My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 05)

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I’m slowly getting through the German I Pimsleur thanks to my library’s overdrive. It’s actually quite fun to listen to while doing the dishes. I try to repeat when I can, but sometimes I’m hearing it but my tongue gets tied, but I move on. I’m kind of treating Pimsleur like I would a slow class in the sense that I have no choice but to move on even if I don’t completely understand the first time around. However, the repetition helps but sometimes the pronunciation is so different that it, as it seems to me, registers to me differently than English and then it’s hard for me to say and understand what’s being said due to a lack of understanding without a written aid to help me.

Throughout all my language learning thus far, I’ve come to realize that having written aids accompanying the audio is best. Sometimes even the pure writing supplements are better than the audio and visual combination ones, but for the most part, a combination of audio and visual is best for the language to really get home into my head. Although, the audio and visual doesn’t have to be simultaneous learning, but it’s important to learn both. I prefer using my Essential German Grammar book alongside using SRS apps like Memrise to help me with vocabulary. I also use the Rosetta Stone supplementary German workbook with the answer key to use as practice (1). I’m still only on level 1, but I hope to be finished with it by the end of the year if I study diligently, but we’ll see how it goes. Knowing me with my ADHD mind, it’ll probably be a whole year from now or longer, which, hopefully, it doesn’t come to that. But language learning is a lifetime activity, so there’s no rush in the end. Plus, having the answer key accompanying it is a godsend. I rarely get perfects but I get a lot right, and so far it’s simple enough that I can understand the errors that I’m making after a while, especially since I don’t actually have the accompanying audio with the Rosetta Stone supplementary education material. Moreover, The Essential German Grammar is broken down into little sections that I can go through each time I’m studying that helps to know if I’m done for the day or if it’s possible to do one more after a small break – it’s nice. Duolingo and Pimsleur are fun, but I don’t think they help nearly as much as others. If there are any particular beginners German text and workbook for independent learners that you’d like to recommend, please do so in the comments!

I’ve also recently spent a lot of time reading language learning posts on blogs or subreddits. It’s nice to know that I’m not the only one struggling at times, but despite that, many continue on to learning the language they want regardless. I mostly like to go on Reddit to read on language learning, and I was thinking of getting into Tumblr too, but haven’t really looked into it yet.

Lastly, I doubt I’ll ever move to Germany. I might not even visit. Moreover, I don’t get out much nor do I really want to, so I don’t know any German speakers. Speaking German is not a priority for me, but knowing pronunciation or having an inkling of how it sounds is important, which is why I listen to German songs on YouTube or go through the Pimsleur course, however slow I’m trudging through it via during chore time. I’ve also watched a few episodes of BoJack Horseman in German on Netflix, which is something that I should continue doing so but haven’t gotten around to it. In the end, reading German is my priority; it’s the focus and reason why I want to learn German in the first place.

 

(1) You can find the link to the resources for the Rosetta Stone in the middle of my Log: 02. The supplemental education materials are only available in English (American or British), French, German, Latin, and Spanish (Latin America). Each have up to different levels.

My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 04)

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“The best way to not feel hopeless is to get up and do something. Don’t wait for good things to happen to you. If you go out and make some good things happen, you will fill the world with hope, you will fill yourself with hope.” – Barack Obama.

I needed to take a small break from German in order to recharge before I gave myself a huge burnout from language learning, but also to center myself again. Why do I want to learn a foreign language? I’ve been questioning myself lately. The simplest answer: “because I want to”, and that’s the honest truth of it. A desire. There’s also things like wanting to discover a different culture than my own that can only truly be captured through the (foreign) language. Once I found some closure on that, I found myself slowly getting back into the groove again, which I’m delighted about. It’s something to look forward to with all the personal hardships I’ve been going through lately.

Anyway, I finally got through the glossary section of my grammar book that briefly explains German grammar terminology using English grammar terminology. I think it was great to get a feel of the grammar that I’m going to explore throughout this grammar book, which makes things a little less intimidating for me. As much as I like to try new things, I have to do it slowly else I scare myself off with no hopes of returning rather than if I lose interest, there’s still a chance that I’ll return. I’ve been trying to learn a foreign language since I’ve been in middle school with barely any success, but now that I have the time to dedicate myself to learning what I want to learn, I think I’m advancing much further than I thought I had the dedication for.

My library offers Pimsleur, which I’m on the waiting list for in multiple languages and am excited to go through. Listening is something that I haven’t been practicing much of, so since my library offers Pimsleur for free, I thought why not? It’s a nice basic supplement to the basic materials that I’m already going through to help me hone a basic understanding of the languages I want to learn, especially German. They have up to level four in German, I believe, which is something I can listen to while doing things around the house. I should be able to borrow the German I Pimsleur within a month.

I’m looking to browse through Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct and Gabriel Wyner’s Fluent Forever soon as my library also has both available that I snagged for the time slot allotted (21 days long for each borrowing period. As I’m a slow reader nowadays, I take the whole time and still need more time, which sometimes I can borrow straightaway again or have to wait a while, but either way, it’s alright). I’m starting to also become interested in learning about language itself along with how to study language and how to do so efficiently. I like thinking about language and how I can attain more than my native language. Language is so complex, and there’s a lot of literature that’s starting to come out about it. Therefore, we’ll see where my studying with these books takes me!

Overall, I’m back in the mode to do some learning! I’m excited. Despite feeling intimidated every now and then about the sheer amount of knowledge awaiting me, I press on because it’s my desire to learn. It’s what I can control now which is something that I need. There’s a whole world out there to explore and taking control of my time to do something productive seems like something that will benefit me in the long run. I’d like to think the hard work will eventually be worth it.

My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 3)

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I’m slowly getting there with my German. I can definitely understand more German than I did a month ago.

Something that I’ve been trying lately is listening to German music – specifically Disney songs. I was super excited when I realized that I could understand some of the Disney German song titles while looking for German Disney songs on YouTube. Moreover, there are three German songs that I’m particularly attached to: “Feuer der hölle” from the Hunchback of Notre Dame, “Ich werd’s noch beweisen” from Hercules, and “Endlich sehe ich das Licht” from Tangled.

I try to sing along in German, but it’s quite hard. It is practically the only time I’m really trying to actually speak the language rather than focusing on my goal of reading, but it’s fun and helps expose me to the German language more.

Overall, I’m glad that I’m able to try to learn a foreign language in my own home at my own pace. It’s less stress and anxiety, which played a big part as to why I had a hard time in university with my foreign language learning because I absolutely hated speaking in a language that’s not English or Hawaiian Pidgin English and would often get anxious and want to throw up. There was a point where my professor kept asking me questions during an oral exam in hopes that I would start talking more, but it frightened me instead, and I went home and promptly threw up. It was a wonder for me because it was only my foreign language class where speaking actually frightened me. I’d be a chatterbox in my English courses, but my foreign language courses always scared me into silence due to my anxiety taking over.

It’s hard motivating myself sometimes to work on my German, but I am determined to continue to work on it for now.

My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 02)

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Whenever I have the smallest inclination to research whatever interests me at that moment, and I have the time, I rarely hesitate to look things up and get lost in the information for a while. One of my teachers in high school once announced to the class something along the lines of: “If you have questions, google them.” Lately, I have been looking up resources for language learning even though I have enough to at least satisfy the requirements of my personal language learning journey for the next several months without needing to look up another single resource.

A few days ago, I came across the Rosetta Stone answer keys and workbooks online. They have pdfs on their site for free for English, French, German, Latin, and Spanish. Considering that the answer key also comes with the student workbook for homeschool, I think it’s fine to use separately from RS’s audio for the most part. The structure reminds me of the structure of my old Spanish workbook that I used when I took Spanish in university (which I came out at A1-A2 at best). I’ve tried out a few of the German lessons (level 1, of course) of the RS supplemental education material and will plan to eventually get through the workbook as I continue my German language learning journey. So far so good as far as I can tell. I can get the gist of the directions through reading it and looking at the examples.

In addition, I’ve done language learning before in attempting to learn Japanese and Spanish, but neither worked out because I eventually lost interest, especially when I took them in university. I find an university’s language learning structure doesn’t work for me because my goals for learning a language is geared towards reading and writing rather than listening or speaking, and an university’s language learning is geared towards all four plus the vocabulary isn’t geared towards the things that I want to read or write about.

Lastly, I’ve started up doing Duolingo through the desktop for German, which is nice because there is some grammar points they put up that nicely introduces the concepts. I’ll be studying it more in depth later with my grammar book, but to get a little introduction by Duolingo that’s reinforced by basic structures to help home in the concepts is great. Now that I’m using Duolingo more; however, Memrise has been shown a little less attention, but it’s still my main app for vocabulary building. I can recognize and recall a good portion of the root words that I’ve been learning when I’m reading German posts on Reddit or the Bible, etc, which is more than I could do last month when I was first began really putting in the effort. Considering that I normally try to learn 50-100 words of vocabulary a week with constant review, I think I’m finally getting somewhere – so far I’d estimate that I know about 100 words easily. However, I need to start learning the grammar side of things soon. Either way, I’m happy that I’m progressing! It truly does motivate me to continue my language learning journey.

My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 01)

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“Facing a language you don’t know is like returning to your infancy when your mother tongue used to be a foreign language to you.” – Munia Khan

Growing up speaking a creole language like Hawaiian Pidgin English that incorporated a lot of different languages altogether to form a new one exposed me to many different languages utilizing not just different vocabulary but at times different grammatical structures like sentence structure (Hawaiian Pidgin English follows Portuguese grammar more than Standard American English). As I grew older, my interest in languages grew as I grew more aware of how languages functioned, but it wasn’t until recently after I graduated from college and wasn’t forced to endure learning a new language for a grade and requirement did language learning turn fun again even if it meant that I would once more be a complete beginner again.

The choice to learn German was based on my interests in philosophy and religion – both subjects where German has a foothold in. German and English is also a little similar, so it’s not a language that was too far from the standard language that I was taught in school. I’m more interested in learning a foreign language for reading and writing (and some listening) purposes only rather than speaking. I’ve tried learning a little bit of Japanese, Korean, Chinese (Mandarin and traditional kanji), Spanish, and Latin, but it hasn’t really worked out as eventually I give up due to a lack of interest.

This is my first real foray into learning German. It’s been about a month since I started putting in more effort in my language learning journey to learn it. Memrise is proving to be a key in keeping me practicing vocabulary at least four times a week. The SRS does help me to retain the information, and I like how game-like it can get with Memrise. I’ve also been going through Essential German Grammar by Martin Durrell, Katrin Kohl, and Gudrun Loftus. It’s slow, but slow and steady wins the race!

I’ve also recently decided that looking up a German bible with an accompaniment of the audio has got to be one of my greater decisions in my language learning journey. Not only am I gaining exposure by reading and listening, I’m also combining it with something that I’m interested in aka religion. I’ve found myself much more interested in learning the material; it feels less like a chore and more like something that I want to do. I’m also subscribed to a few German subreddits on my Reddit account, which I take the time to try to read even though I maybe understand only a limited amount of words and barely any grammar.

I hope to continue and persist with my language learning this time. I’m thinking that I’ll use this blog also as my personal language log, but also make an offline log as well. There’s still a lot for me to learn, both in German and in my native English. Language is ever evolving.


German Language Resources:

Essential German Grammar

German Bible Audio

German Subreddits: German, de

Reading and Studying: Virgil’s The Aeneid: Book 1

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I’m currently reading Virgil’s The Aeneid for the 2017 Classics Challenge that I’m doing. The Aeneid is one of the major classics in the western canon of literature.

One of the main things I remember about Greek and Roman mythology from when I used to read it a lot was that Hera (Greek)/Juno (Roman) often was fired up about one thing or another. I don’t blame her with such an unfaithful husband, but the way Juno goes about doing something about it, in my opinion, is quite awful considering that she often causes destruction and anguish to Jupiter’s paramours and their children because of her jealous rages. She is no different here in Book 1 of Virgil’s Aeneid.

But she heard a race of men, sprung of Trojan blood,

Would one day topple down her Tyrian stronghold,

Breed an arrogant people ruling far and wide,

Proud in battle, destined to plunder Libya.

So the Fates were spinning out the future…

This was Juno’s fear

And the goddess never forgot the old campaign

That she had waged at Troy for her beloved Argos. (Book 1: Lines 23-30)

There’s a lot of reasons on why Juno hates Troy. In these lines, Juno feared for her people and didn’t want them to be plundered by an arrogant people. Then, she brings up the Trojan war, which her rage goes even further back from. In the lines following 30, the narrator mentions Juno’s resentment having festered into a rage that also includes the slight against her done by Paris when he chose Venus over her. Juno couldn’t handle the slight to her beauty, nor would she tolerate Trojans coming in to destroy her dear Tyrians. So she let loose her rage, even bribing the west wind Aeolus who was scolded by Neptune for having done so. With another of the Olympian gods putting a stop to her, Juno’s troublemaking for the Trojans in Book 1 ends here, and Venus’s plotting begins to stop Juno from ruining the prophecy given by Jupiter and the Fates.

Aeneas is feeling down despite the hope-laced words he says to his men. “Brave words. / Sick with mounting cares he assumes a look of hope / And keeps his anguish buried in his heart.” (Book 1: Lines 244-246). As leader of what’s left of his people after having endured the wrath of Juno, Aeneas cannot afford to look weak when everyone else is already feeling down. However, later, when Aeneas and Achates are in Dido’s grove, Aeneas breaks down in groans and cries at seeing depictions of the tragedy of Troy. The last of Aeneas’s laments is about Hector: “And Hector – / Three times Achilles has hauled him round the walls of Troy / And now he’s selling his lifeless body off for gold” (Book 1: Lines 583-585). It’s agony as Aeneas basically relives the tragedy of his people. His agony is moving as the verses describe his tears and groaning as he goes over the tragedy of Troy that he has seen decorating Dido’s grove.

After losing many of his people, Aeneas feels a great love for his son Ascanius. Aeneas left behind his son at his ships because he didn’t know of the dangers he would face on this new land. “Aeneas – a father’s love would give the man no rest – / Quickly sends Achates down to the ships to take / The news to Ascanius, bring him back to Carthage. / All his paternal care is focused on his son” (Book 1: Lines 766-769). Aeneas is a father who wants his young son nearby once he knows it’s safe where he can focus on caring for his son and heir.

In addition, you can see the blatant parallel in Aeneas and Odysseus’s journeys as both have gained the wrath of an Olympian god (Poseidon/Neptune for Odysseus) and Olympian goddess (Juno/Hera for Aeneas). There’s also the parallel of being forced to wander and suffer tragedy. In addition, seven years is used as a measurement. What I mean by that is Odysseus and Aeneas both are specified as having done something for seven years to the detriment of their journeys. In the Odyssey, Odysseus stays as Calypso’s lover for seven years. In the Aeneid, at the end of book 1, at Dido’s urging, we as readers find out that it’s been seven years since Aeneas and his men escaped from fallen Troy and forced to wander in search of a new place to build their kingdom.

The epithets in the first book was interesting to read because they described events happening in the scene such as Aeneas having the epithet of “deluded father” when Cupid is disguised as Ascanius or such in the case of foreshadowing as Dido’s epithets of “doomed” and “tragic”. I feel the epithets also add more to the characters as a way for readers to classify them easier as to what’s an important aspect about the character.

Overall, Venus’s plan is working. By Venus deciding to interfere to help with fulfilling the prophecy promised to her by her father Jupiter and the Fates that the great Romans would arise out of the bloodline of the Trojans, Venus has essentially doomed Dido. There’s also a parallel here you can extract that by Venus’s interference once again by forcing a woman to become infatuated with a Trojan, she has doomed a great queen and her people, solidifying Juno’s fear; although, Venus did have the reassurance from Jupiter that Juno, herself, will eventually come to love the Romans.

Book 1 of Virgil’s The Aeneid is off to a great start. I’m enjoying it thus far. I’ve been wanting to read The Aeneid for over a year now. I’ve only read parts of it before while I was still in university, but I hadn’t been interested in it then. I’m certainly interested in it now!

On Learning: Some Thoughts on the Importance of Critical Thinking

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“Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.” ― Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom.

“Believe what you like, but don’t believe everything you read without questioning it.”
― Pauline Baynes, Questionable Creatures: A Bestiary.

There are two quotes today because when I came across them, I thought they fit well with each other. Both are based in the thinking process of the absorption of information. Miguel Ruiz reminds us that when we absorb information and believe in it, we’re agreeing with what’s said, and it becomes a part of us. Moreover, Pauline Baynes puts it succinctly in that we can believe in whatever we want, but we probably should not believe in everything that we read without questioning it. Her quote bears an implication that to do so is something negative. In their words, I gain the feeling of needing to be personally responsible for the information I absorb.

Critical thinking is hard. It’s something that’s learned and developed. It’s a skill that can develop into an enlightening lifestyle if you constantly seek it out.

There’s a lot of information out in the web and, often, it’s hard to critically evaluate the information if you aren’t trained to look beyond the first source you see that confirms your bias (otherwise known as confirmation bias). When seeking out information, do you stop to think: “How credible is this source where the information came from? Why?” or “Are there other reputable sources corroborating this story?” There’s obviously more questions to ponder as you contemplate the validity of a source, but it’s a good start to begin thinking why a source is credible and reputable.

You can go even further and contemplate what it might mean to you as a consumer of the source material for having learned about it. What does learning about the source material mean for you? What does it do for you? Are you looking up the information for entertainment purposes? Or perhaps you’re looking for research material for school? One will lead to a more rigorous scrutiny, but there’s something to be said for developing and using the skill that allows you to better think about the information you’re consuming and thinking about the reasons on why you’re consuming that information in the first place.

Being able to critically evaluate information is an important skill in life. Practice makes perfect. Being conscientious of the information you’re absorbing is just as important as well. This is information that you’re willing to accommodate or assimilate into your memory, so be tough on the information and try to seek out variety of sources to corroborate the information if possible and build upon there to critically think on the information.

Without being able to critically evaluate information, your gullibility will cause people to pull fast ones over you because they know they can get you to believe them. However, one thing to remember is that people are human. Humans make mistakes. People will make mistakes, and someone who is typically credible will make a blunder. Essentially, it’s much better to constantly be vigilant and rely on yourself as the final judgment call of your thinking, as you work to critically evaluate the thoughts of others and what figure out what the consumption of the source material means for you.