Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Must be strong

So while I have had not so much time to work on language, I have had 5 min here and there to look on the web at things... and it is a hard thing not to get addicted to buying and finding language TOOLS: This falls into two categories

1) Extra tools for languages I'm working on. Chinese character workbooks. Flash card decks. Colloquial language books. Podcasts.

In all of these, I need to step back and take stock: With Swedish, I just have the one "Teach Yourself" series and a dictionary. I don't NEED MORE... at least not until I've finished Teach Yourself and want to target more learning areas. With Chinese and Japanese, I have several books and flash card sets: Until these are mastered and complete, there is NO REASON to get more.

But still, these tools are tempting. I wander through a bookstore at lunch and the books just look interesting... perhaps this one will have some cool new way of teaching?

The one temptation that is too strong is to upgrade my ChinesePod membership to the one where they call you every day for 10 minutes to practice your Mandarin. That would SERIOUSLY turbocharge my learning. BUT, with the holidays coming, AND given that I have a good 37 more Pimsleur lessons on tap, why not just wait until next year and come at it even stronger?

2) The eternal temptation of OTHER LANGUAGES: Ok, seriously, why am I hovering around Dutch books? Why? There was no good reason to start with Korean, other than the fact it was a new site and I was curious about it and wanted to help them grow.

I need to stop looking at language products as commodities and do a cost-benefit on each: It's the same as getting programming language books or upgrading computers - it's easy to be impulsive, and it's a lot easier to shop for 10 min and click buy on a book than it is to memorize another 10 Kanji.

So help me be strong, people. By writing this, I'm putting my confession into the electrons, and I have named my addiction. This will help me refocus my efforts and make use of the tools I already have...

After all, I'm a language addict, not a language products addict. Right?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I'm a horrible disappointment

To both people who read this: I'm sorry about not posting. Really in the past two weeks, all I've done is continue with my Pimsleur Mandarin II: I just finished Lesson 52 of 90 (Level II, lesson 22), and can confidently say that:

The express train is faster than the bus:
kuai4che1 bi3 gong1gong4qi4che1 kuai4 (FastCar compared to PublicGoingCar fast)

I can also say that Mister Chen's son never writes letters.
Chen xian1sheng1 de er2zi cong2lai2bu4 xie3 qin4

This is good stuff.

Come the evening, I have very little brainspace remaining for my language ambitions - I'd like to spend an hour a night focusing on grammar for one of my other active languages, or drilling myself on reading Hanzi, Kanji, or Hanguk... but the fact of the matter is I'm working on a maximum of four hours of sleep these days, thanks to the little squawking son, and have taken to vegging out and reading recreationally in my spare time. I know, that's crazy talk.

So as things progress, I'll keep updating. Rest assured, there IS progress happening, but I'm not seeking new challenges just yet. I feel like I'm successful because I AM doing at least 30 minutes a day of learning, in with everything else.

In Podcasts I Listen To News: Sounds like is getting some re-doing. That's a good thing: I have enjoyed them, but somehow it never fully clicked for me as an essential service. Instead I listen a fair amount to BBC Mundo Hoy - a latin newscast which I actually can track pretty well...

And poor KoreanClass101: I love them to pieces, but I have fallen behind. Perhaps when I hit Mandarin Lesson 60, I'll take a break (as I have with Russian) and spend a few weeks in Hanguk.

That's the geeky update for the night. I think I might now go play a round of Katamari Damacy... since it's too late to start a movie... and a little too early for me to cash it in.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Oh the fun of Typos

As Ant notified me, I had written something QUITE different from "You have taken bad medicine" in that previous blog post (now corrected).

Somehow, what I had written actually roughly translates to

"You angrily made love to chinese cream".

or perhaps...

"You baked red sex".

So my apologies to any chinese readers who were confused by the previous blog post. I will be sure to doublecheck my pinyin doublethrice in the future!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Mo Mandarin

Back on the horse: Finished lesson 39 - finally back to where I stopped back in August, and it is burned in much better this time. After a funny lunch, Uncle Ant accused me of "ni3 chi1 cuo4 yao4 le" - "you have taken bad medicine", a colloquialism that means you've gone soft in the head. (Thanks to Ant for the re-correction - obviously I have been chi'ing cuo yao)

Turns out the Swedes are NOT coming over, which would have threatened to evaporate my desire to know that language, but Annika has re-iterated that even though they're not visiting, she wants to help me with Swedish. So I'm still plodding along there.

All these languages, they're like puppies wanting attention. I focus on Chinese, and suddenly there's a man in an elevator speaking Russian. I focus on Korean, and suddenly I'm arguing about the difference between Chikai and chiisai in Japanese with Ant.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Like riding a bike

I got one lesson of Mandarin off this week... but now my Palmpilot is dying which is my player for the Audiofy bookchips. So I need to somehow get that content onto an iPod (there's a way with a little janky bit of software... but I need to figure it out). But that one lesson was 4 lessons BACK from where I stopped months back, and it was good to review, because I had forgotten quite a lot... But by the end of the lesson I was feeling confident again.

Tonight I had Chinese food delivered, and kicked out a "xiexie", and got a bow with a "bu ke qi", so I felt successful. I'm also realizing that I really need more Hanzi practice, so I'm working through the Integrated Chinese set: This was recommended by ChinesePod actually. And I think one of my 40th birthday presents to myself will be a few months of the Chinesepod Practice Plan - with daily 10 minute calls from Shanghai.

Allright, that's the update. I'm a bit tired, so nothing too clever.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Back to Mandarin

Ok - I'm pausing on the Russian and hitting the Mandarin for a while. And sticking with the Korean, and taking a stronger focus back to the Swedish, since Thanksgiving IS coming and I want to be able to chat up the Swedes.

But as I was walking with Uncle Ant (allright, his name is Rich really) I realized that boy, if I just spent more time on Mandarin, I'd have a willing and geeky language partner right at hand. Rich is ALMOST as much of a language geek as I am, though truth be told, his language love is usually based around practicality: He learned Greek to prepare for a trip. He learned Mandarin because he was managing a project team of Chinese nationals. He learned Spanish because that's what people did in high school.

So, watch for less Russian and more Mandarin in the weeks to come.

Japanese... will hold for a while: I discovered that my Pimsleur Japanese III chip is corrupt and a replacement will take a few weeks....


Monday, October 1, 2007

Oh Pronouns!

I'm just done with Pimsleur Russian 59, which is quite exciting. As I approach the end of level II, I wonder if I should barrel through into Level III, or take a spacer and work on Mandarin for a while...

Two interesting bits today:
In Russian it's considered bad form to use the same personal pronoun twice in a sentence: You'd never say "I'd like to invite you to my house" - 'I' and 'my" are variants of the same pronoun. So you say "I'd like to invite you to one's house". Other variants, "She was staying with one's friend" or "You are driving one's car".

You can mix pronouns no problem: "She was driving my car" is just fine. So it's not entirely inscrutable.

In Korean, the pronoun for "You" is rarely used - it's considered a bit too direct. So to start taking about "you", you say the person's name. But fear not, it's not as though they're saying names all day and night - there's a second rule that works with this: The "Topic Marker" (neun) is said after the name, and it's assumed that all conversation relates to that person until a new market is set.

While this sounds complex, it's pretty easy.

"As for you, Jim, how are you doing?"
"not bad."
"still going to school?"
"yes - and it's a pretty tough semester"
"Think grades will be a little lower?"
"Maybe. As for you, Keith, how is your school going?"

Where it gets complex is if, in the same conversation they would add "me too", which would reset the topic marker, requiring the person to say the name again to ask the next question. So I think that Koreans must be good at letting one side tell the tale, then letting the other go.

The English tendency to agree with a statement and offer a personal perspective to each question must be suppressed, or you need to say that person's name a lot.

That's it for today!