Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

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Gordafarin2
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Languages: English (N)
Current focus: Italian (A1), Mandarin (A2)
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Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:29 pm

Luke suggested I start a log here, so thank you for the inspiration! It's flattering that someone is interested in what I have to say :D I apologise in advance, that I have a tendency to ramble...

I occasionally post guides and check-ins over on my blog buqalamun.tumblr.com, but over here I can write some more casual updates and maybe spark up some discussion with you all :)

A little bit of background:

Persian - Started learning in university, ~14 years ago. Have forgotten and re-learned many things since then. My username comes from a character in the Persian epic the Shahnameh.
I'm at an awkward point where I can understand dubbed cartoons very well, with their clear audio and lack of cultural differences. I can also very comfortably read grade-school level translated books (Goosebumps, the Deltora Quest series). But native series and books are too big of a jump. Vocabulary is a big limiting factor, so I do better when I have a pop-up dictionary available.
The last several ODA self-tests I have taken have placed me at ILR level 2+, roughly B2.

Mandarin Chinese (simplified) - My current priority, started in 2019. Did the first 30 Pimsleur lessons, and I used HSK as a framework for basic vocabulary, up to HSK3. After that, I started getting my vocabulary from dramas. Immersing with dramas (and Peppa Pig!) is my main method of study now.
I feel a little spoiled with Mandarin because there are so many great tools available that match up with my study style. Morphman for Anki sorts my cards by known and unknown vocabulary, and the Migaku browser extension highlights each i+1 sentence when I watch videos, and lets me create a flashcard for it in just a few clicks. It really helps my feeling of progress with Chinese, which otherwise would be much more of a struggle compared to my other languages.
So far I've studied 1500 hanzi and approximately 3800 words. Watching a simple high school drama, I can understand many individual lines, but miss out on most details due to lack of vocabulary. China and Tawian have a wealth of cheesy and entertaining romance dramas that I am really enjoying immersing in, which drives my motivation to understand more and more.

Italian - My newest language, started in May. By chance I had the opportunity for some really reasonably priced private lessons, so I went for it. My background in Spanish has helped a lot (and Esperanto too somewhat), but I need to stay alert for false friends and not rest on my laurels of passive comprehension!
My lessons are currently in summer break, so in the meantime I am jumping into Podcast Italiano, basic vocabulary flashcards, Netflix and graded readers.

Spanish - 4 years of high school Spanish and 1 year at university. Haven't really *studied* it since then, but every now and then I take in some Spanish content. Lately I've particularly enjoyed watching Linguriosa, Mandarin Lab, and Judith Tiral on Youtube. I can understand a lot provided that it's spoken slowly/clearly enough or there are captions, but I'm hopeless with full-speed or really colloquial Spanish.

Esperanto - I started learning when I was bored in Spanish class 15+ years ago. I credit Esperanto a lot with building up my confidence in language learning and showing me that self-study is a viable option. I'm a member of my local club, so I'm on Zoom with them for a couple hours a few times a month. EO is the language I get the most active practice in, but I don't really work on it other than that.
Last summer I took a course and according to the placement test and the teacher, I'm a comfortable B2 level. With Esperanto's intuitive word formation and the number of cognates, I rarely struggle when it comes to reading and listening. To 'level up', I need to practice expressing complex thoughts and work on the finer points of grammar, but my other languages take precedence at the moment (maybe this will change when I feel safe travelling again, and finally visit a Kongreso).

Some notes on how I study...

Keeping it fun
Languages are exclusively a hobby for me, so I do what I enjoy. (I tried making them a career once, but it didn't pan out, and I'm much happier this way.) I named this log 'Following my Whims' because that's what guides my study - whichever language appeals to me most at the moment, whichever method sounds interesting to try, or whichever text I have a goal of reading.

I'm a little flighty, I abandon things when I get bored. But it's not productive to feel guilty that I never finished some course or that I'm not sticking to one particular method. What matters to me is staying engaged. So long as I keep swinging my pickaxe day after day, I'll make a dent in the mountain.

I never really intended to pick up 5 languages, it just kind of happened... Usually I get more interested in one language in particular and focus on it, but at the moment I've been juggling them all and it has been an interesting challenge. I've been tracking my time over the summer, here's where each language is at in terms of how much time I've put into it:
language titme.PNG
language titme.PNG (23.46 KiB) Viewed 405 times

Though the vast majority of this isn't heavy study time, it's primarily watching TV :)

I don't spend much time training active skills unless I have a particular reason for it. My priority is comprehension - understanding and appreciating films/TV/books. I'm introverted and anxious, so chatting with strangers in a second language is not my idea of a good time :) So naturally, you should take all my methods with a grain of salt if you want to develop active skills at the same rate as passive ones!

My tools
I'm a big Anki user, and I do enjoy nerding out about add-ons and optimizations. I readily admit that I spend far too much time doing this, that could be better spent actually learning my languages. However, Anki has been extremely important in helping me keep consistency in learning and preventing lost progress. It is my "bare minimum" daily task when I don't have the time or energy to do anything else.

Lately I have been very interested in the Refold and Migaku communities, which emphasize immersion with native materials as early as possible. The Migaku browser extension is amazing, especially with Chinese. (It supports all languages, but a select few languages have extra features that make it particularly helpful) Watch Netflix, click a button, and it will automatically make an Anki flashcard with audio, image, and dictionary definition for your unknown word. In about 2 seconds. Just beautiful. The browser extension is a Patreon exclusive, so it did cost a few bucks, but it is very much worth it.

And Refold has a very active set of Discord servers with lots of resources, advice, and encouragement. There's a whole server for Chinese, and even a small group of us doing Persian. Before Refold I didn't really feel ready to jump into series in any of my languages (except for Persian where I have watched a lot of cartoons). I was using native material, but in very measured doses (mass import audio flashcards into Anki, find the cards where I know all the words or i+1, and only study those). This summer I've watched 40 hours of Chinese dramas and I can really notice my progress. I take in the stuff that's at my level, I study the i+1, I ignore the stuff that's too hard, and I enjoy the whole process.

I have started a series in Italian too (Summertime on Netflix) - before I would have thought doing this just a few months into my study would be way too early, though to be fair I have a significant head-start in my comprehension thanks to my Spanish. I think it helps that the series I'm watching are interesting but not too interesting, if that makes any sense - there are dozens of high school romance Cdramas, they are interchangeable and disposable. I care enough about the story to be entertained, but not so much that I'm really disappointed if I miss something. If there's something I don't understand, it will either be clear from the context, or it wasn't important in the first place. Whereas the very first Cdrama I started watching, The Untamed, I am really invested in the story and I don't want to miss a single detail, so when I try to watch it with only Chinese subtitles, I keep 'cheating' and checking the English, distracting me from paying attention to the Chinese!
15 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her

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Gordafarin2
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Languages: English (N)
Current focus: Italian (A1), Mandarin (A2)
Maintaining: Persian (B2), Esperanto (B2), Spanish (rusty B1-2)
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Wed Aug 18, 2021 10:51 am

Immersion and grammar

In my formal Italian study, we have only covered the present indicative tense, with brief exposure to a couple of other tenses in set phrases. During my summer break from classes, however, I've jumped into some simple content outside of the textbook, getting exposed to all kinds of structures that I haven't studied yet.

It's interesting how I'm getting a feel for certain tenses without knowing how they work yet. I haven't learned past tense, but of course it gets used all the time in the material I'm consuming. I'm mainly watching Youtube channels that are all in Italian, but geared towards learners - Podcast Italiano, Lucrezia, Italiano Automatico. I've also watched bits of some TV series (the Tintin cartoon dubbed in Italian, and 'Summertime' on Netflix).

Have I acquired the whole past tense(s) just from watching some hours of Youtube videos? No, but I feel comfortable using some forms of common verbs in tenses/moods that I have not properly learned yet. 'Ho visto / Ho letto che...', 'Spero che sia utile', etc. I haven't studied these phrases, but they come up often enough that I've absorbed them.

It's happening in bits and pieces - only the first and third person singular, only certain verbs, and I don't know yet the rules for using the compound past tense vs the simple one (forgive my lack of terminology here! I mean 'ho avuto' vs 'avevo'). I'll learn the details in time, either when it gets covered in class or when I get too impatient and look it up myself ;) But it's a nice bonus that I'm picking these up like vocabulary, and it will make things easier when I formally learn these tenses.

But it's an incomplete picture - a puzzle with just a few pieces filled in in one corner. I'm getting a ton of practice with high frequency verbs like to see, to hear, to read, to ask (and 'to subscribe and leave a like and a comment' :lol: ). But less common verbs won't get stuck in my head like this, and I don't have a mental formula to be able to generalize it to all verbs - I can make an educated guess, but that's all at this point.

So this is, I guess, what people mean when they say they are picking up grammar from immersion - learning piecemeal verb forms and phrases like vocabulary. If they're common enough, you will see them over and over and they will become intuitive. And it's nicely automatic already, without a lot of practice - not going through the process "OK, 'to read' is leggere, then the past participle is irregular, letto, then the first person for avere is 'ho', 'Ho letto'." I simply know it, as if I've already drilled it.

I have no fear of grammar - I like a good verb chart, and I'm not at all someone who advises against explicit teaching. But this is a pretty neat experience, and I definitely see the appeal.
Pro: Automaticity with no effort. Con: Works best with the highest-frequency words. You'll get diminishing returns eventually, needing to watch many more hours of content to get enough exposure to less common verbs and tenses.

And would this work with other things besides verbs? A verb is a critical part of a sentence, containing information about the tense we're in and the person doing it. Paying attention to it is key to understanding what's being said. What about prepositions, or noun genders? It's definitely easier to gloss over those and just absorb the meaning without thinking about whether someone said di or da, i or le.
3 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her

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Gordafarin2
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Maintaining: Persian (B2), Esperanto (B2), Spanish (rusty B1-2)
Dabbled: ASL, French
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Fri Aug 20, 2021 11:23 am

Chinese update

I had a chat conversation with a co-worker this morning! We talked about memes, our jobs, and learning Chinese vs learning English. I've exchanged some simple words with people before, but this was probably the longest conversation I've had. I had the translator app open to look up a few words and phrases that she used, but all of my output was from my head. I don't know if everything I said was right, but we each understood each other.

One funny thing, she used the idiom 马马虎虎 ("书面的还马马虎虎,口语不太行,因为平时不怎么说英文"). I told her that I didn't think Chinese people often used this idiom - I'd heard somewhere that even though it's one of the first chengyu that students learn, it's not too common. But she said plenty of people still use it.

I've watched 44 hours of dramas since I started tracking in June, and 63 hours of Chinese listening total over these three months (which includes the dramas but also music, podcasts, random Youtube videos, etc). I feel so fortunate that so much Chinese content is subtitled. Soft subs are especially convenient because I can copy-paste to directly look up words and export them into Anki cards, but even the hard subs really help to compensate for any listening challenges. I've seen that more advanced learners get annoyed at the subtitles everywhere (there are, for example, special programs that will cover them up for people who want to train listening without reading), but right now they're a godsend.

One thing in the Refold guide that I really like is the concept of 'domains'. It's a 'divide and conquer' kind of strategy. You choose one category of content to focus on and understand to a high level. So right now, I'm mainly watching high school romance dramas. Each one contains a similar type of vocabulary (and plot structure) which makes each one easier than the next. I'm coming to recognise the specialised vocabulary of this domain - chalkboard, multiple choice question, end-of-semester exam, first kiss - which gives me a lot of context for each subsequent series that I watch. Throw me into a detective show and I'd drown under all the new vocabulary - but staying focused on one domain, I can build up confidence and a good foundation.

My known words, according to Morphman, just passed 4000! What Morphman counts as a 'word' is a little generous - 一个 两个 三个 and 一月 二月 三月。。。 are all different words, so I wouldn't say that I actually have a 4000-word vocabulary, but at any rate it's a milestone. A year ago, my count in Morphman was only 1600, so I've definitely made marked progress this year. I'm using the Spoonfed Chinese deck alongside audio cards from dramas, and I think they complement each other well - Spoonfed is a little more formal and slow and clear, while the mined cards are full-speed spoken language. The dramas are more likely to be talking about boyfriends and family and school, while Spoonfed helps to fill in the gaps a little bit for other topics, like government. (I haven't dared to try reading the news yet, but I will want to do it eventually...)
4 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her

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Gordafarin2
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Fri Aug 27, 2021 10:21 am

Persian update

Persian is the language I have put the most total hours into over the years, but I haven't worked on it heavily in a long time. Other languages either come easier with lots of cognates, or are new and thus more exciting... I'm still trying to use it a little bit each day, with a more extended session of intensive reading or watching TV once a week.

Shiny new things, and a mini book review

Last week I did a little bit of shopping. Physical Persian books aren't too easy to find over here, but I found a Spiderman comic book on Ebay, and a bilingual children's book from Nogaam, an independent publisher based here in the UK. They offer a couple children's books and a larger selection of original and translated works for adults (including James Joyces' Ulysses :shock: ).

The children's book is called "Golatash and the Amazing Cave". I chose it because it looked like it had a decent amount of text on each page, a few paragraphs rather than just a line or two. I was hoping it would be more of a young-adult level, but it's mostly a long picture book. Still, it was a nice story and I enjoyed it.

The story was inspired by the Shahnameh (" از اسطوره های ایرانی (ایران باستان) مایه گرفته است و بازآفرینی یک داستان آشناست از دل شاهنامه.") and I believe it is a re-imagining of Zaal and the Simorgh - a child who was abandoned at birth due to their appearance, raised by a powerful magical creature, and when the child returns to their birth family, they take with them a piece of that creature (a feather, a hair) to summon if they ever need them. The details are all different, but the through-line of the story is the same.

It took about 45 minutes to read the book through, so more-or-less 2 minutes per page, ~65WPM (need to work on that reading speed!). It has lovely illustrations, and I recommend it! Being a bilingual book it has the potential to be useful for beginners too.

Reading

The non-picture-book I'm almost finished with at the moment is from RL Stine's Nightmare Room series. A while back I found a website where someone had posted translations of at least a dozen Goosebumps and related books. They're nice easy books that I can read to unwind in the evening without feeling like I'm "studying". Though to be honest, I feel like I should be putting more time into reading than I am right now. I spend a lot more time watching things, which is either a) easier or b) when it's hard, the hard parts don't last long and before I know it we're on the next line/scene.

I would like to move away from translated books, but I'm at a loss as to how to find something appropriate for me to read unassisted. With English books I know what to look for - "chapter books"/middle grade/the early side of Young Adult. With English books I can look up grade level recommendations, or the Lexile rating, or whatever, and understand whether it will be an easy extensive read for me, and then find it in translation. With Persian books I can find children's books, and I can find books for adults, but not anything in between. But I know this is a jump that I need to make sooner rather than later. When I read The Little Black Fish a few years ago, there were so many idioms that tripped me up. I can really feel the difference between a western book in translation and a book written natively in Persian and I need to jump that gap. I would love recommendations if you have any!

Assessment

A couple weekends ago I took the Online Diagnostic Assessment from DLIFLC and scored a 2+, the same score I have been consistently getting since 2019 now. It feels at a very definite plateau, because unfortunately the 'score towards the next level' that it gives me is not increasing all that rapidly either. The 2+ level passages that I was given feel comfortable, while the 3 level ones were immediately, noticeably way more complex in a way that made my brain panic and want to check out of reading them entirely!

This time I took the Reading test; I like to alternate between them, and typically I do a little better on Listening tests, but I can tell that in order to level up I would need to do some dedicated work on higher-level content like the news and essays, GLOSS exercises, and also build my vocabulary up in the topics that tend to come up on the test - military, government, science, infrastructure, etc.

What I'm watching

Iran International TV has a programme called تیتر اول which they actually provide Persian captions for, which is a rare and welcome feature! Intensively studying these shows for audio cards would be a good strategy for me, with regards to filling in gaps in my vocabulary.

I'm watching a couple cartoons - She-Ra, and also Tintin, which I actually managed to find captions that match the Persian dub! 95% of the time I don't need them, but this makes it very easy for me to make audio cards for Anki, and I've been picking up vocabulary like رمز گشایی - decoding, پاد زهر - antidote, راه میانبُر - shortcut. پاد زهر is actually where the word "bezoar" comes from in English :)

I also signed up for Televika, which is a streaming service for Iranian content aimed at people outside of the country. There are tons of movies here and a fair number of TV shows, and a few (not many, but a few) even have Persian CC. I'm starting with شبهای مافیا which is a sort of gameshow based on the party game of Werewolf/Mafia, where some people are regular citizens and some people are 'mafia' who get a chance to kill someone at the end of each round, and the citizens are trying to figure out who is who. It's reasonably interesting, it's easy to follow because of the structure of the game, and the language is very formulaic ("You did X, and I find that suspicious. I'm suspicious of you because of X and Y. So I suspect you're a mafia member....")

I'm also working my way through different Youtube channels, trying to find some folks that I like. Right now I'm enjoying Negin & Takumi in Japan, Rooziato (listicles & weird stuff), Judi Games, and Mimmo Academy which does Italian and Spanish lessons in Persian. I now have Persian videos regularly popping up in my recommendations, which is helping me to maintain a daily habit.
6 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her

Lycopersicon
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Lycopersicon » Sat Aug 28, 2021 9:40 am

In my humble opinion, it would be best to focus on books that were written after the Iranian revolution because anything older than that is likely to contain old-fashioned language, which is not ideal if you want to learn idioms that you can use in actual conversations.

In that sense, Zoya Pirzad’s novels could fit the bill. Her style is realistic and the language she uses could be described as straightforward and conversational. I read عادت می‌کنیم a few years ago. I wasn’t very impressed with it to be honest but it certainly lends itself to extensive reading.

Otherwise, you could also have a look at Houshang Moradi Kermani’s قصه‌های مجید, which is a fantastic book. The language is very idiomatic but the subject matter is simple as it's a collection of amusing, light-hearted short stories for young adults.

Another recommendation I have is Spojmai Zaryab. She writes in an elegant, refined literary register. Homeira Qaderi's novels are also worth checking out and I suggest you have a look at به کی سلام کنم؟ by Simin Daneshvar too.
4 x

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Gordafarin2
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Fri Sep 10, 2021 3:14 pm

Italian update

My lessons are starting again next week! I've missed them. It will be nice to have some structure and have someone to ask questions to again. I've been diving into Italian content in the meantime, mainly relying on my passive knowledge to get the gist without a good understanding of the how's and why's of grammar.

Watching

I finished watching a Netflix series, Zero, which I enjoyed a lot. It was very short, only a little bit longer than your average movie. The plot was a mix of real-life situations and a fantastical element which kept things interesting. The last few episodes were setting up a new story, so I hope it's getting picked up for another season.

Zero is based on a novel ("Non ho mai avuto la mia età" by Antonio Dikele Distefano). I've bought it for my Kindle, though I haven't taken a look at it yet to see how difficult it will be for me. The author has also done a few other YA novels, so if I enjoy it there will be plenty more to read.

There are a few other Netflix shows on my watchlist: Luna Nera, which sounds interesting but is less useful for sentence mining being both a period piece and a fantasy, Summertime, which I'm partway through but losing interest in, and possibly Baby. I've also found a source for a lot of dubbed anime, and I've heard that Italian dubs tend to be high quality, so that's tempting, the disadvantage being no captions. It's so much easier to pick up new vocabulary when I can see it written down and immediately add it to Anki.

There's a Persian Youtube channel called Mimmo Academy which has a series of videos covering the same textbook my teacher and I are using (Nuovo Espresso, it seems to be extremely common) lesson-by-lesson, so I might try and watch one of those each week as a review.

Reading

I've read three graded readers from Alma Edizioni - Pasta per Due, Il Signore Rigoni, and Le Città Impossibile. Short, easy, reasonably entertaining.

On a whim, I picked up an Italian Animorphs book on eBay. Animorphs is a series that has great childhood memories for me, so it's exciting to use it as study material.

Even though it's a book for a younger audience, this is still a big step up in difficulty from anything else I've read, so I'm working on it rather intensively. I don't look up all the words, but I look up as many as I need to keep my understanding of the story flowing. I'm getting into a good rhythm with this book because each chapter is only a few pages long - so I read it through, make a note of the words to look up, and then look them up at the end of each chapter.

The book is enjoyable, short, and relatively simple (not that easy for me yet, but simple). I might buy a few more to work through, and then after I make some more progress I'll be able to enjoy them all over again but extensively.
3 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her

User avatar
Gordafarin2
Orange Belt
Posts: 147
Joined: Wed Aug 22, 2018 10:53 am
Languages: English (N)
Current focus: Italian (A1), Mandarin (A2)
Maintaining: Persian (B2), Esperanto (B2), Spanish (rusty B1-2)
Dabbled: ASL, French
Language Log: https://forum.language-learners.org/vie ... 15&t=17156
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Re: Following my whims [FA ZH IT ES EO]

Postby Gordafarin2 » Mon Oct 11, 2021 2:25 pm

General Update

Welp, I've lost my momentum. I had a great spurt of motivation during the summer, but as the days get colder and greyer, all I want to do is build a nest and hibernate. On the flip side, more and more in-person events are returning, so I have fewer free evenings than I used to.

daily study time october 2021.PNG
daily study time october 2021.PNG (37.78 KiB) Viewed 57 times

I still have an hour of Italian class every week, and I haven't broken my Anki streak yet, but I'm not doing all my daily cards and I'm falling behind.

And I'm not watching much either... The Migaku browser extension that I've been using to make Anki cards has been having some technical issues, which gave me an easy excuse: "Well if I watched Netflix today, I couldn't make any flashcards, so it'd be better to wait a few days until it's fixed". Then the update release date got pushed back a couple of times, and it was easier and easier to just not do anything. Over-reliance on technology is deadly...

So, not much of an update here, but I thought it'd be good to check in just for accountability and to show that it's not always a straight direct road. Slow progress is still progress, inconsistent progress is still progress. And doing 15 minutes in a day is still a great deal better than doing nothing at all!
3 x
Persian... 10 novels: 4 / 10

Mandarin...
4000 words: 4000 / 4000 / 2000 characters: 1640 / 2000

she/her


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