Archive for the ‘2015’ Category

I’m still largely bedridden due to illness, but my mind is already leaping into fresh and ruddy-cheeked resolutions for the promising new year ahead. All things considered, I think I’ve made reasonable progress in 2015 (averaging 2-3 hours’ study a day), and I’m really happy that I can now read and converse (albeit at an intermediate level) in Hawaiian.

Major Language Hawaiian (450 hours in total this year)

Hawaiian was my major study language this year, and consequently the language in which I made the most progress. I started with a paltry A1 level, where I couldn’t really do much at all, and ended up at a more sturdy B1 level by the end of the year, where I can now enjoy native materials with the aid of a dictionary, chat with native speakers slowly, and write short essays using more complex grammar and expressions. To get to this point, I invested about 450 hours into my Hawaiian studies, won the May 6-week Challenge, and squeezed 2 years of university classes into just over 1 year (by attending an additional intensive course over summer). I’m still far from comfortably fluent and proficient in the language, but I now have a solid foundation upon which to build further and work on my weaker skills. Altogether, a good result, and just a whisker away from my original goal at the beginning of the year of reaching B1+.

Minor Language Russian (162 hours in total this year)

I would have really liked to level up over the last couple of months. However both work and illness put up umpteen impenetrable walls of ice on my late expedition, which effectively put the kibosh on these plans. I was doing particularly well in weeks 47-48, during which I completed 70 lessons of Assimil and spent 45 hours on my Russian studies in one fortnight alone. Printing out colourful grammar tables, and leaving these around the room for occasional reference, was also a big boon in deepening my understanding of declensions. The most effective activity of all (i.e., the one where I felt the most immediate and profound progress) was writing an email in Russian to my wife every day, and then having her correct this later for me to study and add to my flash cards. Initially, I made bucketfuls of mistakes, but as the days progressed and I wrote about similar themes, I started to internalize the corrected feedback and change my interlanguage accordingly. It was quite encouraging to find less and less corrections each day, and even more so to discover these new corrected constructions slipping into conversation.

Minor Language German (57 hours in total this year)

I really got into German computer games this year, which largely reflects most of the hours I spent on the language. It all started with watching Let’s Play episodes on YouTube and playing some educational graphic adventure games by the Goethe Institut. I’ve since progressed to native-level adventure game apps on my iPod like “Inner World”, which is easy and fun to play in dead time, and really sharpens up both my reading and listening skills. The best part is that translating a word has an immediate and rewarding use in gameplay, and time just flies by when you’re solving puzzles and engaging with new characters and locations. I know computer games aren’t for everybody, but it’s another great alternative in the larger language learning toolbox, and I find myself much more engaged in an interactive adventure that contains a wealth of humour, plot, character development, and mystery.

Minor Language French (34 hours in total this year)

French was more of an aside thought in 2015, but I still managed to do 34 hours of something. I think the large part of this was watching “Les Revenants” with my wife, along with perusing YouTube clips, engaging in occasional conversations, and undertaking some grammar review. Next year, my main focus will be on French, so I expect to take greater strides forward in this language in 2016.

(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 752 hours)

To everyone who has followed my language travels this year, even if it’s just to pop in from time to time to see if I’m still alive and kicking, I extend a big mahalo nui loa (thanks). Your support has really helped me keep on track throughout the course of the year, and I wish you all the very best with your goals for next year now – language or otherwise – let’s make our kindling hopes for 2016 a blazing reality!


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It will have to be a relatively brief update this fortnight, as I caught something nasty at the end of term and am feeling like death warmed up right now…

Major Language Hawaiian (4h)

I’ve completed the equivalent of 2 years of Hawaiian classes to date, investing 600 hours in total (450 of those hours falling within 2015). This has brought me to the stage where I’m quite comfortable with grammar and writing, but my listening and speaking skills still leave a lot to be desired, so I’ll be focussing more intently on production next year.

Minor Language Russian (4h)

I was doing really well with Russian in weeks 47-48, but then everything went to pot after falling ill, and so I’ve barely touched Russian over the last fortnight. Realistically, I doubt I’ll be able to finish the first Assimil book by the end of the year as originally planned, and certainly not whilst these fevers persist, but who knows (I’m still keeping my fingers crossed)…

Minor Language French (0.3h)

My wife has almost completed the passive wave of the first Assimil book, which is great news and I’m really proud of her. I look forward to us both studying and practising French together next year.

Minor Language German (14h)

I seem to have done more German than any other language lately. This means I’ve now surpassed my side goal of 50 hours’ study in the language this year! 🙂 I finished watching “Das Boot”, which was an amazing yet harrowing and visceral experience, watched some stand-up comedy, and listened to podcasts on philosophy. I’ve also started playing a new adventure game on my iPod called “The Inner World“, which is not only fun and easy to play in dead time, but offers both German audio and text throughout (in fact, the game was originally made in German by a German company, so the jokes make a lot more sense in German too!)

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 30 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 752 hours)

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The final weeks of term are always a whirlwind of activity for any instructor, and this year is no exception. I’ve also really started to push the boat out with regards to learning languages, and have racked up a bonus 54 hours of study (mainly Russian) over the past fortnight. It’s been immensely hard to sustain, but I’ve stuck with it so far!

Major Language Russian (45h)

I’ve switched my focus now over to Russian for the remainder of 2015, and feel I’ve made more progress over the past fortnight than any other time I can recall. I now listen, read, study, speak, write, and add new vocabulary in Russian every day, and the synergy between these activities is really paying off – particularly from analyzing feedback on my free writing! The plan behind my final dash to the end of 2015 is to reach a more solid B2 level in Russian and fill in some of the numerous gaps in my grammar, which I hope to achieve partly through a systematic study of Assimil Russian (and if time permits, a good chunk of Assimil Using Russian too). So far, I’m up to lesson 70 in the first book, having started 2 weeks ago!!

Minor Language Hawaiian (6h)

Only a week left now of my Hawaiian classes! I’ve already signed up for third year conversation classes, starting on 11th January, and although I’ve let my Hawaiian slide a bit lately in favour of strengthening Russian, I look forward to returning to my Hawaiian studies in January and working more actively on listening and speaking.

Minor Language French (1h)

Another hilarious yet brief chat about faux French pastries and the insidiousness of McDonald’s popularity in Paris with mon pote, the French taxi driver, and a slightly larger side dish of Internet surfing to follow.

Minor Language German (1h)

I’d really like to spend some more time on German this month, so that it at least brings my total hours up to 50 for the year (this is one of my motivational goals – see medals under the “Study in 2015” section on the right). Given everything else going on and my priority being Russian, I don’t know if I’ll be able to score a further 6 hours, but maybe I could try and watch the remaining three episodes of Das Boot and read a short novel or play a game in the meantime (I have no idea when, but I’ll keep it positively in mind).

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 54 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 722 hours)

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With a mere month and a half left of 2015, it’s time to call on any extra energy reserves to fuel the final stretch. Up till now, I’ve been keeping my head above water with an average of 2+ hours’ language-related study or immersion a day, most of it centring on Hawaiian this year. However I’d like to ramp up the hours for Russian (and perhaps French) as well, before we all bring in the New Year and start making new plans and buoyant resolutions.

Major Language Hawaiian (9h)

I’m glad we went spent time reviewing relative clauses in my Hawaiian 202 class this term, as it’s definitely helped me consolidate these more complex points of grammar, at least to the stage where these type of structures now feel more natural. I also had my second dream (this time a nightmare) in Hawaiian, where I had to apologize to an aliʻi (chief) on behalf of a group of malihini (foreigners) for picking some kapu (sacred) berries – all in my best floundering Hawaiian of course!

Minor Language Russian (1h)

Always finding new gaps and discrepancies in my developing grammar, I learned that “тоже” is only ever really used to mean “also” when referring to a new subject (e.g., “Он высокий. Она тоже высокая.” = “He is tall. She is also tall.”), whilst “также” is used instead with the same subject (e.g., “Он высокий. Он также красивый.” = “He is tall. He is also handsome.”) All this time, I’d been overgeneralising the word “тоже”, as well as throwing it into places where a simple “и” (and) would have sounded more natural. Ah well, piece by piece, the rules of the game eventually come into better focus…

Minor Language French (1h)

I think I’ve finally got my head around how to order multiple pronouns before a verb, including how to use “en” and “y” properly (“lui” and “se” used to throw me off, but I’m betting that “se” is only ever used as a reflexive pronoun here). I also spoke a little bit of French with a taxi driver this week, as well as with the proprietor of a macaroon and pastries stall at the local farmer’s market over the weekend. These light conversations brought an extra smile to each day!

Minor Language German (3h)

I managed to watch half (i.e., 3 episodes) of the classic tv mini-series “Das Boot” again, but this time without English subtitles. I recall seeing some of the episodes in my teens many aeons ago (probably on BBC2), and it’s just as good as I remember. The dialogue is pretty difficult to follow due to the myriad of background noises, the unfamiliar context, and the informal vernacular speech from the period (especially all the drunk sailors swearing in that first episode :/ ), but I’m picking up more and more as I progress through the series.

Other Language(s) Other (4h)

I recently indulged in some Spanish cinema from RedBox (“A La Mala”), and have become a little addicted to listening to Welsh radio podcasts when I get home from work (what can I say…the language just seems to personally resonate with me, like soothing and familiar music…and although I don’t understand much of it at all, it helps me unwind when life gets particularly stressful). I don’t always mention all my other little dallies with non-study languages, but so far it adds up to at least 40 hours this year (and probably sums to a lot more beyond my sporadic notes regarding wanderlust).

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 18 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 668 hours)

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Still recovering from a serious relapse in health last month, I’m left with just a few crumbs to report over the last fortnight.

Major Language Hawaiian (6.1h)

I had to miss some classes last week, but am back this week studying the story of “Ka Mōhai ʻUlu” (The Breadfruit Offering). Once again, the goddess Pele lets loose her fiery temper on some poor ill-fated Hawaiians; I’m starting to see a repeating pattern here…

Minor Language Russian (2.4h)

I enjoyed watching some videos and playing board games in Russian over the weekend, including a version of Taboo where I have to help my partner guess the word in Russian without using other closely related words listed on each card.

Minor Language French (1.2h)

I also watched some more recent videos from the Polyglot Gathering channel, including a presentation in French by Slyvain Lelarge (what a character…I’d love to have a teacher like him!), as well as a talk by Philippe Gagneur & Daniel Krasa about using Assimil (which was partly in French).

Minor Language German (0.8h)

Just some light internet surfing here to keep the wheels rolling.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 11 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 650 hours)

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What with a large proportion of students dropping like flies during their mid-terms, and an onslaught of both humid and rainy days last week with an ever-ready side order of vog, I’ve fallen under the weather myself lately. I’ve kept up with my Hawaiian, and even spent a day chilling out with German whilst ill in bed, but it’s always a challenge to keep focused when poor health gets in the way.

On a more positive note, I notice I’ve invested well in excess of 600 hours into language learning in 2015, which averages out at more than 2 hours a day so far (today is day 294, leaving just 71 days this year!) This is my yearly personal best to date. 🙂

Major Language Hawaiian (14.5h)

We studied another interesting moʻolelo (story) in class about the fire goddess Pele, and are now coming to the end of our grammar review (we’re currently finishing up relative clauses). The atmosphere in class remains really fun and relaxed, which helps everyone feel more at home and comfortable when sharing experiences or offering answers to questions in Hawaiian. If our kumu (teacher) were to offer a course at the 300-level next semester, I’d put my name down in a heartbeat.

On a slightly more embarrassing note, I translated the old skool German hit “Rock Me, Amadeus” into Hawaiian (which must be a world first, surely!) I’m half-tempted to post it up on Lang-8 and see what happens, although I sincerely doubt many native or advanced Hawaiian students may have ever heard of the Austrian singer Falco. Let’s just say my translation got very creative in parts and is most likely chock-full of mistakes, but hey, you try translating “ein Punker” into a Polynesian language that’s probably never heard of Johnny Rotten and has no equivalent for “rock music” in the dictionary unless it actually involves a rock…

Minor Language Russian (0.7h)

I’ve occasionally chatted with my wife in Russian when out and about in town (usually whilst eating out), and enjoyed reading some blog entries in Russian and comparing notes with other learners (e.g., on the Language Learners and MasterRussian forums). It doesn’t amount to much study really, but at least it’s still keeping a few of my Russian-related brain cells awake.

Minor Language German (7.2h)

As I briefly mentioned in the intro, I spent a day under the covers feeling like death warmed up. Rather than sinking completely into the bed from sheer exhaustion, or watching inane tv re-runs through bleary bloodshot eyes, I decided to practice German instead (actually, it was my wife’s excellent suggestion!), and consequently I ended up spending 7 hours on task that day. Amongst my bed-ridden undertakings, I watched a film called “A Coffee in Berlin”, which was relatively artistic but left me feeling even more miserable, and completed an adventure game from the Goethe Institut on my iPod called “Lernabenteuer Deutsch – ein rätselhafter Auftrag“, which was much more fun and engaging and the highlight of my day’s German activities (I hope they make another game in this series!)

(Total time spent on learning languages over the 2 weeks: 22.4 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 638.9 hours)

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It’s been a tough week, so my hours of language study are down in the dumps a bit, but at least there’s still a smidgeon of forward momentum…

Major Language Hawaiian (3h)

We’re still going over grammatical structures from previous courses in class, which is good overall review, and I’m looking forward to booking in some real conversation with mānaleo (native speakers) soon. Over 400 hours of Hawaiian so far this year and counting!

Minor Language Russian (0.2h)

Apart from a few loving exchanges with my wife, and the odd expletive to myself whilst walking to work and almost being run over by crazy drivers who ignore the lights, everything’s been quiet on the Russian front this week. However I hope to change all that next week – Iʻll keep you posted. 😉

Minor Language French (0.3h)

I enjoyed chatting with a French taxi driver last Friday, where both my wife and I were surprised at my relative fluency (especially as he didn’t change down gears at all and spoke swift colloquial French throughout). I understood pretty much everything he said and didn’t have to struggle too much for words or workarounds when vocabulary failed me either. This is pretty amazing considering the little bag of French I learned 25 years ago, and I acquired a couple of new words (“argot” et “pote”: “slang” and “buddy”) into the bargain.

Minor Language German (0.2h)

I also met several Germans over the last week, although sadly all the passing conversations were relatively short. This included helping out an old lady in the local supermarket, chatting with some tourists, and briefly catching up with a colleague at work. I miss chatting in German and hope to do this again soon.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last week: 4 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2015 altogether: 607 hours)

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