A Words Enthusiast

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Axon
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Tue Mar 28, 2017 5:01 am

I had a whole burst of motivation the last few days which will probably get forgotten if I go another long spell without an update.

Watched more of La Reina del Sur with Spanish subs, didn't quite get into episode 2 as much but I think I'll return to it again. There's a Mexican restaurant near me that always has the TV on and Spanish newspapers around, and I find reading the paper easier every time. Still doing Anki, with some pretty irregular times between adding new cards.

As for German I amped up the online reading a little. I'm comfortable reading Wikipedia, but when reading Gute Frage (a sort of Yahoo Answers) I had to break out the monolingual dictionary for the first time in a while. I also watched some Austrian interviews and videos about German dialects. I'm sadly not quite as interested in German varieties as I am in Chinese varieties, but it's still nice to expose myself to more uses of the language.

I spent a while collecting links to Youtube channels of Mainland Chinese material. By searching for the different CCTV channels and official TV stations of different cities, I was able to find some 20 different channels, totaling about a hundred thousand videos. This completely changes my view of Chinese content on Youtube. It's so easy to find vloggers, but after a lot of searching I had only found vloggers from Taiwan or Hong Kong. I still prefer the vlogger format for conversational language usage, but I now have literally decades worth of Mainland content at my disposal. And so I watched a lot of these.
There were some points (a section about aircraft carriers, for instance) where there was absolutely zero comprehension. Maybe three or four seconds of not understanding a single syllable or subtitle character. Then all of a sudden there would be a sentence that was perfectly clear. So I watched this bit about aircraft carriers for half an hour or so, and really began to feel good about my learning potential. Sure, I missed a lot of the words. But thanks to the subtitles and the visual context, and after slowly becoming more used to the accents of the broadcasters, I was getting a feel for what was going on in the news segment. Real, formal, authentic Chinese for educated native speakers, and I was making sense of it!

My Indonesian book is due back at the library soon, so I transcribed and shadowed two more of the lessons. Sad to discover that Wiktionary for Indonesian is sorely lacking. Happy to see that Clozemaster Indonesian has the Fluency Fast Track available now - another source for my parallel sentence approach to this language.

I even did a little French and Russian, if you can believe it. Clozemaster and videos for both plus Glossika Russian to keep my mouth from atrophying entirely.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Wed Apr 05, 2017 6:10 am

I've been talking about translation with a good friend of mine recently, and so we both pushed ourselves to do translation exercises in languages we're not super comfortable with. I feel that translation is really helpful, and I do a lot of short translations into English for whatever I'm learning. It really forces me to be sure about each word in each sentence, so in a way it's like intensive reading.

For all the comfort I've gained in reading and listening to Spanish, writing was pretty tough. I'm still many thousands of sentences away from the 10,000 mark (a loose goal to be sure). I know I'm not getting enough input to really be able to go English-Spanish with ease. I'm experimenting with different types of flash cards, starting some cloze ones as well as monolingual ones.

German was pretty easy to switch into for writing. One large problem was not really being experienced enough in different registers of written German. The only ways I could think of for expressing some ideas fell squarely into formal news German, while other ideas quickly connected to a more casual and friendly German style.

Chinese was also strange. When I translate into English, I try to mimic the style and I feel like I'm generally pretty good at it. But that went completely out the window when translating to Chinese. It ended up being more like an oral summary than a real written translation. I'm just not very comfortable with the multi-clause sentences that so often make up Chinese articles. But reading informal Chinese is more and more doable, better each day.

I didn't try French or Russian. I've only done a little Clozemaster for each. I keep including my non-progress on the log as a way to shame myself, but it doesn't seem to be working... I love Lingvist but neither language is motivating to me at all.

And I've kept up mining Indonesian sentences. I'm about halfway through the textbook, where it switches to narratives instead of dialogues. I also re-discovered some Indonesian resources right here on the forum! Plus a tiny bit of Clozemaster. I've mined a solid few hundred sentences and I'm at a point where I can almost always match the words/concepts in the English sentence to the Indonesian one. Dunno what that means for actual ability (hint: little) but I get the sense that once I start to drill vocabulary these sentences will be helpful. I'm holding out on purchasing Glossika Indonesian until there's a sale. They're supposed to launch a few new products soon and I'm guessing there's going to be some discount going on for that.

I'm ambivalent about the Cantonese Anki deck, it's gotten a lot of neglect. At work I get a good amount of exposure each day but very little is comprehensible to me. I've increased my understanding and production of simple everyday phrases, and gotten a lot more to stick. There was a time when literally all I knew was "How do you say this in Cantonese?" and "I don't speak Cantonese" plus variations on those. I may not be able to have conversations but I'm solidly at a tourist level.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Thu Apr 27, 2017 6:25 am

The biggest change in learning in the last three weeks is the acquisition of a new phone. My old phone was six years old and floundered whenever I asked it to do anything, and I finally upgraded to a flagship model. As for languages, this means new apps and significantly increased battery life. My favorite app has got to be Radio FM (Android). With it I've listened to hours and hours of world radio and loved every second. It's so easy to press the button and listen to target language material, whatever that language may be.

German, for instance, has seen a bunch of practice thanks to radioDeutschland Funk, a stellar station that has great features on news, science, and politics. I've kept up some reading too, and today I did a long shadowing session to that station. I understood today's program perfectly and kept up shadowing longer than I ever have before my tongue tied itself in knots.

Spanish radio is just as easily available in the car, so I don't listen to very much Spanish radio on the phone. But I have found a few stations from Cuba. That accent is pretty unstable for me, meaning that some phrases are perfectly clear but I also miss a lot more of the overall speech compared to Mexican or Castillian Spanish. It's not a great feeling suddenly questioning your fundamental Spanish ability after missing several seconds of natural speech. And those flashcards are still coming along.

Chinese reading is easier than ever. When I find casual articles on popular culture I know the pronunciations of almost every character, and once I use a dictionary to get a few unfamiliar words then the meaning becomes clear. Unfortunately I know very few chengyu, which as I understand is a never-ending minefield for the Chinese reader. In any case I continue to speak it frequently. For a few days I did some Praat tone practice and I'm sure I'll keep doing that more in the future. But since I have several native speakers in my life I prefer to hear their immediate feedback instead of matching the tone diagrams. Radio FM has a lot of Hebei radio stations, which I've enjoyed for their mix of call-in programs. I switched the German radio to Mandarin today and was pleased that I definitely grasped the goings-on of the program, which involved people calling in to ask for advice on buying a house. I definitely didn't catch every word, but I could understand the circumstances of the callers and some of the advice that was given.
Cantonese is at a standstill, I use a sentence or two sometimes at work and still hear it a lot. I found a Taiwanese-language folk station that I really like, even though I'm not learning Taiwanese now and can't understand a word. The hosts have pleasing voices and the music is exactly my style. I definitely heard a song with rolled Rs, no idea what language that was.

I received the French Penguin parallel reader and I've been slowly working through it every night. Today I read 40 pages or so of the Half-Blood Prince in French at the library, as it turns out the kids' foreign language section is a lot less dry than the adult foreign language section. It's strange to read a passage, get about half of it, then remember what happened at that part in the English book and suddenly completely understand it. This points to a downfall of parallel texts for me, a perceived greater understanding than is actually happening. Maybe some extensive French reading is what I need.

Also at the library, I read Little Red Riding Hood in Russian. The same thing happened with sudden understanding sometimes: "Oh, this is the part where he says 'The better to see you with,' so that's what this line means." But I was able to read aloud with few stumbles, which felt great since I've really given Russian very little attention recently.

When I listen to Indonesian radio I hear a lot of words that I know I've heard before, but that I can't readily call to mind the meaning of. I'm guessing that these belong to the 100 most common words or something, and once I can link them easily with their meaning I'll realize how little I can really understand of the full conversation. I'm glad, though, that I'm getting a lot of exposure to natural speech this early in learning.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Thu May 11, 2017 10:27 pm

This last week I've been kind of hitting a wall with Anki. I lasted a really long time without getting to this state, which is nice, but I'm regularly skipping days even on Spanish and Mandarin, my most consistent flashcard languages.

I bought the Beijing Mandarin Travel package from Glossika since I enjoyed the Business Intro so much. I'm moving quickly through it since about a year ago I listened to the Taiwan Mandarin one. I find the sentences pretty accessible and easy to repeat, even though the narrator is speaking in a quiet monotone. I've still been reading and speaking where I can of course, and though I've skipped some Anki days I'm still definitely moving forward. I have moments sometimes where I'm surprised that I can read what I can.
I've been more interested in Min lately, especially its place in the Chinese diaspora. After learning that Teochew is widely spoken in Southeast Asia, I paid a pittance for a little audio phrasebook. I recently finished writing a program to make spaced-repetition audio files, so I'll definitely try out some Teochew phrases there. I'm not aiming for fluency in any non-Mandarin Chinese variety at the moment, but I'm connecting the dots more and more between Min, Yue, and Mandarin.

I also bought the Indonesian Fluency Glossika package, after hemming and hawing for months about it. I like it! My brain is eager to supply the Russian answer to the English prompts since I drilled Fluency 1 so much last year in Russian. The last time I did so much Glossika I wasn't working as much, so now it does seem like something I have to kind of fit in. Though that's really the same side of the coin as the motivation issue. I totally have the time to study everything I'd like to, and I am managing to do a lot - but there's also always English content to read and watch instead of any TL content.

I've become a little more bold about speaking Spanish at work. Every time I do, it feels like there's a world of Spanish under the surface just waiting to appear. Otherwise I've just continued to read and listen where I can.

As for German, French, and Russian - reading and listening only. Sometimes I'll take an afternoon nap and put on the radio app. I can drift off to the sounds of French or Russian, but German is so close to transparent that it keeps me from falling asleep. On transparency: I have something like synesthesia, where I strongly associate sounds with colors or images. Languages that I don't know well all have their own colors. It's fascinating to get used to a certain speaker or variety and pay attention to that association, because over time the "sound of the language" stimulus gets weaker and I start to get more associations with the words and meanings themselves.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Sat May 27, 2017 6:56 am

That wall with Anki has mostly gone away. I've mostly stopped adding Spanish cards but I still review it regularly. I tend to add about five to ten Chinese cards a day on average, a few of those being single words and the rest sentences. I noticed when I went through my German deck recently, it really got me thinking in German way more than other decks do. It's monolingual and I know that has a ton to do with it.

Speaking of German, I landed a short tutoring gig for a young college student who's going to do a summer abroad in Austria and wants to augment their existing three semesters of German. I haven't met them yet and so I don't know about their level, but I've assembled some fliers and receipts and things from my time in Germany for use as teaching resources. I'm going to focus on pronunciation in order to increase their chances of native speakers staying with German in conversations. Incidentally I was having a voice call in German as I got the message about the tutoring gig, and I really need to speak more! I can understand perfectly but Mandarin kept coming to mind. So I've been doing a lot of reading aloud in the last few days and also testing myself more with generating grammatical sentences.

When I have days off from work or tutoring AND get up at a reasonable hour, I tend to go on long walks and either shadow German/Mandarin radio or Glossika Mandarin/Indonesian. This works real well and I always end such days with a feeling of accomplishment.

Chinese has seen steady progress with reading through Anki. I haven't had an extended conversation in a little while but each day I do a tiny amount of speaking/writing. I'm close to halfway through the Beijing Travel module of Glossika, and as I get closer to my date of departure for China I'll ramp that up proportionally. I got a set of Taiwanese Hokkien sentences recorded and I'm waiting on the rest - I'm gonna throw those in my bootleg Glossika machine and get a little basis in Hokkien along with my little basis in Teochew. I figure if I can wrap my head around about 300 sentences between the two, I should be prepared in case I run into any Min speakers in the near future. I'm moving to Indonesia in September and I hear the Chinese spoken there is mostly Min and Mandarin.

Of course I won't get far in Indonesia without Indonesian, and so I've been doing Glossika at an accelerated pace as well as copying out endless sentences from a dictionary app. I'm inspired by Bakunin and I'm trying out a comprehension-heavy approach before I get there. So that means no chatting with native speakers yet, just lots of exposure to audio and acquiring a sense for written Indonesian through mass sentences.

I still do a few pages of reading every few days in Spanish and French. Spanish radio still has a regular place in my car and on my phone. Plus I hear Spanish a lot at the restaurant and always pay attention to what I'm hearing.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Sun Jun 18, 2017 11:13 pm

Walls go down, walls come up. My interest in Spanish has waned a lot over the last month or so, to the point where I've skipped the last few days of Anki review.

So my Spanishhas been limited to a little bit of listening and some reading whenever I pick up a Spanish-language newspaper. Right now, writing this down, I want to have chats with native speakers, but the rest of the day I just don't have any need for it. I overhear it sometimes out in public and it can be pretty disheartening sometimes when I don't catch a single word.

German has seen a bit of a comeback thanks to the tutoring. I looked at more detailed CEFR assessments earlier today and realized I'm very much plateaued in German. Although I now do two hours of speaking per week, and I pick up a few words from preparing for these lessons, my speaking is less fluent by far than it used to be. I can understand rapid native speech on lots of different topics, and I can read virtually all news - but that's the same as it has been these eight months since being in Germany. Anyway I've been doing a little bit of transcription, listening more frequently, and actually working my way through Harry Potter 1 for some extensive reading. During the lessons we read Calvin and Hobbes and discuss the vocabulary there.

Chinese is strong and getting stronger. I left my job at the restaurant so I don't speak quite as much every day, but I still do text chats all the time and I've been getting back into Ode to Joy. Phenomenal show, I tell you. I've been kind of keeping up Glossika Travel but since I'm skipping files to go faster, I'm not retaining the specific sentences nearly as well as I did their Business counterparts. I'll definitely keep going through this course when I'm in China or abroad. Plus Anki.
I've settled on wanting to learn some Penang Hokkien for the purposes of interacting with ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. Teochew can wait until I meet anybody who speaks it. I just need an informant willing to translate and record some 300 sentences for me :D

Still working on Indonesian. Every day I do a GSR Fluency 1 recording, but I skip days with this course too. I also copy out and collect sentence pairs from a dictionary. I actually like the method a lot for collecting sentences. I find a sentence in native media with several words I don't know. Then I look up those words and find examples for them. Each of those examples is bound to have words I don't know, so I keep filling the gaps with more sentences. I don't memorize these, but I write them out and say them out loud and I can tell it's helping to expose me to more patterns. Since I won't be in Indonesia for another few months, I don't see it as super pressing now compared to the more imminent necessity of Mandarin. I went to Vietnam with a similar level of Vietnamese, and in two weeks I had picked up a ton. This bodes well for improving rapidly once I'm in that immersion environment.

I've been trying to learn a song in Vietnamese, which involved shadowing the recording like a hundred times and figuring out what everything meant. I really like the style of Vietnamese poetry. I've also done some French listening and a little Russian reading.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Sat Sep 09, 2017 4:19 pm

I've been busy!

The rest of June:

I continued tutoring in German, finishing that at the end of June. My student felt they got a lot out of it, and that's always nice to hear. No idea how they did once in the immersion environment but I think the speaking practice helped with their nerves. I tapered off my Spanish study and continued my Chinese work.

I'll put in a new paragraph that just messing around with Glossika doesn't work. What did I retain from doing one GSR Business file every day for the recommended time? Tons. What did I retain from skipping GSR Travel files and not sticking to a daily schedule? Practically nothing. I wanted to get through the whole course book but this was a big mistake - I should have been consistent and done as much as I had time for.

July and August:

I went to China. There I greatly improved my comprehension of Sichuanese from being surrounded by it for about five weeks. I was down on myself sometimes because of that, actually - my Mandarin output seemed to have gotten much worse over the course of my self-study months and I was actively dissuaded (mocked, really) whenever I tried to speak more than a few words of Sichuanese. For other speakers of Chinese on this forum: Have you ever been in a conversation situation where two people are speaking a dialect in front of you that you can understand but can't really speak? Does that totally wreck your Mandarin output, or is that just me? Happened with frustrating frequency.
I got to travel and see a lot more of China, though, and my ability to understand accented Mandarin has never been better. Right near the end of the trip it all seemed to come together, though, and I'd rate myself somewhere around a B1 now based on what I could do. Vocabulary always needs work but I talked about a surprising breadth of topics thanks to patient native speakers and circumlocution. I read a ton (virtually abandoned flashcards the whole time, though) and my reading speed has also never been better. Moving forward I'd like to focus on my accent again as I feel it's slipped a bit too much when I have a conversation.

I didn't even abandon my other languages entirely! I read semi-regularly in German and did several sessions of Clozemaster in German, French, Indonesian, and Dutch.

September:
I am in Indonesia. I'm trying to get a number of things settled for my future here but I'd very much like to get a student visa in order to avoid having to do lots of trips to the visa office and Singapore. I've heard word of an intensive Indonesian language and culture course but it's just short of maddening trying to get any fixed dates, prices, or information from that office. I think I have a placement test on Monday? It's like they forget about me as soon as I leave the room.
Lots of people speak English here and lots of people don't. My Indonesian has been coming along nicely this first week and I've been successful in fitting in lots of dedicated study each day. I have one virtually monolingual friend and I'd love to hang out with him more.
In China I did my most frenzied Glossika sessions yet, with Indonesian, and my goodness they were effective. My girlfriend and I (I am here because she's studying abroad here) followed the 2-month schedule for just one week, one hour a day of real study. I had ineffectively gone through most of Fluency 1 back in America, as well as the other things mentioned in my blog. But that one week of study really burned those 500 sentences into our brains. I think it helped enormously to have a partner because we heard the recording say it as well as each other. I'm now hitting Fluency 2 with a slightly different approach, using the GMS files to do several hundred sentences worth of speaking every day. Last night I also did accent training with the Olle Kjellin method, and there's still time tonight. Lastly I have some dubbed American films and I've been watching those regularly.

My neglected languages - where are they now?

German - I have my book of short stories and I hear there are some conversation clubs at the nearby university.
Spanish - I watched ten minutes of a Spanish video last night and listened in on Spanish tourists at the swimming pool.
French - There were French tourists at the pool too. Sometimes I do Clozemaster.
Russian - I read Twitter sometimes.
Cantonese - Some of the other Chinese exchange students are from Guangdong and speak Cantonese to each other, they've been very encouraging of me whenever I say a few words to them. I speak English 99% of the time with my girlfriend but I've tried to speak Mandarin exclusively to her classmates.
Hokkien - I went to a bunch of Chinese restaurants here and heard no Hokkien. Perhaps where I live it's just not prevalent. Still interested in Penang Hokkien and watch the odd video on it.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Sun Oct 08, 2017 1:27 pm

The days fly by.

I have successfully enrolled in the intensive Indonesian course and am planning a trip to Singapore in a few weeks to get a longer-stay visa (you need to apply outside the country). I tested into the intermediate-advanced level and find myself in the now-familiar situation of being one of the worst in the class. Each day's lessons are carried out entirely in Indonesian and I fill page after page of my notebook plus margin after margin of my handouts with vocabulary notes. I've tried to be more consistent with Anki in recent days.

My Indonesian is coming along. Because I'm surrounded by it and exposed so much to it, I can't help but rapidly pick up the words I need for everyday interactions. I had a series of taxi rides recently to and from the immigration office, and those were amazing opportunities for speaking to a captive audience. I like asking the question "Do many people take taxis during the rainy season?" because of course the answer is yes, and everybody has their own way to phrase it. In a stunning turn of events, right now I have no interest in learning the local Javanese because Indonesian is hard enough and I haven't met anyone that doesn't speak it.

My biggest deficiency right now is of course vocabulary. I had to cram vocabulary when I took Chinese classes and this is no different. It seems like all my class members have roughly the same fluency as I do (aside from a few edge cases that have been in the country for years) but most of them simply know far more words.

I got a freelance German translation job and though it's tedious sometimes, I can tell that I'm really flexing the German muscles again. I'm writing English captions for German videos, which means I'm basically paid to do intensive listening practice. Not a bad gig.

I have some Chinese classmates and I've managed to stick to speaking almost only in Mandarin to them. In addition, when my girlfriend invites some of her own classmates (all Chinese) to join us for a meal we use Chinese the whole time. I've had some of my longest Mandarin conversations yet, and though I feel strong in listening I miss a word every 45 seconds or so and have to guess based on context. As for speaking, I find that I have a hard time being understood when I try to express a point over several sentences. This is going to take dedicated practice to overcome, but at the moment since I'm working on Indonesian so much it's a problem for later. For now I'm happy with just improving my conversation fluency in a natural way.

Side note: my classmates represent a wonderfully diverse array of languages and multilingualism, and I would dearly love to get up the courage to ask most or all of them to make recordings of their mother tongue(s) for me.

I'm happy with most aspects of the new Glossika but I don't really like to sit down at the computer and bang out the reps that way. I still work through the old Fluency 1 GSR when I go on long walks, though due to a change in living arrangements I suspect I'll be going on fewer long walks than I did for my first month here. In the new Glossika I've focused mainly on Indonesian but I'm happily dabbling in most or all of the Chinese varieties on there.

I had trouble finding motivation to study three or more languages every day back in America, but here I use Indonesian, German, and Mandarin every single day. If I knew that five years ago, I'd have been over the moon.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Sat Oct 21, 2017 3:21 pm

I've been plugging away here and thought I'd try to write a quick update.

I've become much more comfortable with Indonesian in very limited aspects. Listening and writing for class flows well, going out to eat is easy, but things beyond that are pretty tough. My mind is generally not in Indonesian throughout the day. But living in the country exposes me to just so many different situations that I'm slowly developing in many different areas.

I went to Singapore very briefly for visa reasons. I was very surprised that it felt like a place that has already become an English-speaking country. Nevertheless I confidently spoke Mandarin a few times (half the people took it in stride, half the people were shocked that I knew Mandarin - I'm so curious about how people think of languages over there). It was amazing to hear so much Hokkien in person after only hearing recordings, though I produced just one shaky sentence.

I also had a few more conversations with other Mandarin speakers here in Indonesia, where I did great until asked to explain the US Electoral College. I'm now listening to a video explaining it in Chinese as I type this, and then I'll watch it again after I finish writing. I really want to get around to writing and memorizing some vocabulary islands, as that's a huge problem with my Mandarin.

I did a few dozen hours worth of German transcription/translation and learned a few words. It seems like I'm done with that job but maybe there will be more. I really think I couldn't have asked for a better introduction to translation. Machine translation, in my opinion, is rapidly going to get better and better and make it harder for new translators to enter the field. It won't destroy the profession, but it's going to raise the bar significantly. But for video transcription/subtitle creation, I think there are enough variables to stave off the machines a little while longer.
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Re: A Words Enthusiast

Postby Axon » Mon Oct 30, 2017 1:48 am

Same types of things, really.

I'm hoping that the new Glossika moves me along faster, because I really kind of dread doing the hour-long sessions. I skip them pretty often but I still seem to remember the sentences well when I do the reviews.

I've had a few breakthrough moments with Indonesian. A surprisingly fluent few sentences of speech here, a surprisingly comprehensible page of text there. I'm using Anki and Glossika along with the classes and the immersion environment. Not quite two months here and there's a lot of automaticity in my day-to-day speech, asking where I can park or how much the food is. I still have a lot of trouble reading and listening to more descriptive language.

A few days ago I hung out with a mixed Chinese and Indonesian group that spoke Mandarin virtually the whole evening. I'm definitely not able to contribute equally in a group conversation setting, but my comprehension is high. The Indonesians were a couple in which the woman had spent five years in China, and the man had picked up equally fluent Mandarin just from listening to songs and working as a tour guide. His accent was amazing but he made a few usage mistakes that left the group howling. Pro tip: Don't say "你找的到男朋友吗?" You might think this means "You found a boyfriend?" and it does, but, as he and I learned, the implication is "You looked for a pretty long time!"

Still translating German. I watched another Easy German video recently and I had a few vocabulary gaps, but I've found that if I watch the video once or twice more I won't have trouble remembering those few words.

I want to listen to Spanish.
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