July 2021 – What Are You Reading?

Well, I am proud of myself: this month I finally finished reading Patrick DeWitt’s Undermajordomo Minor,  I started reading it back in March (!!!)  At that time I read about 10 pages because I really wanted to start it on that particular night, then promptly put it aside and didn’t touch it again for almost four months!  I even had to reread those first few pages to make sure I remembered what had happened.

Nonfiction books:

  • How to Maintain Languages by Robin MacPherson

Fiction books:

  • Championess by Tarun Shanker, Kelly Zekas, and Amanda Perez Puentes (graphic novel)
  • Goddess of Vengeance by Jackie Collins
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Lost Chronicles Volume 1 (graphic novel)
  • He-Man: The Eternity War Volumes 1 & 2 by Rob David, Dan Abnett, and Pop Mhan (graphic novels)
  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick DeWitt

I’m not really sure what my favourite book was this month.  I enjoyed How to Maintain Languages.  It was a really fast read that was interesting.  But it also said a lot of things I already knew (a lot of the book reminded me of Atomic Habits, but not as meaty of a read).  Of the fiction, I think Undermajordomo Minor was my favourite.  I enjoyed it for the most part, particularly the quirky characters, but I didn’t feel like the story came together in a satisfactory whole for me.

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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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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June 2021 – What Are You Reading?

I was very happy to fit in some fiction reading this month!  It was my birthday, and my major plan for that weekend was to read Karen Osborne’s Engines of Oblivion, which I’ve had on my Kindle for a few months.  But then a new Murderbot book, Fugitive Telemetry, came out, so I had to read that first (although I still managed to finish Engines of Oblivion right after)!

Nonfiction books:

  • None

Fiction books:

  • Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells
  • Engines of Oblivion by Karen Osborne
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volumes 4-10 (graphic novels)

My favourite was Fugitive Telemetry.  It wasn’t the book I expected it to be, but I really enjoyed it all the same.  Rather than following up on the threads from book five in the series, it ended up a really fun murder mystery!  I recommend it (and honestly the whole series) if you’re interested in a fun science fiction.  As a bonus, the books are fairly short too!

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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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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May 2021 – What Are You Reading?

May was another heavy graphic novel month!  I’ve been working a lot on other projects (mostly editing the book I’ve been working on for quite some time), so graphic novels have been a great way to fit some reading in right now.

Nonfiction books:

Fiction books:

  • Dungeon Calamity by Dakota Krout
  • Covid Chronicles: a Comics Anthology (graphic novel)
  • Join the Future by Zack Kaplan, Piotr Kowalski, Brad Simpson and Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou (graphic novel)
  • Die Volume 1: Fantasy Heartbreakers by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Haas (reread, graphic novel)
  • Die Volume 2: Split the Party by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Haas (reread, graphic novel)
  • Die Volume 3: The Great Game by Kieron Gillen and Stephanie Haas (graphic novel)
  • Aquaman: Echoes of a Life Lived Well by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jordan Clark, Miguel Mendonca and Robson Rocha (graphic novel)
  • Masters of the Universe: The Shard of Darkness by Val Staples, Emiliano Santalucia and Enza Fontana (reread, graphic novel)
  • Masters of the Universe: Dark Reflections by Val Staples, Emiliano Santalucia and Enza Fontana (graphic novel)

Other Languages

  • L’heure de Munsch by Robert Munsch (5 Robert Munsch stories translated into French)

My favourite was definitely Die.  I’ve read volumes 1 and 2 before.  At that time, I didn’t like volume 2 as much, but I also didn’t bother to reread volume 1 at that time.  Reading volumes 1-3 all in a row made volume 2 way better!  I can’t wait for volume 4 (which I am hoping will be out by the end of the year).

The back pages of volume 3 were really interesting as well (I enjoyed the back pages of volumes 1 and 2, but didn’t reread those at this time).  Gillen interviewed some game designers, and I got really excited to try some of their games out, particularly from a design perspective.  They talked about doing some interesting things with games, particularly RPGs, that I had never considered doing before, so I’m quite intrigued to try them all out!

I also really enjoyed Dungeon Calamity.  This was a different book in the series because Cal didn’t have Dani to help him out, but it also showcases just how crazy and awesome Cal is!  I also liked that it wrapped up a lot of the ongoing story arcs, so it was a good place to stop the series for now.  But I won’t wait too long because I want to know how it ends (and there’s still 2 books to go!)

I’d also like to note that I had a super hard time reading Covid Chronicles.  For me, it was way too soon to be looking at comics about life during the pandemic.

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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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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April 2021 What Are You Reading?

Wow, this really was a month for graphic novels!

Nonfiction books:

  • To Touch a Wild Dolphin: A Journey of Discovery with the Sea’s Most Intelligent Creatures by Rachel Smolker

Fiction books:

  • Conan: Serpent War by Jim Zub (graphic novel)
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse by Tim Seeley (graphic novel)
  • Mighty Morphin Power Rangers Volumes 1-3 (graphic novel)
  • Dungeon Madness by Dakota Krout

I really enjoyed He-Man and the Masters of the Multiverse.  It reminded me of Power Rangers: Shattered Grid, but hilarious and amazing because it was He-Man.  It also reminded me of the movie Turtles Forever, which had a similar cross-over of older and newer Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (with a similar hilarious vibe to it!)

I also really liked the first three volumes of the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers series.  It starts off pretty much right after the Green Ranger joins the other Rangers and deals with some really interesting things as they struggle to become a team with the new dynamics (and also with Tommy dealing with the aftermath of being under Rita Repulsa’s control).  It’s a really good series!  I’m just sad that each volume has ended on a “to be continued” cliffhanger (and that I need to wait to read volume 4!)

So what have you read over the last month?  What was your favourite book?

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