More Clues in the Mystery of What Language I’m Going to Specialize In

November 25, 2020 1 of 8

With “clues” and “mystery” in the title, I think I may have done too many Nancy Drew books for my Gratuitous Amazon Links. However, for good or ill, we’ve still got dozens of Nancy Drew books to go.

I’m thinking that the language I’m going to focus on for my modern languages degree is less likely to be Vietnamese than Czech. I did the Pimsleur conversational Czech and now I’m doing Pimsleur Vietnamese I. Czech came to me much more easily than Vietnamese, despite my having less exposure to the language prior to starting.

Of course, Vietnamese is a much harder language for an English speaker to learn. Looking at the Defense Language Institute site, my guess is that Czech is a Level III language and Vietnamese is Level IV.

The Pimsleur course says that if you are getting about 80% of the questions right, you’re ready to move on, and I am taking a *very* generous interpretation of “80%.” I’m still bumping up against that problem where the pause to figure out and say the sentence is too short and so I’m pretty sure that I would’ve come up with the right sentence in 80% of the cases. I really should be doing each lesson *three* times, but . . . .

I was only going to see what was left of my Rosetta Stone Vietnamese really quickly before the end of the month, when the language for my apps will change to Italian and I’ll go back to ChinesePod in the car, but this is so frustrating that I’m not sure whether to give up or to try to figure out how to fit the Vietnamese in around the Italian and Chinese.

Back when I was playing Pokemon Go harder than I am now, I spent more than 45 minutes a day in my car driving to gyms and raids. I could easily fit a daily Pimsleur lesson and at least one ChinesePod lesson in in that time, but now I’m in the car for a Pimsleur lesson and about five minutes of Spanish radio. That extra five minutes isn’t long enough for even one ChinesePod lesson.

If only I’d thought of Vietnamese back at the beginning of October. I could’ve done each lesson three times and still knocked out 20 of them.

I know I could do my Pimsleur, like, in my bedroom or something, but I’d find it awkward to sit there speaking very bad Vietnamese by myself in my room. If I could count on my cat to sit there and let me practice on him for half an hour a day, it might be doable.

And Vietnamese would be so useful for me right now. I have a bunch of Vietnamese patients and their grasp of English is okay, but it would be nice if I could meet them in the middle a little.

Oh, well. It’s 5:30 am and there’s not much Vietnamese I can do right now anyhow. I’ll sleep on it and see what I can come up with.

Our Gratuitous Amazon Link today is. I don’t even know. My Goodreads page was set on trying to find books that I’m reading right now so that I can add them to my currently reading page. Give my computer just a minute to catch up to us. Okay. Our Gratuitous Amazon Link for today is The Mystery at Lilac Inn, by Carolyn Keene.

A Relatively Frustrating Pimsleur Day

November 21, 2020 1 of 8

Evelyn and I met up for Pokemon Go Community Day and on my way home, I finished my second Pimsleur Vietnamese lesson. First, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to need to do each Pimsleur lesson twice. When I look at written Vietnamese, I can understand it, but the native speakers on this recording don’t sound anything like the speakers in the Rosetta Stone, so I don’t know what they’re saying at all.

Also, on the way home, I didn’t get any red lights, and the parking lots on the way home were pretty small and it would’ve been frustrating to try to turn around in them and so I had Ray Brown and two Vietnamese people talking to no one in particular for probably about 15 minutes. I finally ended up putting the radio on and throwing my podcast phone into the back seat.

Now, this isn’t my normal in-the-car language approach. I usually listen to my language podcasts through my bluetooth speaker, which I can then turn off while I’m driving because it just requires me to push a button that I can find without looking at it. Trying to pause something on my phone screen, however, requires an actual complete stop.

My bluetooth speaker doesn’t work with Pimsleur, which is a real source of frustration for me not just for the “I can’t stop my podcast by touch” factor. It’s also annoying because my bluetooth speaker is much easier to hear and when I try to use Pimsleur on it (and I’ve tried with three languages now — Lithuanian, German, and Czech), I miss syllables. Like “thank you” in Czech might come out as “ději” instead of “děkuji.” So frustrating.

And it’s not the speaker. I can listen to Chinesepod lessons on it and also to Audible books. It’s just Pimsleur. Speaking of which, I’d better start downloading Chinesepod lessons again.

Well, for better or worse, November only has nine days left and I go back to Chinesepod in the car on December 1. I doubt I’ll be able to make much progress on Vietnamese in that time, particularly doing one lesson every two days, but every minute I spend will be a minute towards being able to use this language.

Our Gratuitous Amazon Link for this post is the third Discworld book. Today I bring you Equal Rites, by Terry Pratchett.

Mluvím Trochu Česky

November 19, 2020 3 of 8

I’m spending entirely too much time trying to get a capital “č” for that title.

Okay. I finally just found a page with it and cut-and-pasted it.

Today I finished Pimsleur Conversational Czech. I’ve been doing Duolingo Czech for a couple of months now and am getting somewhere, but I wanted to come at it from a different angle. I have most of it nailed, except for the part about “what do you want to do?” I don’t even know.

The program seems to be geared towards businesspeople. Well, technically, business*men* on work trips to Czechia. We learn a word for “to have lunch,” but not “to have breakfast” or “to have dinner,” which is odd. I guess they don’t have breakfast or dinner meetings in Czechia?

As for why I emphasized “men” in the previous paragraph, well, like when you’re supposed to say that you want something, like something to eat or drink, they want you to say “chtěl bych,” but that’s what a man would say, for a woman, it’s “chtěla bych.” So frustrating.

Also frustrating is that there’s not a lot of time to say the sentence if it’s particularly long or complicated. I found myself skipping the “Wenceslaus” part of Wenceslaus Square and just saying the “square” part for the first two lessons after it was introduced. Now I can say “Václavské náměstí” like it’s no big thing.

I’m still working on Duolingo Czech and will be working on it until the end of November (when I switch to Duolingo Italian). And then I’ll be back to Czech in June of 2021? August of 2021? Something like that. Maybe I’ll save up for the full Czech 1 course for next year instead of just the conversational part. I will still be “Ano. Ráda”-ing instead of “Ano. Rád,” because, still a woman.

And for the last 10 days of November, I’m going to be tackling Pimsleur Vietnamese in the car. I did Rosetta Stone Vietnamese a couple of years ago and wanted to do two months of Vietnamese in December and January, but none of my games come in Vietnamese. Even if I set my phone to Vietnamese, the games that change their language according to phone settings revert to English (or at least they did the last time I checked, which was . . . a month ago?). So I’m going to squeeze in 10 days of Vietnamese at the end of my Chinese/Czech months, for this year, at least.

And our Gratuitous Amazon Link (I wish I had some good language books to recommend so that this would be less gratuitous. Alas, I don’t), we have All Fall Down, the first of the Embassy Row novels by Ally Carter.

So I’ve Hit Four Years of Language Study

November 16, 2020

I missed my 30-day streak on NaNoWriMo. I was pooped when I came home last night, so I went to take a nap for a couple of hours and woke up right at midnight.

I passed the four year mark on my language study yesterday and I have $2,700 in principal saved up. Assuming that life will have me bopping back and forth between the lowest amount I’ve averaged ($0.48) and the highest ($2.04) for the next 20 years, Then I’ll have $13,500, which is good enough to be going on with.

Though, currently, as I go I’m getting more studying and work done every day. When I first started, my average deposit was only $0.48. Now it’s $2.04. If the average keeps going up, maybe I’ll even finish early.

Of course, this is all in aid of paying for me to get a master’s degree in modern languages so that if I ever become too ill to have a physical job, I can still work to keep the money coming in (and for fun, and also maybe as a side hustle while working my day job).

And there are other ways to pay for schooling besides handing the school cash and saying “Here you go.” If I don’t start this until past 65, then I might be able to get some of my classes tuition-free. Then there are fellowships, which are like scholarships, except that it seems that there’s some kind of work component. My impression is that it’s like if scholarships and work-study programs had a baby and that baby went to grad school.

So I guess I need to start researching how to get a fellowship and figure out how to prove my dedication to an as-yet-undecided-upon language.

Also, I don’t know if I’ve come right out and said this, but I definitely need to go to a public college or university for this. $16,000 is the adjusted-for-inflation cost of my MSIS from when I got it in 2009 until 2016 when I started this program. I figured that most of the increase in tuition and fees from then until 2031/2036 will be taken care of by interest on investing that money. I hope.

Our Gratuitous Amazon Link this time is Steelheart, Book One of the Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. I really enjoyed this, though I do disagree with how readily Chicagoans would agree to refer to the city as “Newcago.” I grew up there. If you search for “Marshall Field’s,” the site FieldsFansChicago, which advocates changing the name of the State Street store back from Macy’s to Fields, shows up on the first page of results. There’s a meme that shows 233 S. Wacker with text saying “Spelled W-I-L-L-I-S. Pronounced ‘Sears.'”
So, yeah. I don’t see “Newcago” happening.

New Thoughts on Language Studies

November 13, 2020 1 of 8

I still haven’t decided on what language I’m going to focus on for my eventual degree. And I have lots of time to choose; I’m not going to start the degree until about 11 years from now, at the earliest.

But the thought occurs that I would like to do lots of travel (and, ideally, I’d need to study there for a semester for the degree) in a country that speaks my target language.

As we all know, Spanish is my path of least resistance. I have two years of college-level Spanish already and I speak it nearly daily in my job.

And, as a woman who would likely be traveling alone, I probably want to avoid countries where I’d be shaken down for bribes. So I’m looking at the Transparency International map for 2019 and the yellowest (the ones with the lowest corruption indices) countries on the map are Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, New Zealand, Singapore, and Luxembourg.

I already speak German, so there’s that.

So I guess I need to add Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, and Dutch to my language rotation somehow.

If I’m willing to go as orange as the United States, that opens up a bunch more, including France, Spain, and Portugal. Also, Ireland, Japan, Estonia, Hong Kong, the UAE, and Uruguay.

So I could stick with Spanish and plan for Uruguay. Also, Irish, Japanese, Cantonese, or Estonian.

I think I’d be biting off more than I can chew with Japanese or Cantonese, frankly.

So I guess I’m trying the languages of Scandinavia next. I have a friend who is learning Swedish, so at least I could maybe have a language partner there.

I have also decided that it’s too much work keeping up on my newest books read for my Gratuitous Amazon Links this month. So I’m going for my oldest read dates on my Goodreads account. And my current oldest read date is . . . . July 13, 2016? Don’t ask me. I guess that must’ve been when I started my Goodreads account. So I bring you: The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle, by Rick Riordan.

Lanuage Learning Progress

November 9, 2020 4 of 8

I made so much language progress yesterday while I was driving. I listened to my Pimsleur lesson (which I haven’t done yet today, btw), then I did five ChinesePod lessons (which I need to get back to downloading from the site — I was in the middle of the advanced lessons when I quit, IIRC (yes, I have a bunch ofover 400 advanced lessons to download, but it’s not a totally insurmountable goal)).

Then I listened to El Ladrón del Rayo for another few hours and once I was close enough to San Antonio to get 104.5, I went back to Spanish-language radio.

So that’s three languages (Czech, Chinese, and Spanish), and, with my foreign-language game playing, amounted to more than $5 saved towards my master’s in modern languages. I’m still not sure what language I’m going to learn.

This last $5 put me over the top to buy another CD (the investment kind, not the music kind). This will make it 14 CDs and 5 shares of stock. I’m trying to amass $16,000 in principal for this degree. I’ll get there someday.

Today I haven’t done nearly as much. 20 minutes of radio in the car, one Duolingo lesson. My foreign language game money. I paid myself before I did my Duolingo and Babbel lessons yesterday, so I do have that money coming today, as well.

Now if only I could remember how to open a new CD at my bank . . . .

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! Today’s book is Educated by Tara Westover. This is the story of how Westover, a homeschooled daughter of doomsday preppers, educated herself. She now holds a PhD in history from Cambridge University.

ETA: I once stumbled across another way to open that CD, but I couldn’t figure out how I got there. I finally just broke down and did it the old-fashioned way.

They’ve Gotten Rid of Google Play Music!

November 7, 2020 1 of 8

I’m going on a road trip tomorrow. I’m taking Mila and driving up US 281 to probably Burnet and then back down, hitting all of the state parks on the way. So I’ll have some state park posts later.

Preparing for this, I’m downloading music, a Pimsleur lesson, and audiobooks onto my podcast phone (a Samsung S5 from 2014). And just setting this up is more of an adventure than I though it would be.

Until October, when I started focusing on Pimsleur, I primarily listened to ChinesePod in the car. And I used Google Play Music to play the lessons.

And now Google Play Music is gone. They say I have to use YouTube Music to play things from now on. Will I be able to use YouTube Music on my podcast phone (a Samsung Galaxy 5 that I got in 2014)? Will I be able to find my ChinesePod lessons on YouTube Music if I *can* use YouTube Music on my podcast phone?

Okay, so I downloaded YouTube Music (I was totally expecting Google Play to laugh at me for even trying it), and moved my next ChinesePod lessons into Google Drive. Then I opened Google Drive on my podcast phone and downloaded the files to my phone.

Where are the files in YouTube Music? I found them under Albums -> Device Files.

Welp, I ended up downloading most of them twice, so I have nine podcasts in that directory. Better than zero, I guess.

Great. I closed the app and now I can’t find Albums anymore. Ah-ha! Library -> Albums -> Device Files.

And the files play! And if I delete the extra copies from My Files, it gets rid of the extras. Yay!

Now, let’s get El Ladrón del Rayo sorted out. I need to download the book completely, because my podcast phone doesn’t have an internet connection; I have to use wifi.

Yay! It’s working!

Okay, so I have my Pimsleur lesson (half an hour), five ChinesePod lessons (another two-ish hours), and El Ladrón del Rayo (10.75 hours). Yeah. That should get me through the day. I’m only planning to go as far as Burnet, which is two hours to the north, but there will be some driving around in the state parks that I visit.

I also picked up my travel snacks — “wasabi” peas (they’re actually flavored with horseradish), almonds, Golden Grahams S’Mores bars, Skittles, pop, and water. Also, I’m going to bring dog food and two kinds of dog treats for Mila. I’m going to stop on the way for a Subway with veggies (spinach, green peppers, cucumber, tomato, black olives, and provolone cheese — yum!) Mila will want to eat my snacks, but she can’t have any of my snacks, except for the water. I’m trying to train her out of begging, but it’s going to be a long road.

Gratuitous Amazon Link time! For this one, it’ll be The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Beats Up the Marvel Universe by Ryan North and Erica Henderson. This one was awesome. I love The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. And she really is unbeatable. She wins by befriending the villains. This is a skill that more of us need. This is a skill that *I* need.

The Trials and Travails of A Language Learner

November 1, 2020 4 of 8

Okay, today’s language learning hurdle wasn’t actually too bad from a global standpoint, but it did set my savings back a bit.

As I may have mentioned before, I’m attempting to focus on specific languages for a couple of months at a time. June and July were Spanish, August and September were German, October and November are Chinese, etc.

One of the thing that I’ve been doing is attempting to understand my phone games in each of these languages. Only, when I made my list of languages: Spanish, German, Mandarin, Italian, and Czech, I realized that my games aren’t available in Czech. So I decided to stack Mandarin in my games and Pimsleur Czech in the car and Duolingo Czech.

I put Pimsleur Czech on hold from my library and checked out Pimsleur Lithuanian (because I may qualify for Lithuanian citizenship and so why not?)

Only when I attempted to listen to Pimsleur Lithuanian using my old cell phone and my bluetooth speaker, I missed whole syllables. So eventually I figured out how to get it to come out right, I realized that this is too challenging for something I was doing just to fill in time while I waited for a different challenging language to become available.

So I switched to Pimsleur German and, aside from it being really strangely formal — I mean, they’re inviting each other to their homes for drinks and still calling each other “Sie”? — it mostly just awakened stuff that was already in there somewhere.

After a few days, I checked in on Czech and discovered that I’d missed it. They let me get back in line right behind the person who had it out then and I went back to German and checked in until the other day, when it finally became available again. I tried to listen to it this morning and, remember what happened when I first downloaded Lithuanian? Where I was missing syllables? It’s happening with Czech.

So now I’m racking my brain trying to remember what I did to make Lithuanian work way back a month ago. Hopefully I’ll figure it out pretty soon, because one Pimsleur lesson is $0.60. That’ll go a long way towards bolstering my savings for my modern languages degree.

Well, if all else fails, I can always turn the volume on my phone way, way up and also close my windows. I would very much prefer to get my bluetooth speaker to work, though.

It’s 11 pm now and I need to think about getting to bed. Time change is really not my friend this month. I didn’t get my eight posts in, but just maybe I’ve made my 1,600 word count goal, though. We’ll see once I post my Gratuitous Amazon Link.

The Gratuitous Amazon Link for this post is a goodie — A Deadly Education, by Naomi Novik. It’s a fantasy story about a wizarding school in a world that’s overrun by little evil critters. It’s the first in a series, but it’s also a standalone story all by itself. I’m reading it as part of Jenny Lawson’s Fantastic Strangelings Book Club, and I think it’s my favorite so far.