Ka upane! 2017.3

source: negativespace.co

This last week has been incredibly tough in terms of both what looks like insurmountable bureaucratic issues and serious health concerns, but my wife and I are just about hanging in there. With regards to languages, I think I made good progress earlier in NZSL as part of a 6 Week Challenge (6WC), and am well and truly smitten with signing. Russian will probably be next in the spotlight if I’m granted at least a little break in the clouds, but it’s hard to keep my grip and focus on non-essential matters right now.

Minor Language NZSL

I invested well over 100 hours into studying NZSL for a recent 6WC, and came in third place for overall target language hours. By the end of the challenge, I estimated my level had risen from a complete beginner in the weeks just prior to the challenge up to a more confident low intermediate level (approx. B1 on the CEFR scale). I now have a good grasp of NZSL grammar, am able to sign what I want to slowly, and can grasp the gist of most signing videos. I’ve also added the key resources I’ve used to the end of my first post for 2017 for anyone who might be interested in learning NZSL. This completes my first big language goal for 2017, and more importantly, I learned the word “jandals” (i.e., the New Zealand word for flip-flops) in the process!

Minor Language Hawaiian

Apart from a few low-hanging phrases here and there, not much to report in my little taro patch.

Major Language Russian

I’ve scored around a dozen hours for Russian to date this year, which is mostly a combination of speaking and some vocabulary study. It’s not much so far, I know, but with the 6WC out of the way (where my primary goal was to learn NZSL), my main focus will now be on getting my Russian and Hawaiian up to scratch.



Ka upane! 2017.2


source: student.mediarts.net.nz

I’ve been mainly focused on New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) since my last update, but have included some minor Russian maintenance and a wee soupçon of German and Toki Pona on the side for good measure. My baby daughter, in the meantime, has learned to say “hello” (in her own garbled-but-cute-sounding way) and is starting to experiment with the magic of bilabial consonants (she even said “mama” yesterday but has yet to repeat it).

Minor Language NZSL

I’m really enjoying learning New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) and am impressed with how much I can sign already. Most signs are easy to second-guess and have a habit of sticking in my memory after a single practice. In a sense, they serve as their own natural visual mnemonics. After my first week of study, I could sign at a basic conversational level and carry on continuous 20-30 minute monologues (albeit slowly at this stage). I’m also nearly two thirds of the way through my NZSL grammar primer (p. 204), which helps me appreciate more of the subtleties of sign language in general and get to grips with the unique syntax (e.g., non-manual markers, verbal aspect, scene setting). I even developed my own system of sign writing to accommodate missing images in the NZSL dictionary and to make a basic note of new signs on the fly (I probably spent way too much time on this, but I now have a much deeper appreciation of the morphology of signing).

Out of curiosity, I watched a 7 minute babycare video with no supporting audio or subtitles, first with my wife after a day of studying NZSL, and then a couple of weeks later by myself. On my first viewing, lip-reading quickly took a more central role, pushing manual signs to my peripheral vision where they could be glanced over to quickly for reference or confirmation. I understood probably 80% of the video and recognized many of the words I’d learned from a baby NZSL website earlier that day (e.g., change, cry, help, prefer, make, fun, baby, bath, red, powder, milk). This was in addition to several signs that were pretty clear from visual context and facial expression. On my second viewing, I relied less on lip-reading and focused more on the signer’s hands, whilst also stealing glances over to the main presentation (this takes practice and speedy eyeballs!) I understood more this time (probably about 90%) with several running phrases as opposed to single words. I also picked up many new words that I’d learned during my NZSL dictionary work in the preceding fortnight (e.g., daughter, work, nothing, succeed, what’s wrong, bad, morning, help, advice, need, wish, similar, practice, night, bottle, see, if, in the past, 3 weeks, 3am, exhausted, difficult). I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m pleased with my progress so far, and can’t wait to learn more and expand my repertoire in this fun new language.

Minor Language Hawaiian

My Hawaiian is still grounded and waiting patiently in the airport lounge eating complementary peanuts. It’s not a priority for me right at this moment, as I’m more focused on improving my Russian and NZSL which I use on a daily basis with my family.

Major Language Russian

In the shadow of my sign language studies, I’ve been maintaining Russian to a lesser extent. This is largely due to me signing up with NZSL rather than Russian for the current 6 Week Challenge. Most of this has been speaking practice, although I also tested my reading level last week and discovered (much to my surprise) that “War and Peace” is easier to read than “Night Watch” (I really didn’t see that one coming!)

Ka upane! 2017.1



Welcome in NZSL.
source: http://nzsl.vuw.ac.nz/

haw: Aloha mai kākou a e komo mai i kaʻu puke moʻomanaʻo paʻeʻe e pili ana i kaʻu aʻo mai i nā ʻōlelo i kēia makahiki!

ru: Всем привет и добро пожаловать в мой блог изучения языков в этом году!

en: Hi everyone and welcome to my language learning blog this year!

Iʻm late to the starting line this year but very excited about the course ahead. As I’m writing this in a stolen moment between changing diapers and beatboxing to amuse my little daughter, I’ll be brief. This year I’m cutting back on the number of languages I’ll be studying, and would ideally like to reach B1 in New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL), B2 in Hawaiian, and C1 in Russian (on the CEFR scale).

Minor Language NZSL

I’ll be learning New Zealand Sign Language from scratch this year. As countless videos demonstrate how infants can learn to communicate with basic signs much earlier than using speech, my wife and I are looking forward to trying this out with our daughter over the coming months. Learning to sign to a low intermediate level would also open the door to a bright new paradigm in language learning for me, and this is an exciting prospect.

Minor Language Hawaiian

I’ve let my Hawaiian slide a considerable amount and need to reverse this sinking trend. I think it would be fun to read storybooks in Hawaiian with my daughter at some point (they publish some great books in Hawaiian here!), but am still weighing the pros and cons of adding a third language too early on. In the meantime, I owe it to my previous Hawaiian teachers at the University of Hawaiʻi and my adopted spiritual kūpuna to carry on the torch and seek out new waves in this beautiful language. An upper intermediate level would be perfect for my current needs.

Major Language Russian

I trust 2017 will mark the year when I finally reach an advanced level in Russian!! Who knows, if I say that confidently enough several times and follow it up with some real consistent study, it might even happen. 😉 I must confess that English remains the overwhelmingly dominant language at home, and in order to raise little Teangushka in a more balanced bilingual environment, daddy here will need to get serious with his Russian studies in order to break through into the advanced level. This is the language I will focus on most this year.

As always, I extend a warm welcome to anyone who would like to drop by and share some aloha, and I wish you all every success and joy in your language studies in 2017…удачи всем!

goals Goals for 2017

  • nzs: A0 to B1 (achieved in March, self-assessment) 😀
  • haw: B1 to B2 (in progress)
  • ru: B2 to C1 (in progress)

resources Resources

Tired new daddy octopus.

source: superdad.gr

A LOT has happened over the last 8-9 months since my last update. As I’m currently beyond exhausted, I’ll try to keep this post brief, and will fill you in more when I hopefully score a few hours of sleep and a hot shower sometime in the new year.

First of all, my little baby girl was born last week. She’s gorgeous and now snuggling in nicely at home with new mommy and daddy. We’ll be spending our first Christmas together as a family in just a few days!

Earlier in the year, my wife and I left the islands of Hawaiʻi for the first time in 4 years, taking the time off to visit family and friends back in England and Russia during May. My wife also attended her PhD graduation ceremony, which made me very proud. It’s tough for both of us living approximately 7,000 miles away from loved ones, so it was great to see everyone over those few weeks (as well as practice my Russian with the in-laws of course 😉 ).

Minor Language Russian (182h)

Prior to visiting Russia, I spent an additional fortnight chatting with around a dozen professional Russian tutors on italki. As my in-laws don’t speak any English, I quickly picked up speed in Russian during my 2 week stay in St Petersburg, and the initial preparation with italki helped me hit the ground running. I also won the 6 Week Challenge on the Language Learners forum during this period with Russian as my target language, which was a nice encouraging bonus.

Minor Language Latin (86h)

Every new semester, I enroll in a language course at university to keep in touch with how other professors teach, and more importantly, what it feels like to be a student in the classroom. I find this helps me with my own teaching in terms of developing a genuine empathy and partial understanding of what many of my students are going through. In Fall, I chose Latin, with a view to building a grounding in Latin grammar and reading, and I hope to follow this later with the Lingua Latina series at home.

Minor Language Hawaiian (55h)

In the previous spring semester, I rounded off my Hawaiian with an advanced conversational class for fourth year students. As many of my classmates were fluent speakers or worked with Hawaiian on a daily basis, it was really quite a challenge, but I managed to hold my own and did a fair bit of immersion in the language. I also had my first real vivid dream in Hawaiian, which is the source of one of the middle names we gave my daughter, but more on that another time.

Minor Language German (40h)

My German is at a point now where I can enjoy computer games, tv series, movies, and literature much more than before. On that note, I completed a few games and a couple of tv series during the year, and look forward to more of the same in the new year (ideally some more extensive reading).

Major Language French (35h)

When I started my little odyssey in French, I envisaged all kinds of progress by the end of the year. However providence had different plans for me, and so my aventure française is still very much in its (*ahem*..pun ahead) infancy. I did however collect some great resources earlier in the year which will keep me busy for a good while, and having recently bought a Kindle Paperwhite on a Black Friday week deal, I’m now looking forward to adding more digital content to my collection.

(Total time spent on learning languages during 2016 altogether: 410 hours)

With Christmas just round the corner and a new year on the horizon, I wish everyone the very best in achieving their hopes and goals in 2017, and Mele Kalikimaka from all 3 of us here!!

Alye parusa (red sails).

source: orion-art.ru

It’s been an age and a half since my last update, but don’t worry, I’m still treading the boards of my little linguistic playhouse. I admit my steps have been small and piecemeal over the past 6 weeks, but it is movement (or at least circles) in the right direction none-the-less.

At the moment, I’m centre stage to a cacophony of drills, sledgehammers, and jackhammers all around me (the management are currently installing new central air conditioning throughout the condo), so please bare with me if I write anything bizarre for lack of being able to think straight with all this noise.

Major Language French (1.5h)

I honestly can’t recall what I did in French over the last 6 weeks, but whatever it was, it didn’t add up to much more than an hour or two. I’m looking forward to reading more difficult texts next, but have to put this on hold for the time being, as there’s an important short-term project planned on the horizon for Russian.

Minor Language Hawaiian (12h)

My Hawaiian conversation skills have improved a bit recently, which is partly down to thinking in the language in spare moments (usually before going to sleep at night, or first thing in the morning upon waking), and partly a result of more conversational activities in class (e.g., composing and performing dialogues together with another classmate, repeated reading aloud to work on fluency and pronunciation). With little over a month left of my conversational class at university, I’d be happy if we stayed focussed on these type of activities.

Minor Language Russian (1.5h)

Much like French, just an hour or two have been invested into Russian since my last update, although I’ve been talking to my wife a bit more in the language (which I don’t generally count in my overall hours due to practicalities). The big news with Russian this week is that I hope to travel to St Petersburg next month. I’m not sure whether my wife and I can arrange the visas needed in time, but we’ll certainly try. In the meantime, I’m going to focus predominantly on improving my Russian through a variety of activities, and will treat this as an intensive short-term project lasting about a month. Having spent an impressive grand total of…say…30 seconds…on dreaming up a new title for the project, I’ve decided to label this one light-heartedly: “Putin on the Ritz“! 😉

Minor Language German (23h)

Having completed “Der Tatortreiniger”, I moved on to and completed another popular German series: “Stromberg”. I enjoyed watching Der Tatortreiniger much more, but found Stromberg relatively easy to follow, as I’d already cringed through the entirety of “The Office” back in the UK (upon which Stromberg is originally based), and had watched a bit of the German series beforehand too. My next quest will probably be to finish off a computer adventure game on my iPod called “Inner World”, as I find I’m at a level now in German where I can really get a lot out of playing games rich in dialogue.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 6 weeks: 38 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2016 altogether: 143 hours)

Der Tatortreiniger

source: play.google.com

Having fallen ill, I’ll keep today’s post to a minimum.

Major Language French (9h)

Whilst stuck in bed, I’ve taken the opportunity to finish off some short novels in French. With the first level of Blaine Ray’s easy readers out of the way, I’m on to the second level now, which includes slightly more complex features such as the subjunctive mood. Altogether, I’ve read over 50,000 words, and the level in this series remains very easy.

Minor Language Hawaiian (1h)

In contrast to French and German, my motivation in Hawaiian is falling at a rate of knots. This is partly due to being ill and having to miss some classes, and partly because we don’t really engage in much conversation in the “conversation course” I audit at university. I pretty much spend each and every lesson listening to our teacher talk at great length about politics or linguistics (which goes well above my head!), or spend it on other activities which involve input or output but little or no actual interaction (e.g., transcription of poorly recorded audio). This is sadly not what I signed up for.

Minor Language Russian (<1h)

I’m searching for easy novels in Russian that more suitably fit my intermediate level of reading. I bought a contemporary novel recently in the hope of finding a happy medium between Red Kalinka easy readers and “Война и мир”, but the language was quite shocking and the writing style atrocious. And as I don’t really want to fill my head with unneeded expletives and trashy Russian at this stage, the search for suitable materials is still on…

Minor Language German (12h)

On a much more fun note, I’ve finished watching all 24 episodes of “Der Tatortreinger”, and will most likely watch it all over again real soon. This is my favorite German tv series to date, and I really hope they bring out a sixth series – das war der Hammer! I’ve also been dreaming in German quite a lot (usually about food for some reason), to the extent that I find myself babbling away in German inside my head as soon as that head hits the pillow and the lights are off. I put this all down to watching German tv more extensively in the last few days.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 23 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2016 altogether: 105 hours)

Parts of a reader.

source: lenguatercerciclo.wordpress.com

It’s already that time again to update my little corner of the cybersphere and let you know what I’ve been up to in my languages…

Major Language French (5h)

I’ve been feeling a bit guilty about French lately, as it’s taken a back seat to other languages like Hawaiian and German. So to remedy this, I’ve stepped up my reading programme and completed 5 short books for beginners. My wife and I have also collected a nice little plunder pile of easy readers and novels for French children (i.e., 8-12 years old), which I look forward to diving into over the next fortnight. Here’s some of what we’ve collected so far:

Let's Read series

French beginner level reading (Let’s Read series).

Blaine Ray's TPRS series

French reading at various levels (Blaine Ray’s TPRS series).

Short novels by Marc Thil.

Intermediate level reading for French children aged 8-12 years old (short novels by Marc Thil).

More study and reading materials

Some more French reading and study materials at various levels.

Minor Language Hawaiian (15h)

Hawaiian has been very tough terrain for me recently, as we’ve been spending a lot of time on intensive transcription activities, and the audio materials so far have been exceptionally poor quality. All the microphone feedback and background noises are essentially driving my tinnitus up the wall, so I really hope we get back to the goal of improving conversation in class soon. I also did a quick reading test of 300 words taken from “Ke Keiki Ali’i Li’il’i”, and the good news is that my lexical coverage has risen from 90% (tested 8 months ago) to 95% now (probably enough to start reading some intermediate level texts). If I manage to fit in lots of extensive reading and conversation over the coming months, I’ll hopefully (touch koa!) be on track for reaching a B2 (higher intermediate) level in Hawaiian by the end of this year.

Minor Language Russian (1h)

Not much has been happening on the Russian front again, although I do speak at least a little bit with my wife every day. I really need to get hold of some more novels or short stories that are closer to my current reading level. Every time I try to jump back into Ночной Дозор (which has been on my shelf for what seems an eternity!), I encounter so many unknown words that I feel like a beginner again. Perhaps something more intermediate first would help me bridge from easy readers across to War and Peace classics. Any fun suggestions?

Minor Language German (3h)

In addition to my French plunder (pictured above), I’m also stockpiling German novels. Here’s a photo of what I have lined up so far, and there’s more to come in the post soon…

German novels.

German novels at various levels.

I’m simultaneously reading a play (“Biedermann und die Brandstifter”) and a novel (“Homo faber”) by Max Frisch, as they come highly recommended by colleagues, and I’m also enjoying a more lighthearted stroll through Otfried Preußler’s children’s classic “Das kleine Gespenst” on the side. I don’t understand everything in the more highbrow literature, but it’s enough to comfortably enjoy the storyline without recourse to a dictionary, and get the majority of the detail along the way too. It’s also interesting to note that children’s books contain some very bizarre words and expressions from time to time, which makes advanced novels situated in more familiar adult context ironically easier to read.

(Total time spent on learning languages over the last 2 weeks: 25 hours)
(Total time spent on learning languages during 2016 altogether: 82 hours)