Archive for the ‘Japanese’ 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 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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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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Hours of study this week: 5.0
Total hours of study: 35.3

Magic Island

I got up bright and early to indulge in a stroll around Magic Island this morning, where I let my mind ponder over the Furey Brother’s Irish classic “It’s a long, long way from Clare to here”. And as I relaxed to the sound of the waves crashing around the peninsula, I took a moment to reflect with my wife on how my learning strategies had evolved over the last half a decade.

If you’d asked me how to put my best foot forward in learning a language back then, I’d have probably pulled out a big fat frequency dictionary and feverishly referred to some efficient flashcard system like Anki, solely focused on reaching “Grand Central Fluency Station” as soon as possible. I certainly wouldn’t have dared suggest tackling a new language before reaching a pretty decent level in any former study languages, and the idea of doing just 15 minutes a day would have felt like an abject sacrilege to the gods of efficiency.

Thousands of posts and countless experiments later, and both my approach and attitude have radically changed. I find myself getting to know one big ʻohana (Ha: family) of languages better each day (or at least trying to, as and when time and tide permit), still keen to reach that same Grand Station above, but now with a much more relaxed demeanour, focused more on slowing down just enough to enjoy the vista and deepening friendships along the way, and savour some of those little epiphany moments on what I hope will be a lifelong journey.

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Hours of study this week: 5.8
Total hours of study: 30.3

Language targets.

I’m still not hitting all my targets, but I’m gradually getting there… I threw around a few phrases of Pidgin and discussed Anglo-Japanese bilingualism with a Hawaiian-born taxi driver, and also happened to scare some Russian speakers half to death in an elevator when I asked them (in Russian) to press the floor for my office. I also learnt several new words in Spanish whilst listening to my wife’s Zumba DVD in the background this weekend, and set aside some time to make some Hawaiian parallel texts.

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Hours of study this week: 5.5
Total hours of study: 24.5

I watched Stargate with my wife this weekend, as she’d never seen the film before and was interested in watching the series. Not long into the movie, I jumped up and was compelled to hit the pause button. Hieroglyphics on the screen…and with incorrect translations just begging to be mended beneath them (which is actually part of the plot)…it was all too tempting! I found myself able to translate whole phrases of hieroglyphics and couldn’t help but round off my eccentric performance with a “little Pharaoh” victory dance of delight (much to the bemusement of my Nefertiti). But hey, how often do I get to use my knowledge of Ancient Egyptian in this modern age! 😀

Gate to the stars

Come on Danny boy, you overlooked the 3 lines on that first one…it’s plural!

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Hours of study this week: 7.8
Total hours of study: 19.0

My first week back at university this semester was, in a word, gruelling! I managed to fit whatever spare moments I could into studying languages (lunch breaks, 4 o’clock morning rises, bedtime snacks, etc), but I had so much prep to do for teaching my own class, in addition to tackling 4 new graduate courses on top of this, that it was really quite a challenge. Hopefully next week will afford me more opportunities to study and less overall admin.

I found this Hawaiian dictionary in my local bookstore over the weekend, which ended up being a bit of a silly impulse buy:

"Old Skool" Hawaiian Dictionary

Silly, why? It was only when I peeled off the plastic cover that I discovered it was based on a dictionary that dates back to 1865! No ʻokina & kahakōs, and no English to Hawaiian section either, noooo….this baby’s going back to the shop on Monday! I think I’m going to order one of the dictionaries by Mary Kawena Pukuʻi instead, and will make do with the ulukau online dictionary until its arrival.

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