Sunday, July 31, 2011

Useful Website - 24 - Learn a language (memrise)

Much as one perhaps might think so, my life doesn't really revolve around fruit alone. I know this blog may sometimes give that impression, but there are other interests too.

At the moment, I am going through a phase where I'm finding it really difficult to write anything, anywhere. Some kind of writers block perhaps, or maybe because I've just been focusing my attention elsewhere, and finding little enthusiasm to prioritise here.

Currently, most of my online time, revolves around trying to get a grip on the Czech language. I'm determined that someday I'll be able to visit Kveta's family with her, in the Czech Republic, and be able to communicate with them in their native tongue. Well, there's not much other choice as that's about all they speak.

Other languages I've learned in the past, I've always been sort of immersed into. Hearing the spoken language on a daily basis, plenty of access to all manner of reading material, and plenty of opportunity to try out new words I learned. Living in Australia and learning Czech, however, is much more of a challenge. Kvĕta and I mostly speak English with one another, occasionally we'll use a bit of Czech, especially once I've learned a new phrase or so, I tend to try and put it into practice.. But considering we've been together now since 2006, I really feel quite ashamed that I am not able to say and understand more than I am currently able. To be honest, I've not really been making any effort, or headway, up until recently, which is odd, considering how I so much enjoy the challenge of a language.

So what's changed? Well.. I have often searched around on the internet, for language learning websites that might at some point prove useful for when I finally began sinking my teeth into Czech.. and, well, a couple of months back, I stumbled upon a relatively new site that had only been opened to the public for a matter of a few short weeks at the time.

It looked interesting, so I thought I'd sign up and give it a try. Initially more out of curiousity than anything else. They have a main section on learning Chinese, and as I'd studied Japanese way back 25 odd years ago, with emphasis on the writing system, I felt drawn to take a look at the similarities. I started one of the Chinese lessons they had, and immediately saw what a great potential the website had. They basically make language learning fun, turning it into a game more than anything, and it took me not more than a few clicks, before I realised that I could really use something like this to help teach me Czech.

I had no real intention of pushing further with the Chinese, so I dropped that and looked around the site some more..

Now, at the time, there were a good couple of dozen languages listed there to learn, and the ability for users to add new languages to the list too. Czech was already there, but completely empty, so I slowly began creating content within it. That's just one of the beauties of the website, - the ability to add new content, and learn words as you do so.

The Czech section has grown to about one and a half thousand words so far, pretty much all added by myself so far, but there are now about 30 people using that section to learn Czech, and those numbers are growing steadily.

What makes this site so unique and special? well, apart from allowing any user to add content, and share it with others, it also presents words or phrases to be learned in a way that is both fun and slightly addictive. Normally, I'm not a fan of addiction, but this sort of addiction is clearly beneficial to any language learner, at any level, for any language (someone's even created a section to learn Klingon!).

For each new word added, anyone can think up a mnemonic to help them remember it. You can also add example usage or notes on the etymology (roots) of a word, as well as alternatives and much more in the pipeline.

If you're not sure what is meant by mnemonic, it's basically a method of helping the memory to better organise and recall. So basically, if I were to tell you that the word for peach in Czech is "broskev", chances are that in five minutes or less, you'll have forgotten the word already. However, if I concoct the story that the greengrocers down the road from where I lived growing up was run by 2 brothers, both called Kevin, and that their shop was called "BROS. KEV", and that they had the most juicy, sweetest, flavourful PEACHEs you could ever imagine, you may remember what peach is in Czech in a week from now.. Especially if you specifically have a desire to know it in the first place.

And the website is still in BETA, which means that it's early days still, and you can expect lots of changes to it in the coming months, improvements and added tools, not to mention the ever growing user base full of people who are themselves improving the website by adding content and mnemonics. Honestly, I think for most people struggling with language learning, this website could prove invaluable. You've really got to experience it to appreciate it's qualities. It's 100% free. I see this website with enormous potential and could possibly be a new facebook, social website place for language enthusiasts.

Want to czech it out? (pun intended). here it is:

Friday, July 01, 2011

International Fruit Day!

It's here again! Today marks the celebration of the 5th International Fruit day, held each year on July 1st.

Get real! Eat fruit!

This year the day of fruits stands in the sign of the mango which is the chosen fruit for 2011.

Mango, Mango, Olé!

To celebrate, all you have to do is just eat fruit for the day, share a fruit meal with friends, surprise family members with a big fruit salad, buy a fruit you've never eaten before, give a fruit you've eaten before and didn't enjoy, another chance.. the options are endless, but all focus around bringing more awareness of the goodness and life giving qualities of a fruit entered lifestyle.

For us, it'll be just like every other day. Filled with fruit meals and fruit thoughts. Plus of course other activities.

Mango Fruit of 2011

We lead a very simple lifestyle really, most days we start the day with a freshly squeezed fruit juice, maybe do a spot of gardening, burying compost (all our fruit sraps get buried in the garden, and produce the most nutritious soil when biodegraded, - the proof being the little fruit we are able to grow being of above average sweetness.), weeding, pruning off dead leaves, etc.

Maybe a swim in the local river, or a visit to friends out at fruitopia..

I'm also currently spending a fair bit of my time studying the Czech language. I'm using a website called MEMRISE.COM, to aid learning, it's a great website that enables one to learn pretty much any language through the use of mnemonics.. SO far though, it's really only me working on the Czech language side, and I've added about 600 or so words there.. The websites free, and still in Beta, and I'm told to expect big changes. Language learning is fun, this'll be my 6th or so I've learned, but I guess one never stops learning a foreign language..

Meanwhile, through it all, way wait, practicing impatience, yearning for the Divine to provide us with a house on a plot of land, with privacy, seclusion, good soil, and water, to live out the rest of our days on.. So far, the issue is really about lack of money for such an investment, and lack of available places that are up for long term leases.. Never-the-less, we are confident that such a place will eventually be manifested for us, and in this area too, which has a near abouts perfect all year round climate.

Anyhow, happy international fruit day to you all,