My Language Learning Journey: German (Log: 04)

Standard

“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.

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

Standard

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

Standard

“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.

On Learning: Some Thoughts on Language, Planning, and Resources

Standard

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” – Confucius

I’m blessed to have the time to dedicate a large amount of time to my intellectual and religious pursuits. Studying and learning about things is something that makes me happy.

Yesterday, I was talking to my SO about language. My SO likes to be concise with his words – if anything, this being one of his favored styles is reflective of how Ernest Hemmingway writes. My SO likes how you can pack a lot of meaning into a few words. I, myself, favor allusive-heavy styles of writing. Whenever I read a literary work that incorporates references that I can recognize (like a Biblical reference where I’ve actually read the Bible chapter the reference came from), I always get giddy. I find myself enjoying the work more. It’s one of the reasons why I enjoyed T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, which I had to read with Norton footnotes, but recognizing Tiresias because I’ve read both Oedipus and Antigone by Sophocles was hype. Is there a style that you enjoy? Do you prefer novels or poetry or nonfiction?

You can add me on Goodreads and check out what I’ve read so far. However, the only book reviews I have besides star ratings are the reviews found on my blog at the moment. I’m planning on putting my reviews both on Goodreads and here for book reviews starting from the next review.

My German is slowly moving along. I found a few grammar sources that I can hopefully pair with all the vocabulary I’ve been learning through Memrise. I’ve always wanted to learn a foreign language besides my native Hawaiian Pidgin English/American Standard English and making progress (even if slow) in German purely by self-study feels great.

In addition, I’ve been scouring my library’s Overdrive collection these past few days and have been adding a lot of books to my wish list. There’s so much to read that I don’t even know where to begin! I’m going for nonfiction as I’m currently reading a fiction (Virgil’s The Aeneid). Go and take a trip out to your local library or if you already have a library card, you can google your library’s website and see if they offer anything online that’s available to those with a library card. You’ll be surprised at the amount resources that suddenly becomes available to you; I know I was. It makes it a little easier to feel like I have more scholarly resources available to me despite not being affiliated with a university anymore as I graduated last year. I didn’t think I’d be looking through EBSCO again since I left university.

I’ve also been diving into Itunes’s podcasts and their university courses – all of which are free. I encourage you all to check it out if you do use Itunes and are wanting to get into listening to podcasts. I’m currently going through Brown University’s From Israelite to Jew by Michael Satlow. I’ve been interested in Ancient Near East lately and listening to Satlow’s course introduces me to the subject pretty well, I’d like to think. Itunes offers a variety of podcasts and university courses and is overall a great resource for learning.

All in all, I’m using the rest of this month to plan for next month. I’m also sampling some of the things I want to do such as skimming over the German grammar book I just got. I want to be a bit more organized with my studying next month including having goals for what I want to achieve for the month, schedule times to study, etc. I think that will definitely take a couple of days. I’d like to compare how I feel after a month of diligent studying that I haven’t done since my university days. I’m excited! Do you plan out your studying schedule for subjects?

Getting Back Into the Groove

Standard

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring.

Life likes to knock you one regardless if you’re looking or not, and it’s up to you to pick yourself up after he has knocked you down.

The days have passed by in somewhat of a tired, painful, blur these past few days. I’ve been worrying heavily since my doctor indicated that multiple sclerosis is on the table and now I’m being referred to a neurologist. Hopefully things are resolved, and I find out just what exactly I may have. Back in 2009, I had an episode of optic neuritis, which can be an early sign of multiple sclerosis. Of course, I need to go for further testing. I’m trying to relax, but it can be pretty hard when symptoms seem to be lining up for now, but I suppose that could be me with confirmation bias, which might not be the reality of the matter at all. I really need to relax. I’m praying that it’s not multiple sclerosis, but even if it’s not, there’s still a lot of pain and fatigue that still occurs. I also can’t quite leave my home much due to the intense heat with my heat intolerance. I don’t think life is meant to feel like a trap, but it does at the moment with being so ill.

Despite all the ill feelings, I’ve managed to get some reading done towards the Classics challenge I’m going this year. I’m finally tackling Virgil’s The Aeneid. I really like it so far. I’m reading Fagles’ verse translation of the Latin classic, which has made me think of learning more about poetry. For someone who has difficulty with poetry, what text would you recommend to help get a feel for poetic analysis? I enjoy more ancient and early modern poetry than modern and postmodern poetry. Are there sources where I can also read about the types of poetic styles (I suppose that’s based quite a bit on time period?) that writer’s employed during ancient and early modern periods e.g. metaphysical poetry for early modern?

I’ve also completed the German 1 course on Memrise. I’ll be moving onto the second course soon. I’m actually enjoying the time I spend on Memrise. It feels very much like a game to me that I’m slowly learning German vocabulary from. Are there any resources for free that anyone would recommend to someone who’s primary focus is to read German?

As it stands, even when I’m feeling ill, I don’t want to waste majority of the day lost in a haze where I’m probably zoning out on Reddit, watching Netflix, or on my mobile game. Doing chores is one of the most productive things I do outside of my studying and taking care of myself and my loved ones. Staying productive helps to not sink fully into a major depression as my tendency to stop things I enjoy is a prominent symptom when I’m spiraling into a more major depressive state. It’s a struggle, but at least there are moments where things are good, God is gracious, and I have relatively pain-free and depressive-free days. Rarely do they occur, but they are cherished moments. It’s up to me on what to do with the time that I do have, so I personally would like to do things that I view as productive which is sometimes a struggle, but it’s always a proud moment when I do manage to succeed.

On Learning: Impatience and The Process of Taking a Rain Check

Standard

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” – Heraclitus

I can be impatient when it comes to learning. I want to understand everything that I’m learning about immediately. But that’s not how it works, unfortunately! I have trouble with recalling information, which makes utilizing what I learn hard, but I’ve been trying to compensate by doing rote memorization for things such as vocabulary building (Memrise is pretty fun for this) or memorizing the routine of household chores so I don’t forget to do a chore which has happened on multiple occasions. It also called for emergency scrambling because of how unprepared we were, and I end up a mess with my lack of emotional regulation (which I am working on!). It’s a tough life being unmedicated as an ADHD person after having been medicated for a while – I can tell the difference from the days when I was medicated and when I’m not – but it’s livable as most things I’m actually required to do can be done unmedicated. It takes a lot of patience, which God bless my SO has been showering me in, and most things end up a success with the combined powers of my SO and I. I truly feel blessed by God with having my SO. I’ve learned so much from him, and what works for the two of us. Learning never ends.

I also take the time to think deeply on subjects that I’m learning about, especially when I’m willing to read and note-take (and sometimes application) for hours on end about whatever it is that I want to learn. Those days can be fun as a few times I get into flow mode. Other times, it’s more deliberate learning.

Overall, you just have to enjoy the journey, not just the end results. It’s hard sometimes to be so wanting to understand something but for some reason, it’s just not clicking. You go through all the steps leading up to it, and yet something is still wrong, but in the massive number of steps taking, you don’t even know where you went wrong. Those are the days where I need to stop, put it off for a while, and then come back to it and rinse and repeat. Eventually, even if it’s years later, if I’ve been revisiting enough and each time putting in genuine effort and perseverance, I start understanding more and more even if I never fully understand everything. Each time I picked it up and tried again, especially in foreign language, gets me a little further in understanding each time that actually sticks.

Going back to Heraclitus’s quote, I identify with it with the way I learn. I do sometimes feel that when I’ve reread a book after having not read it for several years. Metaphorically, for me at least, neither the story nor I am typically the same as the first time I’ve read the book, and that’s why I identified with Heraclitus’s quote. I’ve reread books that I’ve remembered the general plot, but the narrative itself struck me differently as I noticed and examined the book more closely than I did the first time around. This taking of a rain check of promising to come back later and revisit what I originally wanted to learn is something that happens enough times that I’ve come to appreciate how much it works for me in attaining knowledge that I’m persistent enough to chase throughout my lifetime. Learning never stops; learning never ends. Even if you have to set it aside for a while because you’re not getting it and returning to it later may cause a considerable improvement. It took me years before I gained a basic understanding of reading Shakespeare despite having to read him throughout high school. It wasn’t until my last two years in my undergraduate study in English Literature that I had some kind of breakthrough of being able to think more critically on the Bard and his works, and even now there’s a lot that I can still learn. The journey is still on-going – it’s fantastic.

On Learning: Both A Lifestyle And A Goal

Standard

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin.

I was fortunate enough to have great professors who taught me and eventually involved me enough to discover great things through learning. I was a tutor at one point, and experienced what it was like to be on both sides – listener first, then teacher – and it helped to expand my horizons into learning.

Nowadays, I do all my learning by being an autodidact, but I’ll always be grateful to my university days where my professors pushed me to thinking beyond what I thought I was capable of, and they encouraged me to reach new heights whatever it would be. They didn’t always agree with what I said, but I never felt they hindered me, rather, they helped me grow. I’ve learned much by looking to my professors as mentors and treating them with respect. I could see how deeply they were interested in their chosen fields and the joy in them when they could help us learn about whatever their fields were. I always got hyped when I could tell a professor deeply loved talking about their subject, especially when it was a class that I chose because of my interest rather than needing it to graduate. My professors held me to a high standard, and I felt motivated to try (how could I not with such great people encouraging me?), and that has rubbed off on me now. I am now my own teacher through autodidacticism. I am involved in my learning as my professors had modeled for me and what I broke away from them to do on my own. I was fortunate to have teachers who guided me in the journey to finding my path to my passions.

Learning is a passion, which is helped by my other passion of reading. They tie in together nicely. Both were somethings that were there for me when I realized something abstract could be there for me. What I mean by that, is that learning gave me something to focus on. Learning is something that I’m dedicated to. It can be detrimental at times because ADHD kicks in and suddenly I’m learning random trivia that probably won’t help me out in life, but it’s a great journey either way, which reminds me of the poem: Ithaka by C.P Cavafy and translated by Edmund Keeley, which you can find here at Poetry Foundation in full. There’s even a zenpencils drawing of it by Gav that I highly recommend checking out here. And a disclaimer by Gav is that: the man in the drawing is not Odysseus.

I was introduced to this poem by a great professor of mine shortly after reading the Odyssey for one of my English courses in university a few years ago, and I’ve read it a few times since. I haven’t read it since last year, but I ended up reading it again a few days ago. It speaks to me year after year unfailingly. I actually got a little weepy this time around as I read it, especially the third stanza.

Keep Ithaka always in your mind.

Arriving there is what you’re destined for.

But don’t hurry the journey at all.

Better if it lasts for years,

So you’re old by the time you reach the island,

Wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,

Not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Honestly, the power of this poem is felt from beginning to end. It really brings out that the journey is just as important as the end goal. Ithaka is both the goal and the journey, whatever your Ithaka may be. I’m still trying to find my way through life. My journey is still going, and I hope it goes on for a long while yet. It’d be filled with adventure, of discovery. I know I’ll have my obstacles just as Odysseus went against the Laistrygonians, Cyclops, and others, but being stronger in our soul helps us to not let the negativity overwhelm us. We’re going to feel the negativity, but we don’t need to bring it into our soul to fester and set it up in front of us each time a flame strikes it.