Friday, July 27, 2012

Re-discovering an Old Friend

It's now been a month since I last went on FB and while it's frustrating in terms of organising thing with friends (I guess people really don't bother much with e-mail anymore), I've been getting other things done.

I'm now into week two of learning Mandarin and have decided to look for a course locally. Rediscovering my love of Chinese history and desire to learn the language has been quite interesting. The tones are hard, especially as someone that grew up with a non-tonal language in which tones generally confer emotion rather than meaning, but the characters and syntax are fascinating. Surprisingly, there are quite a few free apps on Droid to help figure out pinyin pronunciation that I've been using.

I'm about half way through reading Frederico Garcia Lorca's 'Bodas de Sangre', a tenth of the way through Sun Tzu's 'Art of War' (but in French because it was the only free version on Kindle) and have been listening to foreign language podcasts. It's beginning to feel like the passion I had for language and language learning that I had before going to university is coming back and I'm happy for it, it's like rediscovering an old friend. It also doesn't hurt that there are now websites like with lots of books in other languages and a handy dictionary widget so that you can click on any words you don't know and it tells you the meaning in English.

I've been so engrossed with the languages this past week that I actually forgot to spin on two days. I finished my spinning for the week and it's some of the best I've ever done, but I feel disappointed in myself that I actually forgot for those two days. The problem is that I never really agreed what the schild would be for forgetting, so other than feeling angry and disappointed with myself, I really don't know what else there is.

Tomorrow is an offering ritual of sorts for a few of us here and so the husband and I have been busy for the past hour or so making the bread for the offerings and pot luck. I'm rather nervous as there is one section of the ritual that I'm kind of leading and it's the first time I will ever have led before. I'm hoping it goes well.


Patrick Houser said...

Do you think that formal classes are the "better" way to go when learning a language? I've really been desiring to make my German better, and have been wanting to learn Spanish as well recently. I'm just not sure if I should sign up for a class at a local college, or maybe an independent business.

Birka said...

In all honesty, I think there are positives and negatives to classes vs learning on your own. They're not mutually exclusive paths either. You might choose to take a class to give yourself a grounding with things like pronunciation and to get used to speaking it with others before going off on your own to continue study, and obviously, you're going to be studying at home between classes too.

Classes are good for various reasons, the opportunity to practice with others, the guidance of a teacher, help with stuff you find difficult, encouragement from others, motivation from learning with others - these can all contribute to a more successful learning experience. If the class is a good one that is. I've seen language classes that have just been a terrible mess and in which it would be a miracle if the students actually learned anything.

When it comes down to it, you need to assess the four skills that you have to work on when learning a language. Reading, writing, speaking and listening. Classes have the practice of these skills built in, if you go it alone, you need to figure out ways to practice those skills. Reading and writing can come from penfriend schemes, speaking and listening from joining conversation groups. However you usually need a basic level even for that, so yeah...I would definitely advise classes.

Jon & Jen said...

Let me know how the leading went!

I've got to buy some more roving. I haven't been spinning because well...I have no roving. :) Must chat soon! Missing you!

PS - I was repping 135lbs deadlifts!

Birka said...

Omgs I miss you so much!!!!! I want to talk with you more. Maybe skype tomorrow? Our ritual went super well. The storms stopped over us even though Raindar said we were supposed to have more.

Birka said...

Omgs I miss you so much!!!!! I want to talk with you more. Maybe skype tomorrow? Our ritual went super well. The storms stopped over us even though Raindar said we were supposed to have more.