Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

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tuckamore
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Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Sat Nov 19, 2016 8:11 pm

I am finally taking the plunge after years and years and years of standing at the water’s edge. Today, I begin my own language log. I have been a devoted follower here and at HTLAL for longer than I can believe. But, until now, only passively. My motivation for starting a log are 3-fold: the first two are selfish in nature and the last is more altruistic (maybe?).

1. This first motivation is the primary catalyst for staring this log. I’m not leaving my comfort zone, so my gains are unimpressive. I am currently studying 3 languages, and my focus for each language is unbalanced — based solely on comfort. This results in doing one activity per language, e.g., reading or watching TV or course work, at the expense of other activities. Although I have my sloth-like moments, I am not a stranger to working hard, so long as I know what I should be doing. By “know what I should be doing”, I mean the next task/goal (read this story, do this chapter, etc.), not abstractly (listen more, have more contact with the language, etc.). So, I’m thinking that I need more structure in my language studies and that outlining specific plans would help spur me out of the comfort zone. I’m hoping that posting my goals, accomplishments, and challenges publicly will make me feel accountable, will give me structure, and will provide a record of my journey that I’m unlikely to track privately. Like many others on this forum, I have other languages sitting on the back burner. Thus, looking towards the future, I want to get a better handle at juggling these 3 languages so I can add more.

2. I would like to solicit directed advice/recommendations/etc from the community, rather than solely relying on answers to other learners’ questions. I mean…what I have learned on this forum is extraordinary, but sometimes I have my own peculiar angle that I’d like to seek input for.

3. This last reason may not amount to anything, but… I am indebted to the advice, resources, and personal language journeys that this community has shared. In that vain, perhaps someone somewhere can benefit from my own musings, follies, and triumphs. My language learning journey has been filled with ‘learning experiences’. Some of which are likely personal and only apply to me. But the majority, I bet, are more generic. The crazy chance that these ‘generic learning experiences’ could be helpful to someone (?) was the last prompt for finally contributing to this forum. But, even if my entries are of no use to anybody, it is now a mute point as this third motivation was the final push to change my inertia from passive to active.

Over the next few posts, I will describe my history and current relationship with Japanese, French and Thai. I will also lay out my immediate and long term goals. I welcome counsel, comments, and conversation! I promise to reflect on all suggestions and advice, even if I don’t adopt them in the end.
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby Xelian » Sun Nov 20, 2016 9:22 pm

Ah, I struggle with leaving my comfort zones for my languages as well. Particularly in using them with others in a conversation, I tend to get shy. However, the classes that I take at university (I know that some universities don't implement this) basically force me to speak, listen, read, and write the language each day I'm in class (weekdays, and not exam days).. Going out of your comfort zone can really improve your language learning and confidence with the language. I'm not going to lie, I enjoyed Japanese class more when I didn't have to speak it, but I still love the language.

Anyway, I've learned that speaking, listening, reading, and writing are the key components to focus on daily (if possible) when learning a language. So regardless, having myself speak and focus on my weaknesses is important if I want to be confident with using the language.

I'd be interested to hear what your experiences have been with Japanese!! Learning Thai and Japanese at the same time sounds a little difficult... How is that for you?
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Thu Dec 01, 2016 6:50 pm

Xelian wrote:I'm not going to lie, I enjoyed Japanese class more when I didn't have to speak it, but I still love the language.

Hi Xelian. Thanks for stopping by. I also am incredibly reserved when it comes to speaking, but for some reason this wasn’t always the case. I used to just speak whenever I had the opportunity, for any language, no matter how terrible, without hesitation. I had no qualms. Looking back, I am amazed at how insistent I could be (and probably annoying, too). I wonder… how did I loose this spark and how can I get it back?

Xelian wrote:Learning Thai and Japanese at the same time sounds a little difficult... How is that for you?

Studying Japanese and Thai at the same time is not so bad. Time being the biggest obstacle, of course. But, my relationship with Thai is very casual for the moment, so I’m happy to have some contact only a few days a week. In fact, Thai, being my first tonal language, has helped me understand Japanese pitch accent. Prior to studying Thai, I thought pitch accent was just intonation and I had only given it cursory attention. But, now I ‘get’ it. I may not be able to differentiate 花 (flower) and 鼻 (nose) in conversation based solely on pitch accent (yet), but at least I understand what I need to work on.
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Thu Dec 01, 2016 7:31 pm

My Japanese Story

Ever since I can remember I have always wanted to speak a second language fluently. Any language would do; I had no favourites. So, I would study this language or that language, but I would never get beyond the basics and the project would be dropped. I’d succeed at gaining a conversational ability that could meet simple daily life or tourist needs, but I’d never progress beyond that. Again and again, I’d start and stop. It makes me sad when I think that this is likely the only dream I’ve maintained since childhood and I have yet to achieve it. In hindsight, though, I recognize I was absolutely clueless. I had no idea how to learn a language. No idea.

Enter Japanese. This is the language I have set my sights on. The language I have kept going for over a decade, admittedly with fits and starts. I may bring in other languages, I may even excel at other languages, but Japanese will remain my long-term goal. And, based on our history and progress, ’long-term’ means very long-term.

My beginnings with Japanese started like most of the other languages I studied — I moved to Japan, I started studying Japanese. Just as I studied Danish when living in Denmark, Swahili in Tanzania, German in Germany, etc. But, why did Japanese take hold when these other languages did not? I haven’t a clue. But, I think timing, maturity, and access to resources played large parts. Wrapped up with timing and maturity, I began to explore and reflect on my self-study methods in a way that I never did with my previous languages. I experimented, I adapted, I researched, I improved, I didn’t stop. My learning curve for how-to-learn-a-language has been quite steep and, in many ways, it is unfortunate that Japanese was the model (in other ways, though, it has paid off — a topic for another post). But, I’m already reaping the benefits of my efforts in learning how-to-learn-a-language, as the 2 languages I’ve started in the last 2 years, French and Thai, took off faster and more directed than any of my previous language attempts.
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Thu Dec 01, 2016 10:16 pm

My Japanese Story (continued)

Perhaps in a future post I will summarize my past journey, relaying activities related to certain breakthroughs. But, here, I will limit myself to describing where I am and what I plan to do. I’m not really certain of what level I am in Japanese. Depends on the day and the circumstance. When the stars align (or something like that), I can feel quite advanced, or at least I get glimpses of what being advanced may feel like. At other times, I am in awe of what a dreadful rookie I am. Realistically, I’m probably a solid intermediate.

My primary activities in Japanese lately have been watching Japanese dramas. Sometimes with Japanese subs, usually without. Very rarely with English subs. Depending on the show and the conversation, my comprehension varies between 0-100%! ha! Overall, though, I can follow almost any show with enjoyment, but certain details and nuances escape me. With Japanese subs, my comprehension increases to 70-100% for almost any conversation. I have never intently listened or studied a show. I think I’ve almost maxed out any real learning I can acquire from watching TV and am solely consolidating what I already know. I’ve been at this plateau for a while. Thus, I know enough to follow and enjoy the story, am solidifying what I already know, but am hardly learning anything new. To shake things up a bit, I am planning to use the review feature of emk's ‘substudy’ tool. I experimented with it and I think it will work nicely for my needs. I’m not sure what show I will begin with. Ideally, to start, I’d like a show that has lots of conversation, that uses somewhat normal conversational language, and where at least one of the leads is female. I am open to suggestions.

My other immediate goal is to improve my reading. I am going to intensively work through Read Real Japanese Fiction — story by story, using both the audio and text. The goal will to be able to both read and listen to the stories fluidly. I have gone through the entire book years ago, but for all intended purposes, I’m starting anew. Along side this intensive reading, I would also like to read a book more extensively. The problem is finding one that is suitable to my level. I have started several books with this intent, but they quickly become an unenjoyable chore and I give up. Most recently I got fairly far with ZOO by 乙一 (Otsuichi), reading the first 6 stories. But, I gave up on 神の言葉 (kami no kotoba) (had no idea what was going on), half-heartedly tried ZOO before giving up, and didn’t touch the remaining two stories. I am hoping that working intensively with Read Real Japanese Fiction will open up my extensive reading options, but in the meantime, the search for my next book is on.

I am going to postpone conversation for now. For years, I had used conversational tutors, but I’m going continue to take a break from it while I work on these other goals. I would like to do some shadowing or other type of exercises to improve my speech, but I don't have a definite plan, yet. I’d also like to work in some focused grammar study, but I’m not sure how I want to go about this nor what resources to use. Again, open to recommendations. I’d be particularly interested to hear about resources or how someone approached grammar study at the intermediate level. I have the workbook that accompanies An Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese, but, when I flip through the book, I feel I know most of these grammar points, at least at a superficial level. Maybe for starters, I need to just do the exercises to help solidify what I do know and to pinpoint what I don’t know or don’t know well.

Next up...My French Story.
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Mon Dec 05, 2016 6:00 pm

My French Story

I love learning Japanese. I am fascinated by how different it is from my native English. I love how its study continues to educate me about diversity in language, culture, and worldview. But, for years, I’ve been telling myself and others that if I had put only a small fraction of the effort I’ve put into Japanese into learning languages like French and Spanish, I’d be fluent in both by now. Japanese is indeed a chore! But, that said, since beginning my journey with Japanese, I have only dabbled in other languages, nothing serious. Until recently.

I started French anew last January. I had thought Spanish would be the romance language that I would take on seriously first. Spanish had always held a greater interest to me and I have dabbled in it and used it the most over the years. But, I have a certain level of comfort with French that I don’t have with Spanish. I’m not sure if this comfort stems from French itself or the 6 years of French I took in school. I think it might be the latter. I think these years in school gave me a solid grounding in the basics or core of the language, or something like that, even though I left school with the impression that I was a French dummy and knew no French. Anyways, last January, several things came together at the same time: 1. During the last two years, I’ve had more free time than I’ve had at any other point in the last 10-15 years. 2. I came across a copy of Assimil’s French without Toil and I had a friend who was able to digitize the recordings. 3. I became aware of some cool jobs in my field where a working knowledge of french would be beneficial. So, somewhat on a whim, I began my journey with Assimil and with it a commitment to French.

In my eyes, my progress with French is remarkable. This view is very much because I am comparing it to my slog with Japanese. I’m convinced my comments of “I’d be fluent in both French and Spanish by now” may have some truth to it. Within the fourth or fifth month (I don’t remember exactly), I was able to read and enjoy Le Petit Nicolas, frequently laughing out loud. I read all 5 books, and then by the sixth month (June) I started to read books for adults, both those originally written in French (several books by Marc Levy, Fred Vargas so far) and those translated into French (I’m drawing a blank on which books these were right now, currently I’m finishing 1Q84 by Murakami Haruki). I think I was around lesson 80 of French without Toil when I started with Le Petit Nicolas and I finished the passive wave in August, so I wasn’t going at a fast speed with French without Toil. (I stopped doing the active wave around lesson 50 or so. It became too difficult and I wasn’t into it.)

Granted, I don’t understand everything I’m reading. There are lots of vocabulary, idioms, etc. on each page that I don’t know. I tend to gloss over detailed descriptions. But, at this point, what I don’t know, doesn’t prevent me from enjoying the story. When I feel the need, I look up words (I use a kindle, which makes this a snap). But, right now, I hardly look up any — maybe 1-2 for every 20 pages. I’ll note, though, that at the beginning, with the first couple Le Petit Nicolas books, I was probably looking up several words per page, if not per paragraph. In reading or listening to a foreign language, I also have a high tolerance for ambiguity and/or am very very good at guessing/filling in the blanks and/or am creative in imagining scenarios that may or may not be the case when I’m lacking full comprehension. This can make it seem like my level is much higher than it actually is. I’ve also watched some TV in French here and there, but my investment into listening has been dismal compared to my reading. Likewise for grammar. French without Toil has been my only active grammar study.

This needs to change. Right now, it is too easy to just pick up a book and think I’m fulfilling my French study time. I’m still in the process of figuring out what my plan is. For the time being, I’m going to try French in Action (the full course: workbooks, audio, etc), which will hopefully meet both grammar and listening objectives. I gained a lot from watching Destinos (solely video) some years ago and thought it was an enjoyable, so I am hopeful French in Action will do the same. But, I’d like to listen to (ideally watch to make things a bit easier at first) material that is intended for native speakers along side French in Action. Japanese has spoiled me for access to TV shows with Japanese and English subs. And, I had an advantage in that I lived in Japan when I started my Japanese studies, so I was better oriented towards what’s what in Japanese media. I know nothing of French-based media culture. So, I need to do a little research to find something that is appropriate to my level and interest. Once I get cracking on incorporating French in Action and more listening into my routine, I want to/know I need to work on my pronunciation. But, I’ll hash that out over the next month or so after I up my aural input.

Next up… My Thai Story. Which will be a shorter post, I promise.
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby lingua » Tue Dec 06, 2016 2:22 am

I am happy to see another Thai learner as there are so few of us here. I've been studying for about a year and find it difficult but rewarding at the same time as I see myself make progress (slow as it is).
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:22 pm

lingua wrote:I am happy to see another Thai learner as there are so few of us here. I've been studying for about a year and find it difficult but rewarding at the same time as I see myself make progress (slow as it is).


I've been sporadically following your log, but didn't know that you've only been studying Thai for about a year. I need to go back and take a better look at your beginnings. I think I'm well behind you and because I'm taking the slow-poke route I'm sure to remain behind, so I'm keeping your log earmarked for peeks of what's to come down the road and for inspiration and guidance. The Thai cooking shows that you watch -- you can follow them unassisted? Or, do you use subs?
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Sat Dec 10, 2016 7:33 pm

My Thai Story

I started Thai in May or June of 2015 before a trip to Thailand. I’ve never taken on a language specifically for an upcoming, couple week trip. But, my travelling has only taken me to countries who use the latin script. I have an irrational fear of being illiterate when I’m travelling. My fear has little bearing on whether I understand what I can read or not. I get a false sense of security in recognizing the script around me. It’s completely irrational, I know. But, so be it. It was the primary stimulus for beginning Thai. I think the basis of my fear lies beyond illiteracy, though, to the general lack of transparency between Thai and English. And, the script accentuates this lack of transparency.

My Japanese studies started this way, too. I was scared of being illiterate. A couple months before my move to Japan I started to study the writing systems with no knowledge of the language, beyond foods. (I thought being familiar with foods, and products and labels in the grocery story would help increase my chance of living well in Japan. So, I spent much time studying up on the foods before I left. I was correct.)

I started Thai with Benjamin Poomsan Becker’s beginner’s course, which teaches reading along with other basics. I learned to read (albeit, clumsily), but I quickly realized that I needed something more to learn/acquire the tones and that required that I make listening a priority. I jumped among different courses, but didn’t find what I was looking for. I needed more listening than the courses offered. Pimsleur would have worked well but they only offer 30 lessons of Thai. Then, I discovered Glossika. It was what I needed. In addition to a couple books on grammar and an online dictionary, Glossika became my main resource. It was a tough slog at first as I was still a newbie beginner, but I intensively studied each sentence one by one. (Glossika says that its course is best suited for those with a bit more background in the language and when working along side another course. I was/was doing neither, which made it harder than what it was designed for.) I studied Thai for ~2 hr a day for ~6 months, getting through all 3000 sentences before my trip. Along the way, I got a good feel for Thai, and became quite smitten with Thai.

Then, I didn’t touch Thai for over half a year. I had brought French onto my plate and it seemed a stretch to do something with Thai, too, even though I wanted to. But, a couple months ago, I reconsidered. I put so much effort into Thai and got quite far (by my standards), I don’t want to have to build from scratch at a later date, especially familiarity with the tones. So, I decided to work on Thai as a side project for now. No stress, no large objectives, little expectation; just consistent, comprehensible contact.

My plan for Thai is to do the GSR files of Glossika, one by one. Previously, I had only worked with GMS files in my own style, so using the GSR is a bit of a new approach with the same material. A benefit of this approach is that each file is about 20 minutes, so I have a well defined time limit. I have little chance of my Thai studies exceeding their allotted time. Another benefit, is that there are 300 files, so at a rate of one file a day or so, I can work with this material for about 1 year. Which means, I don’t have to think about a new plan for my Thai studies for a long time to come. A perfect recipe for a side project.

I started doing the GSR files some weeks ago and I am on day 36. It's going great. Because I repeat certain days that are noticeably harder than others and because I occasionally skip days, this plan will likely take me until the end of next December. I’ll likely revisit my grammars and maybe listen to some youtube videos or thaipod101 casts throughout the year. But, my consistent, comprehensible contact will be the Glossika files. I’m in no rush.

(My promise of a shorter post hardly materialized. I had no idea I had so much to say about Thai!)
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Re: Tuckamore: slow growing and gnarly (Japanese, French & Thai)

Postby tuckamore » Sat Dec 17, 2016 5:46 pm

Let’s check in with where things stand since my first post a month ago when I made declarations about making some changes to break out of my comfort zone. Below is a summary of my short-term objectives for each language, my planned activities, and their current status. I know that implementing too many changes at once usually leads to failure. So, some activities that I have my eyes on will have to wait until I get more into the groove before being incorporated.

Japanese

What I was doing: Watching TV dramas, about 1 episode daily. Little else.
Short-term Goals: Break away from passively watching TV dramas by incorporating more attentive listening, reading of any sort (intensive or extensive), and a bit of grammar study.
How:
1. Working through Read Real Japanese Fiction. Using this resource for both listening and intensive reading. I have worked my way through the first story (神様ー川上弘美). I can now read and listen to the narrator quite easily. Reading fluidly was easier to come by than listening fluidly. But, I worked hard at the listening, repeatedly listening to each phrase or sentence until I could catch every particle and mora. And, finally I achieved my goal. I worked so much with this material, I think I was probably only some days away from being able to recite the entire story by heart. I contemplated doing this, thinking it could help solidify certain phrasings, collocations, etc. I’d come that far, why not put a bit more effort to memorize the entire story? But, then I didn’t know if this was a good use of my time for improving Japanese. I like this story. From what I remember, it is my favourite in the book. I’m now working through the second story (むかし夕日の公園でー乙一). So far there are sentences with a more difficult structure than in the first story, but for some reason I can more easily follow the audio. It may be because I feel the same types of phrases are used repeatedly. I don’t need to replay the audio as much as I did for the first story, so I’m not anywhere near being close to memorize it. Makes me reconsider whether I should seize the opportunity with the first story.

2. Use substudy to intensively work with a drama to improve listening. My first hurdle was choosing a series as my first choices don’t have Japanese subtitles or the subtitles are not timed (and I don’t want to be bother with timing them) or they are not the best fit for this type of study. So, I settled for 家族ノカタチ、 a drama I watched recently that has timed Japanese subs. I started working through the first episode and can see how this activity will improve my listening, but I think I’m going to postpone doing any more until I’ve worked through all 6 stories in Read Real Japanese Fiction. Not enough time in the week to do everything. So, perhaps I’ll be revisiting this activity in February.

3. Read a novel extensively. The biggest hurdle here was finding a book that is at my level, or at a minimum doesn’t discourage me. I looked for works that I’ve read before in English, but I couldn’t find anything that I had access to that interested me. I have Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code in Japanese as a paperback book, but using my kindle is so much easier when I feel the need to look up a word. And, I don’t want to take the time to read a book in English only to help me with Japanese. Then, I finally stumbled upon a solution that was perfect for me: Why not read something in French first, then read it in Japanese? So, I searched for books that I have access to in both French and Japanese for my kindle and came up with Murakami Haruki’s Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World (世界の終わりとハードボイルド・ワンダーランドー村上春樹). I read a chapter in French and then a chapter in Japanese. I knew the French would probably be fine for me as I just finished reading another of his books in French. But, I was worried that the Japanese would still be off putting considering it is the original language. But, I’m happy to report that things are going great!

4. Integrated Approach to Intermediate Japanese. I’m on the fence about this one, On the one hand, I recognize I benefit from concentrated grammar study, but on the other, I’m not sure this book is the way I should go. But, because I have the book, I am going to give it a shot, focusing specifically on the activities in the workbook. If it doesn’t work out, then I’ll abandon it. I haven’t started this activity yet.

5. Continue with my nightly drama watching.

In summary, right now I’m doing 1, 3, and 5 almost daily or so. Hoping to incorporate 2 and 4 and later dates.

French

What I was doing: Reading novels. Little else.
Short-term Goals: Increase listening!! with a bit of grammar.
How:
1. Watch French TV series. The hurdle here is finding what to watch. I benefited so much from access to Japanese subtitles that I feel handicapped with French in this respect. I’d prefer to watch a native French TV show, nothing dubbed. On youtube, I found ~10 episodes of Hélène et les garçons subtitled in French. It’s is such a silly show (I don’t think I could stand to watch something like this in English), but relatively easy to follow. Let me clarify ‘easy to follow’: for now, I only catch bits and pieces of the language, but what I do catch is enough for me to follow. So, it is probably a good show for my level in listening. I’m deciding whether to continue with the series beyond the subtitled episodes, or find something else. Because it seems to be appropriate to my level, I predict that the more I watch the more I’ll pick up. So, I’m thinking I may just keep going until my tolerance for it breaks down. Otherwise, I need to find something else and solving that puzzle will likely ruin the current momentum of watching a show a day.

2. French in Action. Good news. A family friend is a retired French teacher and has all the material I need to do the complete French in Action course. I won’t get these materials until I’m home for the holidays, so I won’t be starting until sometime in January. But, this is probably good as it will give me more time to get into the routine of these other activities.

3. Alex Leroc Jeux Dangereux for intensive listening. I just started using this book and audio for intensive listening. The reading is quite easy for me, so I’m just trying to bring my ears up to speed. I just started this activity this week and am on chapter 2. If this book goes well, I’ll decide if I want to purchase another one from this series or another learners book or audio for native French speakers. I’ve also been taking some time to write out the story by hand as I listen.

4. Continue with extensive reading. As I mentioned above, I’m reading Le fin des temps by Haruki Murakami. Because I’m alternating between French and Japanese, and because my Japanese reading speed is slower and time to exhaustion is quicker than when reading in French, it has put constraints on extensive reading in French. This is a good thing. It limits the time I spend doing this activity, so I can spend it doing other French things that desperately need my attention (like listening!).

In summary, right now I’m doing 1, 3, and 4 almost daily or so, and will be adding in 2 sometime in January.

Thai

Goals: Keep with Glossika. Aim is 1 GSR file a day, but things can make daily commitiments difficult, so I’ll be happy with 20-25 per month. This is my ‘side project’, so my activities for Japanese and French take precedence when time runs short.
Status: I’m plugging along. Today, I’ll tackle Day 44 and it is going well. Either the sentences are getting easier or things are really starting to click. Around Day 28, I often had to repeat lessons. Now, I don’t feel that need, even with some of the longer sentences. (Although, there is one sentence that was introduced a couple days ago that I just don’t even try to repeat.)

I’m sure the holidays will interrupt some of my current flow, but I’ll try to maintain whatever momentum I can.
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