My video project is going pretty poorly. It’s going very slowly, and I’m starting to be irritated at my groupmates. And one of them has such awful pronunciation that I can practically feel my own pronunciation getting worse when I listen to him. In other (Chinese-related news), this morning after class I asked my professor a question: “蔡老师，请问，在人民大学餐厅能不能吃素？” (“Mr....
We have a group project for Chinese class. I’m in a group of four, and we have to write and film a short (20-minute) movie in Chinese. We’ve written the beginning of the script, and today two of us showed it to our TA for her to correct it. She had a lot of corrections to make (which is no surprise). She wrote them all on the paper, and because I’m still not very good at reading...
Since the beginning of the quarter, I’ve been able to tell from my physics TA’s accent that his native language is Chinese. Today, he was wearing a shirt that said “台大物理” on the back - which I was able to read. It means “Taiwan University Physics”.
I’ve been enjoying the bedtime stories - after “白雪公主” was “愚蠢的驴” (The Stupid Donkey) and “会生金蛋的鹅“ (The Goose that Could Lay Golden Eggs). There are just two left. I also checked out a book called “中國啊” (Oh, China), which is basically a beginning Chinese reader. It has 35 dialogues and articles (in both traditional and simplified characters), with vocabulary, pronunciation,...
I’ve started reading a children’s book, “3分钟床边故事” (“3-minute bedtime stories”). The first story is “白雪公主” (literally “Princess White Snow”). I’ll need a dictionary constantly when I’m reading this, of course, but I’ve found that I already know well over half of the characters in each sentence. So that’s pretty...
I just watched a video of a performance of “谁在一垒” (“Who’s on First?”) on Youtube. It was nice watching something that I’m familiar with. I still didn’t understand very much, but I followed a little, and I picked out all of the players’ names (except the one that’s said at the very end - “I don’t care” or “I don’t...
This summer, I’m going to Beijing for two months with two professors and about 25 other students from my university to study Chinese there. The class I’ll be in will go through three quarters’ worth of Chinese in 8 weeks, and I imagine that being in China will really help me learn the language too. In other news, I have a new TA for Chinese this quarter. I like her a lot - she...
I just successfully navigated an Esperanto-language online form to order a book (Relativeco per Bildoj - “Relativity through Pictures”) and a movie (La Graveco de la Fideliĝo - “The Importance of Being Earnest”) online from FEL (the same organization that distributes Monato). And I feel pretty proud of myself for being able to do so without much difficulty at all.
My Chinese written final was yesterday - I think I did well, but there’s nothing interesting to report about it. I’ve finished reading Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, Pars I, as well as a supplementary textbook called Colloquia Personarum, which contains 24 dialogues intended to accompany Lingua Latina. I thought Lingua Latina was an excellent textbook - each chapter is just a little...
I just finished my Chinese oral final, which involved reciting a dialogue and answering a number of questions. The dialogue was selected randomly from a list of 14 that I had to prepare, and the questions were mostly selected from list that was posted online beforehand, although my teacher added several of his own. I did pretty well on the dialogue, although I did make one mistake - Instead of...
I was just looking on Youtube for songs in Chinese to listen to, and I found one where the actual video was just some text: “请问 有谁知道这歌的名字 麻烦告诉一下我真的很喜欢，谢谢！”, which I almost completely understood. (I had to look up “真的”, but otherwise I understand it.) So I feel proud of myself for that. I have to say, though, I don’t understand why there’s no measure word...
The Pope resigned this week, which offered a unique opportunity to use Latin to read something relating to current events as opposed to 2000-year-old events. So I read his speech, and while I had some difficulty understanding it, there wasn’t that much difficulty.
I decided a little while ago to take a break from reading the Fundamenta Krestomatio - it’s very long, and I can read more of it some other time. I’m now reading Lingua Latina Per Se Illustrata, Pars I: Familia Romana, a Latin textbook that is written entirely in Latin. It starts with “Roma in Italia est. Italia in Europa est.” and continues from there, slowly introducing...
There’s nothing significant to report about any of the languages I’m learning, except that I’ve started using Memrise to learn some new words in Latin (my levels of Esperanto and Spanish are too high for Memrise to be that useful, I’m not really working on Gujarati or Lojban currently, and I’ve found Memrise to be not very useful for Chinese). I applied today for a...
In Chinese, all of our quizzes are in characters now - no more pinyin. We had our first quiz of the quarter last week, and I didn’t find it that hard. It looks like I memorized the characters pretty well over break. For Christmas, I got a subscription to Monato (“Month”), an Esperanto-language news magazine. I got the January edition a few days ago. I’ve been reading it,...
Today I went with my family to Chinatown, where I only spoke to people in English, but was able to practice Chinese a little bit in other ways. I overheard several conversations in Chinese, but I could only make out a few words: for example, “三个” from a man who wanted to buy some rolls, and “韩国” from a woman who was evidently talking about Korea. I also heard...
I have just discovered yet another instance in which my intuition about Spanish was right but a Spanish teacher corrected me to something else. Before high school Spanish, I would have said “¿Adónde está ella?” to ask “Where is she?” But some Spanish teacher at some point corrected me - “‘Adónde’ means ‘to where’; to say ‘where’,...
I finished Eva Luna, which I liked, but not as much as La casa de los espíritus. I’ve been spending my break learning Chinese characters, and I can now write most of the 200 or so words we learned during first quarter (which, because a lot of words are multiple characters, corresponds to about 300 characters). At the local library, I checked out a picture book that is full of Chinese...
Turns out the word tofu (豆腐, dòufu) literally means “bean rot”. Also, “吃豆腐” (“eat tofu”) is an expression that means “come on to someone”.
Today was my oral final for Chinese. Here’s the dialogue I had to recite (it’s actually a short narrative, not a dialogue): “昨天晚上王朋和李友去高文中家玩儿。在高文中家他们认识了高文中的姐姐。她叫高小音，在学校的图书馆工作。她请王朋喝茶，王朋喝了两杯。李友不喝茶，只喝了一杯水。他们一起聊天儿，看电视。王朋和李友晚上十二点才回家。” (English: “Yesterday evening, Wang Peng and Li You went to Gao Wenzhong’s house to have fun. At Gao Wenzhong’s house, they met...
I’ve started reading Isabel Allende’s Eva Luna, which I’m finding difficult, naturally, but I’m understanding it. My Chinese final is coming up. It consists of two parts: an oral part and a written part. For the oral final, we have to first recite a dialogue from memory (there are ten short dialogues that we have to memorize, and the teacher randomly picks one at the time...
I’ve set up my computer so that I can type in Chinese, either by typing in pinyin and having the computer convert it to characters or by drawing the character on my mouse trackpad thing. (I toggle between those two options, and between typing Chinese and the Roman alphabet, with command+P and command+[.)
Yesterday I used Verbling, a language exchange site, for the first time. On Verbling, you select what language(s) you speak fluently and what language(s) you’re learning, and they match you up, ChatRoulette-style, with someone who speaks a language you’re learning and who’s learning a language you speak. You alternate, talking for five minutes in one language, then five minutes...
It’s fascinating to notice the unexpected similarities than Chinese has with unrelated languages like English and Spanish. For example, the word for “why” in Chinese is “为什么”, which literally means “for what”. And the Spanish word for “why” is “porqué”, which also literally means “for what”. Which makes me think that...
Today I looked at Chinese names online and picked one for myself: 孔贵仁 (Kǒng Guìrén). “孔” sounds like “Cunningham”, my real surname, and “贵仁”, which happens to sound a tiny bit like my real given name, means “valuing benevolence”, which I think would be a fantastic thing for my name to mean. Tomorrow I’m going to double check the name with my...
We started characters today. I’m working on memorizing a few, and it is quite difficult.
The Mandarin word for “cat” is “māo”. “Māo”. I.e., the sound that a cat makes. I love this. In general, I’ve been finding Mandarin words to be very logical. Words for countries end in “guó”, words for languages end in “wén”. And apparently the words for animals are the sounds that the animals make. My class has reached the...
I’ve now finished my first week of Chinese classes, and I’ve noticed a couple of things about learning Mandarin. First, I am not a big fan of the way pinyin spelling works. It’s far better than English spelling, certainly, and I guess it’s probably about on par with Spanish spelling. But I prefer the IPA. So what I’ve been doing each afternoon this week is look up...
Yesterday and today were my first two Chinese classes. The professor explained the four tones to us, and we practiced them. I’m finding them somewhat difficult, but it is only the second day, after all. I find it delightful that mā, má, mă, and mà mean completely different things (mother, hemp, horse, and scold). We don’t start characters until the third or fourth week - until then...
I registered for classes this morning, and just now I went to a bookstore on campus to get a textbook for the Elementary Chinese class that I’ll be taking this quarter. The course allows students to use either traditional or simplified characters (there are separate textbooks and tests), and I decided to use simplified. I’m excited to learn Mandarin, because it’s fundamentally...
I’ve finished the passages at the end of Wheelock’s Latin! In other news, I moved into college today, which means that I’ll be busier and have less time to work on practicing languages.
This week I’ve watched two Almodóvar films. The first, Volver, I thought I understood without too much trouble, but when I read the plot summary on IMDB afterward, I discovered that I had missed a fairly important plot point near the end. The second, Todo sobre mi madre, I didn’t enjoy quite as much as Volver, and it turns out I didn’t understand it as well either. I felt very...
Today I translated a vignette from English to Esperanto, which was a nice challenge. I’m certain that a better translation could be made, but I think mine was decent. I made a lot of use of the online PIV, Lernu’s online dictionary, and the physical English-Esperanto dictionary that I own.
I’ve finished Wheelock’s Loci Antiqui, so I’ve moved on to the Loci Immutati. As their name suggests, the Loci Immutati are unedited from the Latin originals, whereas the Loci Antiqui are simplified to make them easier. The last two Loci Immutati I read were selections from Cicero’s In Catilinam speeches, which were both multiple pages long and quite difficult. Aside from...
Today I spent a few hours with a friend of mine who speaks Spanish at home with her grandparents. For an hour and a half, she was kind enough to just speak Spanish with me, to help me practice. I think the practice helped me somewhat in terms of being comfortable speaking, and it was a good refresher, considering that it’s been months since I spoke Spanish significantly with anyone but the...
Today I read chapter 40 of Wheelock, as well as the supplementary syntax from the appendix. Now it’s on to the Loci Antiqui (a series of passages at the end of the textbook).
Read chapter 39 of Wheelock, “Gerund and Gerundive”. I thought it was quite easy, and based on the title of chapter 40, “-Ne, Num, and Nonne in Direct Questions; Fear Clauses; Genitive and Ablative of Description” (which, while a monstrous title, looks like it won’t be too hard), I’m thinking Professor Wheelock decided to end his book with a couple of fairly...
Today I watched a Spanish-language movie called La nana, about a Chilean maid. I had no trouble following the plot at all, and I really enjoyed it. I was impressed with the lead actress’s acting.
Read Chapter 38 of Wheelock: “Relative Clauses of Characteristic; Dative of Reference; Supines”. My brain is just starting to get sick of new weird verb forms and dative constructions in Latin, so it’s a good thing I’m nearly done with the textbook. I also watched most of Dibu 2: La venganza de Nasty with my family this evening. It’s an Argentine children’s...
Today I read chapter 37 of Wheelock - I’m near the end of the book. Chapter 37 introduced the verb ire, which I found helpfully similar to the Spanish word ir. Actually, now that I think about it, ire is quite a bit easier than ir. I also wrote a poem in Latin this morning. I struggled a bit with finding words to express what I wanted, and I certainly made much use of a dictionary, but...
Today I cooked vegetable soup using a recipe from an Esperanto-language vegetarian cookbook while listening to Muzaiko, an Esperanto-language radio station. I only understood a little of the interviews that were going on on Muzaiko, but I learned several new words for food from the cookbook.
Yesterday, I read Wheelock’s Latin chapter 36, “Jussive Noun Clauses; Fio”. This morning, I watched the movie La flor de mi secreto, which I had very little trouble understanding, and which I very much enjoyed. It had just the right blend of humor and drama.
Mundo Novo →
And it’s a song I really like too.
Today, during the last of the Spanish lessons I’ve been giving, my student and I were playing ¿Lógico o ilógico? One of the sentences was “Quiero comer los libros” (“I want to eat the books”). After reading this sentence and telling me it was illogical, my student spontaneously told me that Lisa Simpson come los libros (“Lisa Simpson eats books”)....
Cockney rhyming slang (30/8/12)
Yesterday, I spent some time reading about Cockney rhyming slang, and I even used it a little bit to compliment someone’s eyes. (I had just been discussing Cockney rhyming slang with this someone, so she understood what I was saying rather than just being confused as to what I meant by “minces”.) Anyway, I think Cockney rhyming slang is really weird. It is the single strangest...
I’m going to start putting the date on these entries. And I’m using the more logical day/month/year standard, rather than the American month/day/year standard. Today was the ninth, and second-to-last, of the Spanish lessons I’ve been giving to a sixth grade neighbor. After nearly two weeks of lessons, including immersion, explanation of grammar and vocabulary, playing games, and...
xkcd: National Language →
Several weeks ago, I had an idea for a t-shirt inspired by that comic: the t-shirt would say “Miwok is the language of the land”, in Miwok. (The Miwok tribe used to live where I live now.) So today, after watching a delightful, inexplicably R-rated Spanish farce called Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios, I drove to the Mill Valley Public Library to look at Catherine A....
Yesterday, my friend who has been teaching me Gujarati flew to New York, and I won’t see her again until December. So my Gujarati lessons will stop, at least for the time being. I also read another chapter of Wheelock’s Latin yesterday - chapter 35, about several uses of the dative. It seemed like an easy chapter to me.
I’ve been continuing to give Spanish lessons - today was the fourth one. I originally wanted to use a partial immersion strategy: I intended to use English for maybe half of each lesson at the very most. But that’s been difficult, as not using English gets frustrating for my student (and, admittedly, for me). Despite that, I’ve continued to include some immersion in each lesson,...