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So I Got Bored and Did Something Stupid…


So, the thrust of this year for me is still trying to make the Israeli curling team.  I’ve spent the last couple of weeks traveling to bonspiels (curling tournaments) and I’ve racked up a decent record  – two appearances in event finals (one win among them, with my normal men’s team), and two other bonspiels which were great experience-builders.  But in the background… I’m still working on my languages.

For those who follow my Duolingo profile – I’m hoping against hope to be named to the Mixed Doubles team, so I’m learning Swedish.  The main goal there is to be able to read when I’m getting around and communicate on a base level, so I’m not dependent on having signs in English or guides or the like.  I have until April to get to a decent level, assuming that they name me to the team… and if they don’t, hey, there’s never a ‘waste’ in learning another language.  But anyone who also follows it will notice that I have a very weird spike in points.

I got curious tonight… and I’ve never done a language from another base language.  So I flipped over to Spanish to take a stab at Catalan, for fun… and noticed that ‘French’ had appeared as well, on the Spanish side.

Huh.  I’m Level 25 in both languages, I feel fairly confident in my Spanish, and it’d be good practice, so why not, and I clicked on ‘test for your level’…


So the first problem is that I’m very much used to French <–> English, so my instinct, when presented with something in French, is to respond in English, and I then blew a few questions in that fashion.  In a few spots, it just was a matter of my screwing up my understanding of what was being said, and that’s probably more my being tired from the long couple of weeks I’ve been having…

But still, it jumped me straight to Level 11, and cleared me through 68 units.  It’ll be good practice for both of my languages to gild another tree…


Slow and Steady…

Aside from the fact that it’s weird to see the evolution of this blog, as much as it was meant originally for my word-of-the-day, but… I’ll eventually come up with a new name for it.  At least for now, it’ll stick.

But I digress.

So in the last few months, I’ve now finished three trees at Duolingo (Spanish, French and Esperanto), and managed to get my other two ‘main’ in-progress trees – Portuguese and German – to manageable states.  To me, ‘manageable’ means I’m only having to regild two or three units before I can move on to doing a lesson or two and slowly make progress…

Though those who are following my profile might have noticed that there’s a sixth language – Swedish.  I’ve not gone insane, no. Read more…

On The Go!

I don’t usually have cause to do a review over here on this page, and while this has nothing to do with my usual topics…

For those who’ve been following my language learning for a while, you also know that I dropped out of the Add-1-Challenge last year to pursue my dream of trying to make the Israeli national curling team.  You also know that I had the opportunity to go represent Israel in the Winter World Masters Games in Québec in February.

I received a berth in the National Tryouts this year as a result, but didn’t make the team… so a step at a time moving forward.  The coach, though, among things that he noted on my feedback sheet, included the following: Read more…

Here We Go!

Hola, amigos!

So my wife and I are on vacation now.  (Yes, I’m posting from vacation for once.)  Almost everything is wonderful and lovely – we’re having a good time with some hiccups at the resort, but that’s the way life works, and we’re rolling with the punches.

We discussed, on the airplane, that we’re going to make a concerted attempt to do as much in Spanish as possible, without resorting to English.  So a lot of what we’ve done has been in Spanish.  (We’ve not been so good between us, though that’s understandable, I’d like to think, since we’re talking about more complex things than she’s gotten to, in terms of grammar and vocabulary, in her studies.)  We handled immigration and customs in Spanish.  The conversation in the taxi was in Spanish.  We did most of the check-in in Spanish… and I’ll fess up entirely that we did the tour of the resort in English, because I wanted to be sure that we both understood everything that our majordomo told us.

On the other hand, we’ve also run into a lot of places where it’s been necessary to use Spanish, not just a “nice to have”.  The letter my wife wrote, for example, seems to have gotten fully ignored (as she put it, when we were both tired, it almost feels like they used it as a list of things not to do, because we got almost exactly opposite what she requested), down to the fact that we arrived to a ‘Happy Birthday’ sign on our door and Happy Birthday balloons in our room.  (We’re celebrating – 2 months late – our 10th anniversary.)  But when we went to go talk to the guest relations folks… English wasn’t cutting it with her.

Swapping to Spanish fixed about 50% of it in thirty seconds.  (It’s very easy to say “No es nuestros cumpleaños – es nuestro aniversario, como ella escribió.  Estamos casados desde hace diez años – mi cumpleaños es en enero, y el suyo es en deciembre.”)  We came back to find new balloons – the birthday one is gone – and a new banner on the door that says ‘Happy Anniversary’.  (The resort we’re at – Majestic Elegance – marks guest rooms for special occasions – honeymoons, birthdays, anniversaries…)

And I’m at least trying to be funny in Spanish too.  But sometimes, I keep forgetting there’re bigger cultural issues sometimes.  Back home, one of the ‘big jokes’ when I’m introduced to someone is that I work for “a tiny” (in reality, a very large, extremely well-known company on the Internet).  When the concierge was asking me what I do, and I explained that I work for “una compañia muy pequeña en los EEUU” (and dropped the name), he took it at face value and asked what we did… and it took me thirty seconds to realize that my employer’s nearly unknown here.  Huh.

And onwards we go!

Just a Quick Note

Last week, I mentioned that we’re going abroad for a while (sans kids! WOO!) for a little bit of a holiday, and that I had the wife write this year’s letter to the resort.  It seemed like a good way to have her practice her Spanish, and she’s far more confident with written Spanish than she is with trying to speak the language.

Last year, when I wrote the letter, I got a response back in English – a surprise, really, since most of the staff at the hotel seemed perfectly inclined once we were there to talk to me in Spanish.

This year, she got a response back in Spanish.  With minimal help from me, she was able to make her way through the letter – I was mostly helping with vocabulary that she’s not learned at Duolingo, and helping with grammatical points she’s not yet gotten to (like phrasal future, which made perfectly good sense to her once I explained it).  So she’s very proud of herself, and I’m thinking she might be more inclined to practice this time without sticking to the rote phrases she’s been used to using…

Of course, half of me is now wondering if they’re going to use English with us at all, but hey, that’s half the adventure, right?

Been a While…

Wow.  When you let things get away from yourself… seriously.

So, it’s been nearly four months since I last wrote.  Kind of ashamed of that, but that’s life sometimes.  (Don’t feel bad.  My other blog’s been suffering too.)  It’s been a very busy time at work, and offline things have been interesting… Read more…

How To Succeed

I got back a few hours ago from Québec, and have been decompressing while watching the kids.  Aside from the fact that I’m exhausted (I had to get up at 2:30 AM to start my trip home), it’s also given me time to internalize the part of the experience that’s relevant for this blog. 🙂  (Let me know if you want to hear me babble about my curling.)

I’ve kind-of, sort-of been to Canada before.  I’ve been to Toronto for a short trip, and I’ve been to Niagara Falls numerous times, but that’s Ontario.  Like many US citizens, we somewhat look to the north as being something of an extension of our country in a lot of ways – the language is similar, we have a similar heritage (being former British colonies), etc.  And then you have Québec, which… well, I suppose if you ask most folks down here, is just “Canada where they speak French”, which glosses over all kinds of significant cultural issues. Read more…


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