Friday, February 10, 2012

"R" Review with Rory and Aurora

Hi there! It's been a while since I've posted on here. Now that I have some more free time, I'd like to start posting more regularly. In particular, I'm eager to write more about my experience earning my Trinity College London Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (CertTESOL)—wow, that's a mouthful!—in Cádiz, Spain in summer 2011. For now, I'll share this little tidbit.

I've always felt that my English "r" (International Phonetic Alphabet: [ɹ]) has sounded a little off, and I've been rather self-conscious of pronouncing words such as "girlfriend," "weird," and especially "rule." One of my favorite classes I took at the University of Florida was Spanish Phonetics. We practiced lots of tongue-twisters to improve our accent, and I found them tremendously helpful. So, I've invented my own tongue-twister to help me correct my [ɹ] problem:

"Rory Roland's really weird girlfriend Aurora Rudin regularly re-routes rural jurors to Rutgers' rear recreation room where rules and regulations regarding rural breweries are rarely re-written."

Or, in IPA, /ˈrɔː.ri.ˈrəʊ.lɪnz.ˈrɪ.li.ˈwɪərd.ˈgɜːrl.frend.ˌə.ˈrɔː.rə.ˈruː.dɪn.ˈre.gjə.ləˈraʊts.ˈrɜːrl.ˈdʒɜːr.ərz.təʊ.ˈrʌt.gərz.ˌrɪəˈeɪ.ʃən.ˈruːm.weər.ˈruːlz.ən.ˌre.gjə.ˈleɪ.ʃənz.ˌrə.ˈgaːr.dɪŋ.ˈrɜːrl.ˈbruː.əɹ.ˌriz.aːr.ˈreəˈrɪ.tən/

When I'm alone (for example, in the car), I recite this sentence several times, until my mouth is actually a little sore. I usually end up laughing to myself. It's been helping a lot, and I'm feeling more confident with my "R"s!
Alright, maybe I'm showing off a little here with the IPA. But, hey, it's good practice using the IPA keyboard layout I've been using for Mac OS X to type with SIL International's Doulos SIL font. Both are highly recommended!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

At the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering (Part 3 of 3)

Legi tiun ĉi blogaĵon en Esperanto.

[This post is the third and final part of a three-part series on my weekend at the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering.
Here's Part 1.
Here's Part 2.]

Monday, October 10th was the third and final day of ARE 2011. After the official close of the Gathering, I bought a copy of La Eta Princo, the Esperanto version of the famous French-language short novel, Le Petitie Prince.
La Eta Princo, (Esperanto version of Le Petite Prince)
The book itself is beautiful, with a sturdy hard cover, and color drawings from the original author. I read a bit of the original when I was studying French, but it was difficult for my intermediate-level command of the language. I read a lot better in Esperanto, and I definitely understood it better and got more out of it this time.

We chatted (still in Esperanto) on the way back to Albany, and after we had lunch, Chris and Kaitlyn left for Rochester. I spent the rest of the day playing Frisbee at the park with my friends in Albany. It felt strange to speak English, and several times I nearly blurted out words in Esperanto: “iru, iru!” (go, go!) “jen!” (over here!), “ho, ve!” (ugh, damn!), “ĉuu??” (really??), etc.

I was sad to be away from Esperantists, and apparently, my brain felt the same way. 
Kaitlyn, me, and Chris at ARE 2011

Sunday, October 23, 2011

At the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering (Part 2 of 3)

Legi tiun ĉi blogaĵon en Esperanto.

[This post is the second part of a three-part series on my weekend at the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering.
Here's Part 1.
Here's Part 3.]

On Sunday, October 9th, I woke up, ate breakfast, and ran in the forest by the lake. The weather was unexpectedly warm, and the forest was beautiful. I had nearly finished my run, when I passed by the main meeting hall and saw everyone about to take the group picture. Fortunately, I arrived just before they took it.

After that, I came back to the house where we were staying, showered, and cooked a vegan lunch with my housemates. Chris also cooked delicious vegan cookies. Score!

That afternoon, Chris gave a lecture entitled “The other language problem: Why are languages dying? Does it matter?” Minority languages are dying out all over the world, as people are learning more widely spoken languages. For example, Native American languages are disappearing in favor of English. So what? Do ideas and culture get lost along with the language? What can we do about it?

Of course, as Esperantists, we all had a lot to say, so we ended up re-arranging the chairs into a circle, and discussed the topic as a group.

It was still beautiful out, and after the discussion, Normando led us on a walk through the forest, showing us different species of plants and birds. (All in Esperanto, of course – so cool!)
Our walk through the forest

That night, we played board games and card games. My favorite game was the Esperanto version of Bananagrams. If you've never played, it's like Scrabble, but much faster. Everyone plays against each other and races to build crossword grids using all their letter tiles. There are no turns—it happens all at once and it's a race to the finish.
Bananagrams in Esperanto
Another wonderful day in Esperanto-land.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

At the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering (Part 1 of 3)

Legi tiun ĉi blogaĵon en Esperanto.

[This post is the first part of a three-part series on my weekend at the 18th Fall Esperanto Gathering.
Here's Part 2.
Here's Part 3.]

At the 58th National Convention of Esperanto-USA in 2010 in Washington, DC, I met a lot of friendly Esperantists. Two of them were Chris and Kaitlyn from Rochester, New York. I visited Chris in January, but aisde from that, we hadn't seen each other in a long time.

A while ago, Chris told me about the 18th Fall Esperanto Weekend, which would occur October 8th–11th 2011 in Silver Bay, New York. I now live in Albany, four or five hours away from Rochester, and on the way to Silver Bay, so the three of us decided to attend the convention together.

As a side note, the convention is officially called la Aŭtuna Renkontiĝo de Esperanto, or ARE for short. “Are” (pronounced ['a.ɾe], AH-reh) is also Esperanto for “as a group.” Esperantists seem to appreciate clever names.

Chris and Kaitlyn came to Albany on Friday, October 8th, and stayed with me overnight. We and three of my friends made a bonfire at my friend's house. It was cold out, so we enjoyed the heat of the fire. We chatted (in English – booo) [my friends here don't (yet) speak Esperanto] about various topics, including linguistics, economics, and vegetarianism.

On Saturday, we left for ARE. First, we stopped to eat lunch and to buy food at the Honest Weight Food Co-op, a cooperative grocery store in Albany. I love that place. There are tons of fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers, and also a variety of prepared vegetarian foods.

When we arrived at the convention,
The main meeting hall at ARE
there was a talk about go, a board game originally from East Asia. I've never played, and the talk seemed really interesting, but I unfortunately and embarrassingly fell asleep during it. In my own defense, I was really tired from the previous night and from driving.

After that, we payed for the convention (only $5 each, as students), and went to the house where we would be staying.
Our house at ARE
There were around thirty people in all, and about half of us were staying at that house. We cooked vegan food together (many of us were vegetarian or vegan), ate dinner, and returned to the main meeting hall.

There, Normando Fleury, president of the Quebec Esperanto Society and organizer of the convention led some ice-breakers. First, we split up into small groups, and introduced ourselves to our group. Each of us chose a color from a list, and explained to the other members why he chose that one.
Everyone chose a color, and explained to the other group members why he chose that one.

Next, we sat in a large circle, and everyone presented himself to the whole group, saying his name, where he comes from, and three words to describe himself. I chose the words “thought,” “learning,” and “cooking.” There was a variety of responses, many interesting and thought-provoking, and several funny ones, for example, “I don't know.”

Finally, we each received a small paper that said “Ĉu vi…” (“Do you…” in Esperanto) and wrote a yes-no question on it. Normando collected the papers, mixed them, and passed them out again. Then, everyone read his new question, and everybody either stood to reply “yes” or sat to reply “no.” Again, there was a variety of responses, but the one I most clearly remember is “Do you speak Esperanto with your pet?” I stood up for that one.

I really enjoyed the ice-breakers. In my opinion, Normando organized them very well, and they were especially well-suited for this kind of language gathering. If/when I teach English as a foreign language, I'll definitely borrow his ideas.

After that, we returned to our house, and played Dixit, a card game which I actually played for the first time in Esperanto, at the Summer Esperanto Study run by the Esperanto website lernu! in Slovakia in 2009.

The first day of the convention was great, and I fell asleep smiling, happy to be among Esperantists again.
My name badge for ARE

Monday, September 19, 2011

Remember Yesterday, Plan for Tomorrow, Live Today

Today may be just an ordinary day for the Universe, but for me, it's very special. Twenty-two years ago today, I entered the world.

Life is a precious gift, and I feel I have a duty to enjoy it, preserve it, and share it with others. Every day holds something new to be appreciated and something new to be learned, and today is no exception.
In the days before Hurricane Irene hit New York, Mayor Michael Bloomberg held several press conferences. After his announcements in English, he took a moment to summarize everything in Spanish. His accent is pretty bad, and he makes a lot of errors, but he gets his point across. I give him a lot of credit for trying to learn, and for getting up in front of the camera and speaking.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Not Your Garden-Variety Gardens

This is part 3 of a ¿_?-part series on my experience earning my CertTESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] in Cádiz, Spain in the summer of 2011.

When Jordon and I backpacked through Europe two years ago, he met up with his friend Laura in Seville. Unfortunately, I was unable to join him on that part of our adventure and I never got to meet her.  But, on Thursday, June 23rd, I finally did! As Jordon later commented, "this pretty much completes our European trip."

Laura and I had planned to meet at the Seville Cathedral (Spanish: Catedral de Santa María de la Sede), which is the largest Gothic cathedral, and the third-largest church in the world.[1]

Laura and I had never met before, so neither of us knew whom/what to look for. I didn't yet have a cell phone, so I wouldn't even know what to do if I couldn't find her. (How on Earth did people survive before cell phones??)

She eventually found me, and greeted me in English. I responded in Spanish, which became the working language for the next few hours. We were both quite hungry, so she took me to a bustling local bar/café.

I got another chicken sandwich (I feel so guilty...going to defer this again, I promise I'll explain at some point) and at Laura's recommendation, ordered a tinto con limón (red wine and lemonade). It was delicious, and has become my new favorite drink. I also tried gazpacho for the first time. I'm not a fan. It was cold, spicy, and disagreeably bitter.

After lunch, Laura took me to the Royal Alcázar of Seville (Spanish: Reales Alcázares de Sevilla). The site was initially a Roman settlement, and when the Arabs conquered Seville in 712, it was converted into a palace-fortress.[2]

Laura studies architecture in school, so she taught me about the different styles, and gave me a crash course in Spanish history. It was quite hot, but a refreshing breeze ran through the palace's immense hallways, so we weren't too uncomfortable.

The palace was incredible, and its enormous accompanying gardens were breath-taking.

My favorite part of our visit to the palace was the labyrinth: a colossal web of narrow walkways walled with towering hedges snaking around the center of the gardens. For you Harry Potter fans out there, it was totally like the third task in Goblet of Fire. Yeahh.

We got our fill of the palace, then cooled off with some ice cream. It was only my second day in Spain, and speaking Spanish was wearing me out, so I reverted to my mother tongue for a while. Laura seemed anxious to practice her English anyway, so it was good for both of us.

I'd worked up an apetite exploring the palace, and wasn't sated by our ice cream, so she took me to a nearby tapas bar. We ordered more tinto con limón, and I tried swordfish for the first time. (I knowwww... I'm a horrible person.) It was tasty, but my ethical uneasiness detracted a bit from the experience.

After a great day together, Laura and I parted ways. By the time I returned to my hotel, showered and played some piano, I was hungry again. Determined to find a vegetarian meal, I approached a promising-looking restaurant just down the block.

The tomato slices topped with a hunk of cheese weren't bad, but the creamed spinach with garbanzo beans was quite disappointing. The salad with Russian dressing wasn't great either. Spanish food is nothing like Latin food, and I definitely prefer the latter.

Packing up at my hotel, I turned on the TV, and was surprised to see Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, dubbed in Spanish. I chuckled to myself, then flipped through a few other channels: news, sports, and American programs were about it. I finally settled on a channel playing classical Spanish guitar music, which was quite nice.

Making sure to set my alarms, I settled in to bed, content, but slightly nervous; tomorrow I would travel to Cádiz, where my TESOL* program would begin on Monday.
*Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Thursday, June 23, 2011

¡Bienvenidos a España!

This is part 2 of a ¿_?-part series on my experience earning my CertTESOL [Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages] in Cádiz, Spain in the summer of 2011.

Part 1

My last few hours in the US were spent at Chipotle with my friends. Mmm, Chipotle. I departed from the Albany airport at 5PM on Tuesday, June 21st, and after a connection in Newark, I set out for Madrid.

I wasn't able to sleep on the plane, so I watched Meet The Robinsons on my individual TV. Each movie was free and available with either English or Spanish audio. (I chose the Spanish audio, of course.)

I impressed myself by keeping up with the Spanish, and I even got a little teary at the end. (It's one of those feel-good kids movies…don't judge.)

It was comically easy to get through customs. After waiting in a short line, I greeted a bored-looking security agent with, "buenos días." He looked at my passport, looked at me, then waved me on. Nobody asked me any questions or even looked at my bag.

Although I wanted to check out Madrid, I was tired, and weighed down by my luggage, so I decided to head right to Seville. This turned out to be a very good decision.

With some difficulty, I asked around and found the train ticket office. I had looked up the schedule, so I knew which train to take. But there was one problem: this weekend is Corpus Christi, a major Christian holiday, so there were very few trains to Seville. Fortunately, there was one leaving soon, and I managed to get a seat.

On the train, I chatted with the woman sitting next to me, and confirmed that Seville was the last stop. I asked her to wake me when we arrived, then slept the whole way.

From the train station, I took a taxi to my hotel. I had asked at the station how much to expect to pay, and the driver's offer seemed reasonable. He dropped me off down the block from my hotel. (it's on a very small street inaccessible by car).

I paid him, along with a small tip. He smiled and thanked me. (I later found out that tipping is not customary in Spain.)

My hotel is music-themed, with various instruments displayed in the lobby. My room has a comfortable bed, a microwave, and my own bathroom. There's even a little stereo and a few CDs with classical music. Oh, and a piano just down the hall.

I showered, then set out for a meal. The receptionist had recommended a vegetarian-friendly restaurant, but when I got there, it was closed. Many places here are open in the morning, closed from around 4PM to 8PM, then open again until two or three.

I ended up eating vegetable paella at a small bar. (Paella is a very popular Spanish dish containing rice, spices, and usually seafood.)

The vegetables weren't very fresh, but I was starving, so I didn't mind.

Back at my hotel, I discovered the rooftop patio. I grabbed my sunglasses, my iPod, and the latest publication of Redes Para la Ciencia ('Science Networks'), and relaxed in the evening sun.

After that, I came back to my room, got on the free Wi-Fi with my MacBook, and looked for something to do. I wasn't finding much, so, after some hesitation, I put on decent clothing, and took to the streets.

Most of the streets here are cobblestone, just wide enough for a one-way car lane and a sidewalk, and well-lit at night. Following the sounds of people chatting and laughing, I found my way to busy plaza.

A bit nervous speaking in Spanish, I asked some young-looking people to recommended a nearby local bar. They pointed me to a small place, brimming with lively Sevillians, and devoid of tourists.

Here, I asked more young-looking people what to eat, and how to order. They amicably welcomed me to their table, and we chatted for a while over beer and chicken sandwiches. (Non-vegetarian, I know…. I'll explain in a future post.)

I was jet-lagged and my brain was pretty fried from speaking Spanish all day, so I headed home 'early' (around 1AM) and fell right asleep.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Phonological Note

A phonological note is in order regarding my last post, entitled 'Cadiz, Please'. When naming a foreign place (or, more generally, when using a foreign word), one usually adapts its pronunciation to whichever language one is speaking.

So, for example, if my Canadian friend is telling me about her recent recent trip to Montreal, she'll probably pronounce it [mʌn.tʃɹi.'ɔːl] 'mun-tree-AWL'. If I'm trying to impress her, I might spell it Montréal, and use the French pronunciation [mɔ̃.ʁe.'al] 'mohn-rhe-AL'. But that just sounds silly.

Similary, I'll be staying in Cadiz, [kə.'diːz] 'kuh-DEEZ', but spelling it Cádiz, pronounced ['ka.ðiθ] 'KAH-theeth'. The locals might make fun of me though; they'll be pronouncing it ['ka.ðis] 'KAH-thees.

Oh, and one more thing: 'España' is pronounced [es.'pa.ɲa], not [eθ.'pa.ɲa]. Just a little pet peeve. (WIkipedia explains this phenomenon pretty well.)
One thing that's always bothered me about Mac OS X: the green plus button. You expect it to maximize windows and apps like your old PC used to do, but it simply doesn't cooperate. RightZoom does the trick. This lightweight app runs in the background, and makes this belligerent button do what makes sense: maximize the window. (via Switching To Mac)