Coldrainwater's German Log

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coldrainwater
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby coldrainwater » Sat Apr 02, 2022 10:48 pm

Gaming

Time for an update. In the first quarter of 2022, I have done minimal language study and have devoted most of my hobby time to World of Warcraft. My desire to play is consistently highest in the cold months and I am very happy with the experience and dedication that I put into it thus far. Recently, I taught myself how to play what is considered the endgame content, namely raiding and mythic dungeons for those of you who may be familiar with the game. Having the interface in German while doing that did not prove to be a great idea, mainly because the game content is so snappy that even milliseconds lost in translation would mean the difference between wiping an entire group and success.

Perhaps the biggest language benefit of my choice to raid has been seeing what good group communication can accomplish. The corporate world where I work is generally a very poor model for professional communication, in that results are typically mired in bureaucracy while fostering unhealthy levels of high stress. In contrast, most raid leaders are like consummate professionals and orchestrate success in 10-25 person teams with clear communication under fire. It is quite impressive. I play in pick-up groups (pugs) rather than organized guilds and even there you can see groups go from uncoordinated to successful in a matter of a few attempts (on heroic difficulty levels, it could easily take us a couple of hours, which was even more impressive given how hard that early-patch content was).

A bit surprisingly, I have had several opportunities to use Spanish in-game. There are adverts for Spanish raids and I have often grouped with Spanish speaking teams and had no issues integrating. The surprise happened because I did not realize the game allowed me to raid with people from servers so far away. I haven't come across a German-Speaking group yet. Some of that is a matter of ping and distance. In that world (Azeroth, Ogrimmar), server communication trumps human communication when you take latency into account and Spanish servers must win out for users based in the Americas, so they permit the comingling. The closeness factor makes cross-server communication possible and latency across the pond likely makes it where I don't get to experience as broad of a cultural base. Oceanic servers are literally considered very bad options for those of us based in the US and are very much a case of 'play at your own risk'.

If you think of a toon like a language, I tried the notion of polyglottery by rolling 10 characters in-game. It worked for a short while, then became untenable. Different classes in that game have different play styles and abilities (all are fun and when you have more than one they are called alts, short for alternate), much like different languages express meaning differently. It broke down for the same reason that juggling tons of languages at once break down for me. Namely, lack of time and focused dedication. I have been happiest recently by focusing all my efforts on a single character, just like I pick one focus language at a time.

German/languages generally

My contact with German has been minimal, but I have listened to a few Song of Fire and Ice audiobooks in German and did not find them difficult to follow or understand. So the learning I did via LR (including all prior work as well) seemed to stick up to that level of competency. At least for the moment, I am still comfortable listening without needing text. Without reading support, I doubt it would be a good path to follow in the long run.

My other two languages, English and Spanish have also been neglected and thus are not in optimal shape. I am not sure what learning path I want to follow next since I haven't decided on an area or discipline to pursue (academic or otherwise). I may let that life decision guide how and which languages I use. I am tempted to put some focus on English since I haven't tried to improve it in roughly six years (mainly just using it as support for learning Spanish and German).

Circling back to a comparison between gaming and languages, I have enjoyed that playing WOW is very active and engaging with an emphasis on developing high visual awareness, focus, reaction times and very much living a life within that virtual world. It is an excellent match for a technology professional. The way I tend to use languages tends to be very passive in comparison and I focus strongly on reading and listening. When I study a foreign language, I often let my life choices be governed by what needs to be done to move the language forward, deferring what might be an otherwise good option. Now that I have three languages, I may be able to choose any subject matter without being encumbered by whether or not it happens to improve what I have set as a priority focus language.
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby coldrainwater » Sat May 07, 2022 2:46 pm

April Update

Toward the end of April, I shifted my focus from relatively boring real-life stuff gradually back to reading and listening. I have mostly been reading in German but did manage to finish one book in English, The Crippled God by Steven Erikson. That ends a very long but excellent series and I am already considering which fantasy series to tackle next.

I took the remainder of April to read Arm und Reich by Jared Diamond. Apparently, Diamond speaks ten languages in addition to German. He has had an incredibly interesting life. The book was a tough read for me and was clearly above my reading level. I used a translation to help and toward the end found it reasonable to read a chapter in English first and then follow up with the same in German. By my own judgement, the English sentences seemed overly long and more convoluted than strictly necessary. That difficulty propagated right into the German translation (rather than vice-versa, which is far more common).

Reading Diamond, I showed a lack of skills in nearly all reading components, but at least I was doing badly in a balanced way and was able to tackle the work without giving up. A near five-month break with light listening as my primary German exposure likey didn't do me any favours. I am further convinced of the importance of reading as broadly as possible to gain better German reading skills overall. I simply don't get this kind of challenge reading adult fantasy and other similar novels. This text was probably on the level of advanced Wikipedia articles, but with a different flavour. I recall preferring the book since I had a lot more repetition of new constructs by the same author. Diamond is definitely not representative of your average author.

Mainly because I had it sitting beside me, I also went cover to cover through a German-English Bilingual Dictionary. This task was trivial in comparison to reading. It reminded me of how useful such an exercise would be if I were headed to a country where the language was spoken and wanted to have fresh on my mind the names of almost anything I would routinely encounter in practical day to day life.

To end last month, I signed up for the Super Challenge (full DE) starting May 1. My main accomplishment so far has been finishing a German audiobook recording of Robinson Crusoe. I liked it enough as an audiobook that I might consider reading it again later on. I didn't have a matching text for LR. While I didn't have any trouble following the story, the listening was much tougher than my usual modern fantasy, so I didn't take as much from it as I would have preferred.
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby coldrainwater » Sun May 22, 2022 7:39 pm

This far, May has been a good month for language learning. As a first highlight, I read cover to cover a paperback copy of Infanterie greift an von Erwin Rommel. Rommel offers a different but authentic style of German writing. Shorter, action-oriented sentences helped my comprehension dramatically. The text, part detailed narration of Rommel's participation in the events of WWI, part instruction manual for decision making, offered useful summaries at the end of each section. His skill as a leader in the war was insane and very much worth reading about through his own remarks. The hand-drawn battle illustrations were a nice addition to the text.

On a much lighter note, I also read Unten am Fluss by Richard Adams. I would judge the difficulty of the text to be around the middle-school level and thus very easy to read. As a bonus, I could manage the Kaninchensprache quite well in context but struggled with the pronunciation bits. The adventures were more interesting to follow than I expected and it was easy to stay engaged. Good children's story read as an adult.

For me, the biggest step taken this month is really making an honest effort to transition away from the use of translations toward pure monolingual reading, at least in a limited context. To support that effort, I took over a week to revive vocabulary by reviewing most of the Larousse Concise German-English Dictionary. I made it through the letter U and then turned back to reading books. It has been helpful to have the terms fresh in my mind for some of the more vocabulary-dense articles and passages that I come across elsewhere.

Perhaps more than anything, viewed in combination, I have a fresh perspective on just how difficult many aspects of German are and how much there is to internalize. One struggle of many has been deciding which of the various weak areas to focus my efforts. Since roughly yesterday afternoon, I caught a mild grammar bug and have started in earnest to relearn what I haven't seen now for over a year. I should take advantage of the opportunity while it lasts since times like this are fleeting for me. I only seem to recall grammar points when I directly re-study them. Last year one and all faded rather quickly after I spent roughly a month and a half of serious study. Among other things, I recall that the reading process overtook internalization of grammar to the point that I fought for comprehension and ignored grammar detail. In turn, grammar recall and memories come back with direct and intentional use/application. Ich nehme an, das gilt für viele Dinge im Leben.
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby Le Baron » Sun May 22, 2022 7:51 pm

It's good when you hit upon a book like that and sail through it. Progress is motivating and generates more. I'm still flabbergasted that you went through the entire dictionary!
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby DaveAgain » Sun May 22, 2022 10:13 pm

coldrainwater wrote:This far, May has been a good month for language learning. As a first highlight, I read cover to cover a paperback copy of Infanterie greift an von Erwin Rommel. Rommel offers a different but authentic style of German writing. Shorter, action-oriented sentences helped my comprehension dramatically. The text, part detailed narration of Rommel's participation in the events of WWI, part instruction manual for decision making, offered useful summaries at the end of each section. His skill as a leader in the war was insane and very much worth reading about through his own remarks. The hand-drawn battle illustrations were a nice addition to the text.
I came across a mention of this book in Alistair Horne's Comment perdre une battaile, it seems to have been significant for his advancement:
En 1938, il attira le regard de Hitler par la publication d'un manuel de tactique, très simple mais d'une clarté admirable, intitulé Infanterie greift an (L'Infanterie attaque). Lors de l'occupation du territoire des Sudètes, it fut choisi pour commander le bataillon chargé d'assurer la sécurité personnelle de Hitler. Au début de l'année suivante, promu général de brigade, il remplit la même mission durant la campagne de Pologne. Rongeant son frein de ne pas exercer de commandement actif, il se rendit antipathique à des potentats du Parti comme Martin Bormann, mais se trouva aux premières loges pour observer la technique de la campagne. Celle-ci terminée, il demanda à Hitler le commandement d'une division panzer. Il arriva à Bad Godesberg le 15 février 1940 pour prendre celui de la 7e, une des quartre divisions "légères" qui furent converties en "panzer" au cours de l'hiver.

[quote from Chapter 12, page 216.]
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby Eafonte » Sun May 22, 2022 11:31 pm

coldrainwater wrote:For me, the biggest step taken this month is really making an honest effort to transition away from the use of translations toward pure monolingual reading, at least in a limited context. To support that effort, I took over a week to revive vocabulary by reviewing most of the Larousse Concise German-English Dictionary. I made it through the letter U and then turned back to reading books. It has been helpful to have the terms fresh in my mind for some of the more vocabulary-dense articles and passages that I come across elsewhere.



How many pages did you manage to read?
This dictionary is labeled as "concise", but it has 1,290 pages!
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby coldrainwater » Mon May 23, 2022 1:57 am

Le Baron wrote:It's good when you hit upon a book like that and sail through it. Progress is motivating and generates more. I'm still flabbergasted that you went through the entire dictionary!

I question my sanity often and it appears with good reason. As long as it is kid's books that I am flying through, all is well and grounded. I will definitely take the motivation where I can get it.
DaveAgain wrote:I came across a mention of this book in Alistair Horne's Comment perdre une battaile, it seems to have been significant for his advancement:
En 1938, il attira le regard de Hitler par la publication d'un manuel de tactique, très simple mais d'une clarté admirable, intitulé Infanterie greift an (L'Infanterie attaque). Lors de l'occupation du territoire des Sudètes, it fut choisi pour commander le bataillon chargé d'assurer la sécurité personnelle de Hitler. Au début de l'année suivante, promu général de brigade, il remplit la même mission durant la campagne de Pologne. Rongeant son frein de ne pas exercer de commandement actif, il se rendit antipathique à des potentats du Parti comme Martin Bormann, mais se trouva aux premières loges pour observer la technique de la campagne. Celle-ci terminée, il demanda à Hitler le commandement d'une division panzer. Il arriva à Bad Godesberg le 15 février 1940 pour prendre celui de la 7e, une des quartre divisions "légères" qui furent converties en "panzer" au cours de l'hiver.
[quote from Chapter 12, page 216.]

Thanks for the detail! I didn't realize the book played such a significant role. I like how Horne described it. I noticed a certain refreshing simplicity to it as well along with a good combination of confidence and humble recognition. He played his cards really well after publication it seems. I definitely have more to read over the period and about Rommel in general.
Eafonte wrote:How many pages did you manage to read?
This dictionary is labeled as "concise", but it has 1,290 pages!

I read about 500 pages to get through the letters A-U, DE->EN. Since I did not go both directions, it cut the work roughly in half, which helped. They ended up going "concise" by keeping definitions short and to the point. On a split-column page, perhaps 2-3 lines per term. It wouldn't be a good dictionary for seeing multiple senses for how each word can be used, but for fast review keeping a comprehensive/high word count, it fits the bill perfectly.
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby coldrainwater » Sat Jul 02, 2022 3:49 am

I am in Tyler, TX now and came to visit my father for his birthday/Father's Day. On my daily runs through the neighborhood, I have had little trouble incorporating audiobook listening into my routine. I listened to an abridged version of Der Graf von Monte Cristo von Alexandre Dumas as well as a couple of shorter works from Jules Verne (Der Leuchturm am Ende der Welt und Die Stadt Unter die Erde), to name a few. Later I may read them more closely so that I can provide a more apt review. I enjoyed all three.

The grammar bug that I caught around May 21 couldn't have lasted more than a week and was followed by a near record-breaking recovery on my part. I then promptly embarked on a week or two of listening to chess videos, mostly in German. Good praxis...but not enough in the linguistic sense. I found myself studying, analyzing and solving a multitude of enticing chess problems instead of concentrating on German. Schade.

Later, I switched to a better track for learning German and managed to complete two books in June at a rather casual pace. The first was Deutsche Geschichte des 19. und 20. Jahrhunderts von Golo Mann. I felt lucky to find such a long cohesive text with roughly 42 hours of matching audio, so I jumped at the opportunity to tackle it via listening and reading. The book was written in a very personal and digestible style with a great deal of commentary and rich vocabulary. At over 800 pages, it is likely the hardest text I have made it through in LR for German and was well above my level in several sections/respects. Mann wrote it knowing his audience would likely have some background in German history and I think that improved the work.

After reading Mann, I moved pretty quickly and easily through Eine kurze Geschichte der Menschheit von Yuval Noah Harari. At shortly over 400 pages, it was definitely easily digestible. I used LR here as well and took advantage of roughly 17 hours of audio to keep the pace crisp. Despite the ease, I found it to be good practice and timely to read shortly after tackling Arm und Reich since there is substantial overlap in topics covered. Harari is very approachable and I can see why the book has been so successful for general audiences.
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Re: Coldrainwater's German Log

Postby Le Baron » Sat Jul 02, 2022 9:06 am

coldrainwater wrote:The grammar bug that I caught around May 21 couldn't have lasted more than a week and was followed by a near record-breaking recovery on my part.

I like this formulation. :lol:
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