Deutsch Tag 22 – Montag
Polyglot event

On Friday I went to another polyglot event (distinct from the polyglot cafe). The location was on a major street in Taipei, but when I got to the address there was just a gap between the buildings on either side. In the gap there was a patch of grass with some small, nondescript concrete structures, and a walkway with a gradual downward slope that seemed to come to a dead end near the back of the lot. I walked around the perimeter of the lot, thinking the entrance might be on the side of one of the surrounding buildings, but I couldn’t find any doorways. Finally I walked down the sloping path. At the bottom the path turned at a right angle and opened to a big complex of classrooms and auditoriums. Where the ceiling of the hallway between the rooms might have been, it was open to the night sky. You couldn’t see any of this from above because the little concrete structures were in the way.

The rooms all seemed to have some lesson or talk going on, and most of them were packed. At the end was a room smaller than all the others, with just eight people sitting in chairs in a circle. This was the polyglot event.

When I got there, they were discussing some conversations they’d just had. Each person was assigned a stock phrase in Chinese, stuff like “nice weather today” or “there’s a hole in your clothing.” They had said this phrase to each other one by one, and their job was to collect as many different reactions as they could. Now we were translating the phrases and reactions into other languages. I happened to be the only native English speaker there, so the activity leader asked me several times to translate some phrase into English or think of an English equivalent. Then everyone else copied my phrase, mimicking the pace and tone. Another person did the same for Tai-yu (the Taiwanese dialect of Chinese).

One thing I found interesting about this activity is that it assumes that everyone is basically open to learning some of any language; participants bring the languages they already speak or have studied and share them with the group as a whole. I reckon it’s useful in several ways aside from just getting better at particular languages. For one, it seems to be good practice switching from one language to another quickly.


Study progress

Lately I’ve been only spending about two hours a day actually studying German. This has meant doing the following:

  • Anki 10,000 sentences: About 250 cards per day (including 60 new cards). Around 30 minutes.
  • Harry gefangen in der Zeit: One or two episodes, around 15 minutes.
  • Mission Berlin, Deutsch Plus, Mission Berlin: Around 30 minutes in the morning.
  • Shadowing Sesame Street and about 10 minutes of recording from last week’s conversation, usually while walking: about 30 minutes.
  • Slow German, listening to the same two episodes: about 20 minutes.

Things I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t:

  • Make more 2- or 3-minute mp3s from my recording conversation.
  • Make more Anki cards from the Slow German transcripts and actually do the reps regularly (I’ve been doing them once every three days or so).
  • Label things in my room with relevant sentences.
  • Schedule more conversations, record them, make mp3s, listen, repeat.

I think I’m getting the most immediate benefit from the Anki 10,000 sentences and from Slow German.

With the Anki deck, I think I’m slowly starting to get a natural sense for the meaning. With most of the cards, I have to think for a few moments about each word, visualize them all in my mind, and maybe listen a few times before I can figure out what the sentence is saying. But with a few, I get an idea of the meaning right away, without even having to visualize the words. I think this latter group is gradually getting bigger.

Some grammatical things still trip me up a lot, like distinguishing between ‘Sie/sie’ and ‘ihr/ihn/ihne/ihnen’. For instance, my mind is still convinced that ‘sie’ almost always means ‘she’ even when it appears as the subject, in which case it can actually mean ‘they’ or ‘you’. I think. I hope this will get better with time. I think it will — my current understanding of the above comes almost completely from extrapolation from the sentences I’ve been memorizing. It might not be complete yet, but it proves I’m learning something.

With Slow German, I still often find the words and phrases from the two dialogues that I’ve been repeating popping into my head, especially in the morning. I think I even had a (completely incoherent) dream in last night in German. It sounded something like Ihre arbeitet nicht zu treffen Frenden Leuten Fahrt haben… basically gibberish.

I’ve also noticed it getting easier for me to keep up with the audio when I’m shadowing it, which I couldn’t do at all at first.

I still can’t construct a reasonable German sentence on my own for the life of me, but according to the acquisition theory, that’s normal at this point.


Japanese autopilot

I’ve basically been neglecting Japanese completely these past couple weeks, aside from the occasional conversation. I had an hour-long Skype lesson today, and it felt like I’d regressed.

The current plan with this project is to get German learning stable, and then start another language while I continue German part-time (one or two hours a day). Then a month after that, I put this second language on autopilot and start a third.

I might as well keep up my Japanese while I’m at it, right? I can now sort of see ways that I’d been making Japanese harder for myself: giving myself pressure to improve, clogging my Anki deck with boring material, etc. I’d like to try paring down the Anki to the most interesting and useful cards, and finding some other material to shadow for a few minutes a day.

This will take some investment of time at first, but it will probably pay off.

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