Category Archives: Updates

My Current French Reading

As promised, today I wanted to look at the things I’m reading in French. 🙂

My French is a fair bit more advanced than my Ukrainian, so I’m able to read short stories for French learners fairly well. I’m a big fan of the books by Olly Richards (the first French book I finished was his Short Stories in French for Beginners). I’ve attempted to read French Short Stories for Beginners by Lingo Mastery a couple of times since last summer. The first time I had a hard time with the first story, so I put it aside in favour of the Olly Richards book. I’ve since made it through the first story and have attempted the second story a couple of times, but I still can’t really follow it. So I’ve put it aside once again and gone back to books by Olly Richards.

I ordered a copy of Short Stories in French for Intermediate Learners, as well as 101 Conversations in Intermediate French. 101 Conversations in Intermediate French came first, so I gave it a try. I was a little skeptical about the book because I thought the conversations were going to be just random conversations between random characters. But I was pleasantly surprised – the 101 conversations in the book are all conversations within a larger story! The book is basically a novel with all the description removed (there’s just a paragraph at the beginning of every conversation to give some context). I absolutely love it! I made it through the first three conversations with little trouble, able to follow the just of what’s going on, which was really exciting because it’s a book for intermediate learners, not beginners. I had a harder time with conversation 4 though because it deals with a lot of vocabulary I’m not familiar with (revolving around art crimes). I’ve read it a few times, and am following it a bit better, but I’ll still need to work on it a bit before moving on.

It was at this point that I decided to get the book 101 Conversations in Simple French. Some of the characters from the Intermediate book appear in the beginner book, and it sounded like conversation 4 revolves around what happened in the first book. So I decided to grab the first book on my Kindle to give it a quick read. That way I’ll know exactly what happened in the story (and hopefully pick up some of the words that are giving me trouble in the Intermediate book!) 101 Conversations in Simple French has been a super easy read for me – I’m on conversation 63 already, and have only needed to reread maybe two of the conversations so far to better understand them (everything else I just read once and moved on). It’s been a lot of fun because it really does feel like I’m just reading for pleasure and not having to work at it. 🙂

The other thing I did was purchase the audiobook versions of a lot of these books (the only one I haven’t bought is 101 Conversations in Simple French because I was planning on just reading it quickly). I’ve heard that if you read and listen at the same time, it will greatly help your listening comprehension in another language. I even bought the audiobook version of Short Stories in French for Beginners and started working my way back through that book while listening to it. I’ve made it about halfway through the book reading and listening, then started listening to some of the stories on my iPod while walking to work (I was super excited to discover that the file on my iPod had chapter selections! The file on my computer looked like one big 4 hour file with no chapter breaks). I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the audiobook version so much, so a big thank you to the narrator, Louis Bernard, for making them so engaging!

And that’s where I’m at with French. I’m hoping in the next week or two I’ll finish reading 101 Conversations in Simple French so I can get back to 101 Conversations in Intermediate French. I’ll probably work my way through that book before starting Short Stories in French for Intermediate Learners.

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My Current Ukrainian Reading

cover of Хто живе у Лісі - Who Lives in the Wood

Hey everyone, how’s it going? Today I thought I’d talk a bit about the Ukrainian books I’ve been reading lately: Хто живе у Лісі – Who Lives in the Wood? and Я Люблю Читати – Ukrainian Reading for Kids: Ukrainian–English. Both of these books are bilingual books written for kids. I found Хто живе у Лісі first and thought it was adorable, so I went looking for more books by Chatty Parrot and found Я Люблю Читати (along with another book of winter words that I haven’t really looked at yet because it’s summer).

a random page from Хто живе у Лісі
A Random Page from Хто живе у Лісі

I love how the story is laid out in Хто живе у Лісі. Every page talks about a different animal and the things they like to do; key words are in a different colour, so you can very easily understand what each word in the sentence means. I found it a great vocabulary booster for both new verbs and different animal names (I knew a few of them, like the word for “bird,” but have learned a whole bunch more thanks to this book!) Plus the pictures are just so darn cute! (And having the cute visual is helping me remember the different animals in Ukrainian!)

cover of Я Люблю Читати – Ukrainian Reading for Kids: Ukrainian–English.

Я Люблю Читати is a very generic title for a book with four bilingual fairy tales (I personally would have called the book something more like Я Люблю Казки – I Love Fairy Tales instead). The four fairy tales are the Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, The Princess and the Pea, and the Ugly Duckling. So far I’ve just read the first two – I’ve read the Three Little Pigs several times, and have just read Hansel and Gretel once so far. I’m finding I’m now recognizing words better the more I read the tale. As a bonus, some of the animal words I learned in Хто живе у Лісі are in the Three Little Pigs, too!

random page from a book of Ukrainian Fairy Tales that I have
A random page from a book of Ukrainian Fairy Tales that I have

My hope is that these books, which are fairly easy, will help me build my vocabulary so I can eventually attempt to tackle another, harder book of fairy tales (I took one look at the pages of that book and felt a bit overwhelmed by it (take a look at this random page from that book, you can see it’s a *little* harder than the random page from Хто живе у Лісі). I’m also nearing the end of 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts (I think I have about 15 texts left to go), but that’s been a little slower going because the texts aren’t super engaging. They’re not really stories, but more like little passages of explanation. They’ve been helpful for vocabulary building though, and I’m really happy that the author, Yuliia Pozniak, made audio versions of all the texts so you can read and listen at the same time! But I wish they had been more like a series of dialogues rather than paragraphs of description.

Next time I’ll take a look at the French books I’m currently working with! 🙂

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My Current Language Learning Routine

Hi everyone, how’s it going? I can’t believe July is almost over already! I’ve got a week off from work coming up in August that’ll be here before I know it – I’m quite looking forward to the break! I’m already trying to decide what books I want to read while I’m off! 🙂

Right now I’m still slowly but surely working on the editing project. I keep calling it that because I was originally contracted to edit it, but it has morphed beyond that and I’m now working on writing several of the chapters. I’m quite excited to be getting near the end of one that I’ve been working on for awhile now. Like I said, slow but steady progress!

I was very happy to fit in some reading over the weekend (and not graphic novels, but a nonfiction book!) I read Robin MacPherson’s How to Maintain Languages (that’s a non-affiliate link to his shop). Robin is a polyglot Youtuber that I watch quite often. I enjoy his videos, and was really excited to give his book a read. Robin maintains I believe 8 languages at a high level, and I was very interested in hearing how he maintains them all, as languages do atrophy if you don’t use them. Reading this book got me thinking about my current language learning routine, and whether it’s working for me.

I usually try to study one language at night and during the morning of the next day, then switch to the other during that evening, so I end up with a week that looks like this:

I started using this pattern so I have a longer chunk of time with each language (being able to sleep with one and wake up using it). Plus this way, I vary the amount of time I spend with each language. I am not a morning person, so generally whatever language I’m working on in the morning has little work done on it; I just listen to it on my way to work. Then the evening language gets a little more time as this is when I can watch something or read. It’s also the time I work on Duolingo (just after midnight, so all the time counts for the next day!)

I do have to change my schedule slightly every week though because I have a couple of language related activities that almost always happen on particular days (I almost always do French on Thursday nights because I attend a French language meeting on Zoom, and I almost always have a Ukrainian lesson booked on iTalki on Saturday afternoon), so I end up having two nights in a row of one language/two mornings in a row of the other language. The days of doubling up aren’t always Sunday and Monday though. Sometimes I will work on the same language Monday and Tuesday nights, or Tuesday and Wednesday nights. I try not to double up Wednesday and Thursday nights though, because that would have to be French, and often feels like a bit too much all at once with the Zoom meeting on top of the more intense regular evenings.

In his book, Robin talks about using dead time for your language learning. Dead time refers to the periods of your day that you’re doing other things that don’t require a lot of concentration. For me, the biggest use of dead time that I make is when I listen to podcasts or music in other languages when I walk to work (and quite often walking home from work too – this is especially important on Thursdays, as listening to French on the way home helps get my brain ready for the Zoom meeting). I have another period of dead time that I would love to add into my language learning routine: my afternoon coffee break. But that rarely happens because my iPod, which has my French and Ukrainian content on it, is locked in my purse in a closet at work during the day. I haven’t been bringing the books I’m working on with me to work either because right now my Ukrainian reading still requires a lot of concentration (and I am now used to reading at home where it’s quiet!), and for French I started doubling up by listening to the audiobook while reading. I could work on flashcards on Anki, which is on my phone, but I really don’t enjoy that (it feels like a chore, plus I think I built my deck wrong – I didn’t know what I was doing and just put in individual words, but I’ve since heard that phrases are more helpful for your brain). I do sometimes listen to music on the computer at work, but more often than not I end up just playing a game on my phone. I’ll have to see if I can come up with some sort of solution for how to better utilize this dead time more consistently (maybe having books I specifically read at work in both languages? Or use that time to write a little something in one of the languages?)

I do have other periods of dead time, like when I’m making and eating supper, but I don’t want to mess with that right now. When I started on this language learning journey (and added French on top of the Ukrainian), I always kept a period of time in my day between the two where I stayed in English and wasn’t worrying about either of them. I wanted that separation to help my brain make the distinction between them, and to help me keep from mixing them up. Sure, my brain still “helpfully” supplies a word in one language when I’m looking for it in the other. But overall, I find I can switch fairly easily from “French Brain” to “Ukrainian Brain” with little problems with this English time separating them.

Plus I need to maintain my English! That’s where I do my major writing. 😉

Thinking of writing though, this week I took the plunge and signed up for Journaly, Robin’s blogging platform where you can write in other languages to help improve your language skills. I really like the idea, because native speakers of the language you write in can offer suggestions for spelling and grammar on your post. I haven’t written anything on there yet (I didn’t know what to write about!) but I’m going to give it a shot soon and see how it goes.

So yeah, that’s my current routine. It’s not perfect, but overall it seems to be working alright for me as I learn these two languages. Do you have any routines in your life, whether for language learning or other interests? What are they like? 🙂

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One Year French Video!!!

Here it is: my one year of French video!

I shot the video 3 weeks ago (so I’ve now been learning on Duolingo for 387 days!), and managed to shoot the whole thing in one take. There are some places where I pause to try to come up with the word I’m looking for (and most of the time find it). I thought about cutting those pauses out, but thought this would be a good benchmark so I can see how badly I’m still doing that in the future. 🙂

The video almost got delayed AGAIN because of technical difficulties. My computer kept crashing when I tried to export the video from Movavi Video Editor, but thankfully restarting fixed the problem. 🙂

In the video, I ended up saying “Je ne connais pas” for “I don’t know,” rather than “Je ne sais pas.” I’m not sure if I used the verb “connaître” correctly, or if some of those instances I should have used “savoir” (although I do believe I got it right in terms of “I don’t know this word”). I tried to annotate the video where I used it, but I’m really not sure if I got those right, either.

This was hands down the longest video I have made speaking in another language though, so it’s pretty exciting that I was able to make this, even with all the pauses (and the couple of times I speak in English because I don’t know the word). 🙂

Other French updates: over the weekend, I actually did start reading French Short Stories for Beginners by LingoMastery (that’s the book I mention wanting to start in the video). I got the audiobook version of it as well on iTunes because I need to work on my listening comprehension. I also had another French lesson on iTalki on Sunday, which I really enjoyed. I’ll be booking more. 🙂

Finally, I took a French listening test online last Thursday as well. I need to score at a certain level to enroll in a local French program. There’s both a written and oral comprehension test; I tried them both back at the end of May and scored really well on the written comprehension test, but not high enough on the listening comprehension test. When I took the listening test again, I scored better (but still not quite high enough to enroll in the program). It was nice to see that progress though – the test itself seemed a bit easier after a few more months of working on French. 🙂

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One Year French Video Still Coming…

Hey everyone, how’s it going? I’m still plugging away at putting the subtitles onto the one year French video. I’ve got less than one minute left to go, so I *should* have it posted before this time next week!

In the meantime, I realized that I never did share this video from work. It was put together for this year’s International Mother Language Day, which is February 21st. As I’d been learning Ukrainian, which is the language of my forebears, I was invited to participate as well. It was a lot of fun filming this (although it was brutally cold that week – we had to shoot outside because of covid restrictions).

I just wish more people had participated. We have many people who speak different Mother Tongues at the library, including Finnish (which would have been great to hear – Thunder Bay has a large Finn population), Polish, and French.

But that being said, I still love watching this video. It’s super fun hearing the phrase “we hear you” in all of these languages! 🙂

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One Year French Video Delayed :(

Hey everyone, how’s it going? I just wanted to let you know that the one year French video is coming, but it’s going to take me a bit longer to get it posted to YouTube. The video is a bit longer (after a few tries, I managed to do it all in one take! I think it’s over 9 minutes long, and most of it is in French!), so it’s taking me a bit longer than I’d hoped to add the subtitles to it! I’m hoping to have it posted before next week, but this is going to be a busy week, so we’ll see how it goes.

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One Year of Ukrainian Learning!

Hi everyone, how’s it going? I’ve been meaning to post something here for awhile, but I’ve been super busy lately with the book editing project that’s still ongoing (and that will probably be the case for quite some time). So I will post when I can!

But I definitely had to make time for a new Ukrainian video because I’ve now been learning Ukrainian for over one year! I thought the one year-mark was June 8th, but when I looked back at my notes, I realized it’s actually June 5th. So my video wasn’t made on the one year anniversary like I’d planned (and honestly, I didn’t get around to filming it until the 14th, and I put the subtitles in over the weekend when I posted it to Youtube).

So without further ado, here it is:

I didn’t realize it until writing this post, but this video was shot exactly six months after my “First Video Speaking Ukrainian,” so that ended up quite the coincidence! 🙂

I wasn’t able to do this video in one take, so I used some transitions to put the separate clips together. But I was generally able to get a sentence or two out between takes, so that was great. While this video is shorter than “First Video Speaking Ukrainian,” there’s actually a fair bit more Ukrainian in it (in that first video, I spoke a lot of English). It’s also really neat to see the difference that six months has made – while I am still struggling with finding the right words (and still need to increase my vocabulary a lot), you can see that I’m a little more confident when speaking the language. 🙂

As I mention in the video, I haven’t finished 100 Easy Ukrainian Texts yet. I will make a point of getting back to it this summer, and attempt to finish it by the fall. I’d really like to move onto reading some of the other Ukrainian books that I have!

I’ll also be putting together a “one year speaking French” video. I don’t know the exact date that I started learning French last year, but I know it’s a day or two before the 27th of June, because that’ll be my one year anniversary of starting Duolingo (and my 365 day streak!) and I started French a day or two before starting Duolingo (I zipped through the Transparent Language French quick start just before transitioning to Duo). So if you’re interested, watch for that video, which I will hopefully be making next weekend. 🙂

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A Language Learning Weekend :)

Over the weekend I decided to try out the iTalki French language test. It took about 30 minutes, assessing my French speaking and grammar levels. The test is an “automated adaptive language test,” which means it gives you harder questions if you get the answer right, and easier ones if you get the answer wrong. I messed up pretty badly in the speaking portion, accidentally giving an answer in English when I should have been speaking in French (I thought it was a sample question that wouldn’t count, but nope, it was a real question). Despite that, I still somehow managed to score at an intermediate level for both speaking and grammar, which was pretty exciting! My results came in a little higher than I expected. I also really liked that, at the end of the test, it gave me some suggestions on how to improve. One of those suggestions was to read more, so that’s definitely the plan!

Thinking of reading, I finally finished the collection of French Robert Munsch books I’ve had out from the library. I really enjoyed it – his stories were really silly, fun reads that were fairly easy to understand for the most part without having to look stuff up. I think next I’m going to read French Short Stories for Beginners by Lingo Mastery. That was the first French book that I bought for myself; I had to put it down though because I had a hard time understanding the first story. Hopefully things will go better now!

I’d love to try an iTalki test for Ukrainian too, just to see where I’m at, but unfortunately it’s only available in limited languages (currently English, French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Italian). Hopefully they’ll add more languages soon!

But I did end up testing my Ukrainian this weekend too. I booked a lesson on iTalki with a new Ukrainian teacher. So far I’ve just been meeting with one teacher, but she was busy this weekend (it was the Orthodox Church’s Easter 🙂 ), so I decided to meet someone new and see how I do. I was super excited and quite nervous because I’ve only really spoken to my regular teacher and my dad (but just a tiny bit with him – instead we send each other Ukrainian letters in the mail, which is good practice for my reading and writing!) I was pleasantly surprised with how much I was able to understand and say!

So how was your weekend? Any fun plans for the coming week? 🙂

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Plugging Along :)

Hey everyone, how’s it going? I’m not entirely sure where the month of April has gone! I’ve been feeling super busy lately, but also feeling like I haven’t done anything, and it’s all a little overwhelming. I suspect that’s partially because after I finished Karin Dimitrova’s Reset program, I didn’t have anything else to take its place. I need to make a dedicated effort to try adding more meditation and yoga back into my days!

Otherwise, I’m still working on my language learning and on the big editing project I was contracted for. The editing project has become much bigger than expected, so it’s still going to be ongoing for awhile (quite possibly through the rest of the year).

I’ve also cut back a little bit on the language learning lately (I won’t be finishing reading 100 Ukrainian Texts by the end of the month like I had planned). 😦 In its place I’ve been trying to fit in reading for fun a little more, which I think has been a good thing. For the last few years I haven’t been reading as much as I would like to, especially since I seem to have a really hard time putting a book down once I get started. Now that I’m fitting it in a little more, I found I was able to actually stop reading at a reasonable time and get some sleep over the last few nights, so I’m quite excited about that. 🙂

In terms of language learning itself though, I’m still doing a little bit of work on each language pretty much every day. So even if it isn’t as much as before, I’m still keeping both languages fresh in my mind, and strengthening them a little bit. With French, I’ve really been focusing on earlier lessons on Duolingo, which has made me feel like I have a pretty good grasp of the basics. I’m considering booking a lesson or two on iTalki in the near future to see how well I do speaking French with a French tutor.

With Ukrainian, while it’s still somewhat slow going, I’m really finding I’m able to understand more and more now. I read a message on a Ukrainian learners group on Facebook the other day in Ukrainian and understood it completely, which was really exciting! (It was almost like I didn’t realize I was reading the message in Ukrainian, even though I knew objectively that I was reading Slavic text). I’m still working with the same teacher on iTalki, which is going really well. I’ve got some homework I need to get through over the next few weeks though, where I’ll hopefully learn some new words and phrases. Hopefully that will go well. I’m also considering booking a lesson or two with some new Ukrainian speakers on iTalki just to see how well that goes….but I’ll probably hold off on that for a bit yet (until I feel a little more confident).

So yeah, that’s what’s been happening with me lately. I’m mostly just doing my best to plug along. How about you, what’s new? How have you been through April? 🙂

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Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!  How’s it going?  Last week ended up a super busy week (sorry that I didn’t post) so I was quite happy to have a weekend without many plans.  I took some time to do some stuff around the house, and ended up reading a whole book on dolphins (To Touch a Wild Dolphin by Rachel Smolker, a book I’ve had for years that I found in my basement the other day).  I had intended to read Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt, but was distracted by the dolphin book because it fit into some worldbuilding I wanted to do. I didn’t actually work on the worldbuilding though until yesterday, when I finally sat down and opened my world documents to start making some changes! I meant to all weekend, but just didn’t – lol that seemed to be how a lot of my weekend went.  I don’t mind though, because just relaxing and doing “nothing” felt good (I binged a few episodes of a show I like, and started going through a stack of magazines I have).

Otherwise, over the last few weeks I’ve mostly been busy working on book editing.  I feel like I really got back into the swing of things, so it’s been going well.  🙂

I’m also really excited because I found season 2 of Les Revenants, a French show I really liked at the library last week!  I watched the first season last fall but had a hard time finding the second season (I was hoping to have it brought in through interlibrary loans, but no luck).  I guess in the meantime, the library ordered a copy of it!  So I’m very excited to get to finish the show. 🙂

So how’s everything going for you?  Have you been up to anything exciting lately?

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