Archive for the ‘Languages’ Category

My first self-created course on memrise.com

Friday, September 28th, 2018

I’ve been posting about memrise on a couple of occasions. This time rather than bragging how many words I’ve learned and how many points I made, I created my own course:

https://www.memrise.com/course/2053021/qian-shui-shi-shi-yan-nodan-yu/

It’s a Japanese -> English course supposed to help you with vocabulary required to help passing the Japanese dive theory test called 潜水士試験

(I have no idea why the URL uses the Mandarin pinyin pronounciation for the test… I’ve inputted Japanese kanji – I also opened a help call with memrise but no reaction so far)

Creating the course was not difficult but you need to prepare the list(s) ahead and put the colums in the right order if you want to mass-import the lists.

Good luck, give it a try yourself (the course as well as creating your own course ^^)

Replacement pen for the Casio EX-word Dataplus 6 XD-D10000

Saturday, August 18th, 2018

Nowadays, everything breaks… somehow I even managed to break the pen for my Casio EX-word 電子辞書… somehow. Don’t ask me how because I don’t know either…

Anyway, finding a replacement was not easy… the Casio homepage is less than helpful. But accidentally I’ve found some replacement pens that are 98% perfect (not 100% because the replacements are slightly loose in the penholder incorporated in the main body of the device).

Here they are:

If you need replacement pens too, maybe this will help.

A memrise milestone…

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Recently surpassed a streak of 10^3 consecutive days of learning on memrise… don’t think I’m going to be able to keep this up until I hit 10^4… and guess what, no rewards or points or anything for it.

Here’s a screenshot:

Which also means that slightly more than 1000 days ago, the app and the website didn’t work and I lost a 350ish day streak. Nobody ever said sorry about that then.

CPE result

Monday, January 29th, 2018

Last week (or maybe two weeks back), the result of the CPE came in. I passed with a grade of A and with a score slightly higher than 220 although I messed up the writing part somehow. Given the minimal preparation I spent on this test, probably quite a decent result.

Oh, at my current employer I had to take an obligatory speaking test (automated): Verdant. Verdict:  a very valiant 78 of 80 points.

CPE… the last test this year

Monday, December 4th, 2017

Last week I took the Cambridge Proficiency Test, the whole package (English in use, Writing, Listening, Speaking). The result should come in around December 10th which is refreshingly quick. I’m not unduly worried but it won’t be a perfect score this time, definitely not.

Still, for anyone out there on a reasonably good level in English should take up this challenge. You can do it!

PADI Assistant Instructor – done and dusted

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

While still doing the PADI Divemaster internship, I started and recently finished the PADI Assistant Instructor course. The certification card should be on its way.

Whereas the Divemaster has a lot of practical aspects, the next step in the PADI career focuses on teaching, teaching techniques, structuring lessons and applied lessons in confined water and open water.

First time supervising an open water lesson was pretty stressful. All of a sudden you have to deal with things such as bottom topography and current, which you don’t really have to take into consideration in a pool.

One of the most painful lessons I learned was the aspect of control – even if you have an assistant, you need to constantly monitor everyone around you, even the assistant – unless you know him/her pretty well and you make a good team.

I have to say, I really enjoyed the first dive *after* the course because after weeks and weeks of tasks, homework, assignments and such I finally got the chance to enjoy a quiet, no-pressure dive again. Felt good…

(Edit on 2017/08/25: corrected three typos)

Schnapszahl* anniversary on memrise

Monday, April 10th, 2017

I’m a cautiosly avid user of memrise (memrise.com) – every tool has its advantages and disadvantages. So far, memrise has worked well for me and this weekend I was able to celebrate a 555 day streak (everyday continous learning). Something to be a little proud of.

This means two things:

  1. I have used a computer/tablet/smartphone for 555 days straight
  2. 556 days ago, the memrise app login and the website were not available, I just could not login which ruined my previous 300+ streak. Thanks a lot, memrise. By the way, there was never an apology or even an explanation about the outage. Well, it’s a free tool so I guess I can’t complain.

*What’s a Schnapszahl, you ask? Apparently there’s no direct translation in English. It’s defined as a number which consists of several equal numbers such as the above 555. Before trying to find a translation and checking the definition I though it also included patterns e.g. 737737, but this could be a regional difference.

Does memrise help you remember stuff?

Monday, August 29th, 2016

I use a couple of memorization tools…. anymemo, memrise, mnemosyne. They all have their strengths and weaknesses. In this post, I would like to divulge my opinion on memrise.

Overall, I have been using memrise for app. 553 days. The app encourages streaks – continous days of usage. For one set of vocabulary, I’m on my 333rd consecutive day – before that, the website was down so I lost my previous 200 or so day streak.

By the way, no one at memrise has ever apologized for that one day of downtime nor was there ever any explanation posted on the webiste. Shame, shame….

Memrise comes in two options: You can either login to the website memrise.com and learn facts and vocabulary there or you can install the memrise app.

Please keep in mind that I’m using memrise to learn Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean and Hebrew. The relevance will be clear after the next paragraph…

The algorithm behind either version is the same – the main difference is the input and its configuration. On the website, you can choose to type vocabulary by using your physical keyboard whereas in the app, memrise provides an onscreen keyboard. Why does that make a difference?

On my pc/laptop, I have succesfully configured Mandarin and Japanese input for which I can use the latin alphabet as a basis. To type 漢字 in Japanese, I switch to the Japanese input and type “kanji” (Enter). The same principle works for Mandarin.

Korean on the other hand uses a totally different keyboard and so far I have not found a latin alphabet-bases input configuration. A colleague uses a self-made paper layout on top of his physical keyboard. Until I have to get really close and intimate with Korean, I will remain on the current low-key configuration, thank you.

As for Hebrew which is a right-to-left language (totally freaks me out in vocabulary lists in Excel), I don’t know. I’m just learning some basic words and phrases for the time being, so I have not looked into any input methods on my pc/laptop.

The exercises on memrise come in several patterns, but this can widely differ from course by course, which are contributed by memrise members. Naturally, the quality of the courses can also differ…

Most courses come with cards in English–><foreign_language> and the opposite (<foreign_language>->English). The “better” courses provided audio files for the <foreign_language> cards which can be really helpful for any foreign language, especially tonal languagues.

The “written” cards come in the following variety: Typing, recognizing and selecting. All in all, a good variety.

Before a card is marked as learned, you have to repeat it appr. six or seven times in learning mode. Afterwards it is moved to the “learned” heap and reappears according to a long-time memorization algorithm, similar to supermemo, anymemo, mnemosye and so on.

The downsides of memrise (the app, not the website) is the development. I was invited to participate as beta tester for memrise but after watching the google+ group for a couple of weeks, I decided to leave the group and not update memrise if I can avoid it.

The guys behind memrise basically make the same mistake all developers seem to make…. features over fixes and implemenation of features that do not make sense. I can understand the rationale behind this, but first of all I want a working app not new features all the time.

Also, there is considerable lack of communication about development and features. I have not seen a properly maintained list of bugs (open, in work, fixes). Frankly, the whole process of reporting bugs until a fix is implemented seems not very mature. A lot of users in the groups simply state “it’s not working pls fix it”. The more communicative users at least state their type of mobile phone, what version of ios or android and how to recreate the bug.

If you just are looking for a different way to learn vocabulary, check out memrise – at least I think it’s a good way to learn.

Why I quit duolingo.com after a streak of almost 300 days…

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

When browsing imgur.com, there are occasionally posts like “Useful websites” and the language-minded links listed usually never fail to mention duolingo.com. DL lets you learn languages for free.

I signed up to learn some more Italian. At that time the course was not available for native German speakers so I changed the language preferences to English and signed up for the Italian/English course.
DL tries to keep you motivated by giving you a virtual coin if you complete a 10 days streak, two for a twenty day streak and so on. You also get virtual coins by completing a course section.

As the title says, I had completed a streak of almost 300 days when all my frustrations on DL erupted and I deactivated my account.

Why? Several reasons:

1) Whoever builds up the examples database of English sentences to be translated into Italian is not a native English speaker so the sentences sound weird and unnatural. Apparently not all English sentences are proofread either.
This leads you to actually learn terrible English sentences by heart rather than learning Italian.

2) The sections are theme-based e.g. sports, weather, business etc. If you translate everything theme-related correctly but write “this” instead of “that”, the whole sentence is marked wrong. After a couple of innocent mistakes like that in a lesson, the time-based repetition mechanism marks the lesson as “unlearned” which means you might be an expert on sports/business/weather but you have to repeat the lesson anyway.
My way around that was to build up a database of sentences, over a thousand in the end from which I could copy the correct answers. Not the optimal way to learn a language, I know, but as I am prone to those small but costly errors, I saw no other way.

3) Per problem, there is a discussion board. Usually, the more comments there are, the more controversial a sentence is. People post equally correct answers and improvements, ask about details and such but if the moderators read those posts, they never do anything about it. Still, the community within DL is quite helpful and friendly.

4) Reporting is virtually useless because rarely ever someone acts on it. Per problem you can also write a problem report. I’ve written dozens and dozens and only occasionally got a reply. When I started the German course (as a native speaker, I wanted to see how quickly I can finish the course) I found so many sentences that were weird and wrote so many reports but I never heard anything back. And I’m not the only one… people usually post “reported on xx/xx/xx” on the discussion board and still months later, only the crappy original solution would be accepted.

5) A language is a living thing, there are dozens of correct way to translate a sentence and yet, the solution coming from a db, can only correct a small amount of typos. Same as in other languages, there are differences between German in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Why would I have to think like a German if my answer is perfectly correct in Austria or Switzerland? Imagine you taking a real-life class and the teacher would mark your answer as incorrect just because the teacher hails from a different part of a country?

6) The algorithm that chooses the problems still needs a lot of work. I’ve worked through lessons such as sports where I had to consecutively answer the same problem three times.

7) The problem databases are one-way only but not vice versa. A correct solution to a translation problem might be marked as incorrect if you put the same reply into the translation problem coming from the other language.

The good thing about DL? It’s free – that is if I don’t count the keyboards I smashed in frustration. I feel much better now that I’ve quit DL.

威廉·泰尔(Willhelm Tell)

Sunday, October 12th, 2014

威廉·泰尔(Willhelm Tell)
今天我给你介绍一位瑞士的历史上名人。他叫 威廉·泰尔。他的像被印铸在瑞士五法郎钱币上。
根据传说,泰尔生活在大概七白年前。在施維茨州(Schwyz)地方,他可能做了农人和猎人。那个时候还没有那个叫瑞士的国家。那地方本来是哈布斯堡君主国(Habsburg Monarchy)的一部分。当时是现在奥地利(Austria),匈牙利(Hungary)和捷克斯洛伐克(Czechoslovakia)。
在瑞士的历史课本里,泰尔被称英雄因为他反抗哈布斯堡君主国的压迫。那时候的压迫主要是高税金和不公平的判决。
有一日,泰尔通过施維茨城市的市场。国王的官吏把他的帽子放在市场的中心。大家通过时要问候那个帽子,不过泰尔拒绝问候帽子,说他不会接受外国的大王。官吏马上下令逮捕泰尔。国王的官吏答应让泰尔自由如果他能用弩弓和箭射他儿子头上的苹果。泰尔成功中苹果,但是仍被逮捕,然后他还是逃跑了。躲的时候,泰尔知道官吏通过的地方。泰尔决心暗杀官吏,然后他帮助建立瑞士。
在丹麦有相似的传说,比瑞士的更久远。丹麦的传说里,泰尔不用弩弓,而是用弓。但是,故事大部分大概相同。所以,丹麦的传说成为瑞士的起源。
几百年后德国诗人Schiller改写泰尔的传说,成为现在最有名的故事版本