a 3-hour theater production of Lāʻieikawai at the University of Hawaiʻi completely in Hawaiian. Although I could only pick out words and short phrases here and there, I could follow most of what was going on, and really enjoyed the show. The actors, singers, musicians, and dancers were all amazing, and the production and set very professional. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for more shows like this in the future…

Minor Language Irish (20m)

Just visited Duolingo on a few occasions to keep up reviews.

Side projects Ancient Egyptian (-)
Side Project: “Paddling down the Nile”

After my intrepid 2 week challenge to round off 2014 (Champollion’s Challenge), I admittedly let my paddle drop in the water and didn’t keep up with the ensuing wake of Assimil reviews for lessons 1-38 as planned. So it’s time to get back into the flow and christen my return to rowing with three new goals:

1. The first goal is to catch up with all my Assimil reviews for Ancient Egyptian, and be ready to continue where I left off (i.e., be ready to start from lesson 39). I plan to achieve this by gradually adding all these reviews to my current daily review schedule, one lesson a day, starting from lesson 8 (as I’ve already “assimilated” the first 7 lessons very well by now).

2. The second goal is to complete my initial mission for “Champollion’s Challenge” by reaching the end of lesson 50. I intend to pursue this at a more leisurely pace by studying a new lesson every week on Sunday (when I don’t have any other language study planned; just reviews).

3. The third goal is to complete all 101 lessons in Assimil’s “L’Egyptien Hieroglyphique” and reach my final port of destination charted by this excellent resource. At one new lesson a week, and accounting for all the ongoing reviews and any possible setbacks, this should hopefully take place sometime in 2016 next year.

Other language flirtations Other (Tagalog 10m; Japanese 15m)

Having learned a few simple phrases of Tagalog from people I met in my travels, I’ve been putting them into practice at every possible opportunity recently (e.g., with cashiers at the supermarket, bakery, pancake house, 7-Eleven, and also with taxi drivers). My basic attempts are always warmly welcomed, and I try to learn a new word or phrase each time if I can.

Also, a few more acquisitions for the language bookshelf this fortnight…5 Japanese books! This includes a parallel text  – “The Mouse Bride” – which completes one of my collections, 2 books from the “My Darling is a Foreigner” series (which are hilarious), and a couple of lighthearted reference books on Japanese culture: “Salary Man in Japan” and “Japan at a Glance”.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last fortnight: 26.8 hours)

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After appraising my study plan, and having consequently decided to study one “major” language for 6 days a week (i.e., Russian), and each of four “minor” languages for a run of 3 consecutive days every fortnight (i.e., French, German, Hawaiian, and Irish), it seems appropriate to upgrade my little flock to five in the title of my blog to reflect this change. Hence “Three Little Birds” has risen to “Five” (I’m sure Bob Marley won’t mind 😉 ). This week also marks the end of my initial tentative plan for this year, and the beginning of my updated fortnightly study regime outlined briefly above and in the previous post.

Major Language Russian (1.6h)

I’m up to episode 48 (season 3) of Кухня, and easing myself back into speaking more Russian at home. I’m also interested in fitting in some supplementary intensive listening and reading exercises with material on Easy Languages, and am keeping my fingers crossed for more annotated videos in Russian in the near future.

Minor Language French (-)

I bought a cute little book for my wife today called “Parisienne French” which contains colloquial basic expressions and interesting cultural tidbits you wouldn’t usually find in a textbook. I hope she likes it. We’ll both be starting our study of French from scratch tomorrow, each with our own personal copy of Assimil.

Minor Language German (0.2h)

I switched over to playing the card game “Taboo” in German for a little while for fun at home. Clearly my vocabulary needs a little work for more advanced or unusual topics.

Minor Language Hawaiian (5.5h)

Given that it was Lā Kiʻiʻoniʻoni ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi on university campus today (Hawaiian language movie day), I dropped by to watch “Kaʻililauokekoa” (crescent leaf of the koa tree) and talk story with the organizers. This is the first feature-length film I’ve watched in Hawaiian, and hearing that it’s free to access through the university library system, I intend to watch it again with my wife (as it’s a traditional Hawaiian love story and has subtitles in English).

Minor Language Irish (0.8h)

Hurray – Level 8 in Duolingo! I can now say ever-so-useful phrases such as “the turtles eat rice” and “what did the fox say?” with increasing confidence…

Other language flirtations Other (-)

I’m eager to learn a few basic phrases in both Nepali and Tagalog sometime, simply to impress friends I know. Other than that, not much in the way of wanderlust or other distractions over the last fortnight.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last fortnight: 17.5 hours)

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I’ve decided to make some changes to both my study regime and this blog…

Firstly, I’ll be posting updates here every fortnight from now on, with my next installment due in a week’s time (Weeks 7-8). This makes more sense all round in terms of the time I have available to post online, and the need to switch between languages from week to week. Who knows, given an extended period between updates, I might also amass some more interesting stories or experiences to choose from and write about.

Secondly, I’m shifting my main focus to Russian (i.e., this will proverbially be my major this year). Although I’m not officially participating with Russian in the HTLAL TAC (my focal languages are Hawaiian and Irish for the challenge), Russian is still personally the most important language on my list. I feel I’ve acquired a good solid vocabulary for basic conversational proficiency, but that my grammar and fluency still leave a lot to be desired. I’ve also stopped speaking Russian at home with my wife, as otherwise planned at the beginning this year, and have long since reverted back to English. This is largely due to my frustrations with the grammar, which in turn is the result of having never actually completed any Russian course book and formally studied enough grammar. So in an attempt to fill in some of these holes and oversights, I’m going back to basics, and aim to study both “Assimil Russian” and “Living Language Complete Russian” courses, followed by “Perfectionnement Russe”.

Thirdly, in an attempt to juggle some of the many languages I love in the limited time available in 2015, I’ve had to make some tough decisions. The offshoot of this is that I need to shelve Japanese and Spanish for the time being (which is a hard call, considering there are many opportunities to use these languages with all the people from Japan or California in Hawaiʻi), and also sideline a bunch of other languages along with it. The 4 languages remaining for minor study now include Hawaiian (which I’m studying at university), German (which needs de-rusting and ongoing maintenance), French (a language I will probably well need in future, but which I only studied for a year in high school, and that was over a quarter of a century ago!), and Irish (which I owe to myself and family, being half-Irish). I aim to switch between each language every 3 days (excluding Sundays), so that I’ve studied each one for 3 days in a row every fortnight (and ideally in time for an update here).

In the meantime, I’ve been busy focusing on Hawaiian over the last week (investing approximately 8 hours between classes and homework), and spent an additional 1.4 hours watching up to episode 46 from season 3 of Kuhnya and maintaining some of my Irish skill sets on Duolingo.

(Total time spent on learning languages this week: 9.4 hours)

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There was a lot going on in my calendar this week, which is no doubt reflected in the scarce hours spent studying or immersing in languages. However I spent a lot of time thinking about my language goals in stolen moments, and how I could organize my time better to accommodate the tasks needed to achieve them, and I hope to implement some of these strategies soon.

Hawaiian (6h)

Friday’s Lā Launa Pū (get-together day) was fun! Sadly there was no kuʻiʻai (poi pounding) this year, but I did get to play a traditional Hawaiian game called ʻulu maika, which involved rolling a flattened stone through distant sticks in the grass, somewhat reminiscent of bowling. I also tried my hand at speaking in Hawaiian to several people, although I completely fell flat on my face when I tried to talk to my previous kumu (teacher) from last term. I think it was from this point onwards that I decided to use my mouth predominantly for other purposes – namely eating all the mea ʻai ʻono (tasty food) on offer!

Irish (1h)

I’m fast approaching Level 8 in Duolingo, and only really twigged today how they present the same phrases in different dialects from time to time. Although a little confusing at first, I think this is a particularly useful feature for people learning Irish.

Russian (1.3h)

Feeling a little disheartened about my listening skills in Russian, I deliberately let the ball drop this week, and indulged in more English speaking series instead for comfort (e.g., Supernatural, Person of Interest, The Walking Dead, Black Sails). Well, they say a little break can often work wonders… o.O

Other (Japanese: 0.1h)

Whilst in the bookstore this week, I picked up a couple of easy readers for French and Spanish, and had to abate a serious craving to start learning Tagalog. I also brought my wife to a fancy Japanese restaurant for her birthday, where we enjoyed our first kaiseki (a traditional multi-course set menu) together. We absolutely loved the combination of fresh and cooked ingredients in each of the courses, their presentation in fine ornate hand-made pottery, and of course, la pièce de résistance, yet another opportunity to try out a few tried and tested phrases in Japanese.

(Total time spent on learning languages this week: 8.4 hours)

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