Mandarin and Eggplants

Chinese lessons start again on Monday (after a year break) and I can’t wait!  This also means that I need to get my butt moving and get myself back up to speed. In other words, I’m going to be watching heaps of movies!  My favorites are generally originally in Cantonese, but the subtitles are the same for Mandarin and Cantonese, so it’s easy to switch the audio and still read along.   It’s hard to find films with Mandarin overdubbing and subtitles in Western countries, but I got lucky and found  yesasia.com, which is basically the amazon for asian films, music, and books. I love them, and want to have their babies, and so should you.

So on the register for this weekend is Infernal Affairs, Magic Kitchen, Fighting for Love, Drink Drank Drunk, One Night in Mongkok, Gorgeous, Sparrow, Kung Fu Cult Master, Iron Monkey, The Lucky Guy, and A Chinese Odyssey.  I love all of them and have seen them heaps of times, which makes them perfect for language learning.

If you don’t have the luxury of living in the country who’s language you’re learning, dvds are seriously the best way to learn and maintain your language skills.  It incorporates visual images connected with language,  subtitles to read, sound patterns to listen for, sentences to repeat, and a story to provide context.  I can tell within 5 minutes of walking into my classroom which of my students watch English language movies and which ones do the evil German overdub.  In fact, watching films on dvd gives every language skill except for writing a work-out, and even this can be solved.  My tactic is to keep a notebook in front of me, and when a sentence pops up that I understand almost all the words in, I copy it down, find the meanings for the new words, and write three sentences for each new word.    Whats also important is to have the dvds playing in the background over and over.  Even if you aren’t actively listening, your ears are hearing it and your brain is processing it. The second best way to keep up a language, as mentioned in an earlier post, is to play role playing video games in the language you’re learning.  The main problem with this is that it isn’t always possible to get them in the language you want, and the more in-depth ones are often in one language only.

Also on the schedule today is, of course, cooking (you can’t learn if you’re hungry!) and today, for the first time ever, I’m going to try to make roasted eggplant.  I know that having lived in Greece for university, not being able to cook eggplant is a bit ridiculous, but what can you do? I had other priorities (read: party), and eggplant is just way too complicated to cook when you’re a. hung over b. late for class or c. all of the above.  At any rate, I’m going to give it a go today, using this recipe

So far i’ve cross hatched and salted it, like so: I plan on roasting it (in an hour when it’s ready), a bell pepper and some tomatoes together and, using some herbs from the container garden, making melitzana salata.   I’ll post the progress later.

Happy May Day everyone!

ETA: It worked!  Go me!

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The Benefits of Video Games

As I’m sure you all know, I’m a bit of an Xbox junkie. I communicate all day for my job, so it’s nice to go home and switch my brain off and explore a new (if fake) world.  I love games with in-depth complicated stories that rely on your choices in dialogue, like Fall Out 3, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and so on.  My native language is English, but living in Germany, the really in-depth games are only available in German.  I used to think this was a Very Bad Thing.

My German is good, but Science Fiction and Fantasy terms are not really something you learn living in a country, so very often I’d choose a dialogue option which I thought to be nice, and the other character tried to shoot me in the face.  This was, in the beginning, Very Frustrating.

However.  After a while, I started getting used to it. Then I started LEARNING.  It was the first time I realized the language teaching potential of video games.  In retrospect, it’s really freaking obvious.  With games like these, you rely on dialogue and consequences, placed in context, in a foreign language. Basically, you’re playing a movie, and I tell my students to watch English movies to learn all the time.

Now, for the most part, I prefer my RPG’s in German.  The voice overs are very often much better than the English ones (Venetica, I’m looking at YOU!), and, while it is often harder in the beginning (when I often need to learn new words to understand what’s happening but am too interested in the game to look them up), in the end I learn more and have just as much fun.  I’ve finally reached the point where RPG’s in English just feel wrong somehow.

Now Mass Effect 2 is out, and after seeing the previews I was really, really tempted to get it in English (the voices are amazing!).  I’m going to tough it out, though, and explore the Galaxy auf Deutsch.  Also, I get to learn lots of cool, useful new words like Dechiffrierung, Biotische Fähigkeit, and Protonenladungen 😛

If you have the option, try playing one of your favorite games in a language you’re learning…you’ll be surprised how quickly you adapt and how much you learn!