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AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2021 1:17 am
by AndyMeg
I'm back! :D

New Year, New log!

Happy New Year, everyone!

I'm been quite busy lately, but I keep trying to improve and learn languages whenever I can.

The language that I currently want to improve the most is Korean, because there are many things I want to do in Korean, but I'm often hitting the wall of not having a good enough level for all the things I want to do.

Thanks to our mother, my sister and I got a bunch of Korean books that were on sale (it was a kind of "take all or none" sale). There are some textbooks (like the complete series of "Vitamin Korean") and there are also fiction and non-fiction books on different topics. Overall a great purchase for the price. :D

I've also been playing with Netflix and Disney Plus trying to find different activities for language learning.

With Disney Plus I could not find enough material in Asian languages, so I decided to try with Romance languages and there's actually a lot one can do.

I watched the first 30 minutes of "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" many times: 1) Brazilian Portuguese audio and Brazilian Portuguese subs. 2) Italian audio and Italian subs 3) Canadian French audio and Canadian French Closed Caption (CC) subs 4) French (France) audio and French (France) subs.

It was interesting to compare the use of words and verb conjugations (among other aspects) in those closely related languages or variants (in the case on French). If I had the time, I would like to continue with this experiment for a while, but that won't be possible for the time being as I want to focus most of my energy on Korean.

But there's an activity I'll continue doing on Disney Plus:

- I watched the first half of the "Iron Man" movie with Brazilian Portuguese audio and Latin American Spanish subs.

- I've started rewatchig an old Marvel cartoon ("X-men") with Brazilian Portuguese audio and Latin American Spanish subs.

Since last year I started to consume quite a bunch of Youtube content in Portuguese, and even if I understand most of it, it bothers me the details I can't get.

I've never officially studied Portuguese, but I've had an on and off relationship with it since I was a child (As a kid I liked to watch cartoons and telenovelas in Portuguese, and later on I would casually read some non-fiction articles in Portuguese on topics that were of special interest to me).

So now, I would like to use Disney Plus to improve my understanding of Portuguese so that I can finally get all (or at least a lot more of) those details I'm missing. For that I'll continue watching series/movies with Brazilian Portuguese audio and Latin American Spanish subs.

And for Korean, my plan is to use Netflix and maybe the "Vitamin Korean" textbooks, among other resources. But I'll tell you more about that later on ;)

Re: AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Sun Jan 24, 2021 1:04 am
by AndyMeg
These past days I've continued watching Youtube videos in Portuguese, but I've not watched anything on Disney Plus.

For Korean I tried a few things and I think I've finally settled on three activities for the time being:

1) Watching new Korean content with Korean subs

My level of understanding varies a lot in this activity. If I'm watching a story, I usually just go with the flow and don't stop the video, even if there are a lot of words or sentences I don't understand. I'm going for an extensive approach here.

But I'm also watching some short videos on Youtube, and I do look for the meaning of some key words. For example, I was watching a Korean video talking about BTS and their achievements in 2020 and they called them 기록 소년단. BTS' Korean name is 방탄소년단 (Bulletproof Boy Scouts) and I found it interesting that they were calling them 기록 소년단. I looked for the the word 기록 and it means "record". So I guess they were calling BTS "Record Boy Scouts", which makes sense as they have broken many records during their career and 2020 was a year with a huge amount of record breaking, even by their standars. One of their two biggest achievements from 2020 was becoming the first group with multiple No. 1 Hot 100 debuts on Billboard, thanks to "Dynamite" (their first song completely in English) and "Life Goes On" (a predominantly-Korean-language song). And their biggest achievement was a Grammy nomination for the Best Pop Duo/Group Performance category.

In case you want to check them out, I'll leave the official MVs of those two songs:

Lately I've also been listening a lot to one of BTS' solo songs. It is sung by their oldest member, Kim SeokJin (김석진). This song is one of my all time favorites and I love its message:

You can read the English translation here:

BTS - Epiphany (English Translation)

2) Read books with dual sentences (Korean-English)

About two years ago I had a similar approach when I learned a bit of written Chinese, and it helped me to remember grammar and vocabulary quite fast (by my personal standars). What I do is the following:

I choose a text with dual sentences. It maybe be a grammar textbook, but it may also be another kind of text.

I first read the sentence in Korean and try to guess its meaning (if I'm reading a grammar text I also read the explanations in there in the order in which they are in the text, so they may come before or after the dual sentences examples).

After I've tried to guess the meaning to the best of my abilities without any additional aid (like a dictionary, for example), I look at the English version of the sentence and compare it to the Korean version and try to match the meaning of the different parts of the sentence. Then I move on to a new sentence and repeat the same process.

Sometimes I may find a more idiomatic use that doesn't match the meaning of individual words, and I pay attention to it and take a mental note about it.

For this activity I'm going for a middle approach between extensive and intensive as I only use the English sentence as my point of reference for meaning (and the grammar explanation if I'm using a grammar textbook), and I don't use other external aids (like dictionaries, for example). I try to understand as best as I can with what I'm given by the book/text I'm using, and I let go of confusing things that are not really explained in the text.

For now I've been using these two books for this activity:

- "Essential Korean Vocabulary: Learn the Key Words and Phrases Needed to Speak Korean Fluently" by Kyubyong Park.

- "Let's Speak Korean" by Fandom Media. (This book usually gives you both, a literal translation and an idiomatic translation).

3) Watch videos with dual subs (Korean-English).

For now I'm mainly using Netflix and the Google Chrome extension "Language Learning with Netflix". In the future I may use Viki's "Learn Mode" as well, but for now I prefer to stick with Netflix as their Korean Closed Captions tend to be more accurate and complete (and better synchronized with the audio) than in Viki.

I have the following settings for the extension:

- Korean Closed Captions and audio. English translation.
- Hide both subs (Korean and English).
- Normal Speed.
- Show subs on the video (the other option is "below the video"). When the subs are on the video you can choose between three possible locations: bottom, middle or top. I prefer to have the subs on top.
- Automatic pause at the end of each line
- Mouse over: show mini-dictionary
- Left click: show mini-dictionary and say the word
- Right click: say the word

This one is my most intensive activity at the moment. This is what I do:

1. Listen for the first time to a line and see if I can understand anything just from the audio.
2. Mouse over the Korean CC so that it is shown. Read it and see what I can understand from it.
3. If I understand everything, I confirm it by mousing over the English translation and then I move on to the next line.
4. If I don't understand everything I leave the English translation hidden and I copy the Korean CC by hand on an acrylic board with a green marker.
5. I use the pop-up dictionary to get the meaning of unknown words and I try to guess the meaning of the sentence as a whole.
6. I check my guess against the official English translation of the line.
7. I use a red marker to write the right meanings of unknown words below their Korean equivalents that I had previously written in green.
8. I think about the more literal translation and I compare it with the official English translation.
9. If there's a word for which I know the meaning but I sometimes forget how it is written, then I practice writting it a few times with the red marker.
10. If a word catches my attention I may practice writting it a few times with the red marker.
11. After I'm done, I erase everything I wrote on the acrylic board and move on to a new line to repeat the whole process.

For now I'm not looking for specific grammar points that don't directly appear when using the pop-up dictionary options. I just move on. Though I think I'll probably find many of those grammar points when I start using grammar textbooks for Activity Number 2 (Read books with dual sentences).

For now I've only used two K-dramas for this activity:

- The Uncanny Counter (경이로운 소문) --> I'm only one scene into episode 1.
- Sweet Home (스위트홈) --> I'm a few scenes in (around minute 7 or so of episode 1).

From the first drama I found it kind of funny that 시장 can both mean "market" or "Mayor of a city". I was already familiar with the first meaning, but not with the second one. :o

From the second drama there was a word that came out a lot: 경비 (security guard)

I chose these dramas because I've already watched both of them with English subs. I know myself and I can become very impatient if I try to do this activity with completely new content because the first time I just want to enjoy the stories.

For now I'm really enjoying all three activities and their differences give me the flexibility to choose the one that best fits my needs and available resources each time.

Re: AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 5:16 pm
by AndyMeg
Reserved Empty Spot 1 [In case I want to use it in the future]

Re: AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 5:17 pm
by AndyMeg
Reserved Empty Spot 2 [In case I want to use it in the future]

Re: AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Sun Feb 07, 2021 5:17 pm
by AndyMeg
I was watching Disney Plus on a profile my cousin gave me, but after two months he decided to not renew the subscription. I wasn't really using it lately, so I won't subscribe on my own. I may subscribe later in the future when I decide to seriously focus on a Romance language, but for now my main goal is to improve my Korean, and after that I would like to study/learn a bit more of written Chinese, so it may take a while before I go back to Disney Plus.

But I still keep watching Youtube videos in Portuguese. ;)

I've added a few more activities to my Korean language learning journey:

4) Watching TV-shows or movies with Korean audio-description and English or Spanish subs.

I watched a Korean movie called "Space Sweepers" (승리호). Watching this was kind of a peculiar experience because it is a sci-fi movie with lots of foreign actors and the original audio wasn't always 100% in Korean. Sometimes they spoke Spanish or English (and I don't know if they also spoke other languages because the audio-description covered the voices with Korean dub). At first I was watching with Spanish subs and I felt perplexed when the subs suddenly dissappeared, so I was left only hearing the Korean dub, but upon paying closer attention to the original audio underneath the Korean dub, I realized it was in Spanish (and thus, they decided to omit the Spanish subs for that part). So I changed the language of the subs from Spanish to English, but later on they were speaking in English (with the Korean dub covering it) and they omitted the English subs for that part, so I changed back to Spanish subs :shock:. Not a smooth experience, but very memorable indeed. :lol:

5) Watching TV-shows or movies with Spanish audio (either original or dubbed) and Korean subs.

I'm using Spanish audio because I can process it faster than English audio and it leaves me enough room to focus on the Korean subs. I'm also watching at a slower speed so that I have even more time to pay attention to the Korean subs.

I watched a movie called "Pacific Rim: Uprising" (Titanes del Pacífico: La insurrección) at 0.75x speed.

I think this activity is great for vocabulary acquisition and reinforcement, and it goes really well with (and complements) activity number 6.

6) Using Memorion (a flashcards app)

I've tried Anki before and I can never stick long enough with it to see any results. I've used Memrise too, and I liked it more than Anki, but I also stopped using it after a while.

Last year I discovered "Memorion". So far this is the flashcards app I like the most (by a long shot). But with the pandemic finally arriving to the West, I had to focus on other priorities and I didn't come back to it until a few days ago.

Had I been more savvy about using Excel back then, I would probably had been using Memorion for almost a year now. But as making the flahscards was taking too long, I completely stopped using this app after just a few weeks.

This time, instead of trying to make the flahscards the hard (and slow) way, I decided to spare some time to learn a few tricks about using Excel and I could finish in a day my 2758 most frequent Korean nouns flashcards deck. Yay! :D

Memorion has the option automatically create a new deck with the reverse direction of the questions of the original deck, so now I have two decks: one from Korean to English and one from English to Korean.

I decided to automatically activate 5 new cards every day (for each deck, so 10 in total), but if I finish with all the new cards and reviews in a day I may manually activate more cards for studying.

After I'm done with the new cards or reviews for the day, or if I have to wait before reviewing them again, I go to the Play zone of the app, and enjoy some time there.

There are different games to choose from. These are the ones I use the most:

- Match'Em: it has two columns, one with Korean words and the other with English words and I have to match each language pair.
- PickOne: It shows me a word and I have to choose its meaning or equivalent in the other language. The "cue" word may be in Korean or in English depending on what deck (the original one, or the new one with the reverse direction) I'm using for the game.
- Listen Up: It's the same as the above, but with audio as the cue.
- Just Listen: This one is ideal for when I'm doing the dishes or a similar activity. It shows an audiovisual cue in a language and it gives me some time to think about the answer before it tells me the answer. I can choose any delay for the answer between 0 seconds and 10 seconds. I usually make the delay last between 3 and 4.5 seconds.
- Match More: It's like the first game, but there are more rows and columns and the languages are mixed, so I have to pay more attention when I try to match the words.
- Hang'Em: It's a "hangman game". It shows me a hint in Korean and I have to guess the English equivalent/meaning before the hanging man diagram is completed.

When I'm in the Learn interface I can answer the questions in different ways (just think about the answer, type it, handwrite it, organize it from parts in random order). My preferred way is to handwrite it and then compare it with the official answer. If my answer is wrong, the app usually makes me play a small game with the cue word.

I really, really like this app and enjoy it a lot. And it goes really well with activity number 5 (and with others as well, actually). In fact, I've started to notice words from Memorion appearing in the Korean subs I read. :D

Here a video about the app:

Re: AndyMeg's language learning adventures (mainly Asian languages and a tiny bit of Romance languages)

Posted: Fri Feb 19, 2021 4:41 pm
by AndyMeg
I've added three more activities to my list for Korean and I decided to give a bit of space to written Chinese.

As I'm focusing on Korean and I don't want to be distracted by written Chinese, I'll work on it really slowly, with one goal at a time and then move on to a new goal. My current goal for written Chinese is to achieve 100% writing precision of the chinese characters used in the 1000 most frequent words from film subtitles. For this I'll be using the written test (Caligraphy Challenge) in the "Kanji Study" android app. These are the settings:

- Automatic detection of strokes
- The cue is the character’s main associated meaning
- It shows the Korean readings in hangul, but not the Mandarin Chinese readings as I have not studied anything about the tones, the Mandarin Chinese phonology or even pinyin, so I don't want to get into bad pronunciation habits from associating the characters with its romanized "reading" and in general I'm not currently interested in their pronunciation (I plan to tackle that later on).
- Normal stroke detection (the other options are “Permissive” and “Strict”)
- Show answer (it shows the whole character in gray and I can write/draw over it while my strokes are shown in black). I chose this option because right now I’m not trying to test my ability to write a character from memory, but just practicing how each character should be written)
- Show clues (If I’m struggling too much with a character it shows me, with a small animation, which one should be the next stroke and how it should be written)
- Repeat a character until I get it right from start to finish (so if I make a mistake while writing a character, I have to correct my mistake and finish writing it right, and then I go back to try to write the same character from the beginning. I can’t move on to a new chracter until I’ve perfectly written the previous one from start to finish)

There are a total of 151 subgroups, each with 5 Chinese characters. I take the test/challenge for each subgroup. At the end of the challenge it shows me a summary of my performance for each character and where I made mistakes and it also shows an overall percentage of precision for that subgroup of characters. My goal is to get an overall 100% precision for each subgroup of characters before moving on to the next subgroup (for this I need to write each character without any mistake on the first try).

For now I've got 100% precision on five subgroups (for a total of 25 Chinese characters). After I get 100% precision on all subgroups I may redistribute the characters in new subgroups of 7 or 10 characters each and start the challenge again. The final objective would be to have a big test with all the characters used in the 1000 most frequent words from film subtitles in a single group and being able to get 100% precision.

Korean Activities

1) Watching new Korean content with Korean subs

I've watched half of the first episode of the K-drama "Secret Love Affair" (밀회) on Viki.

2) Read books with dual sentences (Korean-English)

I've been reading the grammar section of the "Learn Korean Through Kpop" website. I'm currently on grammar point number 35 (of a total of 120).

3) Watch videos with dual subs (Korean-English).

I'm currently on minute 8:07 of the K-drama "Sweet Home" (스위트홈) and I started using "The Uncanny Counter" (경이로운 소문) drama for a different activity.

4) Watching TV-shows or movies with Korean audio-description and English or Spanish subs.

- I've watched the first 30 minutes of a K-movie called "Tune in for Love" (유열의 음악앨범).
- I watched the K-movie "#Alive" (#살아있다).
- I've watched the first 30 minutes of episode 1 of "The Uncanny Counter" (경이로운 소문) K-drama.

5) Watching TV-shows or movies with Spanish audio (either original or dubbed) and Korean subs.

I watched the first episode of a series called "Headspace Guide to Meditation" (헤드스페어스 명상이 필요할 때). I watched it at 0.75x speed and closed my eyes for about five minutes at the beginning of a meditation exercise.

6) Using Memorion (a flashcards app)

There were a few days I didn't study Korean at all because I was really busy with other things. When I finally went back to Memorion, I had accumulated cards from previous days and I didn't like it. I remembered why I usually stop using SRS apps.

But I really like Memorion as it offers me a lot of different ways for learning/studying besides the SRS path. So I decided to reset my progress on the SRS path and try a different approach:

I prefer to learn vocabulary from material made for natives. When I learn this way, I don't need as many exposures as when I force myself to learn with an artificial SRS program. To explain my case, I'll take two recent examples:

- While studying with the SRS program in Memorion, I had been having trouble remembering this word: 고전. It means "Classic, classics". But when asked about it I would either forget its meaning or the right way to write it. Then, yesterday, I decided to start reading a book I'm really interested in. In the tittle the book has the word 고전 and it is about classics of the literature that many people know about but that they have probably never read. Suddenly, the word 고전 became easy to remember, both its meaning and its correct writing/spelling.

- While watching the K-drama "Sweet Home" (스위트홈) for my "dual subs" activiy I found this word: 교양. Which means "culture, refinement" (by the way, I just wrote the word and the meaning from memory, without looking it up). It was in this sentence 아휴, 시끄러워, 교양 없게 ("He's so loud and uncultured"). The word catched my attention at that time, so I wrote it a few times with my red marker on the acrylic board. Then, today, while playing the "Match'Em" game on Memorion I saw the word on the first column and then I immediately recalled its meaning without having to look at the English column. After that I looked for "culture, refinement" on the English column and correctly matched the two words. I felt really happy as this word had never appeared in my active cards so far (neither in the "learn mode" or, as far as I remember, in a game).

So, how will I use Memorion from now on?

I'll continue playing the games and I'll also use the "Cram mode".

For the "Cram mode" I've activated all the cards from the two decks, for a grand total of 5516 cards active. But I'm not trying to get through all those cards in a single day. I go to the learn section, see the cue and think about the answer and write it by hand. In the "Cram mode" I have three options for the repetition interval: Done (it doesn't show the card again), OK (which means it'll be presented again after 15 minutes) and Play/Again. I go through 20 cards or so at a time and then I get out of the Learn Mode. If I don't remember an answer completely right, then I choose the OK (15 minutes) interval, so that I don't risk meeting the word again within the same session and having to continue tackling it until I get it right during that session. The reason for this is that I'm using the "Cram mode" more for getting familiar with those words and paying attention to them so that when I find them while interacting with native material I'm more aware of them. Also, this strategy helps me to immediately eliminate from the study list those words that I already know rather well, and that way I can focus on getting more exposure to the unfamiliar words. So it still serves as a SRS path, but in a more relaxed way as I don't have to go through a specific number of cards each day and I don't have to repeat each card until perfection in any given session.

And for the games, these are the current settings:

- All cards (another option I like and that I use from time to time is "Toughest cards")
- Exclude soon due (though I may activate or deactivate this option from time to time)
- Answer on tap (this way I can think about the answers before seeing the available options)
- Difficult game
- Copious rounds (though I may change it to any of the other option depending on how much available time I have)

The games give extra points for speed (if the answers are correct).

For now I'm mainly using the "Match'Em", "Just Listen" and "Hang'Em" games because they seem to be the easiest to play given the amount of unknown/non-studied words I have (the other games, when in "difficult mode", can feel rather irritating or frustrating when there are a lot of unkown words; but I may play them in "easy mode" which gives me less options to choose from).

And for the new three Korean activities I talked about at the beginning of this post, I'll write about them in a future update as I don't have more time right now and this entry is already on the long side. ;)