Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

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Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby kanewai » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:33 am

Super Challenge IV might (or might not) be just around the corner - but we never officially closed the last round with a wrap-up discussion.

So here we go: what were your experiences with the last Super Challenge?

I like to keep discussions open ended, but for those who prefer a template:

1. What was your challenge?
2. How far did you get?
3. What were the highlights? (or even low-lights)
4. What are your final thoughts?

Challenge: Romance Languages, Double Challenge
Final Results: 145 books ; Over 200 audio (I stopped counting at 200)

Reading Highlights
Marcel Proust. Sodome et Gomorrhe. Beautiful writing, but exhausting. I'll be taking a break from Proust for awhile.
Honoré de Balzac. Illusions perdues. I found this far more interesting than his more famous Père Goriot.
Michel Houellebecq. Soumission; La possibilité d'une île. Houllebecq is controversial (to say the least), and his views on male-female relationships are straight out of Cro-Magnon days ... but he's a brilliant writer.
Patrick Modiano. Dans le café de la jeunesse perdue. I love Modiano's style, and have a few more of his books waiting for me on the shelf.
Elena Ferrante, L'amica geniale; La storia del nuevo cognome; Storia di chi fugge e di chi resta. Excellent series about the lives of two childhood friends from Napoli. I'm currently finishing up the fourth, final novel.
Dante. Purgatorio. I relied heavily on an English translation to help me ... and it still took forever. Kind of like the 'real' Purgatory. It's an amazing work, and one that I'd like to read again one day. Far more enjoyable than the Inferno.
Javier Cercas. Soldados de Salamina. A modern journalist tries to solve a mystery from the end of the Civil War.
Julio Llamazares. La lluvia amarilla. Haunting and beautiful work about the last inhabitant of a small village in the Pyrenees.
Mario Vargas Llosa. Travesuras de la niña mala. The first native language Spanish novel I read!
Victor Hugo. Notre-Dame de Paris. Technically I read this in the interim period between challenges, but I wanted to mention it because it is one of my favorite books of all time.
Hans Ørberg. Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata. This is a Latin textbook that is 100% in Latin. It sounds impossible, yet somehow it works.

TV Highlights
Gomorra. I usually don't like crime series, but this one was riveting. The main characters are all horrible, and there is no one to root for, but it's still a completely addictive show.
Le Bureau des Légendes. Drama about the French secret service. Very well done; far better than any comparable American or British shows.
Dix pour cent. Really fun comedy / drama set in a Paris talent agency. Marketed as Call My Agent! on Netflix.

Final Thoughts
I'm really glad that language families were a category this round, even if it meant that I didn't make as much progress as I would have if I only focused on one language. It helped me maintain my French and slowly push forward with Italian and Spanish. I added Latin later in the year, and am considering including it if we (or I) do another S.C.

I got to put everything to the test in the fall when I spent close to three months on the Voie du Puy and the Camino Francés (two sections of the Camino de Santiago). That probably deserves it's own post ... but the short version is I went from feeling like I understood nothing and wondering why I even bother with language study to being able to chat with folks in all three languages.

I'm also glad I aimed for a double-challenge. I don't have the time these days to really commit to reading that much, and knew early on I wouldn't finish, but I like aiming high.
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby Axon » Thu Apr 05, 2018 4:24 am

This is very interesting and very impressive! Thanks so much for sharing!

Yes, I think the travels do deserve their own post. I'm actually quite interested in how much you feel the novel reading helped in your conversation ability. I've read a few times that novels are one of the best ways to learn vocabulary naturally.
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby MamaPata » Thu Apr 05, 2018 1:40 pm

I'll play! :lol:

Challenge: I did a single challenge for both Russian and French.
Final Results:
Russian: 33 books, 131 films
French: 122 books, 115 films

Reading Highlights
I didn't particularly read anything exciting for Russian, though I did start У войны не женское лицо (still haven't finished), which is excellent and absolutely worth reading. Mostly though I read translations or parallel texts.
For French, I read Les Gens du Balto, which I've read before and really like. I think it's a really fun book, and works well for French learners. I like several of her books. 'Avec Mon Meilleur Souvenir' was another fun read for learners. I also read Le Roi de Fer and now want to read the rest of the series. I started L'Élégance des veuves, which I really want to finish, but I also don't want to read without full comprehension. I'm definitely not at the point where I could read French classics, but it feels slightly less out of reach

TV Highlights
For Russian, I mostly watched films not TV and I have a LOT of film recommendations. (Message me: I'm always up for ranting about Russian/Soviet cinema). I watched Once Upon a Time dubbed into Russian, because it was the only decent dub I've come across and don't really like Russian TV series.
For French, I mostly watched dubs for a number of reasons. Ainsi Soient-Ils is probably my top French TV recommendation and I'm still going with it. Film-wise, I watched Un Peu, Beaucoup Aveuglement and Les Amours Imaginaires which are both cute, and it was nice to see the French/Canadian changes. Also, Si J'avais Quatre Dromedaires which is fascinating from a sort of cultural point of view (it's almost a photography slideshow, with a discussion about art and film and so on. It's really interesting, but obviously a jump from the romcoms.

Final Thoughts
Again, again! :D I'm a sucker for a challenge and this worked really well for me. It's what kicked me over into using actual content and making the languages a part of my life, rather than sitting down to study (which let's face it, I never do). I definitely notice a huge jump in both and it's definitely how I went from B1 to B2 French. (Russian is harder to tell because I was there and studying as well as doing the challenge).
I actually finished the French must earlier than I expected and decided I would only count native content after that point... And then proceeded to count nothing. (This was partly related to giving up on French to focus entirely on Russian). If the SC runs again, I would like to try not counting translations for French as I think that would really help push me a bit further. I'd also like to do some more intensive work as I definitely don't think I'm at the point where I can appreciate classics fully and I think that would help as well.
Russian... I really wish I'd pushed this harder and got further with the reading. It was so hard to read that I couldn't do it for fun in the same way that I could for French and that meant I just... well... didn't. Having really pushed reading over the last couple of months, I'm noticing a massive jump and actually, if I'd just put more effort in for a few months, I would have got there and could have read for fun. I might still not have made it, but I'd have been much closer. I definitely want to do another challenge for Russian as I think it will push me into the B2 realm.
There is also a huge difference between watching series and films, which I underestimate. In the future, I'd like to watch more French films (partly because I'm interested in cinema but also because I think it's a different challenge).
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby Radioclare » Thu Apr 05, 2018 9:10 pm

Challenge: Croatian, double challenge
Final results: 241 books, 200 films (just made it!)

I'd done the previous Super Challenge in Croatian as well but I was at a much lower level then, so my main aim this time around was to start reading some original Croatian fiction in addition to translations.

Reading highlights
In total I read 34 physical books during the course of the challenge, of which 20 were translations and 14 were original works in Croatian. I would have liked the ratio to be nearer 50:50 but given that I'd read virtually no original Croatian fiction prior to this challenge, I'm fairly happy :)

My absolute highlight of the challenge was a novel called 'Kalendar Maja' by Zoran Ferić. This felt like one of the best books I've read recently in any language. It's a novel which tells the story of a group of newly retired classmates who get together to recreate a holiday they took together fifty years earlier when they graduated from high school. That all sounds quite innocent, but the story gradually becomes darker and darker as the details of what's happened in their lives between finishing school and retirement are filled in. What really made the book was how the prose was both beautiful and extremely readable at the same time. Here's a taste:

Nekada nas je bilo trideset. Kao dana u mjesecu. Sada nas je samo dvanaest. Pa kao što nas je onda, 1961., bilo više, a naši životi kraći, tako nas je sada, 2010., znatno manje, ali iza sebe imamo neusporedivo duži život. Tu kao da se nešto s nečim izjednačuje i poravnava. Onda smo imali devetnaest, sada nam je šezdeset osam. Svatko od nas trenutačno u sebi nosi tri ondašnja života. I s tom težinom od tri mlada života, koji su se pretvorili u jedan stari, ovi relativno malobrojni, ali dobro očuvani ostaci jednog maturalnog razreda iz sredine prošloga stoljeća stoje u grupicama ili pojedinačno na izlizanom kamenu opatijske luke. Raštrkani su u prividnom neredu, kao što rastu biljke ili se odmaraju pingvini.

Once there were 30 of us. Like the days in a month. Now there are only 12 of us. And as there were more of us back then in 1961, but our lives were shorter, so there are now considerably fewer of us in 2010, but behind us we have incomparably longer lives. It's as if something has been evened out. Then we were 19, now we are 68. Each of us currently carries within ourselves three of our former lifetimes. And with that weight of three young lives, which have turned into one old life, these relatively sparse but well-preserved remains of a class of high school graduates from the middle of the past century stand in groups or individually on the worn stone of Opatija harbour. They are scattered in apparent disarray, in the same way that weeds grow or penguins rest.


My second highlight was a novel called 'Krstitelj' (Baptist) by Miro Gavran. This was a re-telling of the biblical story of John the Baptist and if you think that sounds boring then I agree with you, but it actually turned out to be a really powerful book that majorly surpassed my expectations!

TV highlights
I got hooked on a Croatian telenovela called 'Larin izbor' and during the course of the challenge finally got to the end of all 347(!!) episodes. It was so bad it was really, really good! I've already written about it extensively in my log, so I won't subject everyone to the plot again here :lol:

I watched one film called 'ZG80' which was about feuding Croatian and Serbian football fans. I was quite proud of myself for watching it because films aren't really my thing. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it though because a lot of it was quite crude.

My personal highlight was probably listening to the audiobooks of the entire Twilight saga, because I am a closet Twilight fan and the challenge gives me an educational reason to indulge :)

Lowlights
Erm... the time the bot went down... and then the time we thought it was back up because it was responding to all the tweets, but actually it wasn't recording them :?

I read two very depressing books: 'Beara' by Ivica Đikić and 'Kao da me nema' by Slavenka Drakulić. The former was a biography of Ljubiša Beara, a commander in the Bosnian Serb army who was ultimately convicted of genocide for his role in the Srebrenica massacre. The latter has been published in English under the title 'S.: A Novel About the Balkans' and tells the harrowing story of a woman who was imprisoned and repeatedly raped during the Bosnian war. Both books were worth reading, but once I'd finished them I felt like I needed a stiff drink.

Final thoughts
I've got to the stage with Croatian reading where I'm not sure how much I'm 'learning' from it. I'm far too lazy to consistently look up words I don't know, unless there's a word so key that not understanding it is impeding my entire grasp of the plot. Essentially I feel like I'm at a stage where I can just read for pleasure in Croatian, the same way I would in my other languages. I definitely want to keep reading in Croatian and discovering new writers.

The biggest benefit I've had from both Super Challenges I've done has come from the extensive watching/listening. In particular I think watching so many episodes of the same series has been really useful for me, because I've had the opportunity to get used to how a small set of characters speak and get repeated exposure to the same sort of utterances. I can't really over-emphasise how helpful this was for me; my listening abilities have increased massively and that has also made a real difference to my confidence in speaking Croatian. When I visited Croatia/Montenegro in June last year, I didn't really have to worry that I wasn't going to understand what someone said to me and I barely had to ask people to repeat things to me. That meant I was so much less stressed and could have much more natural and spontaneous interactions with people. I am not naturally someone who watches TV at all (I genuinely can't remember last time I watched TV in English - maybe last time there was an election in the UK) and so there is absolutely no way I would have consumed this level of media without the challenge to spur me on. I would thoroughly recommend the challenge to anyone :)
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby NoManches » Thu Apr 05, 2018 10:49 pm

I really hope we do another Super Challenge!

Challenge: I did (attempted to do) a single challenge in Spanish.

Final Results: Unfortunately, I was only keeping track of my progress in my signature and very recently I deleted it....so i don't really remember how far I got along. Maybe around 60-70%?? All I know is that I was making a lot of progress and would have definitely finished the challenge had I not been forced to take an extended break from language learning last year.

I saw big improvements in my listening comprehension but I feel like I didn't focus enough on reading, although I did see improvements.

Overall TV & Reading highlights
The best part this challenge was just the exposure to native content. I feel like it was a huge cultural experience for me and it was constant motivation to keep learning the language. For the next challenge (if we do it) I would like to include more Mexican movies and books that are well known.

Final Thoughts

The Super Challenge was very helpful and was a fun way for me to consume tons of books and movies (although I preferred TV shows). Knowing that I would have been able to complete the challenge had I continued to read and watch shows in Spanish every day, the next time around I will do a double challenge right from the beginning.

Also I will try to start the challenge by doing more reading than tv-watching if I can help it. More than anything this would be experimental to see if improved reading comprehension would really benefit my listening comprehension as much as I think it would.
Last edited by NoManches on Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:29 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby lingua » Fri Apr 06, 2018 4:15 am

Challenge: Italian, Double Challenge
Final Results: 86 books; 229 audio (although I'm sure it was higher as I stopped adding in June)

Reading Highlights
Nothing stands out among the books I read. I have learned that I prefer short books in Italian. In English I'm a fast reader often finishing a book in 3-4 hours. But in Italian the same number of pages will take 2-3 times as long and I sometimes lose interest. I enjoy reading cookbooks that are part recipes and part discussion about food and technique. In general I prefer non-fiction over fiction as it seems easier to read after the first chapter or two. It amazes me how difficult a new book can be at the beginning until I get used to the author's style and vocabulary.

TV Highlights
I enjoyed the MasterChef Italia series I watched as it helped with my kitchen and food vocabulary. I especially liked the Murders at Bar Lume series that I watched and wished there were more of them. After being into the 6th season of Don Matteo I'm getting slightly tired of it but will likely finish it up this year.

Final Thoughts
I hope we will have a new 2018-2019 challenge this year. I have fallen off my studying in recent months and have just started studying again this month so I need a challenge. Since I'm trying to focus on Italian and dabble in Latin and Sicilian I would likely choose the Romance Category this time around.


Challenge: Thai, Half Challenge
Final Results: 0 books; 32 audio

Final Thoughts
I decided to put Thai on hold last summer. I'm not sure if I will ever return to it or not.
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby tiia » Fri Apr 06, 2018 7:48 am

Challenge: Finnish, Half challenge

Final Results: 62.2 "films", 52.4 "books"
(I think I forgot to log ~1,5 h of audio in the end)

Before the challenge
I had thought that I should be able to do the 100 book-units, but wasn't sure, whether I would get anything near with the film section. Therefore I chose the half challenge, although I somehow hoped I would still get full challenge for reading done.

Reading
I started with the read-along of Odininlapsi along with another book. I had been reading before the challenge quite consistently and at the beginning of the challenge I increased the amount a bit, but it fell back to normal after while. I'd say it went quite well until March/April 2017, when the book just didn't fit to my personal situation. I finished that book only after the challenge.

I had two mayor projects (similar size) at university during the challenge and although the first one didn't really affect my reading, the second one (final thesis) did. It included so much of reading on screen or paper, that I didn't want to do any similar task at home in my free time. Even though that was over before the end of the challenge I didn't re-start reading in Finnish before January 2018.
There was definitely no problem for me finding enough books in Finnish, neither at home nor at our local library, which has around 150 books in Finnish.

Audio
I did not want to use films that only have Finnish subtitles, because that would mean that I probably rely mostly on the audio and just ignore the subtitles. Therefore finding films was not that easy as I'm not living in Finland and didn't want to end up watching only children's movies. However, I had found some films, but the amount is extremly limited. Having a horrible internet connection was not making things easier.
At a certain point I realised that I could use audiobooks (I did not think about that in the beginning) and it did not only mean that I could continue listening to Harry Potter 5 (+6 +7) after having read Harry Potter 4, but also this was the best thing to do, when my eyes didn't want to read or stare at a screen more than necessary while writing my thesis.
These were the first audiobooks I've ever listened to in my life and they made up most of the audio part of the challenge.

Final Thoughts
I don't know how much my reading changed, as I had already read several (~13) books in Finnish before, therefore the additional 8 books are a difference, but maybe not as much as it has been for others. I'm not sure, whether I'd participate in another Super Challenge, because of all the logging and the fact that I also want to read in other languages again. There are nice books in German and English, too, and now I'd like to mix reading in these three languages. (Plus, slowly adding Spanish and some day Swedish?)
But the graphics and the table with all participants etc. were always nice to watch... At least I may change the way I log things into a less detailed way or just start the challenge in 2019.
The main thing the challenge did for me was indeed becoming interested in audiobooks, something I had completely ignored previously.

But in general I recommend trying it out, because it may just give you some extra boost for reading and listening in your TL and motivate you to try out new things.
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby kanewai » Wed Apr 11, 2018 3:00 am

Axon wrote: I'm actually quite interested in how much you feel the novel reading helped in your conversation ability. I've read a few times that novels are one of the best ways to learn vocabulary naturally.


I don't know if it's the best way ... it's actually quite slow considering to the time we put into reading novels. But it's far more enjoyable. I can maintain languages for years through reading, whereas I burn out after a couple months of proper studying.

I still have hard time switching between reading/listening mode to speaking mode. One problem is that my passive understanding is high enough that I try to speak at a higher level than I'm capable of. In the long run this is a good thing, of course!
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby Serpent » Wed Apr 11, 2018 8:10 am

I signed up with the Romance, Slavic, Germanic and Finno-Ugric families. I loved being able to sign up with families (well, subgroups), so that I could count Estonian, Catalan, Czech, Slovak, Bulgarian etc... I mean, how is that different from someone who's B2 in Spanish, gets interested in Italian and registers only to tweet 1 book and 5 movies? :)

I probably signed up for the half challenge, though I knew I wasn't going to achieve even that. I got rid of all zeroes early, but I've read very little in Finnish and in the Slavic languages. I also failed to get any stars in the Finno-Ugric languages. However, I completed the audio part in all other languages. I also got a reading star in the Romance ones. (If it wasn't for the 6 total stars limit, I'd have 10)

Honestly, I've not finished any book since December 2016. In late 2016 and then 2017 I finally got to visit the countries of my languages - Montenegro, Croatia, Portugal, Spain, Italy (well, in Italy I've only spent about 5 hours twice when flying to and from Barcelona via Rome). I also went to Poland and I flew via Germany twice. The only book I even half-finished was a Barcelona guidebook in Swedish.

Initially it was a welcome break. I was burnt out by language challenges. My daily to-do list on mindbloom.com had the item "do something that doesn't count" :) But then I never got back into reading.
Or maybe it wasn't even so dramatic. Prior to the SC it was normal for me to read nothing for a year or more. (I would be a hypocrite if I didn't admit that this also has to do with the availability of wifi, for example in the Moscow metro. But my social networks are mostly in my target languages so in terms of language learning in general that's not much of a problem)

A lot of stuff I have in progress is emotionally hard to read, mostly because it deals with social justice topics (feminism, LGBTQ+, anti-racism)... and when I turn to something familiar as a consolation I often feel disappointed. It's a tricky topic for the forum but advice is very welcome in my log or by PM. Remember that I've been thinking of this for months. :roll:

Of course I'm hoping to get back into reading next time. Not setting any goals yet.

Funny but a couple of days ago I considered not reading anything before May, and I immediately felt the urge to read something :lol: I still haven't read even a couple of pages though.

Highs and lows later :)
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Re: Super Challenge III Wrap (2016-2017)

Postby Cavesa » Thu Apr 12, 2018 5:21 pm

kanewai wrote:
1. What was your challenge?
2. How far did you get?
3. What were the highlights? (or even low-lights)
4. What are your final thoughts?


1.I aimed high. Perhaps a bit too high. Italian originalSC, German SC, Spanish doubleoriginalSC.
So, the ideal goals were 10000 bookpages and 100+90 minutes in Italian, the standard in German, 20000 bookpages and 200x90 minutes in Spanish. Plus I had a lot of French despite it not being my SC language, but I was in the country.

2.
Spanish: completed the listening part. My tv series addiction took care of that. I read some 9000 pages, so not even one original SC, but I still got over that 5000 treshold.
Italian:I didn't finish. But I may have finished the listening part late, during 2018, I'd have to count. But still, not completed in the time limit. German: barely started

I am enjoying Spanish and listening as comfortably as in my native language. My reading is very good but still not at the "like in Czech or English" level, especially when it comes to harder novels. My Italian improved extremely fast. My listening got to my standard listening level, when it comes to standard Italian (that in dubbings), and it shows whenever I encounter native Italian speakers, and it clearly affects positively my active skills (even though those are far bellow what I'd want). I am ready to tackle a new SC with harder and original stuff, and I know I'll feel like an beginner Italian learner again :-D My Italian reading is ok, but there is a lot of space for improvement. German: I keep postponing it and it is sad.

3.Highlights and lowlights:
I'd have to reread my lists for this point. But most are in my logs.

4.I am looking forward to the next round and I'll think better about my goals. I still think that 5000 book pages are too little, my Spanish proves quite clearly that I have yet to break through the wall. I will not postpone German any further. I loved the challenge, including the social aspect of it.
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