0 In Others / General

New year, new challenges

Starting this year with a big change at work and I guess I’m still trying to find my bearings. As I cope with the external changes, I find myself gravitating to things that I used to like and do – perhaps as part of the process of finding that balance.

I have a tendency to like things in phases and even my mindset shifts with time and I could feel that I’m in the midst of yet another transition. As I deal with the external changes, I find myself seeking languages as a source of comfort and solace. Language therapy – as I like to call it. Instead of exploring the world of Russian, somehow I find myself back to liking Japanese anime and dramas again.

My mind works in strange ways. I am getting a lot of comfort from re-watching two seasons of Psycho Pass (I should write about this separately) and now I’m finally discovering Fruits Basket – after writing it off for the longest time cos the title is so weird hahaha.

I’m also starting to watch Good Morning Call. Hahahaahaha. I do like such cliche stories 🙂

I’m quite happy that I’m back to languages again. The familiarity really provides a lot of comfort in the midst of the (self inflicted) stress and anxiety. ❤️

New Year Resolutions

The new year is a good time to remind myself of the need to become a better person and to be comfortable in my own skin.

  1. Be happier.
  2. Be healthier. I tend to gain weight in times of unhappiness and stress.
  3. Respect my wishes. Listen to my heart and act accordingly.
  4. Korean – love it unconditionally. To stop feeling the disappointment that my love for the language has not been reciprocated. (Cryptic I know)
  5. Japanese – to read more and do something about my atrocious speaking skills (or lack of).
  6. Russian – to enjoy learning, even if it meant very slowly.
  7. Blog more. Writing helps me organise my thoughts. My thoughts have been all over the place these years, I wonder if I’m even thinking much.

Till the next post 🙂

4 In Russian

#5 When should I move on to the next chapter?

I’m not sure about you, but sometimes I feel the compulsive (?) need to fully understand something that I’m learning/reading before I can move on. While this tenacity (?) is helpful in making sure that you fully comprehend a concept before progressing further, part of me feels like it’s not that helpful in foreign language learning.

Russian is the third foreign language that I’m learning and over the years, I’ve developed my own style of language learning. Which, may or may not work for someone else. But I truly do not believe in revising the same materials for language learning. I also do not believe in the need to know every single thing on that page / chapter before moving on.

Picking up a language is about exposing yourself to a wide range of materials. There’s no point in re-reading what you had learnt for “revision”. Your reading speed and parsing abilities increase when you find 10 articles to read, not reading the same article 10 times. (That’s an exaggeration, but the logic stands). Learning a language in the classroom could “trap” you in thinking that “revision” is important. It doesn’t help when you are faced with an upcoming exam that supposedly takes reference from a certain syllabus or a range of chapters from a book. It makes you feel that you (only) have to review a certain set of materials to score, and that it itself goes against the nature of language learning. And perhaps also learning in general.

Back to the question of when should we move on? Here’s what I practice:

  1. There is no need to remember all the vocabulary that you learnt
  2. Do not panic (or doubt yourself) when you don’t remember stuff, especially vocabulary you learnt in a list (i.e. no context)
  3. You are not a dictionary, and you shouldn’t be able to function as one
  4. Don’t remember a grammar point? Find more example sentences. Understand the concept. Don’t worry about “remembering”
  5. Once you worked through the materials once, it’s time to move on
  6. Don’t remember anything? Get another textbook/use another material and learn it all over again
  7. There is no need for repeated learning using the same material

The Russian textbook that I’m using is quite good in teaching grammar, but there’s a conspicuous lack dialogues / passages and vocabulary is introduced in a list / as part of conjugation practice. sigh. I don’t remember much, but it doesn’t stop me from moving on.

And ordering more textbooks that should have dialogues / passages 😛

Ordered a couple of books on Gmarket and I can’t wait for them to arrive!!!

4 In Others / General

#4 Gender in Russian language

I first came across the concept of gender in language in a Spanish textbook years ago. Back then, I was new to language learning and I couldn’t quite comprehend the concept that every language has a different structure. My knowledge of languages came from my native tongues of English and Mandarin Chinese. Even then, the concept of “structure of languages” wasn’t familiar to me – I can’t describe what structures exist in my native tongues too. It was a mindblowing moment indeed – and I was rather shocked at the prospect of needing to know the gender of every word. Where’s the logic? What are the rules?

Years later, I’m less myopic (lol) about languages and I loveee seeing how each language has its own unique characteristics. That said, I’m still rather overwhelmed by the concept of gender.

Just learnt that Russian has 3 genders (male, female, neutral) and there are (thankfully) rules that govern the gender of the word (by the last letter of the word). Well, there’s still exceptions, but I’m still thankful. Read somewhere that there are languages that don’t quite have rules governing the gender of the word (!), not sure if that’s indeed in the case.

That said, I’m still very stumped over how a male university student (студент) and female university student (студентка) is differentiated, but doctors (врач) are not. Nooo I cannot comprehend.

Does the concept of gender exist in your native tongue / target language? How do you learn them? Please share with me!

6 In Russian

#3 The Russian Keyboard

Am I the only one who gets sooo excited over adding a new keyboard to my phone / laptop?

After learning the alphabet, one of the first things I did was to install the Russian keyboard and starting to get myself familiarised with where the keys are. Easy for mobile phones, but slightly harder for my laptop. I open another tab, googled a “Russian Keyboard” image, and keep it there throughout the whole time to refer. The MacBook keyboard has a Russian phonetic keyboard, but I would suggest not to use it cos it doesn’t help you learn!

I don’t like to memorise keyboards too (LOL), so what I do is to keep searching up words using an online Russian dictionary. I’m using the 네이버 러시아어사전 but I’m sure you can find something that works for you. As I search, I will try to remember where are the key letters and try to form my own tricks for remembering the positions as I go along. e.g. I’ll think to myself [а] is “f”, [в] is next to “f”, [с] is at “c”, [л] and [д] looks quite similar and they are next to each other.

I find it so interesting that the basic textbooks for all languages I’ve learnt introduces words like table / chair / newspaper / book / stamp / map as the basic words. The first few are quite common items, but do we still use stamps / maps often? food for thought.

Learnt the simple structures of how to say “This is xx”, “is this xx”, “yes it is xx”, “no it is not xx” today.

Это стул? да, это стул.

Btw I had to google where to find comma / period on the Mac Russian keyboard because the original keys were used for the Russian letters LOL. Period is Shift + 7. Trying to get used to it.

Russian is indeed a fun language to learn.

Till the next post where I’m introduced to the world of GENDER in languages. xx

3 In Others / General

#2 Learning the Russian Alphabet

I’m not sure what I’m planning to do with this series of posts, but I hope to share more details about my journey to learn Russian and hopefully this might be helpful to those who’s also picking up a new language. 🙂

The first thing I like to do when learning a language with a different script is to learn it. I cannot (and will not) rely on romanisation as I don’t want to rely on it. And it’s bad to write the target language in your native script because it tends to encourage matching of sounds of the target language into your native tongue when the sounds are not exactly the same!

I’m using a Japanese textbook which comes with a CD 🙂 One of the best feelings of knowing a foreign language is that it opens up even more resources to learn a new foreign language. It also helps to kill two birds with one stone cos you are practicing two languages at one time 😀 (I’m weird like this).

Things to note when learning a new script

1. listen instead of read
2. no need to memorise – write and practice
3. don’t obsess with the details (e.g. pronunciation rules)

Listen instead of read

Many textbooks like to use explanations like [a], same as [a] in [tar]. Or linguistics terms like “fricative” “palatal sound”. Or open your mouth 45 degrees, have your tongue touch the roof of your mouth (ok I made the last one up but you get what I mean).

Ignore these instructions. I can’t stress this more. I don’t know about you, but instead of helping me, I feel like such explanations make it sooo much harder to learn the new sounds.

Just listen, listen and listen

No need to memorise

Haven’t you done enough of that in school? I’m not asking you to have a photographic memory, but rather, avoid rote memorisation where you are just staring at a piece of paper and forcing yourself to remember everything. Practice and let your mind / hand / ears get used to things. The more you do, the faster it will become part of you.

Don’t obsess over details

Many books like to introduce the pronunciation rules all at one go at the start of the book. For people like me who like to read page by page (without skipping), it’s really stressful trying to make yourself understand alllll those pronunciation rules before progressing. It’s like you feel compelled to do so, or you can’t flip that page and progress. (and you get stuck there forever). Pronunciation rules are NOT meant to be internalised and understood in a sitting, and definitely not at the start of your learning journey.

Read through them, try to get a sense of them, and move on.

I like to learn new words through listening, and when you do so, the pronunciation rules don’t matter so much. If you come across a word later on and feel like its not pronounced the way it’s written, then go back to the rules page and see if you can identify something that can explain the changes. This way, you learn faster.

Eg. Это – the unaccented [o] is pronounced as a [a] and I realised it when listening to the audio.

Spent a night revising the alphabet and I think I’ve more or less gotten the hang of it! 🙂 I learnt the Russian Alphabet 1.5 years ago, so it was easier for me to pick it up again even though I couldn’t remember it prior to the revision. Some things just stay 🙂

Till the next post!