Two Sides, Two Brides

First Adam had a wound in his side
When the rib was taken for First Eve,
So the Second, for His longed-for Bride,
From His side blood and water gave.
Along the length of Longin’s spear
Flowed that wherewith the Church is cleansed
Which lets the Second Eve appear,
Which, from the first, God did intend.

Copenhagen giraffe gaffe and how the Daily Topheegrill’s mods are in a world of their own.

Greetings from a nice warm spot by the window with a blizzard going on outside, here in Moscow.

I had a comment squelched by the Daily Telegrumph Moderator today, but that’s fine. I saved it, and can reproduce it here, where there is freedom of speech.

It was all about the fate of the Danish giraffe, Marius, who got ethnically cleansed for not being good enough for the ScandinAryan giraffe gene pool and fed to lions in Copenhagen Zoo as shown below (photo taken from Tumblywhump as compensation for wasting my time – that’s after all what it amounts to when a moderator squelches one of my finely-crafted commentaaages).


This was sad because a billionaire in America had offered to take Marius to a retirement home for giraffes in Beverley Hills and given a load of money even for him to Copenhagen zoo, but the director of the zoo was adamant that Marius was for the chop. So unceremoniously they killed him and carved him up and fed him to lions in front of the parents an children visiting the zoo.

That’s the background.

My comment was as follows:

  • Where are the so-called “Islamic fundamentalists” when you need them? When the Danes draw some funny pictures of a bloke in a turban, they come out and make a terrific fuss, but now, when they really is something rotten in the state of Denmark, as in rotting giraffes being fed to lions, they keep as quiet as a mouse and have nothing to say? Haven’t they read the verse where it says “انت سوف لا اذبح خاصتك الثيران الأسير، بقرات، وغيرها من البهائم الطاهرة وتتغذى منه إلى الأسود، لم يكن أي من خاصتك حمار وحشي والزرافات والإبل والحمير وإلاند. ولا رئيس ولا ذيل ولا قدم ولا الأسلحة ولا أرجل ولا أجنحة ولا الجسم منهم انت سوف يسبب إلى أن تستهلك من قبل قط كبير “, “Thou shalt not slay thy captive oxen, kyne, and other clean beasts and feed thereof to lions, neither of thy zebras, camelopards, okapis, quaggas and elends. Neither the head nor the tail nor the feet nor the arms nor legs nor wings nor body of them shalt thou cause to be consumed by a large cat” (Sura 345.6)

Evidently there is little freedom of speech in the UK these days as I noted that this gem of mine was quickly removed even though the readers of the Tellygrump had managed to vote it up quite strongly in a short time and retweet it around the internet a bit. None of their readers disagreed or wanted to take issue with it, or vote it down, only to support it or vote it up. So how come their moderators are so out of synch with the tastes and opinions of their readership?

Junkalists are the first ones to weep and wail and gnash their smelly teeth when anyone curtails their freedom of the press (which they rarely take proper advantage of anyway) but they will happily curtail that of their own stakeholders the readership with never a care. Thankfully I have my own blog and can have my say anyhow without the by-your-leave of some wannabe Fleet Street hack who got confined to the backroom moderating the online version of the Tuffygroll.

Airport shops – a Poll

I sometimes think that airport shops are simply there to prey on the captive audience which is standing around, bored, waiting for a plane. I always laugh when they ask me to show my boarding card – even if I tell them I’m not leaving the EU and therefore have to pay the VAT, not that it makes any difference most of the time if you are leaving the EU – it’s like you’re getting privileged treatment to be able to pay a few dozen percent more than you’d pay on the highstreet.

It works a bit like hotels. The posher they are, the more they rip you off with overpriced minibars, extra for internet, and nonsense like that. The same Cialdini-ism seems to be used in reverse by these airport shops, in that they think that if they treat you like rubbish and overcharge you, then you’ll feel like you are in a privileged setting and that it behoves you to shell out for things you probably didn’t even want or need in the first place.

Some places are worse than others, but the airports that will actually give you some kind of bargain seem to be in the minority, an increasing small minority.

One time in Prague airport I wanted to buy a deodorant as it was a hot day and I didn’t normally carry a toilet bag as I had a flat in Prague with that job. I was asked by the sullen saleswoman if Warsaw was my final destination. I quipped that I hoped not, as I hoped to go to heaven one day. At this her eyes clouded over, she just took the purchase out of the bag, placed it on a little shelf in her booth and refused to serve me.

Evidently I had offended against the culture of the Czech Republic. I knew they were the most atheistic country in the world, I just didn’t realise they were so religious about it.

What’s your experience with airport shops? Do you tend to use them or not?

What’s new on HTV?

I thought I would just make a quick post outlining some of the changes you have noticed on this site.  Some of these are still ongoing.

Given that it is now a New Year, 2014, I thought it’s about time to refresh this site a little bit. The first thing I did was to alter the colour scheme a little bit and your feedback on the new colour scheme with the maroon and grey of my college replacing the earlier background and tab colours respectively, and the header amber colour matching the colour of the stars which I hope you give five of everytime I write something more…

I repurchased the upgrade for customising fonts, which had lapsed, and chose a new font for the whole site.  I hope you are enjoying that and there are no problems in reading it.

In addition I purchased for the first time a new upgrade, namely the no ads upgrade.  I don’t know if any of you were seeing much third-party advertising on this site before — the site owner doesn’t actually see it — but if you were you won’t be seeing it from now on.

I’ve also started to add in some of the more recent header photographs – the ones which self select at random at the top whenever you choose a new page or refresh an existing page.  I added in 13 new ones and I will start to add in probably another several hundred, I don’t even know where the limitation is as to how many will be allowed.  The new photography being added to the headers is all my work and made with my new Canon camera which I purchased in the third-quarter 2013.  So far there weren’t any of the Canon photographs included in this blog although some of you will have seen them on Facebook and on You Tube. I also wanted to put into practice some quite interesting hence I had about composition and cropping from a book on photography which I had purchased halfway through last year and only now reading.

Content-wise I haven’t really done anything, bar this update.  I’ve tried to catch up with people’s questions.  I’ve added into the box file on the right-hand side of the files about the Goldlist method which people have been asking me for.  For those of you who are Polish taxpayers and who don’t already have your favourite charity to give your 1% to under the 1% scheme, the Flyers for my dear wife and children are also in that box file.  They contain instructions for how to assign a value of 1% of your Polish tax to my wife’s multiple sclerosis needs and my children’s autism needs without there being any costs to yourselves.  Taxpayers from other parts of the European Union can under EU law also donate to Polish registered charities like these ones tax effectively, unlike the Polish scheme that would involve you in actually paying your money, and to be honest I prefer to ask people to do things which help me but don’t cost anything more for them.  The use of my Amazon store which is also linked on the right-hand side is another example.  In this case your purchases cost you know more than they would do if you went directly to Amazon, but I am on 4%.  If you don’t feel like enabling either of these forms of support for my family, that is fine.  All my language courses and other materials on YouTube as well as the Goldlist method are free and will remain so unconditionally.

I added a few more widgets, especially the ones at the bottom you will see, tidied up some others, and did a little bit of editing and some of the old articles. I hope you get some pleasure from the new look.

New content is on its way and also the project of uploading all of my YouTube videos but properly classified – that will move the head quite quickly once I catch up with my backlog in producing and playing out films.  At the moment I have a backlog of just over a year.

You’ll probably notice that some of the style of earlier posts with the enriched content is now gone – that’s been taken away by the programme at WordPress. The earlier articles with enriched content like relevant articles below, pingbacks, links and images suggested by the system – this all disappeared and I can’t find any explanation as to why it did. Nothing unusual there, then. This seems to be par for the course on the internet, unfortunately. It’s not really a big deal though. Blogs are supposed to be about the content made by the blog owner and the rest is icing on the cake. I get that.

That’s all for now, and I hope you remained subscribed and hope to see you regularly.

Reaction to reports of low imprisonment from convictions in the UK.

With only one in four convicted criminals actually seeing the inside of a prison taking into account the lesser offences, and then with most prison sentences being shortened anyway from what they are in name, it would appear that we have something like 10% of a proper justice system. Not only does the system need a complete overhaul but also the people who are presiding over the current mess and who have got themselves in many cases into irredeemably bad habits and low expectations of themselves will have to be changed out if we are every to see things done properly. But where are we going to get the new generation from? Who’s to train them, to be their role model? It seems that we are staring into the realms of the impossible.

Only one Person can sort this mess out. He will rule not only our nation, but also all others, with a rod of iron. Of course, there will be a Usurper first, but this reign will not last long.

2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 41,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 15 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

What to do if audio materials are rare or non-existent?

Audiobooks Rock

Audiobooks Rock (Photo credit: Lester Public Library)

Today’s article is a continuation of the topic we started yesterday, namely the use of listening at graded speeds in order to improve our listening fluency.

There are two times during a large linguistic project when I recommend the use of audio-only all audio-primary approaches.  The first of these is right at the beginning, in order to make sure that when we do open the books and start reading words and writing them out in our Goldlists, we already have an idea hhow the language sounds and how these words and phrases are pronounced.  If we take a course such as Michel Thomas series, Pimsleur, Paul Noble, Innovative Language Learning, or something else of that kind, we equip ourselves with all that we need to end into a Goldlist project of possibly  100, 200, 500 etc hours having done our first maybe 50 hours of language learning without setting pen to paper, and without really reading anything much in the given language.  I’m convinced that this is a natural approach – after all, little kids get to listen before they ever get to read and write, we learned our native language that way.  At least in that order. Of course, babies get to listen for thousands and thousands of hours of speech before they develop the skills that we can develop in a more structured way, we would want to return to the experience of a newborn in the course of our language learning.  Such a “Nicodemus Method”, would have certain drawbacks in terms of cost and also patience on the part of the host family.

However it is entirely unnecessary, since in most cases 50 hours of audio time at the outset is really all you need in order to progress confidently with the reading-and-writing approach that the Goldlist Method is, as long as you have access to quality materials.

These materials need to be some kind of structured course, whereas when you get to the end of the language project on Goldlist and you’re looking at the second time in which I’m recommending using audio-primary materials, namely to induce listening fluency based on an existing passive vocabulary, then you don’t really need to have materials in a structured course.  As I said yesterday, you need to have a book – which may be a novel, a business book, a history book, a Christian book – even the Bible.

In the best situation you will be choosing a book which exists in your target language as the original, especially If we are talking about something like a novel or some other cultural artefact.  I don’t really recommend poetry in most cases this, not at the outset in any case.  Poetry is something to graduate to only at the truly advanced level of command of a foreign language on pain of simply sabotaging your chance to appreciate the fullness of the verse by becoming familiar with it when you do not yet have the apparatus to appreciate it. don’t get me wrong there certainly is a place for using poetry but I think here it would be wise to look at the range of poems available very carefully and to grade you’re reading so that first reading poets who use a language which is more similar to everyday speech.  And by that I mean standard everyday speech.  I am not recommending for example learners of English to kick-off with James Joyce’s Ulysses, even though there are some excellent recordings of that and some excellent translations into other languages.  This is a novel which requires careful study even from native speakers, although that having been said, I did have the pleasure of being acquainted with the person who translated Finnegan’s Wake into Brazilian Portuguese, and that was a Russian lady from Harbin, believe it or not.

Such genii are few and far between, but I like to think that in as much as they are out there, they do read my things, and therefore I would want to put you off ploughing straight into poetry if that’s your thing, however most of us I would go prose first, then drama,  then poetry.

So at this stage you need to select your book, being one in clear language of the sort that you would like to understood when it is spoken and let’s say that you found an accurate translation into your own language.  If that’s not possible and you have to take a book which is either in its original in your language or where the original is in a third language and you’re dealing with translations into both your own language and the language you’re learning, then even though that is not normally the best thing to do, there are circumstances where it’s actually preferable – for instance if you’re setting out to become familiar with the Bible in the language of your study, or if you are going to be working in a field which is simply more developed in your native language and therefore the originals are all in your language but there are good translations into the study of language.  Because you have a utility from simply reading a better book, there are times when it becomes preferable to accept that the translation should be in the learned language.  Then there is also Glossika Method, named for Mike Campbell, in which he simply uses his own favourite English-language novels which he knows so well he could almost recite them verbatim from memory, and he collect them in a language as he wishes to study and simply reads them. Personally I would be bored by such an approach as I like a larger variety of reading, and to get into the particular literature and culture of the country concerned.  In this I have exactly the same view as Steve Kaufman who also has been doing videos about this topic recently. Nevertheless, I can see that a certain languages you simply could run up against a lack of the preferred materials, and then you really have to see what there is and try to adapt that.

My suggestion is, to look first at what’s available as an audio book in the language of your choice.  That’s where the bottleneck is likely to be, if there is a bottleneck.  You can look up audio books in different languages using Google.  You can refer to the Wikipedia article about audio books written in the language you are studying.  Even if you’re not sure how to say audio book in the language you are studying you can go to the English Wikipedia article about them and then choose one of the 36 other languages which at the time of writing this article is being translated into – hopefully this may include the language you’re looking for. Quite a few languages mirroring that article do contain very helpful Web links to repositories of audio books, including free ones.

My first port of call is always to check Audible, but in cases where audible doesn’t have audio for the language concerned, there is still Amazon.  Amazon sells audio on physical media while its subsidiary Audible has its own format which as I said in the above article is a very helpful format for our purposes.  Audible itself contains quite a lot of novels read in the original in such languages as Spanish, Italian and Russian, and there are also French and German entire sites of Audible.  Still it is a problem when we come to a minority languages, but still I would always check there first.

If googling the net in search of novels or other books which are read out in an audio format in the language of your choice does draw a blank, your next option is to select the book of your choice where there is both language versions and where you are motivated to read it in the language you are studying. Once you have selected it and determined that there is no audio version available, you have various options as to how to obtain the audio. There are cases where the author himself might be willing to go to the studio with you and produce the audio version.  In many cases that will be a question to settle with his publisher. This might sound as though you’re getting into quite sizeable cash investments in order to get your audio, but you might be surprised at what can be achieved simply by asking people and giving them ideas, showing that there is demand, and being willing to volunteer at least some  corporation and work on the project even if you cannot put cash into it.

Failing the ability to obtain official audio in the way mentioned above, the means of last resort is simply to get friends to read it.

If you are not in the country where the language is spoken then there is one more idea and that is to go to the Embassy (if it’s a national language) and ask to talk to the cultural attache and see if the Embassy is able to help you put such a project together.

in the case of the audio that you need right at the beginning, just going back to that topic before we close, usually there is not such an issue with this given that there tends to be a lot of beginners courses, and if you can’t find one which is pure audio in the Pimsleur mould then there are always the likes of Teach Yourself and Colloquial.  This means that you’d be doing the audio while already Goldlisting a course, which is of course not ideal, but in these cases – I’m talking about languages like Maltese or Bulgarian which don’t even have a Pimsleur (Pimsleur does about 50 languages – not all at the full 30 lessons it seems – but Maltese, Welsh, Bulgarian and some other surprising ones are not covered when two separate forms of Armenian and languages like Twi and Ojibwe or Swiss German are) – you can either look on their local market and their bookshops if you go there, or try internet bookstores if they have them, or it’s a question of abandoning the audio-only 30 hours at the start of a whole new language and then it’s Goldlisting from the word Go.

Response to reader’s question “How long until I understand the language I am learning when spoken?”

''Note that in this diagram, sensory memory is...

Yet another diagram from the net about long-term memory that kind of misses the point and can even be dangerously misleading (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m grateful for this question. It surely affects most learners at some stage – especially when learning a language for the first time, or doing it on your own for the first time/taking it seriously for the first time, as opposed to school learning.

It’s not really a question of time but of the presence of certain ingredients in your brain. If you have done at some stage a Pimsleur or some audio course so that you know what the words and phrases you are goldlisting are supposed to sound like in a pretty standard version of the language you are learning, and you have goldlisted about 10,000 words or more and taken them through to the end of silver if not gold levels, then you can do the following activity with a much higher assurance of success.

You need to get hold of an audio book for a book you can read in that language, and where there is a translation in English. The best place for this is Audible, where the app allows you also graded speeds of listening to the same material – and you can start off with a slower speed and build up. Listen to the same piece of 10 minutes long with short, ten minute breaks about three times over. This is not a long-term memory exercise it is an ear exercise and so you are perfectly OK using short-term memory techniques for this, they are quite appropriate. This is not the point at which you learn the words, you should have learned most of them before. This is where you push your ear and get it to go “aha”.

Once you have done this, you are likely to find that some parts of the spoken text have become a tad clearer and some still baffle you. You then open the book and read the text, which you should not have done before this point.

Having read the text, if there are any words that you do not know, please mark them and find them in the English text, please also make sure that anything you get from the English text which you didn’t get from the original – work out if that’s the fault of your lack of nuancing or too much freedom on the part of the translator. Add any missing knowledge back into your headlist and put it through the Goldlist system in due course.

You then should read the text while listening to it at normal speed. You can do this a couple of times if you feel it needed.

You should be able to speak along with the recording now, while reading the text. If this is hard at first, use the pause button and precede each recorded sentence with your own attempt.

Then finally you can go back to just listening but use higher speeds, like 1,25 or 1,5* normal.

You then move on to the next chunk of text, rinse and repeat.

But every so often you go back and listen to what you heard before.

Not only will this improve listening comprehension, but also accent.

Nevertheless, it is not a way of learning to the long term memory, it’s an aural fitness routine. You therefore, like I said at the beginning, should only start to do this once you are really nearing your goldlist target.

It is a way of getting to speaking fluency as well around the “listening” route described in my articles here on my Four Function Diagram.

This activity will increase the time to fluency but you need to vary the voices you hear. In due course listening to DVDs in the language which have subtitles will be useful, and then gradually listening to news reports. Start with TV ones, and then move out to radio ones where you do not have the crutch of the image.

Many thanks again for the question.

Final Thoughts (for now) on the Four Function Diagram


I don’t really like the term “final thoughts” as it sounds as if I am planning to stop thinking afterwards, or maybe stop existing altogether, which I am certainly not considering if I can help it, however I do need, as Victor Berrjod kindly reminds me, to round this off, hence the title.

Let me just get a coffee, this could be a longish article, maybe you would like one as well?

Right, let’s continue. The story so far is that we’ve divided the things or activities that you can do in a language, be it counting, swearing, praying, reading the paper, watching TV, learning the songs of the language or filling in a visa form or a job application into four basic types or functions, as shown in the above table:

1. Reading
2. Writing
3. Listening
4. Speaking

Just about anything you can do in a language bases on one or more of these four functions.

Take a moment if you like to see of you can think of any activity involving language that is an exception, and by all means tell me in the comments. Personally I could not think of any exceptions.

We’ve also considered that for one pair of these functions, listening and reading, the learner is on the receiving end of polished language and therefore is able to use his or her passive knowledge to engage in the function and its related activities. Listening is more challenging than reading because the user has less ability to control the speed, although there are instruments available based on developing listening skills where you can control the pace of listening. We talked about audio courses where you have your pause button, and another good one is Audible where you can buy audiobooks in other languages and set a slower narrator speed, or a higher one in order to develop ‘listening fluency’. However, in the main, for the passive pair as long as a word is known passively the learner will not be put off his or her stride by reading or hearing it as they will be able to recall its meaning when it is given in the language much easier than when he or she needs to generate the expression and knows it passively, but is not in an active state, and the mind goes blank.

Conversely, we’ve recognised that the other pair of functions, speaking and writing, are ones in which we the learner are called upon to generate the learned language and not just fluently recognise meaning and stay with the flow of the presented foreign language material. This represents an additional challenge but one essential to get to grips with sooner or later if you want to SPEAK the language. We are always hearing the term “what languages do you speak?” rather than which can you read, listen to with understanding or even write in. Now more than ever nobody seem to be all that impressed by the ability to write in a foreign language – unless they actually watch you forming calligraphic kanjis with your hand – because things like Google Translate are available. And even though in the main the Google Translate users do give themselves away pretty quickly, seeing that the quality of that service is not yet all one might be led to expect, nevertheless sometimes quite convincing written language comes at you over the internet from people who don’t really know the language in question at all. They are having fun, but it also serves to undermine the value placed by the online community on written foreign language skills and so now, more than ever, the gold standard is really what you can speak. Read the rest of this entry

A friend called Jacques has asked me what I think of flashcards, here goes…

A set of flashcards demonstrating the Leitner ...

A set of flashcards demonstrating the Leitner system. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Personally I think flashcards are a reasonable system but they’re not an ideal system. In fact you can get there with less time involved by using the Goldlist method. Flashcards still involve repetition of things you really already know, which is not efficient. Also you can only learn what is in the pack, whereas with Goldlist you learn any material you like the look of. In addition learning off the phone while travelling depletes your battery and you cannot do it in a sunny park as you cannot see the screen. Having a small writing book is a better way and turns out more ergonomic than trying to do every single part of life through computer screens and telephones.

Flashcard systems like Anki and Supermemo are built on the work of Ebbinghaus, the father of the area of psychology that looks at memory, in fact they reflect Ebbinghaus’findings even more closely than my system, which is only an approximation, but they still don’t eliminate waste.

The downside of the Goldlist is that there are mandatory waiting periods of two weeks at least between each distillation, so if someone is in a hurry because they have a trip or an exam coming up, then there may not be enough span of time to use Goldlist, even though Goldlist would give them more long-term memorisation per unit of time spent.

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