by niceguydave on May 31 2012
You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.
This seems to apply to www.tatoeba.org. It’s been down now (for me) for two days without any indication of what’s happened. No maintenance page, nothing. I really hope that this project keeps on going but there obviously seem to be something amiss.
Anyone have any ideas what’s going on?
Please come back soon!
by niceguydave on April 22 2012
I’m very keen to reactivate my French. A while back I could hold my own pretty well in the language but it’s atrophied somewhat. Domage. I’d like to get it switched back on and be able to say that I’m trilingual (that has a nice ring to it).
My first plan of attack it to use the tried and tested brace of Anki and Tatoeba – Tatoeba to look up sample sentences and Anki to get these phrases committed to memory. At present, in French, this isn’t really taking up more than ten minutes or so of my time so I’m keen to start trying out shadowing – a language technique promoted by Alexander Arguelles. The text that I’ll be using for shadowing is Assimil French With Ease. This course comes with audio and bilingual texts – so far, the sound of the text is very clear and the content of the course seems very thorough, although perhaps a little too easy. The content is surprisingly dark-humoured which pleases me no end.
One variation to the technique is that I won’t be doing this outside. I’ve tried hard to justify whether I would be able to walk purposefully around talking to myself in East London – the answer is a resounding No. There are plenty of other ways I can do this in the safety of my own home whilst moving around – making bread, doing the washing up etc.
My aim is always be running ten lessons in a row i.e. from lesson 1 to lesson 10 today, lesson to to lesson 11 tomorrow etc. etc. If I have the time I may increase the amount I do every day.
In the meantime, I’m continuing to use Anki and Tatoeba to keep my French going and am watching perhaps two hours of German a week and speaking German for about two or three hours a week – perhaps not a large amount but hopefully sufficient so that I’ll be able to start concentrating a little more seriously on consuming a good amount of French content in my free time.
by niceguydave on March 7 2012
I posted an email around work today, asking if anyone would be interested in hearing about the way in which I learn languages, specifically to do with the way in which technology can be leveraged. Where I work we generally have a slot on Friday afternoons where the staff are given a run down of the previous week along with any announcements.
It’ll be good for me to sit down and break the process into chunks so that I can start to gain a bit more of an insight into what my process actually is. Obviously everyone is going to be at a different stage of learning so I’m going to try and have to present things in as generic way as possible.
I’ve often toyed with the idea of getting into teaching somehow without ever really doing anything about it. I guess this is a great of working out how it feels to pass on something that I’m passionate about.
by niceguydave on February 25 2012
I’m subscribed to a blog written by another German learner – a guy called Clarence at http://thefineapps.com/. It seems as if Clarence is a big fan of audio books. So I thought I’d take the plunge and actually buy an audio book.
I decided on the German translation of Kafka’s Metamorphosis. Up until this point, my listening to German generally involved either talking with German friends or listening to a daily edition of German news at Deutsche Welle. In fact, there is a lot of great content at Deutsche Welle. I’d actually tried to listen to some freely available audio content at The Gutenberg Project but didn’t have too much luck in finding anything easy to listen to.
I think it’s important to find something that’s pleasant to listen to. Many of my German friends comment on how ugly German must sound. I disagree. If I could use one adjective to describe German it would be crunchy. Like biting into a crisp apple. There’s something satisfying about finally being able to roll an “r” in the back of your throat and equally so to hear it spoken confidently. Drrrringend, frrrrech, grrrrrausam. I really love the way these words sound!
Back to the audio book – the content of Die Verwandlung is a level higher than my current understanding but I know enough of the base of surrounding content to allow me to infer a certain amount of the remainder of the words. Since I also have the text of the book within my LWT application I’m able to work on unknown words and phrases in my own time.
Reading to any great extent is still an issue for me, especially with German. I often get the feeling that the sheer length of certain words and dealing with compound adjectives can ruin the flow of reading for me. It’s getting better which I’m sure implies that I need to read more but for the moment having an audio version of a fairly complex text is really helping me out a lot.
by niceguydave on February 20 2012
The things that I find hardest about learning German are those things which are almost the same as in English but not quite. Case in point is dealing with prepositions (on, at, for etc.) in conjunction with verbs. For example, a German translation of “I can count on him” would be “Ich kann mit ihm rechnen” which back-translated to English ends up as “I can count with him”. You see the problem? It’s not always going to be a one-to-one translation so a strategy is needed to remember cases. My strategy is as follows:
- Find a noun which starts with the preposition that is used with the verb(!) Using the case above, I can change things slightly so that I have the following sentence: “Ich kann mit meinen Mitarbeitern rechnen” (I can count on my staff/colleagues). You can see from this sentence that the preposition mit binds with the beginning of the noun Mitarbeitern.
- Now that I have the preposition and the beginning of the noun to which it is connected, it becomes much easier to remember. I create a two way translation of this sentence and put it into Anki. Once I’ve seen this sentence a few times and begin to commit it memory it slowly becomes clear to me that “rechnen mit” means to “count on” or “depend (up)on” and the original “Mitarbeter” helper noun gracefully fades away.
In terms of creating sample sentences, it’s best to go with phrases or words which you’re likely to use in day-to-day speech. These are much easier to remember in the long term.
I don’t have a comprehensive list of my sample sentences to hand but I aim to gradually put together a sample list and post them up on this site somewhere so people can begin to use them with their own learning.
by niceguydave on December 30 2011
A couple of days ago I was sat in a restaurant in Berlin in the midst of an enjoyable German conversation, able to understand enough of what was being said to make me realise that I’d reached a very important goal – my German had reached a level where I was enjoying it. Up until this point, after spending a few days in Germany I would generally retreat to my bed by 9pm or so, mentally exhausted. This didn’t happen this time – I could quite happily have sat at that table until 2am, loving the fact that I’d suddenly discovered all of these new insights into other people’s realities. I was following it all sharply, intently.
This level of competence seems to me to be a good goal to aspire to when I begin my next language. I would like to be able to sit comfortably in conversation with people, with enough competence to be able to hold onto the thread of the conversation without becoming mentally overloaded by the effort. I’ve not wanted to give up on learning German too early so far because I think the language deserved a good amount of my focus – some respect. Before I finish entirely with devoting all my time to German I’m going to get a video of myself up on YouTube speaking the language just to “seal the deal” as it were – see how native German speakers find my attempts – keep your eyes peeled. Although I’m not going to (and don’t want to) give up on German after this I’ve crossed a line now which I think allows me to start thinking about new adventures…
by niceguydave on December 29 2011
Just back from a fantastic week in Hamburg and Berlin – Christmas with my wife’s family. In terms of seeing how my German language learning is progressing it was a massive confidence boost – I was able to sit within groups of native speakers without anyone offering to speak in English, understanding the vast majority of what was being talked about.. The last time I spent a long weekend in Germany I felt exhausted by the end of the day, I imagine from the effort needed to concentrate on what was being said. This time it was quite the opposite – I felt as if I could understand the vast majority of what was being talked about and have much more of an ability to add my views and direct conversation the way I would do in English.
One thing which this trip has really brought home to me is just how much my German has improved since I’ve been sticking to a self-directed system of learning. My sister-in-law’s partner is currently trying to learn English and I mentioned to him that I’d be documenting the way in which I learn so that he could try and apply this to his learning efforts. I’ve condensed my thoughts about this conversation into a a new page, How I learn, which roughly sketches out my learning style. There’s no doubt the potential to expand on this but for the moment at least something is there as a foundation.
One thing that’s not so clear to me is whether this information is going to be of help to someone starting out with a new language – a lot of my observations are based upon my perspective with German. I can’t pretend to know how to teach but would love to learn – if you happen to be someone starting out with learning a new language, does this make sense? Am I missing anything blindingly obvious? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
by niceguydave on December 20 2011
I’m off tomorrow to spend Christmas in Hamburg and Berlin, which will mean a week of not being plugged in to the various digital accoutrements which I’ve so busily been tethering myself to over the last few weeks. I thought it worth the while to fire up a post about my approach to continuing to learn without the internet, even whilst living in a country which uses my target language (German).
I’ve got an mp3 player which I’m going to bring along with me – I’ve stacked it full of podcasts that I’ve found whilst doing a general trawl of the internet today. To be honest, I think this is going to be overkill – I’ll be immersed for a whole week so it’s fairly unlikely that I’ll be wanting to retreat to even more German when I have a break. Who knows – perhaps I’ll use it.
I’ve managed to find myself with seven German nephews and nieces since marrying Tina. Hanging out with them for a while makes it easier to take a break from trying to convince the grown ups that I can speak their language. I’m also pretty lucky that the kids are more than willing to point out my shortcomings when I make a mess of their language
A while back, I started trying to record myself telling stories to Tina with the intention of going back over them at some future point and seeing (hopefully!) how far I’d progressed. I think this could also come in useful in Germany – recording conversations that I’m having whilst I’m over there. I’m hoping that at the very least this will allow me to go back over what is useful spoken language – much of my focus at the moment is on understanding written German, I think, to the detriment of my spoken German. Another good use of the dictaphone could be to use it to take notes of phrases I don’t understand on the fly, rather then having to use pen and paper.
So, we’ll see. I’m really looking forward to it.
by niceguydave on December 9 2011
It’s been a difficult three weeks in terms of focussing on German. My father died suddenly and unexpectedly. This obviously threw everything into turmoil, not just my German learning. Not an easy time to focus on anything, to be honest.
Still… I’m back at work now, which has brought a bit more rhythm back into my daily life. More than this, I’m starting to develop a morning habit of doing my SRS reviews: LWT, sentences and computer terms (I’ve switched my computer interface to German at home and work).
- Distractions. See above.
- Lack of a goal. Still an issue I haven’t dealt with. I’m pretty sure I could pass the Goethe B2 exam so the C1 exam would be more of a challenge. Plus, if I book it, the fact that I would be wasting money if I didn’t study properly would be a good incentive to focus.
- “Easy” books. I’ve started reading “Hallo, Mr Gott, hier spricht Anna.” (Reading the Wikipedia entry I just realised that the book is set in the East End of London, where I currently live!) What I’ve found whilst reading this book is that I understand enough of the text to allow for a flow whilst reading. This really gives me a lot of self-confidence and makes it much easier to tolerate any feelings of being stuck when I talk with people or try and read the Süddeutsche Zeitung.
- Revisiting LWT audio items. This is something I realised this morning on the way into work. There are a few Deutsche Welle news mp3 files on my phone. These are all over a month old now but the text within them is what I’ve been using with my LWT lessons. I found it interesting to realise that even though I may have remembered the meaning within my SRS tests, when I hear the same words spoken in context that I don’t necessarily remember the meaning of the words. This makes me feel that a combination of doing my daily tests and listening to the same texts could help to reinforce the meanings
- Speaking “Zeitungsdeutsch” to my wife. This made me laugh. I use the phrase “meines Erachtens” whilst talking to my wife this morning. She mentioned that I sounded like a newspaper. Brilliant.
Plan for the coming week
- Continue to translate items within LWT and get the vocabulary/phrases across into Anki
- Continue with German book ”Hallo, Mr Gott, hier spricht Anna.“
- Download requirements for Goethe C1 exam. Begin assessing what I need to learn.
by niceguydave on December 7 2011
It’s been difficult to keep up with a lot of my German practice lately – I’ve had a family crisis which has taken up most of my time over the last ten days. As soon as I woke up this morning, though, I got Anki opened up and started going through the backlog of repetitions awaiting me. It was somewhat reassuring to see many items had actually stuck in my head.
This post is really a bit of an affirmation to myself that, no matter what pressing issues face me along the way, my German will always be patiently waiting for me when I come back to it. More than that, I think it may be a good thing for me to take my mind off my troubles – a therapy of sorts.