I’m now two weeks into my summer “language sprint”. What’s it all about? First, I’ve increased the work I’m aiming to do as part of my nine-month Basic Japanese Project. My weekly commitment is up from thirty minutes a day, seven days a week, to one hour a day, five days a week. Second, I’m aiming to clock an hour each day on my intermediate Basque. I started the diary-style updates on how this “two-language tango” going one week ago. Here’s instalment two of my language learner’s diary. There’s a video diary of the week down at the bottom, as well.
Monday 29th July: Japanese time expressions, Basque conversation and harvesting blackberies (1 hr Basque; 1 hr Japanese)
Week Two kicked off at 7 am. First, an hour working at Japanese from Zero Book 2. I’m in Lesson 12, the final lesson of the book.
The first focus was on “making times less specific” looking at ごろ (around/about, used with a specific time on the clock) and ごらい (around/about, used with periods of time). Then some questions and answers exercises and the Lesson’s “mini conversation”. Finally, some writing practice of the names of countries in katakana.
I next fitted in twenty minutes Basque preparation from Habe unit 38 in advance of the first lesson of the week.
I had my first Skype lesson of the week with Irati for thirty minutes from 9am. Her holiday has now taken her from Malta to Seville. We had free conversation for the first two thirds of the lesson. Then we discussed whether how a list of factors (age, gender, education level, soberness etc) affected the riskiness of driving.
Next out to the garden to harvest more blackberries. They are coming thick and fast at the moment and I’m running out of space in the freezer.
Later on during the day I mailed the Howtogetfluent Email Club one final time to remind them that enrolment closes tonight for the first run of my new Focus in 5 A2 Russian Grammar revision course.
I spent some of the afternoon re-setting the music to the first of the two vlogs that I short at the Welsh national “eisteddfod” (cultural festive) last year. I then re-issued both of them on the channel. The eisteddfod starts on Saturday so it’s time to put them about a bit.
I put my plumber’s hat on again in the late afternoon (as happened last week) to change the flusher unit in the toilet cistern. It took quite a lot of working out and felt rather satisfying and a welcome change from all the language work. Plus, I saved myself at least £100 in plumber fees.
This evening I did another ten minutes Basque (reading about the Baztan valley in Nafarroa) from Arian B2.1 and about fifteen minutes making flashcards of Japanese from Zero 1 words and phrases.
The final job of today was to close enrolments on the Russian course. The first webinar (Russian verbs of motion) is on Wednesday (and needs to be written!).
Tuesday 30th July: more Japanese from Zero, webinar headaches and not enough Basque (10 minutes Basque, 1 hr 15 mins Japanese)
First up (from 7.30am) was just over an hour’s Japanese. Started with an anticipatory flick through Japanese from Zero 3, a copy of which arrived a while ago. There’s a very great deal in it. I cannot now see myself finishing it before my first visit to Japan in October, though by the end of the year, yes. Time will tell.
Head down with more of Japanese from Zero 2 Lesson 12. Exercises practising また (still, yet) and ごらい (about). The latter involved thinking about the counting words again (“about fifteen men”; “about five big rooms”) which we haven’t practised much.
Here’s a thing: a course alone can never provide enough repetition for learning. So, while I’m a great believer in using a structured course (why reinvent the wheel?) you have to get so much more exposure than just one run through.
Next came a run in the park.
There was only time for ten minutes looking at Lesson One of Bakarka 4 (in preparation for the lesson with Gari) before I had to pivot to preparing for an interview with Kris “the Dane” Broholm of the Actual Fluency podcast. I quizzed him about his upcoming Polyglot Cruise (it’s not till April, but sales close 15th August – here’s my affiliate link that will get you USD50 off (with the code DrPopkins).
A good couple of hours in the afternoon went on the highly frustrating task of trying to sort out the webcasting technology for the first Russian webinar. It turns out that GoogleHangouts is being absorbed into a new YouTube Live on 1st August and the new YouTube live does not let you do screen shares, so it won’t work for me.
I ended up falling back on Zoom but took about three hours to get to there.
Next, I shot the “Summer sprint” Week One catch-up vid (now embedded in last week’s diary post).
After that, time to start writing the first Russian webinar for tomorrow.
All this time, I had a nagging headache. Two of my housemates were complaining of one too. It’s either atmospheric pressure, or I’m going down with another bug.
I gave up work on the Russian webinar at half past ten and hit the sack.
I’m glad I got the Japanese in early today. It wouldn’t have happened if I’d left it till last thing…..and I didn’t with Basque. Only ten minutes Basque today and the first day so far when I haven’t met the target 🙁
Wednesday 31st July: translation into Japanese and Basque, recording a Russian webinar and the power of accountability (1 hr Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Started at 7.30 with an hour’s Basque. Reviewing Bakarka 4 Lesson 1 in advance of the lesson with Gari tomorrow. I did a couple of “fill in the gaps” passages and a longer reading piece. Then I did the first translation exercise of the Unit: 20 short French sentences into Basque. The focus is the past of “egon” (to be, exist).
Next, more thirty minutes on Japanese from Zero 2 Lesson 12, doing translations from and into Japanese.
The rest of the day went on preparing my first Russian live webinar at 8pm. I wrote the slides and rehearsed once for timing. Then the live forty-minute webinar took place.
It went ok, or so I thought until afterwards, when I discovered afterwards that I hadn’t pressed “record” at the beginning. Doh! Nothing for it but to redo the entire forty-minute training.
I then edited the recording and uploaded it to make it accessible to course members who missed the live event.
At 22.30 I did sat down for another thirty minutes’ Japanese. One more translation into English from the book and the reading comprehensive passage (one of the last sections of the lesson). Tomorrow I should finish JFZ Book 2.
I should add that this “Summer Sprint” project and this language learner’s diary was the only reason I did this extra half hour. Without this motivation, I’d definitely not have done any more Japanese. It’s a great illustration of how public accountability can help as a motivator, at least for certain types of person….even a tired one, with a very slight fever due what now seems to be a mild bout of flu.
Thursday 1st August: second lesson with a new Basque teacher, finishing Japanese from Zero Book Two, editing the Dane (1 hr Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Started at ten to eight with thirty minutes exercises, from Japanese from Zero Lesson 12. Next, 20 minutes Basque reading (the next pages in Arian B2.1 – about the pros and cons of renting or buying a place to live). That helped tune me in for my second lesson with Gari, which was booked in for 9am.
The lesson went well. Gari’s quite laid back but fully engaged. He does far more correction than the other two teachers do and opened a google doc for the purpose. Off his own back, he had also copied in the original message I sent him to ask to book a lesson and proceeded to to correct that as well.
Most of the morning then went on domestic and life administration, which was very frustrating. One thing I was doing was sorting out my accommodation for my business trip to Singapore and Hong Kong during the first two weeks of October (before Japan). Still haven’t sorted the Japan accommodation and now the pound is falling again, thanks to our crazed government.
I finished editing the interview about the Polyglot Cruise that I recorded yesterday with the Dane, did a thumbnail and uploaded the lot onto YouTube. (By that way, that link gets you a USD50 discount with the code DrPopkins).
Then I did a post for the blog, basically a cover note for the two vlogs from last year’s Welsh national eisteddfod in Cardiff that I re-issued on Monday. The plan is to build the post out into a fuller guide to the Eisteddfod later on. I wanted to get something up on my own site to share now, as the Eisteddfod starts on Saturday.
The next task was to wrote to Email Club members to tell them about the interview and reissued videos.
Tonight I went for a walk round our lovely local park for some mild exercise and fresh air. Running is off as, in addition to very mild fever and swollen glands, my stomach is mildly upset. Something ain’t right down there. Is the food poisoning/bug from two weeks ago still in there?
Back from my walk and I did another thirty minutes Japanese. I was going through the last task in the book: the short dialogue. Then I spent the last few minutes preparing some flashcards of Book 1 vocab.
So, Japanese from Zero Book 2 is completed, a month behind schedule.
Finally, another ten minutes Basque: reading through one of the texts in Habe unit 38, ready for the lesson with Irati tomorrow morning.
It’s now half past nine and I’m getting an early night.
Friday 2nd August: kanji dilemmas, another Basque lesson, a spot of the Gold List Method and off to Coventry (1 hr Basque, 1 hr Japanese)
Started from 7.30 with an hour of Japanese. Began a gleaming new volume of the course: Japanese from Zero, Book 3. This volume starts introducing the kanji (Chinese characters). There were just six: the numbers one to six.
I’m a little uneasy about now being on a course that is introducing kanji, as I decided to pause work on Heisig’s Remembering the Kanji back in May. Now I’ll need to do a certain amount of work on them just to progress through the book.
On the the other hand, in each of the chapters there are only six or seven kanji, so a total of about 85. I’d already covered two hundred in Remembering the Kanji. I hadn’t internalised them all, though there should already be well-laid ground work in my head.
Japanese from Zero Three is also introducing words built upon the basic kanji. For example 二階 is “second floor” (and presented along with 二 “two”). The first kanji (the two lines) is “two”. The second one is presumably “floor”. However, I don’t like the idea of trying to memorise random new kanji by sight and I can’t believe that just seeing them one or twice will bring any benefit at all.
It seems to make more sense to me to learn the the kanji with some sort of breakdown analysis of the component parts and the stroke order. Heisig bases his whole approach on imaginative and effective memory techniques (creating mental images to remember the meaning of each “primitive” character and little stories about how they are combined to from more complicated characters).
There are no such imaginative memory aids in Japanese from Zero. You are just expected to “learn” by writing out the characters several times and then meeting them in the texts and exercises.
At the beginning of Lesson One, some useful new verbs are introduced, including to work (はたらく – hataraku), to speak, talk, tell (はなす – hanasu) and to do your best at something (がんぽる – gonporu) which, the book says, “is used a lot in Japan… No matter how tough it gets, you will がんぽる.” I’d already come across hatarku and hanasu in the Pimsleur audio course.
At nine it was time for my last live Basque session of the week: thirty minutes with Irati. We were chatting for the first twenty minutes and working on converting sentences from direct into reported speech for the last ten. In Basque, the endings change according to whether you’re reporting a positive statement, a negative statement, a command or a question.
Late morning, I returned to Basque for another half an hour: “gold listing” Habe Unit 5 and part of Unit 6.
Then it was time to finish my packing and head off to Euston station and a weekend trip, my first to the city of Coventry, to visit friends. Apart from having to run back and forth to the loo (it was the stomach bug/food poisoning back from last week), I had a great time. I saw the poignant cathedral, went round the Herbert history and art museum and the Coventry Transport Museum and saw the canal basin.
Week One totals – Basque: 6 hours, 40 mins; Japanese: 5 hours
Week Two totals – Basque 4 hours ,10 minutes; Japanese: 5 hours, 15 minutes
Mini sprint running total – Basque: 10 hours, 50 mins; Japanese: 10 hours, 15 minutes
Here’s the my Week Two video diary: