Thursday, March 5, 2015

Language Study Resources, Especially Spanish Part 1

So, I am getting a tiny bit distracted from the crafts and graphics that generally occupy my blog, though I do have a lot of travel photos that I still want to post.  But for now my brain is taken up with learning a language and hoping to actually get fluent in it.  Just because.....and, because I am the Resource Queen, I'm going to use this post to list some of the online language learning and reference sources that I am discovering.

I have had my doubts about online learning of languages, partly because it would put some people I really like out of business (those faculty, largely lecturers and graduate students, who teach languages).  But there is so much more out there even since the time about 7 years ago when I was learning Turkish.  This time around, because Spanish is spoken by so many people, there are a vast number of resources to begin with, but also the world of online learning is changing.  Still, no matter how great the resources, I know I would not be making much progress in actual communication without needing to produce actual spoken sentences in a classroom environment.  I love grammar and words and patterns, but I would also willingly let it all become abstract and not push myself into the uncomfortable position of making many mistakes while attempting to talk to people. Also, no online course, no matter how interactive, produces a set of actual humans that you talk to in the hallways before and after class.  And I like those humans, I must admit.

I'm also learning that there are a group of fanatical language learners out there, almost cult-like in their devotion.  :-)  And they are not only fascinated with learning their particular language(s) of choice, but they are fascinated with the process of learning, and language structure similarities, and they have a habit of sharing their own favorite resources.

So, some resources, some specifically Spanish, but most apply equally to other languages (that is, do a search for Spanish grammar on YouTube, or a similar search on Turkish grammar, or French grammar, etc).

First, my textbook, Ritmos.  I was actually a bit annoyed when I first saw their web page, because they seem to be boasting that people do not need grammar in order to study beginning Spanish. I've come to believe that was just a bit of hoo-haa to attract grammar-phobes to their program, because in reality it still all centers around grammar and each chapter is based on grammatical concepts.  But also from the beginning you have to listen to native speakers who speak rapidly in short videos and figure out essentially what they are saying, and you spend your class time talking and not being lectured to on grammar principals.  It's pretty refreshing and class time from the beginning is largely spent on speaking to our classmates and the teacher.

From Ritmos, and the course website, with it's own set of resources available to enrolled students, I got hooked on Duolingo. Currently there are several European languages for English learners, but there are also these same languages, and English, for non-English speakers, and many other languages in some stage of completion.  The language programs seem to be largely set up by volunteers, or at least only a few paid people and a lot of free help.  So I am signed up for the Turkish beta version that is just about to be released.  I'm really happy about this because it can help to get me back on track for a language that I have allowed to languish.  Duolingo is like an ongoing language game.  It's not a way to learn a language alone, but makes a great supplement, and I find myself doing it when I'm putting off studying for my actual class.  You know how that goes....

The next stage of my language learning addiction was Flashcard Machine.  This website can be a bit clunky, especially since I haven't gotten my computer to type diacritical marks on letters, though it will happily accept those letters typed elsewhere and imported.  Sigh!  But I'm using it to make flashcard lists of my Ritmos vocabulary words, and I have my cell phone set up so I can review them while traveling on Bart or waiting in the car.  As you go through each card you mark it learned or not learned and it comes back to haunt you until you have learned it.  I started out making physical flashcards and then just decided to go paperless.  So far so good, but I have to admit that there are a lot of Spanish words that I have remembered all these years, and I'm not sure if digital will be as useful for learning new vocabulary.  But still, it's very nice to have it on the two platforms, computer and phone.  And some mornings I join that group of people on the train who sit hunched over their little lit rectangles, making no eye contact or acknowledgement of others. You can also import other people's flashcard collections, and use them for your own study, though they range from collections of thousands of cards to someone's aborted 5 card study session.

Another handy thing to have on your browser bookmark bar are a quick Spanish-English and English-Spanish translator....Google translate, for what it is worth.  And it will give you some really, really funny translations of things.   This works for many other languages, though I suspect some are translated much more accurately than others.

Next there is YouTube....for so many things....  This is one thing I love about humans, and it seems to me to be fundamental to what makes us human: we want to share badly do we want to share that we will spend hundreds of unpaid hours summarizing and explaining what we know and presenting it to total strangers to make whatever use they will of it. And I realize it's not just altruism but that wonderful feeling you get when you've nailed down and presented something that you know, because then you know it better yourself for having shared it.  One such person calls himself Professor Jason.  He has somewhere around 100 presentations on grammar, pronunciation, vocabulary, etc.  Then there is Señor Jordan, with a similar group of videos, aimed more towards a high school audience.  What I find is that when a concept confuses me, it helps to have it explained over and over, in a lot of different ways, by a lot of nice people.  There are countless other video series.  You can often get some great graphics here that summarize various grammatical concepts.  Also just doing a google image search for "Spanish grammar image" gives you hundreds of charts and cheats and illustrations of grammatical concepts.

Well, this is about all I can present at the moment; think I will split it up into two postings, as it keeps getting better and better.  I'm hoping when I go back to Turkish I will find a similar, though lesser, number of study aids.  It's really a bit mentally overwhelming, something to make a hyperactive person more than a bit antsy! And yes, there are many fascinating crafts practiced in Spanish speaking countries and I can see how much fun it will be to seek out resources in the languages of those countries instead of waiting for an English speaker to take an interest in it.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

reporting in on retirement

Reporting in on retirement: I was such an expert before I retired, let's see what's happening now....
1. Some things I was putting off doing, I continue to put off doing (cooking wonderful dishes; really, thoroughly cleaning the house). Probably because I don't want to do them as much as I want to do other things.
2. Some things I thought I would focus on and instead I'm sliding away from them, at least for now (crafts, working on my crafts dictionary web page).
3. Some things I'm doing, because I love doing them, but still run out of time (certain gardening ventures, things I intend on reading).
4. Also, I am heading in much more of an academic direction than I thought I would. I love learning languages and Spanish is taking up a lot of my free time and free mental space. To the extent that 1 through 3 above are more limited than they might be.
5. I'm much appreciating the fact that I am finding a lot of intellectual stimulation in retirement, partially due to things on the web like language study aids, new kinds of music and crafts instructions on YouTube. These things aren't as social as I had wished, but at least the study aids are back ups to social activities, ie, my classes.
6. I'm enjoying the gym. No matter how bad my mood may be at the moment I drag myself out Tuesday mornings early and Friday mid-day and whatever is going on, it makes things a bit better. It certainly doesn't hurt. I wish I was doing more days of exercise and felt it was time to branch out to more social things, like dancing, but see #4 above.
7. I felt like an outsider in the work environment and now I feel a bit like an outsider in the school environment (I love the intellectual activity, but I envy my classmates their relative youth and their idea that much of life lies ahead of them). Life is still rather lonely at times, but see items 4, 5, and 6 above. Life has it's compensations, or, whatever.......I guess I just have the outsider mentality wherever I am. Sometimes it's good to be looking into the crowd from the outside.
8. I feel less driven to accomplish things in a certain order. This summer I will take no classes and will have an actual vacation. I plan on concentrating on physical things, like pulling out carpet and improving garden structure and going to the gym more often. I want to take some outside crafts class, to get that started up again and I want to do something both physical and social (sounds like dancing, eh?).
9. I miss my workmates but feel less and less connected to work. Love y'all but don't give a S&&& about the stress and the never ending workload and the constant sense of feeling under-appreciated in some large-scale way (not day to day interactions with people as much as the whole environment); don't miss that stuff a bit!
10. I'm trying to be a big girl and not depend upon my family so much for my entertainment, as they are all growing up and turning towards other things to one degree or another. Moving fast and carrying a decent camera helps.
11. I still run on and on and on once I have an idea that interests me. I guess that won't ever change. See items 1 through 9 above, yessss indeed.

Will report back in periodically, but largely I would recommend it, and then I would recommend whoever retires first meets me for lunch or a walk now and then, to help with the relative isolation. Das all folks....

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My Playlist for Spanish Class

Not all of my play list choices will have lyrics, because so much of the great music of Spanish/Latino culture is instrumental.  Not all of it is even in Spanish, though the song that is not in Spanish is from the Mixtec people who are surrounded by Spanish language speakers and who probably are all fluent in Spanish as well themselves.

My first selection is Rodrigo y Gabriela.  They started out as Mexican heavy metal musicians but decided they wanted to compose their own music, which has evolved into a lively style of flamenco influenced instrumental music.  They did not gain a large following until they had spent some time playing on the streets and in restaurants in Ireland.  "Tamacun" is one of their best known pieces.

Next is Andrés Segovia, from Spain. one of the most famous classical guitarists of the past century. He performed well into his 80s. It is said that Segovia did much to promote the guitar as a serious musical instrument, worthy of concert hall performances.  "Asturias" is one of my favorites:

This is a Venezuelan version of  "La Partida", a South American waltz. Again no lyrics, just music to enjoy.  You can discover a multitude of other musical styles and performers by following up on YouTube's suggestions for related music after you listen to this one.

Finally, with some lyrics, is this music from a Chilean group, Inti Illimani, called Fiesta de San Benito. This music moves back and forth, then seems to pause, then moves forward, with the cadence of a street parade:

This song is most popular in Venezuela and has strong African influences.  The lyrics can be found here.

This next song is from another continent and another era. "Morena me llaman" originated from the Sephardic Jews in Renaissance Spain, and is sung in Ladino, which is close to, but not exactly, Spanish. The lyrics, and their English translation, can be found here.

Back across to the Americas, this is a song called Atahualpa. It is normally sung by Huayucaltia, a Los Angeles based group who sing Latin American "nueva cancion or trova" style songs, however the only version I was able to find was not sung by them; I believe they have requested their songs be taken off YouTube.  So I have here a non-native speaker of Spanish, performing in her living room.  But she sings slowly and clearly and both Spanish and English lyrics are provided in the YouTube notes.  The melody is haunting, as are the lyrics.

Next is Pasatono Orquesta's "Obertura maromera". I haven't been able to find the lyrics yet, but this article has a lot of information on the background to their musical traditions. This is a Oaxacan circus song:

A wealth of cultural images are shown in the video as the song is played in the background.

I confess that this next video, "Ama ka kui kundui Ñuu you"  strays completely away from Spanish!  It is in the Mixtec language, spoken by people native to the Oaxacan region of Mexico.  The performer, Leonidas Rojas, is also associated with Pasatono Orquesta and I have included it for another glimpse into the culture of one specific region of Mexico. So far I have only found a translation of the title as "Cuando salí de mi pueblo". I saw an English translation as "when I leave my people".


With so much of this music I feel like I am only coming in contact with the tip of a cultural iceberg, and there is much more exploration to be done.  Despite the amount of information on the internet, it can be difficult to find a lot of information on some of these songs and the traditions they represent.

Next, Ojos de Brujo's  "Tesoro" is a much more sophisticated sounding song.  Ojos de Brujo, or "Eyes of the Sorcerer" is from Barcelona and combines hip hop and flamenco in their music:

The lyrics can be found here. Or, another version here, if you want to have a good laugh over the attempted English translation.

The last song, Huepa Huepa, music from the Dominican Republic, performed by Daniel Indart, should get you out of your seats and off of the internet, where we all spend too much time.  Even if you aren't in the mood to dance, the lyrics promise to be spicy enough to wake you up:

Spanish lyrics found  are under the music on Youtube.

I know I am only scratching the surface.  Spanish language music and the music of Latin American countries (not always in Spanish) has a vast amount of influences and regional specific history.  I have been listening to enough lately that YouTube has decided to present me with ads in Spanish, which are rather less annoying than ads in English.

I have these songs in a collection on YouTube and will add more to the collection as I find them:

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

And, after all that whining

I've settled into a semester that seems to have the right combination of sitting and activity, especially since I've fit the gym into my schedule for the first time in my life.  Off to it soon now, which is why this post will be brief.  Me gusta mucho mi clase de espanol (but don't know how to do diacritics in blogger yet, apologies, "enye").

I need to post pictures from Hawaii, and some digital quilts I've made from bits and pieces of those pictures.  I picked up GIMP after months away and am enjoying revisiting techniques I was using a couple of years ago.  Again I am glad for this blog because I have forgotten how to do certain things.

More anon....

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Ah, yes, about that busyness

So I've told myself it's not a great idea to complain about things on Facebook because it causes people to either get tired of what you are saying or causes them to go to great lengths to try to cheer you up when really you just need to process things on your own for a while.

But I didn't promise myself not to gripe on my blog.  Because what else are blogs for?  :-)  Actually, I'm not really complaining, I'm just realizing that I do need to process some how busy do I really want to be with my life?  And the processing may just involve letting my life settle for a week, so that I understand just how much time my classes will actually take.  That's always an issue.....when you accomplish things you have to take time to do them, and when you do this for classes that last a semester you automatically limit the other things you can do.  Looking at multiple months that are no longer as "open" as I would wish them to be makes me feel rather restricted.  But I have to accept some sort of restrictions, I'm feeling, in order to give myself direction and to provide myself with measurable accomplishments at the end.

Ahhhh, such a First World Problem, poor poor me with enough time and money to take classes, or not take classes.  I could drop them all if I wanted.....I could choose to devote minimal time to them and get poor grades, who cares?  Which may be a bit of what is bugging me, as the beginning of an academic semester brings with it a lot of questions about goals: why are you taking this class? what do you see yourself doing in five years (I was asked this today by my Plant Propagation teacher....I really don't know!)?  what is your major?

Also I feel like I am straying away from art related things, though language could serve it, and plants are always a part of my life, art or not.  It's a bit strange to be retaking a class I took 30 some years ago.  A lot of things I know about plants I have known for so long they are instinctive.  Repotting root-bound plants: I did some things without anyone telling me to; perhaps they would have even asked me not to.  And people are randomly bossy to newcomers, it goes with the territory.

I just need to be in these new situations long enough to have something vested in them.  And I have two entire days off, and two afternoons off, so, except for Thursdays, I really have more time this semester than last.  But I'm wondering when it will be time to stop dabbling?  Or am I in the dabbling stage of my life up until the end.  And perhaps it's just the contemplation of that slippery slope that is getting to me.

Mommmmy, I'm bored, are we there yet?

I should not forget to do physical things, and contemplative things and creative things.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Ode to Spring Semester, 2015

Busy busy busy: So I have around 4000 images from Hawaii to clean up and post and comment on, a bazillion images left over from Europe still, and I just started a Spanish class at BCC with a million online resources and start plant propagation classes tomorrow....if wealth is measured in business I will be a millionaire by the end of spring....all self-imposed business, btw.  I see what they meant about retirement..........  It does feel a little directionless or scattered, though there is much to be said for learning for the sake of learning.

Let's see now.....I will become proficient in Spanish so I can go to Spanish speaking countries and take and develop lots of photos of local crafts and plants and will then go home and create web-based guides to the regions and the crafts and start new tropical plants from seeds.....there, that should put all of my recent and current classes to use....Let's throw in a bit of swimming in hopes that my back gets stronger as well, maybe throw in some dance lessons for stamina...... Also need to keep working on fixing up my house, need to manage my money more accurately.... ok, now what?  :-)


 This is at the beginning of it all, when it all seems manageable and success is almost guaranteed. Let's revisit this at the end of the semester when I drop everything else to complete the classes and my allergies are acting up and my back is probably still hurting. Then ask me about how anticipatory I am feeling!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Germany Vacation: St. Peter's Church and Wernerkapelle, Bacharach

This was my first European church tour.....and a good starting place because this one was small and approachable, brightly colored and not filled with other tourists.

The original church was built in 1094, though it has been rebuilt several times since then.  It has certainly had a recent paint job and I love the intense, folky colors.  This church is in constant use for services and community events, so it doesn't seem like a dusty old relic.

 Rick Steves calls the style of these column details "Grotesque", the arches "Romanesque" and "Gothic". Interestingly enough, when I did a google search for images related to this church, I didn't come up with many interior details, even though they must exist.  It's cool to think some of these might end up in searches, even though they aren't all perfect shots. The church has been repainted in supposedly medieval colors.  I notice that some commentators on travel reviews found this too gaudy, but I'm all about color, so I quite liked it.  I want to combine those greens and oranges in a beading or embroidery project!

Yes, she's doing what you think she's doing, even though the photo is a bit blurry.

I think this is left over from a much earlier era:

Future Death Metal band shirt logo:

This is the tomb of Johann Friedrich von Wolfskehl, from 1609.  

awww, I cut off his beard while capturing the inscription above his head:

This is probably a dog, but it looks rather weasel-like:

Metalwork on the front door:

Inside of front door:

I hope I learn in the future to take more notes as I go along, so that I can place the photos I take in a better context, but honestly, much of this trip was spent taking as many pictures as I could during short visits to places with infinite details.

A brief break provided by Violet, who typed this while warming herself on my keyboard:


Now, back to our travelogue:

We first discovered Wernerkapelle while looking for the safest way down from Stahleck Castle in the dark.  It's pretty impressive, either in the dark or daylight, though it has a sad history.  A boy, Werner of Oberwesel (a nearby town) was found murdered here in 1287.  The good folks of the town decided that he had been murdered by Jews for Passover rituals (see "blood libel" in Wikipedia).  Jews were in turn killed via pograms and this building was begun in honor of Werner.  The building was never finished and was largely destroyed during one of the times that Stahleck was attacked.  A sort of religious cult sprang up around Werner, which was not fully removed from religious observation until the 1960s.  Ah, history.....

Postcards of Wernerkapelle, fading in a Bacharach store window:

It is lit for maximum Gothic effect during the evening.  This is an untouched photo:

And this is one with the exposure ramped up:

Zee with halo:

Zee and Logan with halos:

There is a plaque here that includes a quote from Pope John XXIII:

“We recognize today that many centuries of blindness have shrouded our eyes, so that we no longer saw the goodliness of Thy Chosen People and no longer recognized our firstborn brother’s traits. We discover now that a mark of Cain stands on our forehead. In the course of the centuries our brother Abel has lain in blood that we spilt, and he has wept tears that we brought forth, because we forgot Thy love. Forgive us the curse that we unrightfully affixed to the Jews’ name. Forgive us for nailing Thee in their flesh for a second time to the Cross. For we knew not what we did........."

In general, we saw a multitude of castles nearby, and each has its history of conquest and attempted conquest.  We think of violence on the streets of our towns as being the result of modern, corrupted society and poverty, but in reality humans have had no problems with offing each other throughout the centuries, in the name of religion, land conquest, what-have-you.  Some murders become glorified under a patina of history, but murder is still murder, death is still death....

More castles, and a deathly bout of hay fever, to come next....