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There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU, ES)

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 9:51 am
by MamaPata
Well, I've officially been hooked onto the forum and signed myself up to the Super Challenge. I've been doing the Super Challenge for a few weeks, but kept telling myself that I didn't need to register on the forum. Don't I have enough website profiles? Apparently not, because here I am!

My name is S - I currently study Russian at university and so (assuming all bureaucracy goes well!) I will be spending the next academic year in Russia. :shock: I previously lived in Russia for 9 months when I left school, which I loved. I didn't speak any Russian when I went out, but came back with some, so I view it as a win! I didn't improve as much as I would have liked, but I was also teaching English all hours of the day!

Before this, I studied French and Spanish in school. I would say that my French and Spanish are decent for an English schoolgirl but they definitely need work! :lol: This year I took a university module in French, so I'm mostly focusing on Russian and French, but do want to increase the Spanish at some point... (If someone wants to lend me an extra hour in the day??) I have also done an introductory Arabic module but right now, it's not a priority!

I have signed up for the Super Challenge for French and Russian. (I must be mad :roll: ) I am feeling cautiously optimistic about the French, and the Russian film should be okay (I am doing a project on Russian cinema, which should help!). However, I am currently finding Russian reading incredibly slow going. This feels like a sign that the Super Challenge is a good idea and will help me, but it does mean that I don't know if I will succeed. I'm doing a lot of rereading for both languages, as it allows me to make vocabulary flashcards and then go back when I've learned the words. It means that I actually focus on the new vocabulary rather than just getting the gist of the text. Wish me luck? Do any veterans have any advice?!

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 10:56 am
by Rebecca
Hi there!

I'm not a veteran, but I am also learning French (just a beginner), so wanted to pop in and say 'welcome!' I'll look forward to following your log! :)

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 11:25 am
by MamaPata
Hi! I was just looking at your log and thinking the same! :D

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 10:04 am
by MamaPata
Britain has voted to leave the EU and I just can't cope. I am now halfway through my degree and so I have been thinking a lot about my future, my options after graduation. I have been studying French since I was a kid, Spanish since I was 12. So I have been thinking very seriously about moving to France or Spain so as to give myself that final push, and to actually experience culture, etc. I may not be able to do that anymore. Alternatively, I have been planning to go into postgraduate study and research, related to language and culture. The funding for research may genuinely just dry up. There are a myriad of political reasons that I did not want to leave the EU, but my rational was also intrinsically linked to languages. Now we just wait and hope, I suppose.

I know there are forum rules about posting about politics and I recognise why these are here (90% of my conversation is politics related so I don't know what I have left to offer you :lol: but I do understand). I hope that this is not too political but if it is, please let me know and I will edit and remove!

Anyway, back to actual language revision!

I went on holiday last week 8-) which was lovely but I didn't do too much work, for obvious reasons! However, I have been making a decent amount of progress with my French. I am currently reading Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets, which is exactly the right level for me. I am a big fan of Harry Potter so it's very easy to convince myself to pick it up. I am also managing the language very well and get the gist of pretty much everything. As I read the first time, I underline any words I don't know, but then otherwise ignore them, unless necessary. However, I also have another bookmark to show my progress with the underlined words, which I am adding to a memrise course I am making. A lot of the words are not useful to me personally (e.g. I can't drive, but they mention the Ford Anglia often) so I don't add them to memrise, but it means I have registered them.

I have also been doing well with the French film component of the Super Challenge. How to Get Away with Murder is a US drama that is available on Netflix, with French dubbing and subtitles. I absolutely recommend it - it's a brilliant show and they speak very clearly! I watched the entire first season in an embarrassingly short time because I just got addicted! :oops: (I have managed to get two other people hooked, if that adds to the recommendation!). However, the subtitles do not match the dubbing in any way (I almost wonder if it was done by two different translators) so if you're looking for a transcript, this is not for you. The other downside is that you do get hooked, and there is no dubbed version of the second season. :cry: I love it so much that I may have to watch it in English!

However, I have also found a dubbed version of Jane the Virgin on Netflix. I've heard great things about the show and have a number of friends who recommended it. That may be my next choice! I have also booked a French lesson on Italki, with a tutor I really like, so French is going well! At some point I would like to move on to French resources, but for now I am concentrating on finding things I enjoy and making it a part of my daily life.

Russian is... progressing more slowly?! I have done bits and pieces of Russian, including some reading, memrise, grammar and listening to an audio book, but never for more than 10-15 minutes. I am reading the first Harry Potter and listening to the third for the Super Challenge. (I carefully orchestrated this so there was no overlap!). This is a lot more challenging for me, but I do want to stick with it. I just hope there's a quick learning curve! The thing that is very intriguing, is that I have never come across as many participles as I do in Harry Potter. This is a grammar point that I am still learning (I know the rules but I am very hit and miss with application) so it's interesting to see all the examples. I also have a dual language book of Russian folktales so I am trying to work with that. However, I don't find it as interesting and a lot of the vocabulary can be a bit obscure/old-fashioned (I am learning a lot of animal vocabulary!). I also aim to start watching Кухня again. I watched a few episodes in the past and really enjoyed it. So I would like to watch it with the transcript, as a lot of it is beyond me.

I would like to set some goals for the next week, but I am starting a job so I am not entirely sure what the week is going to be like! So for now, I am going to just continue as I am, but I may change my mind by Sunday! :)

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 12:58 pm
by Rebecca
MamaPata wrote:Britain has voted to leave the EU and I just can't cope.

Yep, my feelings exactly. :( Given the rules of the forum I think the less I say about that the better, though.

In brighter news, you seen to be doing well with your French! :)

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Fri Jun 24, 2016 6:12 pm
by Iversen
As I see it you haven't broken the rule against political discussions. Britain has voted to leave the EU, and whatever one thinks about that you have got some practical problems now. Depending on the outcome of the upcoming negotiations it may become more difficult for Brits to move to the EU countries, and that may hit people like you. These practical problems are definitely within the scope of the forum - unlike discussions about the reasons for the outcome of the referendum and the way the negotiations should be conducted.

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU, ES)

Posted: Fri Jul 01, 2016 8:52 pm
by MamaPata
Thanks for your comments Iversen and Rebecca! But moving on quickly from the Topic That Must Not Be Named...

It's been a slightly mad week - I went to Pride last weekend, I started a summer internship, my grandma came to stay (in my room, so I have been without clothes or books a lot of the time)... But it's the weekend now! :D I cannot explain how ready I am for the weekend, even though it is also quite busy. As a result of all of this, I did not get as much done as I had hoped. I had set myself a few monthly goals and unfortuneately did not achieve them. The language ones were generally about improving my Russian grammar. While I think grammar can be overemphasised, I quite like studying it. However, I'm not very good at then practising it so I had resolved to work on that. I know a lot of the rules in theory, and so I just want to work on them so they are more automatic (particularly noun cases :? which I really ought to know by now!). This did not happen.

However, I'm still very happy with the goals and the week. Had I not set the goals, I would have done very little and I wouldn't have started the Super Challenge. But while I didn't do the grammar, I have started a (very small!) streak on memrise, and I have started the Super Challenge okay! I have finished Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets. (While the internship is stressful, the upside is I now have a long commute for reading!) I started Pollyanna in Russian, but am only managing a page or so a day as it's still very slow going for me. But I don't get too overwhelmed by it, in the way that I do for other Russian books.

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Fri Jul 01, 2016 9:18 pm
by MamaPata

It occurred to me that it would probably be worth making a list of the resources that I use. I have a variety of documents (time tracking, super challenge, books list) in various places on my laptop, so this is a public addendum to those I guess! I have accumulated a variety of textbooks and novels over the years so this is a list of the ones I actually use.


I have been doing French in one form or another (i.e. a lot of school clubs, where we played Simon Says) since I was a kid. So I have a collection of French textbooks, many of which haven't been opened in years. At some point, I will try and up my French grammar, but that will have to wait...

Books Read:
Harry Potter et la Chambre des Secrets - I have actually loved reading this. I'm tempted to buy the fourth but it seems like a lot to carry around, and I am doing my reading on the bus...
Faiza Guene - Guene writes incredible books about modern day France, immigration and identity. There's a lot of slang and Verlan, but I read them when I was in college and found them pretty readable. May go back to these next.
Camus - L'Étranger - I just don't like this, but it's a good one if you are studying French.
Dumas - Les Trois Mousquetaires
Histoire de Madame de Luz
La Belle et la Bête


I started Russian while living in Russia and then have continued it in a short university course (3 months) and now as my degree. I will be living in Russia as part of the degree and studying in a Russian university (though in courses for foreigners).

Russian the Easy Way - Gulnara Useinova. This was the first textbook I used to learn Russian, which my tutor (and boss' wife) asked us to use. It's not cheap if you want to buy it in the UK but I would genuinely recommend it for beginners. It's very non-threatening (i.e. lots of empty pages, big photos, not too much information crammed on a page). But also the two textbooks work really well together, giving you a chance to practise new vocab and grammar. I loved it and actually worked the whole way through it, which I never do!
New Penguin Russian Course. I really liked this and have worked most of the way through it. I wouldn't use it standalone, but it's a good way of getting used to the grammar.
Passport to Russia/Russia for Everybody. This is the textbook I used while studying in the Netherlands; it's a translation from the original Dutch. This does have its issues: some words aren't translated (even in vocab lists) and some early exercises are designed for Dutch speakers (e.g. one is showing nautical vocabulary that was taken from the Dutch. I have no Dutch knowledge so couldn't guess the words, and no desire to learn boat related words!). However, it's a useful textbook in that each chapter starts with a dialogue which introduces new vocabulary topics and grammatical structures. I haven't particularly kept on with it, but it might suit other people.
Rus': A Comprehensive Course in Russian. This is the textbook we use in the UK. I hate it. It's a massive book (and we had to bring it in to all our classes), it's weirdly organised, the grammar explanations are unclear... I really don't like it and nor do several of my teachers.
Russian in Exercises - S.A. Khavronina This is pretty much what it says on the tin. It's a Soviet textbook designed to build on your grammar, through exercises. There are no explanations, but it's very useful if you want to simply work through grammar practice. I'm finding it very helpful, but it is obviously very dry!
Colloquial Russian 2 - I think this is a pretty decent textbook for those at A2-B1 level. I've never figured out how to use the sound for it, so that might make it less useful for some people. But it's a great textbook for learning a little about culture and improving your reading. Every chapter starts with a short text on that topic, then moves on to grammar, then another text. I sometimes find the reading comprehension questions a little irritating, but I do like it a lot overall. I have also created a memrise course for the vocabulary used.
Schaum's Russian Grammar - I love the Schaum's grammar books, though I felt this could have gone further with several of the more advanced grammar points as it basically just touched on them.

Will come back and edit!

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 10:40 pm
by MamaPata
Everything is ridiculously chaotic at the moment and I am feeling quite stressed. I have some big personal changes (relationships, family, etc) which is nice but does mean I am a bit distracted. I'm also trying to do a lot of exercise (partly because I have a membership ending this month, but also because it is the thing that is most fundamental to my mental health). So that requires a lot of early starts and organisation. I am hoping that things will calm down in August but basically I am busy every evening for the rest of July. :o And there are only nine weeks until I go to Russia! :shock:

I'm not panicking... It's all fine... :roll:

So for those reasons, I have lost my memrise streak, and I haven't been particularly on the ball with my languages. However, I did manage to watch one episode of Teen Wolf in French and start an episode of Gilmore Girls. I liked Teen Wolf in English but it wasn't really working for me in French, so will try and stick with Gilmore Girls. I also want to watch Jane the Virgin but it requires a bit more concentration as it's something I already wanted to watch, rather than something specifically for language practice.

I also created an account for readlang after seeing some posts about it here. I am mostly using it for Russian, which is making reading substantially easier! But I can only do it on my laptop, so can't do it as often. Therefore, I'm reading a parallel text of Russian folktales when I'm on the bus during my commute. I don't find it very useful as it's often quite antiquated language and I'm not particularly interested in the stories. But I want to finish them and the fact that phrases are repeated ad nauseum is quite useful for me!

Re: There are worse things I could do... (FR, RU)

Posted: Thu Jul 21, 2016 5:45 pm
by MamaPata
Well things are ticking along! I'm definitely not doing as much as I could be doing, but I am doing as much as I want to be, which seems like a good position! It's a very busy summer so my aim is to fit in languages where I can and not stress about it.

I'm slowly slowly progressing with Russian (I've watched an episode or two in French but otherwise it's on the backburner while I try and let Russian catch up). I'm currently reading a parallel text book of Russian folktales, which I kind of hate! :? Folktales aren't really something I'm into anyway, and these are very repetitive. Not only is there the usual repetition in the story, almost all the stories include the same plot devices (if not plots themselves!). I'm also not convinced that it's the best choice as it's very dated Russian and odd vocabulary. However, because I'm not really a fan, I do want to get it over and done with! I have six stories left to go... So that's my commute dealt with! And it has to be said, the sheer act of making myself read through the stories and just get through the Russian is making a big difference. At first I could really only read a page or two a day, but I can now read about 5 or 6. There's a lot to be said for just getting used to the Russian-ness!

I also came across readlang thanks to someone on this forum. I have seen it before but never really used it, but I can see that it's going to be really useful to me. I am currently reading Pollyanna in Russian, which I do really enjoy. So my plan is to keep working through that. I have also uploaded the transcripts of Кухня. I quite like the show but find it very hard to pay attention (partly because of the level and partly because I am easily distracted!). So I am trying to watch while also reading through the transcript, which helps a lot.