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Busy around languages but not really learning!

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 9:36 pm
by zenmonkey
This entire week has been busy, I somehow got stuck on Pimsleur Unit 25 did some intense Audacity stuff with it (more on that) and ... stopped studying anything! well, Brun Ugle and I did have our exchange, I did a little German talking and a few Anki crds but nothing like the last weeks. I'm busy starting another entrepreneur project and the team there needed a lot of work to get going.

So tonight, I thought I'd write a little about the Audacity work that I did because I found something interesting (for me), that I thought I might share.

First off, Pimsleur Unit 25 kicked my butt. And I wasn't going to take it - so I decided to do a echoing exercise as somewhat described by Kjellin. Here the objective is to repeat sentences for prosody, understanding and recognition a gazillion times. More or less.

In Audacity, I found that i could use the Sound Finder function to tag all of the individual sentences.

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A little fiddling around and the settings I found worked best are:

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The key being the minimum duration of silence between sounds (0.200). That created tags for all the content, I then went through the sound file and deleted all the English sentences. About 15 minutes to get close to 200 sound segments.

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Then multiple exports and a really nice set of sentences (with some repeats) that I can either work on standalone or enter into Anki.

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Now I just need to go study!

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Sat Mar 30, 2019 10:44 pm
by cjareck
That is exactly the way I prepare audio for my flashcards. It really helps to learn the correct pronunciation.

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 8:43 am
by zenmonkey
Wow. My last entry was four and a half months ago.

My life was partially taken over by family health stuff (I spent a lot of time taking care of my father in California. He's doing ok now.) and a couple of new ventures and ... who knows? Time flies and I spent very little of it learning or consolidating languages.

I have gotten to speak my main 3-4 languages on a regular basis and everything else has suffered.

I've decided to close up some projects here and there and languages should also really be more about focusing on a limited number. So, as I look at working again on languages - I'm going to focus on German, Hebrew and Tibetan at most...

I feel there is so much inertia when restarting that it is really hard to figure out what and how to restart.

So maybe a little Pimsleur today.


Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Thu Aug 15, 2019 6:44 pm
by Brun Ugle
Yay! Zenmonkey’s back! :D

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Sat Aug 17, 2019 12:48 pm
by zenmonkey
Brun Ugle wrote:Yay! Zenmonkey’s back! :D

We will see. (Thanks for the support :) )

Saturday morning starts with Internet down (likely until Tuesday) and a message from my brother suggesting that my father will need further surgery. Which would necessitate another trip to the States for me.

So, language wise, my youngest daughter is staying with me this week - we are doing some German and Spanish (for her) - she's going to start Spanish in 10th grade this year and is definitely behind on that - she focused on learning Italian by herself and therefore I fear she's going to have some crossover conflict early on. I hear it. On the other hand, she does have a reasonable understanding already. But for a heritage language she could have been further along if a) her father (who?) wasn't a slug teaching her b) she hadn't initially decided that Spanish wasn't going to be her language at all, because she wanted a a secret language with me. We are on it.

Oldest daughter, C, is currently in northern Iraq and has been learning a smattering of Kurdish, Arabic and Persian. It seems that her primary language for the duration of the dig will be German - French and English only used when a few of the locals are involved.

Second daughter, P, is finishing her year in Mexico and her Spanish is now at a native with minor accent level. Some cultural holes but really minor stuff. She's moving back to France in September and probably will not focus much on languages over the next year. She's got her 4 down pat and has other interests.

Third daughter, spent part of the summer with me in the US and worked on English and Spanish there (cousins) and then was in a camp in Spain (Barcelona area) for a few weeks. She was quite happy to be the only person that spoke Spanish and so she translated a lot for the other kids and the camp leaders. Her final HS year is going to be tough, so any wins in self-esteem through language are really welcome now.

Me? Still have not done anything except for a bit of German with locals: Telekom, shopping, etc... I need coffee now.

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Sun Aug 18, 2019 5:50 pm
by zenmonkey
Back to talking about culture and language.

The thread ( ... 14&t=10762) has somehow gotten stuck in my head and there are one or two things I want to write about here in my log. Why not there?

I’m going to focus on my own experience and that thread has run its course. Probably most of the readable discussion occurred pages before I even interacted.

So the initial question was “does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belong to?”

Level 0: A few days ago I went to a local used books store that usually carries a few interesting books. I found a dtv-zweisprachig book in French and German and bought it on the spot after seeing that the sentences were somewhere in the n+1 world — words strung together in a way that would challenge me enough to help me improve my language — could have been any author, I wasn’t particularly looking for culture or historical link, I was purely looking at this as a reader. Simple exercises to make my brain focus on German.

Level 1: Well, I noticed that the book was written in the later half of the 1800’s - surely some of the words and expressions would be out style but it certainly work, given what I had already sampled. I started the first story — A story of an old man that maintained his windmill in the face of the progress, during what was in fact the arrival of the steam mill revolution which significantly changed not only the economy but the alpine landscape. Damn, dumped directly into the historical culture of 19th century France. Even some of the words in French were new to me. “Minoterie” is used in the story with an understanding that it references industrial milling vs the “meunière” the good old (wind) flour grinding mill. The author assumes the reader knows or implicitly understands this.

Level 2: So the book I’m reading is “Lettres de mon moulin” by Alphonse Daudet. I really hadn’t paid attention to who I was reading and suddenly I got to the second story… Whoops, I’ve read him before. In fact, the second story is “La Chèvre de Monsieur Seguin” one of the more famous French children’s stories (contes) — which is in fact terrifying (spoiler: stay home kids unless you want the wolf to eat you). Hey! I’ve read this before! I’m now being dumped directly into the common social and cultural consciousness of every cultivated French person over 30. It’s that famous.

Level 3: Now the story is told as an exchange between two old friends and ends with some old provençal phrasing. You can easily decide to become familiar with that language and the regionalisms …

Level 4: I was a little interested in how Daudet entered into the French canon. A quick scan of Wikipedia let me know that he was another Southern son that made his fame in Paris. And a monarchist. And a syphilitic playboy. And also a supporter of the anti-Semitic press even before the Dreyfus affair.

Level 99 and beyond: And his son, Leon, married Victor Hugo’s grand-daughter and started the despicable Action Française. How far do you want to go….

So, the elements of studying the language can certainly lead one down the rabbit hole of a nation’s history and culture.

And clearly it would be ridiculous to think that in reading a five page story about a goat I am somehow going to espouse the cultural values of Action Française.

So, to answer the original question … “does it make sense to separate a language from the culture it belong to?” … language is culture, yes, no and 42 (even a number can be culture).


I'm making my way through "Lettres de mon moulin" slowly, trying to read a story a day while avoiding the French text as much as possible, so I should finish the short book in about a week. It's mostly a language learning exercise. Really. I swear.

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Wed Aug 21, 2019 7:30 am
by zenmonkey
German Reading

I guess I'm going to start tracking that here in the hope of getting regular practice and pushing myself to hit 10,000 pages (why that number? Who knows.).

Briefe aus meiner Mühle - Daudet - 80 pages

Terrible choice at this level, stilted language in French, some of the stories are just not interesting.
On the other hand, descriptive and well written. Next!

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Tue Aug 27, 2019 9:09 pm
by zenmonkey
Ugh. German.

I’m reading a Krimi and definitely getting more than I was last time (when I put it down after the second page).
Travelled to Berlin and kept most of my interactions in German

But at the hotel I stumbled when I was asked if I was there for work or pleasure and we shifted to English momentarily.
I’m in Berlin for an Investment/Startup Event in Biotech and unfortunately all the presentations were in English.
Afterwards, most people were milling around speaking German and I was a bit shy in engaging in chitchat in German.
I did eventually have several conversations but unfortunately these were mostly in English with only a smattering of German.

The Event was at the Charité Museum of Medicine so that was quite cool.
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Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Sat Sep 07, 2019 6:58 pm
by zenmonkey
More German reading

Well, I'm working my way through a Jerry Cotton book - this is a series with literally hundred and hundreds of books (mostly ghost written) by various authors in a NY crime style... Relatively easy reading, not to0 mind bending. But to get to 10000 pages, it's going to take a while. If I stick to my current rate it may make a year.

Since I basically did nothing over the summer, or took too long a pause I'm going to review Pimsleur I while I also start on Pimsleur II. It was nice to review and really know almost everything. It's affirming.

Other stuff
My two youngest daughters have some language challenges coming up and I'll be looking to get L. ready for some certification - Cambridge or IELTS test (towards B2/C1 level) for English and TELC or Goethe (also B2/C1 level) because she needs the personal win in a difficult school situation. The other, A. is just starting Spanish in school (she's probably A2+ prior to the start) and will likely move quickly through the language - she's already complaining about the method used. Will need to see how she'll stay engaged - her base isn't strong enough that she can easily move into the next level.

Oldest is still in Iraq - bathing in a mix of languages and her younger sister is flying back from Mexico today. Her year there has consolidated her Spanish completely, all she needs now is the citizenship!

Re: zenmonkey's multilingual adventures of a traveller

Posted: Mon Sep 16, 2019 10:28 pm
by zenmonkey
Had a Language Exchange today with Brun Ugle - our usual 30 min German and 30 min Spanish exchange that we've been putting off for various reasons but finally got back to it. Exciting! And we are even planning a second one this week. I did spy that she has a workbook for C1 for Spanish and that got us talking about the effort to get to C1. She rightly notes that we need some structured work to get out of the doldrums of B2. But for my German (B2+) I am close to the point of not quite giving up but not really feeling that the effort is worth the work when I have so many other interesting languages. I should be doing specific grammar and vocabulary work but I'm quite lazy enough to just pretend to read or listen without doing any intensive work because I get enough of the gist. Not going to move forward very fast like that.

So I'm churning through my German and that is mostly ok. I'm currently just reading some krimi, listening to the radio and having a few interactions a week. I may plan some actual work work. Let's see what the next week brings.

Speaking of churn ...

After my hiatus I'm back to Hebrew and churning through the Pimsleur lessons I already covered to get back in the saddle. This second pass is useful. I'm more fluid through the exercises and I'm still finding it engaging enough. An hour of Pimsleur did not put me to sleep as I drove back to Germany today! Also I need to put Pimsleur II on my phone, if I can remember where I put it...

Sigh. Wanderlust kicked in and I started working on this. Not much I want to write about yet. Building up on the vocabulary I already have... trying to look at different material and just crunching through some Memerise decks.