A week ago, I started a summer “language sprint”. I’ve increased the amount of focussed study I’m aiming to do as part of my nine-month Basic Japanese Project from thirty minutes a day, seven days a week, to one hour a day, five days a week. Plus, I’m being more consistent in my on-going study of intermediate Basque, aiming to clock another hour each day on that language. This is the first of four weekly, diary-style updates on how this “two-language tango” going.
Monday 22nd July : kicking off (1 hr 10 mins Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
I was worried I wouldn’t be in any shape for today’s lesson at 8.30 this morning.
The thing is, at about 2pm yesterday I flaked out my bed and basically didn’t do much else for the rest of the day except get up to a couple of times to throw up and a couple of times to put the finishing touches to last week’s post, do the photos and publish it.
No, it wasn’t the some exaggerated effect of beginning a caffeine detox on Saturday (though I had those headaches too). It was a mild stomach upset that had been rumbling since midweek coming to a head.
I’m glad to say that I felt quite a bit better this morning, though.
I did forty minutes’ preparation of the Habe 38 Basque for the first live Skype lesson of the week, thirty minutes with Irati. 30 mins. The topic of unit is driving – tests, lessons, safety etc. I like the topic-based approach to vocab building. You?
The lesson went well. In the end we were just talking – including about coffee consumption – and never even got to continue with Habe 38. Irati is on vacation in Malta, so she was speaking from a guest house.
I late did a couple of thirty minute Japanese slots, to meet today’s target.
I was working on translations of short conversations in Unit 11 of Japanese from Zero book 2. It involved using both formal and informal verb forms. It was very slow and frustrating. I found myself looking up lots of words, both commonly occurring ones and ones that have been introduced in Book 1 but hardly used (e.g. “east”). This is one reason I am starting to flashcard the vocab: to increase the frequency of exposure to the material. No course book alone is every likely to provide enough.
Tuesday 23rd July: katakana – yes; food – no (my first ever fast) (1 hr 40 mins Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Yesterday, after Sunday’s bout of food poisoning, I decided to segue into an impromptu three-day fast. It’s to be a sort of cleanse and radical simplification at the beginning of my time off.
I’ve never done this before. From what I’ve read, it could help with focus, clarity and mood. The great historical cultures have a place for fasting, so there must be something in it. Plus, I’ve put on two kilos over the last months (but losing weight is not the driver).
The morning kicked off with an hour on Japanese from Zero.
I was looking at the “compound” katakana that have no hiragana equivalent.
“Compound” kana (hiragana or katakana) are a combination of two kana symbols (the second written smaller) that are used to represent further sounds.
Katakana is used for loan words and some loan words obviously have non Japanese sounds. There are therefore some compounds that would never be needed in the hiragana writing system (used for native words).
Some more examples of wacky Japanese borrowings to add to ones shared in previous posts: チェッシュ (tissue – tissho) and ウェルドン (well done – literally werudon (!)).
Then on to some more Japanese exercises from the back end of the unit.
Later in the morning, I switched to Basque.
The Arian B2.1 course comes with transcripts to the audio. I made a dictation exercise out of a recording of the pros and conns of life in the city and life in the country. This discussion takes just under four minutes to play, but the dictation took me an hour to do. I’m glad to say I understood nearly all of it.
Today is the hottest day of the year so far an in several European countries, the hottest day ever.
I’ve now not now eaten since coffee time on Sunday. I stayed in the house and garden all day.
Much of the afternoon went on recording the Tuesday vid for the YouTube channel (now also embedded here, in last week’s post).
It was a mid-year catchup video. I do an update to camera once a quarter and really enjoy the chance to look back at my own language learning and content creation. It’s also a chance to ask you about how you language learning has gone in the first half of the year and what your plans are for the third quarter of 2019. At the end of the vid I flagged my new summer Russian programme, launching on Thursday
In the evening I got in another 30 mins preparing from Bakarka for my lesson tomorrow with Eider. The material was quite dense and difficult. The topic -eNETIK (since), -eN ARTE (until), -en BITARTEAN (while, during).
Then I sat down to watch the news about Boris Johnson’s victory in the Conservative party’s leadership election campaign. Boris will be PM. The UK’s Trump and a man who keeps falling upwards 🙁
Wednesday 24th July: goldlisting and a new Prime Minister (1 hr 35 mins Basque; 1 hr Japanese)
Today was slightly cooler than yesterday. It’s now well over forty-eight hours since I’ve eaten but I’m still not feeling hungry. I think my body has adjusted to the new normal. I have very good focus. Time seems to be passing more slowly too (is that just because I’m not breaking for meals and coffee, perhaps – I normal “waste” a lot of time coffee breaks and watching my favourite YouTuber). I do generally feel a bit weak on my feet.
First this morning, twenty minutes going over the Basque prep I did yesterday evening, ready for the Skype lesson with Eider.
The lesson, thirty minutes from 8:30 am, went well.
As often happens, we spent a good first half in general conversation. I was telling her about my accidental fast and then asking about the weather (it’s been over 40 degrees in the Basque country). Then, for the second half, we got into doing some of the “fill the gaps” exercises from Bakarka book 4.
Is this an efficient way to use a teacher? I could do these exercises on my own either in writing or into the voice recorder of my phone. Well, true, but it gives some structure and forces stuff through my head in a systematic way in a slightly more stressful “live” situation. I’m a thorough language learner and I like to work at the key structures. The Bakarka books very much takes that approach.
Next, after a break, came an hour of Japanese. I was struggling once again with translations from Japanese into English and from English into Japanese from Lesson 11 of Japanese from Zero book 2.
This lesson includes more practice of the informal present and past forms of the verb that were introduced in Lessons 9 and 10, including, in 11, the verb する(to do). It turns out that this can be used to make all sorts of more complex verbs such as to get married (たっkんする – do marriage), make a phone call (でんわする – do telephone) or to shop (かいものする- do shopping).
I later prepared and wrote to members of the Howtogetfluent Email Club to let them know about this new, summer language project, the latest blog post and yesterday’s YouTube vid.
For a break, I watched the BBC news channel for Theresa May’s last “prime minister’s questions” from the House of Commons and her trip to the Palace. Later, Boris Johnson went to see Her Majesty and made a speech from the steps of No. 10 Downing Street.
Next, since I haven’t left the house since Sunday, an afternoon’s walk in the park, listening to Pimsleur and watching the signets.
You’ll appreciate that my usual jogs are off till the end of the fast.
Early evening and it was time to sort my pile of Habe Basque materials. I then sat out on the roof terrace for 45 minutes “goldlisting” the first two and a half units.
It’s now 18:45 and about 79 hours since I last ate. I have great concentration. I’m not feeling hungry. On the way back from the park I decided to extend the fast by a day.
Worked further on blog post comparing levels A2 and B1 in Russian (will be out on the site before too long).
I spent a final half hour tonight doing some flashcard recall from JFZ and preparing more flashcards for units 7 and 8 of Book 1.
Thursday 25th July: breaking the fast, fixing the loo…and speaking Russian (1 hr 15 mins Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Slept quite well but I cannot say that quitting either caffeine or food have had the slightest effect on my sleep patterns.
We’re now three and three quarter days into the fast and I am planning to eat at lunchtime at the four day point. Initially felt a little shaky on my feet but strengthened up and had high levels of focus and concentration seemed to come easily yet again.
Another hot day: thirty degrees plus
Kicked off at 7.30 with an hour’s work at Japanese from Zero, answering the questions to the “Reading comprehension” and then going through the short dialogue. The latter was very frustrating as I couldn’t find a lot of the words in the glossary at the back of the book. Then, towards the end, I looked over to the top of the opposite page and saw that they were listed (doh!).
I then grabbed a quick cuppa (herbal infusion) and did fifteen minutes prep from Bakarka 4 ch. 1 for the first lesson with a new (to me) teacher, Gari. The plan is to use the lessons with Gari review the chapters of Bakarka that I’ve done with Eider, to reinforce the grammar patterns as the book is very thorough with these).
The thirty-minute lesson kicked off at 9 am and went well. In the end, we spent all the time talking.
It was a getting to know you session where I also explained to Gari what I was looking for and asked whether this made sense to him. He’s based deep in the French countryside between Toulouse and the Pyrenees (not the French Basque country but not that far away). The only down side was that his internet did not seem very clear. Nevertheless, I’m going to give it a go and have booked another lesson.
Next one of the jobs I love in the summer: harvesting more blackberries from the garden. It’s now the peak time and more are ripening in this sun than I can eat (or could eat….if I was). They need to be washed, dried and frozen. I lay them all out in a tray so they freeze individually rather than in a clump. Then they all go in a box and (defrosted) liven up my breakfast yoghurt and museli well into the winter.
Another thirty minutes Basque – it took that long to correct the dictation exercise I did no Monday.
Some of my mis-hearings:
“ez inez kuadar: for “ezinezkoa da”, “babestia” for “babestuagoa”, “arauzapen” for “oroitzapen”. Those were mistakes that happened because I just didn’t know the words. Elsewhere I knew the words (on paper) but it was connected speech/morphological features that threw me: I had “estrasatu egin bizi nintzen” for “estrasatuegi bizi nintzen”, “edo” for “ala” (both real words), “egokikok dira” for “egekiagoak dira”. “Illiak” for “hiriak” (the dropped h is a problem). Sometimes there were things I seemingly didn’t hear at all: I had “toki bat” for “toki batera”.
Next I finished drafting the launch mail and enrolment page for the my new Russian course and sent the mail (with the link to the page) to everyone in the Email Club know about it.
A good morning’s work.
To the supermarket at about 1.45. Bought some FOOD (!). Made large green salad enlivened with sun-dried tomatoes and feta to break my fast.
Enjoyed some salted peanuts (an addiction) and Apfelschorle (apple juice with carbonated water) while preparing it. Listened to news including BJ’s first “Prime Minister’s Questions” from the House of Commons.
Enjoyed the salad. Only ate half of it. A water biscuit with cheese (another weakness) to finish.
Thoughts about fasting: I could have gone on another day. Felt weaker on my legs but great concentration throughout. Felt more in control and detached. If we’re not engaged in serious physical labour, why do we eat three times a day and why so much?
Mid afternoon there was a torrential tropical downpour that lasted about three or four minutes. Then like being in a sauna with rising heat. You couldn’t see steam, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.
Shot the vid about new Russian programme for tomorrow’s YouTube post.
On of the toilet flushers broke last night here at Howtogetfluent Towers. The water is constantly running into the bowl. Oh, the joys of home ownership!
The pressure was on because I have housemates (lodgers). New valve unit fitted. To ScrewFix (a plumbing chain – there’s a branch a fifteen min walk away). I bought a new valve unit and fitted it. This partially sorted the problem. The constant flow is now much reduced (but still there). The next stage will be try new flush unit. Things go wrong in the house you can’t “just fix it in one”. It’s a process of elimintation. Ordered flush unit as a “click and collect” from B&Q (local DIY superstore) for tomorrow.
Out to meet a Russian friend at 8pm at one of my favourite meet-up venues: the cafe on the top floor of Waterstone’s bookshop on Piccadilly. I arrived a bit early to sneaked a quick look along the Japanese textbook shelves before going up. Turned out he was sequestrated in the photography section. An hour and a half catching up. All in Russian.
Home: edited the Russian webinars launch vid. Did the thumbnail and published. Not sure of response to expect. Two regular viewers wrote warm comments, which was encouraging.
Friday 26th July: translation, goldlisting, Assimil en route (1 hr Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Feels cooler and has been raining again overnight.
Started at 7.30 with thirty minutes Japanese. Re-doing a translation of the final conversation in Lesson 11 that was so impenetrable yesterday.
I then did a leisurely thirty minutes “goldlisting” from Habe unit 4 (Basque).
After breakfasting and a shower, time to head to B&Q to pick up the toilet flusher unit that I ordered yesterday. It’s normally a ten minute bus ride, which took longer due to roadworks.
By the time I got home, there was no time to fit the unit or do any more languages. Packed rapidly and head out to the underground to get up to Paddington Station. I’m spending the weekend in Oxford visiting my sister and her family in their new place.
On the train, I did thirty minutes work on Assimil Le Japonais, lessons 19 and 20.
Last thing in the evening, after a lovely meal with the relatives, I spent over half an hour reviewing sections of the first unit of Arian B2.1 Basque: texts I haven’t looked at for several months. The topic was different motivations and methods for learning Basque (learner interviews).
And that was it.
Lights out on the end of my first week’s “Two Language Tango” 🙂
Week One totals – Basque: 6 hours 40 mins; Japanese: 5 hours
More next week. In the meantime, are you learning along too? How are things going? Let me know!