Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Performance Review & Progress Report, 2014

2014/09/21 Leave a comment

In 2009, I started my current stage of language learning by choosing to study Japanese. Before that, I consider myself as having been just like most other people. These “Performance Review” posts try to better show I’m nothing special and you can do this too.

Previous posts: 2013. 2009-2012. 2009.

Hello, 5 year mark! 5 years since started Japanese and began learning various languages. Here’s a quick look at all the languages I touched on and their statuses compared to last year. That’s what this post will cover, and in the listed order. This is not a look back at the past 5 years.

Main efforts

  • Mandarin – Notable improvement.
  • Korean – Notable improvement.
  • Japanese – Slight loss.
  • French – Some improvement
  • Spanish – Extremely slight improvement

Lesser efforts

  • Vietnamese – Slight improvement.
  • Shanghainese – Continued, slow advancement.
  • Southern Min (Taiwanese / Hokkien) – Continued, slow advancement.
  • Thai – Little change, both positive and negative.
  • Arabic – Slight Loss.

(the following languages will not be covered in this post since there’s not much to say.)

  • Hindi – No change, maintained.
  • Cantonese – No change, maintained.

Not targeted

  • Hmong – Still ignored
  • Yoruba – Still ignored.
  • Swahili & Zulu – Still ignored.
  • Russian & Greek – Slight loss.
  • Morse Code  – Some loss.

Read more…

Starting Out: Shanghainese and Taiwanese 1

2013/07/12 8 comments

Oriental Pearl + Taipei 101Documenting my first forays into a new language!

I just started looking into Shanghainese and Taiwanese. Here’s how I’ve been starting out. I still can barely use Cantonese, but I want to try picking up at least a little of these other languages. Now, why am I doing this? Well, I’m trying push myself (I’m really pushing common beliefs / misconceptions, rather than myself, I think) in a different way now. Is there really a limit to how many languages you can tackle at once, or is it really all methodology and attitude, as I suspect? I should point out, though, this is will not be a project of primary focus. Rather, I want to see if it’s possible to learn them on the side, with little effort, and still retain them – especially if they’re similar in some way.

So, why these languages? Here’s a little about them to explain why I chose them.


Montage of Taipei, Taiwan’s capital, from Wikipedia

A lot Chinese dramas and pop songs known internationally come from Taiwan, and it’s been pretty common for me to meet Taiwanese and people from southern Fujian. Yes, that’s right, with it, I will also be able to communicate with people from southern Fujian province in China, including people from the city of Xiamen. In this sense, it is called Minnanyu or Minnanhua in Mandarin, with the “Minnan” meaning Southern Min. A small issue: Fuzhou, another big, famous city whose emigrants I seem to keep running into in America, is just a bit too far north. They speak Mindong, or Central Min. Hopefully it’s close enough for SOME level of comprehension, but some people seem to say it’s closer to Minbei (Northern Min, if you didn’t see that coming) than Minnan. Oh well. It would still serve me well for talking with Taiwanese people. Variants are also spoken in Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, and I’m sure other places as well.  Read more…

Beijing Part 1: Impressions & Hot Pot

2012/11/05 Leave a comment

Note: Just to let everyone know beforehand, this post is going to be pretty negative, but that’s just because it’s the experience I had! Luckily, this day was the only “bad” one, so this will pretty much be the only negative things you’ll read about the trip!


We landed at Beijing Capital International Airport (Terminal 3, the largest in the world), and as we slowed down from our taxi, I noticed something – a smell. What was that? Something in the airplane? Something burning? The pollution? And what was that fuzzy stuff flying around outside? It looked like it was snowing! I knew Beijing’s pollution was one of the worst but surely not enough for chunks to fly around the air like ash, right?? I started thinking it had to be some plant thing more like dandelion seeds. I soon overheard someone in the plane say it was indeed from trees.

As for the smell, I can’t say they were also from trees, though. It was indeed pollution. Woe is me for it was with me throughout my stay in Beijing!

But really, woe are the Beijing citizens, is what I kept thinking. Only one day do I remember seeing what may have possibly been normal clouds of water on a barely visible blue sky. Every other day it was hazy and relatively dark. Crazy how pollution has been allowed for so long. We already have American cities apparently at such levels. There’s a prediction (don’t know how reliable, I forgot where I read it) for Beijing that within a few decades virtually every single citizen will be sick with something due to pollution, and I’m not surprised if American cities have already faced similar predictions.

The government allowing it is one thing, but what about the people? I met a few people who did tell me they plan to leave because of the pollution, so good for them, but if only more people did that. If people just started ignoring their reasons for staying whether they be nostalgic or for work or something, and worried more about their health, I’ll bet you the government will THEN magically find a way to turn things around – once they notice their cities are going ghost town. Well, that’s just my random, not seriously-thought-out opinion.

Anyway, moving away from my pollution rant…

It had been quite a few years since I’ve been at an airport – much less flown – so I had a little stupid moment where I wasn’t quite sure on where to go to meet with my group. I’m sure it must be logical and I should just keep heading for the exit, but come on. I prefer to be sure, and here’s my first chance at really trying out my Mandarin. So I asked some workers where the waiting area was.  Read more…

Flight to Beijing

2012/07/03 Leave a comment

Note: This post references some movies whose titles may link to Wikipedia articles – which tend to have full plot summaries. If you want to avoid spoilers, skip those links and just read my mini-reviews at the end.

May 7, 2012: 6 AM flight out of Baltimore. Short 1 hr flight to Newark, then the big flight from Newark to Beijing by flying over the Arctic. 14 hr flight.

Yes, sorry, everyone. If you were expecting a post on Beijing, that’s next time. First, I’ve got a little to say about the flight!

I love these long international flights, especially when they are on these huge planes – a nice, big Boeing 777. It’s easy to work out your times awake and asleep to prevent jet lag, and there’s a good selection of movies, shows, and music. Granted, this was only the 3rd such flight I’ve had, but so far they’ve been good.

Conversation soon opened with the Chinese man next to me, who was probably in his 40’s or 50’s. He lives in the US and his English was fluent so throughout the flight we mostly spoke in English about various things, but it was pretty much just basic and friendly chit chat throughout. We’d still use Chinese sometimes for some basic exchanges. That was still very hard for me, even on so much that I should have understood. More on this will be upcoming in a “Performance Review,” because it is now 3 years since I started this stage of language learning and it’s time to review my progress.

As my…uh, flight mate? row mate? looked for movies to watch (having not been impressed by the first one he picked) I suggested 3 Idiots and summarized what it was about. He was enjoying it, so I sort of re-watched most of that movie off his screen while I listened to music, mainly listening to recent albums by Rainie Yang, Utada Hikaru, and I forgot who else. I had no idea they had put new albums out; I’ve been slipping.

United States

Over US, looks like we’re skimming along water.

Over US, waves – I mean clouds, are picking up.

Here come the waves! I mean clouds!

Among wool and cotton.


Over Canada, probably Quebec. Bonjour!

Over Canada, probably Quebec

Over Newfoundland and Labrador: Newfoundland Island

Probably just off the coast and over the ocean

Read more…

June; post-ENGR 197A

2012/06/09 1 comment

So I’m back home after a near 1-month school program in China offered by Penn State. I had really hoped to stay in China just a bit longer so it’s a bit disappointing to be back so early, but that’s minor. This was a great program and I had a great experience in China.

I was unable to update this blog because my iPhone randomly crashed. Considering it was my first jailbreak, I probably should have loaded only a few apps to avoid trouble. It was also kind of my fault that I never got the thing fixed because at first I didn’t feel a need to rush since restoring an iPhone really isn’t a big deal. However, when I finally got around to it,  I found iTunes won’t restore unless you have the latest update (600-700 MB download) and I ended up facing slow internet or failing downloads. When I got a chance to fix it at a phone store, only a couple days were left in the program so I didn’t do it.

Now I’m back and can start writing about my experience. So stay tuned for posts on the trip. They’ll be including pictures, just like this post.

As a quick summary of my opinion, I’ll say the program was thankfully what I wanted it to be. I got to see everything from big modern cities to small old ones, city parks to amazing mountain vistas, the Great Wall to the Beijing National Stadium, and most outings had the focus on engineering and architecture to learn about cultural and historical influences. And of course, let’s not forget that the experience included the food, the people, the culture, the music, the TV, the streets, the markets, and hey, the language.

The included pictures are of two of my favorites places from the trip. Try to find out or guess where they are; you’ll find out the answer in their corresponding blog posts. Click for full size.