Sunday, November 30, 2014

New challenge is set - learning Spanish

It is rather sudden, but yesterday I decided to start learning Spanish. I wanted to take a break from studying Japanese and try a new language.
Spanish is widespread (in TOP-3 of world languages), interesting and not very difficult, afaik. Spain has a rich culture, so there are a lot of things to get known.
Anyway learning foreign languages is a good investment in many ways.

When one starts exploring something new, the first question is "How to do it?" Currently there are many ways of learning new languages:

  • Many organizations and private tutors offer good education;
  • The number of textbooks is impressing;
  • Already many learning systems exist, and new appear frequently;
  • There are many sites which offer information or courses;
  • Communities (like lang-8) offer people a possibility to help each other on the way to the new language;
  • And so on;
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities and one can spend days or weeks on choosing the "right" way or trying one idea after another, searching for the best one.

I decided to start with 2 resources:
  1. Duolingo. I suppose this site doesn't need introductions. While it has some drawbacks, it's very good at the beginning and lower medium levels, I think. It provides enough exercises so that topics and grammar points stuck in one's memory, it offeres training in pronunciation and various practice in the form of immersion;
  2. The second one is a good textbook called "Spanish An Essential Grammar". I used a book from this series while studying German and it helped a lot;
I suppose these two things will keep me busy for a month. Looking forward for the new knowledge!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The autumn is ending, was there anything meaningful?

Once again the season is going to change. I think it is a good time to draw a line and to summarize what was done.

Japanese studying:
  • I decided to try reading another visual novel in Nasuverse (the shared setting of a number of TYPE-MOON works like "Fate/Stay Night) - 魔法使いの夜 (Witch's night). Didn't regret the spent time. Captivating music, interesting characters, good plot, nice atmosphere, fine art - all of this resulted in a great work. The story is about Aoko Aozaki - a wizard apprentice, her teacher, her sister and a quite boy from a rural location, who wandered into a dangerous territory. Took me around 50 hours of reading. Maybe I won't read it again, but it will be remembered;
  • Then I decided to try VN with RPG part, because... well just like playing games :) So next were three visual novels by Eushully: 創刻のアテリアル (Arterial of Origins), 戦女神 0 (Battle Goddess Zero), 戦女神VERITA (Battle Goddess VERITA). The first one is about part of a city and people in it moving to a different world, where main heroes manifest unique abilities and fight monsters to return home. There are three routes: siding with demons or angels and staying independent. Story isn't very original, but still quite nice, so it is possible to enjoy it. The second game is placed in a fantasy world. The hero is a follower of one of gods and after series of adventures loses his body and his soul dwells in a goddess's body (hence the title). A lot of fighting ensures. The narration was quite interesting. And the last piece is the continuation, which is difficult to understand if previous parts weren't played. The gameplay for all these games is quite good, but sometimes repetitive; there is one major problem though - a lot of grinding is necessary to achieve the full completion. And the games should be completed more then once for certain things. And it has diminishing returns to time spent. It took me 100-140 hours for the first one, ~80 for the second, ~60 for the third one. Suppose that 10-20% of the first two games and 30-40% of the second one aren't done;
  • While reading VNs I also decided to improve grammar skills. Used series Kanzen Master (3kyuu and 2kyuu). Understood that I have a lot to improve. Will certainly try again next year;
  • Starting to read light novels now. A couple of first ones weren't able to keep me interesting, so now moving to others. I use Anki with Yomichan plagin for reading (see the screenshot). This way looking up new words is easy, and adding them to the deck is done in one click. I hope this will be a step to success, as extensive reading was that thing which greatly raised my English skills (of course good foundation played a very important role);

Some other things:

  • Spent a week in a hospital due to a little operation. Hope not to stay in a hospital once again. It's a kind of experience one doesn't want to have;
  • After 1,5 years of working our project is coming to an end (1,5 year for me, but the start date is May 2012). We are developing a SAP trading system for one of Russian oil companies. In fact it is a first SAP trading system, so most was developed from scratch. My main occupation was manual testing: alpha, beta, perts of functionality, pre-UAT, scenarios and so on. It's a miracle for me how we managed to finish it. Maybe in future the thing we created will become a new standard module in SAP. Anyway, the project is ending by the New Year's Eve. A new project or a new job will follow;
  • This autumn I read a lot. Maybe I starved for good reading after manga and months of studying, maybe I just got my hands on good things. Today I finished the 13th book of Dresden Files. A detective story with supernatural staff is an entertaining thing in itself, and these series offer good humor and some interesting insight into American culture. And the wiseass, deadpanning hero is quite fun;
  • Also I read some more funfiction. "He Who Fights Monsters" is a funfiction based on "Rosario + Vampire" manga, which is good itself. The manga is about human finding himself in a school for monsters, where he finds foes and friends, who protect him (until he becomes a badass). But what if there are no friends for him? What if he has none to help. Then he can only fight back as a human. A dendroid attacks? Burn it! Golem? Use water under high pressure to cut it... And so on. A dark, but interesting story;
  • Another one was "Victory at Ostagar". Funfiction based on the game "Dragon Age". One key point at the beginning is changed, and the things become really different. What if Wardens make the light signal in time, so that Loghain can attack the darkspawn in time to win the battle? As a result the King is alive, the army is in place, the Wardens can act with the crown's help. But as the King is alive, his correspondence with Orlais continues... Various characters have more brains, the story has more twists. One could say that the resulting plot is better than in the original. And the story is more than 1,1 mln words long! It's almost 2,5 times longer than "Lord of the Rings"! It is organized in 5 volumes with illustrations here.
  • The last one is "In Flight" (760k+ words) - a crossover between VN "Fate/Stay night" and manga "Sekirei". The events of the "Sekirei" are places in the Nasuverse. The main hero is Shirou and the magic system is like in other Type-Moon works. The tournament in manga is really kind compared to the Holy Grail War, but it still sword some serious and bloody scenes. The crossover makes it darker and serous, more interesting. Most of the tale follows the manga, showing how differently can Shirou behave. Good humor, developing characters, interesting story and other aspects of this work made me like it so much, that I read it twice :)
  • And while reading so much in English I decided that it would be good to make this pleasant time spending also useful. So new interesting words are written down for future learning. Now this list nears 500 words, and this will enrich my vocabulary I hope.