Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016 is Upon Us!

Whenever a new year comes I think that all of us feel the necessity to start fresh.  This can be a good thing and a bad thing.  Good in that we make plans to be intentional and get things going that we have wanted to do for who knows how long.  Bad because we often fail in those attempts and then wait until next year to give it another go.  Maybe that will happen for me, maybe it wont. I do have some things that I will be taking on this year and have this blog that I haven't used for six months, so why not make a public announcement in order that I might push myself all the more?

Let's keep this brief.  Here is what I am aiming for, starting tomorrow:

  • #VTReadingChallenge:  This was proposed by Tim Challies at challies.com and I can't help but want to try.  I am not someone who reads constantly, but I hope that through this challenge I can become more diverse in what I read.  I also wouldn't mind getting a little smarter and wiser in the process.
  • Language learning:  Always a goal, but also the goal most often moved to the back of my mind.  I've blogged about it before, and I think I will stay with the tools I have used before.  Memrise, italki, Chinese Skill, Pleco, etc.
  • Bible Reading: I'm torn between doing a pre-made plan or just coming up with my own custom plan.  I'm not sure whether slowly working through a book at a time with a few commentaries by my side would be better right now, or if trying to read a lot of the Bible in each sitting to really immerse myself in it as many times as I can get through it would be better.  I'm leaning towards slow and steady right now.  We'll see. 
  • Fitness: After doing the Tough Mudder this year I realized the value in being in shape.  I felt better and I had more energy.  I have since become more sedentary and have already lost quite a bit of strength.  I will be going through some workout apps that I got for my iPhone in hopes to gain some of what I had back.  I would like to do something every day, maybe alternating muscle workouts and running/biking every other day.  I hope the weather starts getting a little nicer...
  • Family: I really want to engage my family more.  Play more board games with my wife and kids, play video games with the boys, take the girls on dates, etc.  Most importantly I want to pray with my wife and kids and slowly work through a book of the Bible together.  I think that might be a good idea.  
  • Church: I really want to connect with the people that God has entrusted me with in whatever way possible.  I want to pray for them more and hear their hearts more.  It's hard in our busy world to know exactly how to do that, but I want to make more of an effort even if it is just by sending a daily email of encouragement to a person in the church each day.  I don't know.  Still thinking through this.
There is more brewing in my mind, but this is what is fresh.  What is different about tomorrow than any other day?  Nothing.  But I want to be more intentional, so I will take the little extra push of it being a new year to get me over that hurdle of getting distracted again.  I will be blogging again, hopefully, and we'll see what happens.

God's grace in Jesus to whoever reads this.  Enjoy the beginning of a new year!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Language Learning Reboot: Giving italki a try!

Well, it has begun.  I have one month to get my Mandarin in shape for when our exchange student from Wuhan, China gets here.  I have been going back and forth as to whether or not I wanted to use italki to take private lessons, but tonight I decided to give it another shot.  My first time using italki with a professional teacher was about a year ago and it didn't go as well as I had hoped.  However, this time was actually great!


This is my teacher, Xin.  As you can tell in the picture she is very nice and very patient.  We went over quite a few things and, admittedly, my Mandarin was absolutely terrible.  At least, my conversational abilities were terrible.  My tones and pronunciation were good so I guess that's a start.  So I guess this is a new Day One in my language journey.  Here's hoping that these lessons, in addition to using Memrise and ChineseSkill, will give me that bump I need to get over this wall that I've been stuck at for while now.

For more information about italki, go here.

Friday, January 30, 2015

O the Unsearchable Riches of Christ's Love!

I have begun to read a devotional titled Voices from the Past that I picked up during a Banner of Truth sale last year.  It is a collection of Puritan writings condensed into brief paragraphs for daily reading.  I appreciated what I read this morning and thought I would share it with you in hope that it would kindle your affection for the Savior.  Enjoy!
Rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory. 1 Peter 1: 8 
The glorious riches of Christ’s love cannot be expressed but in the language of paradise; it cannot be understood but by a transported soul, a spirit caught up to the third heaven. The expressions, which the Spirit uses for us to understand, are such that we realize we cannot fully apprehend them. He tells us of joy unspeakable (1 Pet. 1: 8), peace passing understanding (Phil. 4: 7), love passing knowledge (Eph. 3: 19), and riches unsearchable (Eph. 3: 8). These streams are drops of love— Christ is the fountain, the ocean; these are sparks— he has given us the Sun. His love gives us an interest in the glorious Trinity. The holy and uncreated Spirit is ours, his graces and comforts are ours. The Father also is ours; all that he is, all his glorious attributes, his all-sufficiency, wisdom, power, mercy, justice, truth, and faithfulness. His decrees are the spring of our happiness (Eph. 1: 4-5). His providence carries us with full sail into the ocean of glory. Heaven is our home, and earth is our inn, to accommodate us in our pilgrimage, and angels, they are our guard (Matt. 4: 6). And now, what is there in heaven and earth that the love of Christ has not made ours? There is nothing left but himself. And, alas, what would all these things profit, if we lack him? Without Christ, earth would be hell, and heaven would not be heaven. He is the hope of earth, and the glory of heaven. See here the height of his love; he has given us himself, and all with himself. His love would let nothing be withheld from us: not his life— he gave his life a ransom for us; not his blood— he washed us in his blood; not his glory—‘ The glory that you have given me I have given to them’ (John 17: 22). O boundless love! O the unsearchable riches of Christ’s love! O happy souls that have an interest in his love, and in these riches!
DAVID CLARKSON, Works, III: 10-11
Richard Rushing. Voices from the Past (Kindle Locations 500-513). The Banner of Truth Trust.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

90 Day Challenge: Time for a do over!

Well, my intentions of practicing Mandarin Chinese for 90 days straight has failed.  It is difficult for me to write that considering how well I was doing for awhile.  I made it through Pimsleur I in its entirety, and then completed 18 lessons of Pimsleur II before the my train of language learning came to a screeching halt.   Actually, that is not entirely true.  I continued to work on Memrise and even started doing Anki as well.

I think that this was my problem.

I should have stuck to the plan and done Memrise and Pimsleur only, but instead I started changing things up, add more into the mix.  This was a recipe for disaster because the workload became to great.  The motivation started to go away as well because I am just too nervous to ever speak in Mandarin!

So what now?

Pickup where I left off and keep going.  That is the only thing that I can do.

Wish me luck!

Friday, October 24, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 30


I did it!  I am 1/3 of the way through my 90 day challenge.  I had only one or two days that I missed due to how  busy October has been, but I caught up easily and am back on track!

After 30 days, how do I feel about this challenge?  I feel both encouraged and discouraged.  I figured that this would not be easy and I was right.  Here are a list of things that I have found to be discouraging & encouraging over the last month:

Discouraging:

  • It's hard to stay motivated.
  • Learning new vocabulary is a long process with not many immediate results.
  • My ability to come up with sentences on my own is severely lacking.  I'm not sure if this is because of my lack of a full vocabulary, or if I am just trying too hard to get it perfect, therefore causing nothing to flow out.
  • I don't feel like I have really grown by leaps and bounds as I thought I would in this time.
  • I was hoping that by this point I might be able to have a basic conversation with a native speaker with a reasonable level of confidence, but I don't think that I have reached that point yet either.

Encouraging:
  • I have learned quite a few new words.
  • Pimsleur has been a consistently helpful tool.  I don't think it will take me near as far as I would like to go, but it has been a good constant study friend to me.
  • Memrise is probably one of the easiest ways to learn new vocabulary and the spaced repetition that it provides is wonderful.  It's a fun way to learn, that's for sure.
  • I am understanding more words when I hear them in movies or when I see them on everything from jars of food to Chinese literature.  I still have a long way to go, but it is nice to recognize things here and there.
  • My children have learned more Mandarin as a result of my 90 day challenge.  It is fun to think that they could be so much further than I am if they keep it up in years to come.  Ah, to have a mind like a child!
  • People think it's very cool that I am learning Mandarin.  That's a fun aspect of this whole thing as well.


So what now?  Tomorrow I am going to start up Pimsleur's Mandarin II and do that for the next 30 days.  I'm also making my way slowly through the HSK set on Memrise.  I am in the HSK 3 vocabulary right now and so I am going a bit slower, given all the new words.  I would like to add something else to my practicing, but I don't know what that could be considering my time constraints.   Maybe I will try to utilize iTalki more.  If anyone reads this and has ideas of how I can get over some of the hurdles I mentioned above, let me know.  

If anything, I am happy that I have done what I set out to do and don't plan on stopping any time soon.  Here is to the next 30 days!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 15


I haven't written anything or posted any videos for a few days, but rest assured, I have been practicing!  

I am still doing Pimsleur everyday for 30 minutes and have reached Unit 15!  It is hard to believe that I have been consistent for two whole weeks.  Even when I was studying Mandarin at the university last year I wasn't this intentional with learning the language.  What I enjoy about Pimsleur is that it is a slow build, but it's not totally boring either.  In most audio courses that I have listened to, it is strictly vocabulary drilling and phrases.  Pimsleur seems to do it all at once in a very natural way.  I had read that you should listen to Pimsleur or other courses when you are not doing anything else.  In other words, no driving or distracting activities of any kind.  At first I didn't think much of that, but I actually agree with it wholeheartedly now.  It is very difficult to learn a language in a passive way, at least it has been for me.  I really have to concentrate to have it sink in, and if I zone out or get distracted I may miss something and become confused before I know it.

Anyway, I like Pimsleur a lot so far.

Memrise is also going really well right now and I have stuck to that every day as well.  The more words I learn the longer each session is, but I am definitely making some progress.  I just completed HSK 2 vocabulary today in fact!  151 words planted in my mind.


This brings me to 348 words (and some phrases) stored in my memory somewhere.  Memrise tells me that they are in my long term memory, but we'll just have to see about that.


I can honestly say that I think I have a good program going on here and am looking forward to the end result.  If it's even possible, I think it would be great to have finished Pimsleur Mandarin I, II & III by Christmas and to have about 2000-3000 words or more stored in my memory by then as well.  I am also going to make more of an effort over the next few weeks to have more conversations in Mandarin so that I actually use what I am learning!  I will try to post more videos as time allows.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

90 Day Language Learning Challenge: Mandarin Chinese - Day 10

Another good day!


Pimsleur was good too!  I'm feeling good about this language learning thing!