Monday, December 03, 2007

Flashcard Hell

Damn. For a few months, I got sucked into the flashcard trap thanks to the great Anki application. I was so impressed, I went and made flashcards for all the Korean and Japanese vocab and grammar I studied. Inputting all that took a lot of time and effort and could lead to a debilitating case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Anyways, after things cooled down, I realized that I ignored my own advice about relying on flashcards. They are good for learning the building blocks of any language, ie the alphabet/characters, but beyond that, they serve little purpose since it doesn't provide context. It would be far easier to randomly stick my finger in a dictionary and see if I know the definition; at least I wouldn't have to input anything. Anyways, unless there is a big test I'd need to study for, I think I'll have to limit my flashcard use to individual Chinese characters.

Books: Wasting Money, Space, and Time

One thing that I used to have a problem with was buying books and never getting around to going through them. It was such a pain in the ass since I used to lug those unread books with me whenever I moved (I move a LOT). Since then, I've been able to control myself by actually reading the books before buying any others, not only for my own education, but to also lighten my luggage. In any case, I was going to write more on it, but I coincidentally found an article over at Sinosplice that covers it far more eloquently than I ever could. You can read it here.

No Sweat Cantonese (Review II)

Right after I finished "A Cantonese Book", I went right into "No Sweat Cantonese" for another go. Everything I said in the first review still holds. The only difference is that I've been in HK long enough and have gone through some other materials enough to get a better idea of what they were trying to explain. It felt less like a book to learn from and more like a practice book for the stuff I learned elsewhere. Anyways, I got through the entire book this time and it was a lot less frustrating. Probably because I just got finished with "A Cantonese Book" and it was tough to consider "No Sweat Cantonese" as a serious source of Cantonese education. It would be like playing basketball with a five year old. I'd get some practice dribbling, but wouldn't break out in a sweat. This is an especially appropriate example since I suck at basketball. As I mentioned in my last review, there were a couple of useful tidbits here and there, but nothing worth the price of the book.

A Cantonese Book (Review)

I picked up this package when I first arrived in HK. At first, I was pretty disappointed that the box was much bigger than the book and 2 CD's that were included; deceptive marketing and all that. Anyways, overall, I enjoyed the set. It didn't cover much, but I did feel like I got a decent grasp of what there was. First the good stuff. Everything was written in characters. I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but I had romanization when it is not accompanied by the corresponding characters. There were also plenty of chances to learn to read and pronounce and practice the different grammar structures. There were also a variety of exercises. I'm not sure of how useful they are, but at least I never got bored going over them.

Now for the bad. This book is pretty thin with some big fonts. In other words, it doesn't go over much. A lot of the grammar wasn't very clear and seemed to go for the learn by intuition approach. I've been around enough textbooks to get an idea of what they want to get across, but for someone starting out fresh, I can see how they might get frustrated. Another point of contention is that there were no translations given for the example sentences. I was about 98% sure of the meanings, but that last 2% does a lot for peace of mind.

I don't think it is the best book to learn Cantonese from, but I do think it is a good book to start from, especially when considering the lack of variety and quality in other Cantonese materials out there.

10 Things I Love About Hong Kong

In no particular order, except for #1.

10. The best online banking system ever.

9. Low cost and variety of transportation.

8. Being able to find anything you might need or want.

7. Little or no overt xenophobia compared to other countries I've been in like Korea or Japan. In HK, if you can pay like everyone else, there is no exclusion in products and services.

8. Outside of some brusque sales clerks, I think Hong Kong has some of the friendliest people in the world.

7. Contrary to belief, if you know where to shop and don't insist on living on HK island, HK can be an extremely inexpensive place to live.

6. While other places claim to be international, they are left in the dust compared to HK who comes closest to reaching that ideal.

5. Most movies show up on VCD almost immediately after their theatre run.

4. People in HK tend to be more practical.

3. Winters are like Autumn, my favorite season.

2. Light shows and fireworks every night.

1. THE FOOD. Dim sum, seafood, Middle Eastern, Greek, Mexican, American, Pizza, Japanese, Korean, Shanghainese, Malay, French, Spanish, Indian, Thai, Szechuan, vegetarian, healthy, steak, burgers, hot dogs, Turkish, Greek, Vietnamese, whatever. It is ALL here!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10 Things I Hate About Hong Kong

In no particular order, except for number #1:

10. Being harrassed to buy suits, watches, or getting my fortune told every time I go to TST.

9. The hot muggy weather that makes your clothes stick to you like sweaty saran wrap.

8. Weekend crowds.

7. Having to wait for an hour to eat out because you didn't make a reservation.

6. Mini-busses that seem to accelerate when they see pedestrians on the street.

5. Long ass lines at the ATM machines.

4. When your laundry can't properly dry because of the high humidity and they get that mildewy smell.

3. Toilet paper being sold in indiscrete packs of 12 or 24 rolls.

2. The freezing indoor air conditioning that make it necessary to take a jacket with you even on the hottest summer days.

1. Getting dripped on with that nasty water from the air conditioners mounted on the outside of buildings every time i walk on the street.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Anki (Review)

Anki is a cool little app. I found online. It is a flashcard program made specifically for Japanese. Automatic kana input, statistics regarding the kanji you have stored, detailed graphs on the progress. Good stuff. However, the program can also be used for other languages or topics. These last two months have pretty much been dedicated to input (2,500 Japanese words and 1,700 Korean words) and review. Took a lot of time, but worth the effort since it helps with retention. This program also uses spaced repition, which is the best way to commit things to long term memory. The extra advantage, though, is that you can decide how far you want to push the next review for a particular word. All it requires is being honest with yourself. This is definitely the best flashcard program I've found. You can download it at