Friday, January 28, 2011

العربية - أسبوع 4

These last couple of weeks have been very bad for my studying.  I still am getting some time in every day, which is the most important thing, but it is not as much time as I would like.  I have had a couple of large setbacks lately which annoy me to no end.  I have tried to obtain both the Advanced course of Michel Thomas' Arabic program and also the audio which goes along with a couple of my texts, but to no avail.  Miraculously all of these were unobtainable from my library.  This being the case, I currently have no audio to work from with the exception of one set of audio from one text, and the audio on that is not terribly helpful.  I am finally getting into verbs in my current textbook!  The first half of the text dealt with the alphabet and noun cases, which is all well and good, however it makes it difficult to practice any writing on my own when missing that crucial V is the SVO spectrum.  I am going to be assessing myself on the 30th of this month to see my progress thus far.  Also, this will give me an idea of what I need to work on next month more intensively.

I had my lesson with JRL last Friday and it was marvelous!  So many more things became clear through the course of the lesson and I was actually singing tenor notes and not feeling like I was dying.  Since my lesson I have been routinely warming up to F above high C and singing feels really good.  The biggest concept I took away from my lesson was that I had the wrong aural image in my head for my voice, specifically for high notes.  My plan now is to work my tail off over the next couple of months and see JRL when he is back stateside, which I believe is going to be in April.

I thought that I would post a couple of clips of me on here to show my progress for anyone who is interested.  The first clip is from July 2010 and was the last baritone aria I sang:

The next clip is from this past Monday, 6 months since the previous clip.  I am well aware that this is not nearly a finished product, but I found it rather encouraging.  This is a considerably shorter clip than the previous one, but I believe that this is a decent example of what JRL refers to as the "small voice" which will ultimately grow into a full voice sound:

For the sake of honesty:  Both of these clips were recorded using my cell phone and are thus missing some fundamental harmonics that would be present in real life.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

العربية - 3 أسبوع

This was a frustrating week in my language studies.  My best friend was up from Mississippi and then I traveled to NYC Friday and Saturday.  Thusly, I did not get very much studying in.  I did however, finish one introductory program this week, which was important.

Vocally, my reason behind going down to NYC was so that I could have a lesson.  The lesson was very encouraging.  I realized that I need to adjust my aural image of my voice if I want to progress.  I have noticed that when one goes a long time in between lessons, the progress that is made may be substantial, however to the singer it seems so miniscule.  I had this happen to me Friday at my lesson.  It had been six months since my last lesson and while I felt I had progressed, I was sure that it was minimal at best.  However I was informed otherwise, which is very nice.  I have my new set of things to work on for the next few months.  I plan to get down to the City again the next time JRL is in town and similarly like that for the rest of my time until I move.

Methodology Minute

Scheduling.  It is the bane of everyone's existence.  A long time ago I read an article in Classical Singer magazine which talked about the concept of place-matting.  Unfortunately it was part of a series and I never came across the subsequent articles, but I think I understand the general gist of what the author was getting at.  Essentially, during the course of a day, we all have activities that fall into three categories:

1.)  Must do (High Priority)
2.)  Should do (Medium Priority)
3.)  Like to do (Low Priority)

The average person should have about 16 productive hours with which they can accomplish tasks.  The idea behind place-matting is that at the beginning of your week you should schedule out your entire week's activities.  First, place in your Category 1 tasks (in my case:  work, practice, eating, sleep, etc.) for the entire week.  Then place in your Category 2 tasks (in my case:  language study, exercise, etc.).  Finally add in whatever Category 3 tasks fit into the time left over.

This process of scheduling your entire week by priority ensure that you accomplish the things that are most important every week.  Truthfully, this is something that I struggle with, but since I have posted it on here I am going to try to get myself to commit to this concept and see how I do.  You see that I even schedule sleep into my activities, I think this is very important.  If you set yourself a bedtime then you can guarantee yourself the amount of sleep you need every night.  I also think that it is important to schedule in free time (this can take whatever priority you want it to).  That is not to say that this schedule is inflexible; things happen and opportunities may present themselves at times other than those planned.  However, if you can maintain a schedule most of the time you will see your productivity increase greatly.

A great tool for this concept is Google Calendar.  The Calendar now has a function that can find a free time block to put your activities.  Again, I have not yet started to use this (I intend to tonight) but this will take some of the struggle out of your day.

Friday, January 14, 2011

الهربة - الأسبوع 2

This week was a good week and a somewhat frustrating week all in one.  It started out really well, but the last few days I have not studied as much as I would have liked.  I have valid reasons for this, however it is still annoying after putting in so much consistent time to have a skid of any degree.  Despite this, I had a realization last night - I believe that I may be able to eclipse my initial goal for Arabic by the end of this first month.  This is great, but requires me to come up with a new set of goals for the additional two months I have to work on this language.  Luckily, I discovered these checklists which outline very specifically what is contained in each respective level and I will use them to set my short and long term goals for each language.  I am using the CEFR guidelines because they are more universal.

I do not have much to say about my vocal progress.  There were two observations this week:

1.)  I vocalized a full voiced B-flat in my exercises that felt like it was a part of my voice.

2.)  I have noticed a generally more heady feel to my singing, however upon checking I still have chest resonance throughout most of my range (including increased resonance in the lower range).

Methodology Minute

There are many people who are very input focused when it comes to learning a language who are very successful.  I'm not saying that I am necessarily one of them, however I do feel that native input is important.  In our current society, this exposure to native input is easier than it has ever been.

The internet provides a language learner all of the possibilities to immerse him/herself in a language as a vacation does all within the comfort of his/her own home.  A particular site that I have been using for almost a year now which is fabulous is RadioTime.  As the name suggests, this site provides access to radio stations all over the world in just about any language that radio is produced.  Additionally, RadioTime has an app which I use on my Palm Pre when I am driving, so that I can listen to as much native radio programming as possible.

Second, just this morning I discovered wwiTV which provides T.V. programming from around the world.  I have not really used it much yet, but am looking forward to it very much.

Finally, there is the wonder that is Skype.  With Skype it is possible to video chat with people from around the world thus giving a language learner ample opportunities to practice their conversational skills.

There are numerous other resources on the internet for language learners as well including forums for language learners, language lessons, and opportunities for practice.  As with everything else in life, the internet has revolutionized the way we can approach learning languages so that we might be more efficient and better exposed.

Friday, January 7, 2011

الهربة - الأسبوع 1

Week one of Arabic down.  This week has been a fun, challenging and occasionally painful week for my language study.  After tonight's studies (it's still Thursday for me) I will have learned all of the Arabic alphabet!  As of the present time I have put in 7.45 hours of study, which breaks down to a quarter of my first Arabic text, Mastering Arabic, and nearly three CDs of Michel Thomas.  I like the combination of audio work and written work even more than I liked purely working on grammar last month.  The interesting thing for me in this language is that all of my written work is dealing with Modern Standard Arabic and my audio work is in Egyptian Arabic.  For those who do not know, there are many different dialects of spoken Arabic, with Egyptian being the most prevalent, but most publications and news broadcasts are in MSA, hence the need to learn both.  I have really enjoyed the process so far and am surprised by the amount that I can already say after only a week of work.  If I can continue my current pace for the rest of the time I am studying Arabic this time around (until March) then I should reach my goal amount of hours and should be right at the level that I want to be at for this first part of the cycle.

I had a good week of singing including coming upon some sensations that I had not made contact with since my lessons six months ago.  I was able to vocalize up to a (not pretty) high C yesterday and am becoming more and more comfortable with A-flats every day.  Only two weeks until my lesson with JRL!

I am not going to type this in Arabic this week as I have not yet learned the entire alphabet.  Plus, it will take me a long time to do and I have studying to do yet.

Methodology Minute

Youtube is an amazing resource for learning languages.  Within the site one can find sermons, soccer clips, television clips, presentations, songs, etc. all in ones target language.  I have long used youtube for following present singers and past singers to the point of obsession, however I just recently discovered a new reason to peruse the site.  There are many clips of various polyglots on the site detailing various methods of learning languages.  This is huge!  If you are like me, you were taught to learn by studying in a class with a teacher and a bunch of unmotivated classmates.  Through the magic of youtube though, there are many, many possible ways to learn outlined for you.  A few examples:

FluentCzech:  A British gentleman who lives in the Czech Republic developed a method which he calls the Spiral Method which relies on the student's curiosity.

NJLIversen:  A Dane who has a very specific way of studying which is suited to the more strictly academic pursuit of languages, focusing on wordlists, morphology, etc.

Glossika:  An American living in China who teaches others how to speak foreign languages using mass sentence input.

ProfASAr:  Another man living in Asia teaching languages who has a very specific approach including shadowing and scriptorium.

Through youtube, we are provided with so many possible approaches that we can try and adapt to are own learning styles and find what works the best and most efficiently!  I encourage everyone who is interested in studying languages, or is currently at a standstill in the pursuits to check out these channels as well as anything else they can find on youtube.  A new approach may just be what is needed to get you over the hump!