I’ve been following “Welsh Twitter” off and on, but TIL that there’s a Welsh Mastodon: Tŵt Cymru at https://toot.wales/about.

Bore da. Chris dw i. Dw i’n dysgu Cymraeg. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿

I’ll have to figure out how to automate POSSE of my Welsh-related posts to my new account: https://toot.wales/@chrisaldrich. Until then it’s manual until it hurts.

But first, figuring out how to work this into my practice…

Replied to a tweet by Maggie Appleton (Twitter)

Mae’r Gymraeg yn fy ngwneud i’n hapus.

You’d probably also really enjoy Japanese onomatopoeia.

Having been studying Welsh for a while, this video about how it informed J.R.R. Tolkien’s creation of Elvish languages for his fiction was fascinating.

The fact that he uses the word Nazgûl [~““35:51] from the Irish (nasc) and Scots Gaelic (nasg) words meaning “ring” to take a linguistic dig at Irish is notable. He was probably motivated by his political views of the time rather than celebrating (as one should) the value and diversity of all languages.

Tolkien once termed Welsh ‘the elder language of the men of Britain’; this talk explores how the sounds and grammar of Welsh captured Tolkien’s imagination and are reflected in Sindarin, one of the two major Elvish languages which he created.

Via https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/medieval-welsh. For those interested on Tolkien, they’ve got a huge list of other scholarly content on his work: https://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/keywords/tolkien.

Mnemonic techniques and language acquisition

Over the years in academic settings I’ve picked up pieces of Spanish, French, Latin and a few odd and ends of other languages.

Six years ago we put our daughter into a dual immersion Japanese program (in the United States) and it has changed some of my view of how we teach and learn languages, a process which is also affected by my slowly picking up conversational Welsh using the method at https://www.saysomethingin.com/ over the past year and change, a hobby which I wish I had more targeted time for.

Children learn language through a process of contextual use and osmosis which is much more difficult for adults. I’ve found that the slowly guided method used by SSiW is fairly close to this method, but is much more targeted. They’ll say a few words in the target language and give their English equivalents, then they’ll provide phrases and eventually sentences in English and give you a few seconds to form them into the target language with the expectation that you try to say at least something, or pause the program to do your best. It’s okay if you mess up even repeatedly, they’ll say the correct phrase/sentence two times after which you’ll repeat it again thus giving you three tries at it. They’ll also repeat bits from one lesson to the next, so you’ll eventually get it, the key is not to worry too much about perfection.

Things slowly build using this method, but in even about 10 thirty minute lessons, you’ll have a pretty strong grasp of fluent conversational Welsh equivalent to a year or two of college level coursework. Your work on this is best supplemented with interacting with native speakers and/or watching television or reading in the target language as much as you’re able to.

For those who haven’t experienced it before I’d recommend trying out the method at https://www.saysomethingin.com/welsh/course1/intro to hear it firsthand.

The experience will give your brain a heavy work out and you’ll feel mentally tired after thirty minutes of work, but it does seem to be incredibly effective. A side benefit is that over time you’ll also build up a “gut feeling” about what to say and how without realizing it. This is something that’s incredibly hard to get in most university-based or book-based language courses.

This method will give you quicker grammar acquisition and you’ll speak more like a native, but your vocabulary acquisition will tend to be slower and you don’t get any writing or spelling practice. This can be offset with targeted memory techniques and spaced repetition/flashcards or apps like Duolingo that may help supplement one’s work.

I like some of the suggestions made in Lynne Kelly’s post about Chinese as I’ve been pecking away at bits of Japanese over time myself. There’s definitely an interesting structure to what’s going on, especially with respect to the kana and there are many similarities to what is happening in Japanese to the Chinese that she’s studying. I’m also approaching it from a more traditional university/book-based perspective, but if folks have seen or heard of a SSiW repetition method, I’d love to hear about it.

Hopefully helpful by comparison, I’ll mention a few resources I’ve found for Japanese that I’ve researched on setting out a similar path that Lynne seems to be moving.

Japanese has two different, but related alphabets and using an app like Duolingo with regular practice over less than a week will give one enough experience that trying to use traditional memory techniques may end up wasting more time than saving, especially if one expects to be practicing regularly in both the near and the long term. If you’re learning without the expectation of actively speaking, writing, or practicing the language from time to time, then wholesale mnemotechniques may be the easier path, but who really wants to learn a language like this?

The tougher portion of Japanese may come in memorizing the thousands of kanji which can have subtly different meanings. It helps to know that there are a limited set of specific radicals with a reasonably delineable structure of increasing complexity of strokes and stroke order.

The best visualization I’ve found for this fact is the Complete Listing of the 214 Radicals and Major Variations from An Introduction to Japanese Kanji Calligraphy by Kunii Takezaki (Tuttle, 2005) which I copy below:

A chart of Japanese radicals in columns by number, character, and radical name & variations with a legend for reading the chart
Complete Listing of the 214 Radicals and Major Variations from An Introduction to Japanese Kanji Calligraphy by Kunii Takezaki (Tuttle, 2005)

(Feel free to right click and view the image in another tab or download it and view it full size to see more detail.)

I’ve not seen such a chart in any of the dozens of other books I’ve come across. The numbered structure of increasing complexity of strokes here would certainly suggest an easier to build memory palace or songline.

I love this particular text as it provides an excellent overview of what is structurally happening in Japanese with lots of tidbits that are otherwise much harder won in reading other books.

There are many kanji books with various forms of what I would call very low level mnemonic aids. I’ve not found one written or structured by what I would consider a professional mnemonist. One of the best structured ones I’ve seen is A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters by Kenneth G. Henshall (Tuttle, 1988). It’s got some great introductory material and then a numbered list of kanji which would suggest the creation of a quite long memory palace/journey/songline.

Each numbered Kanji has most of the relevant data and readings, but provides some description about how the kanji relates or links to other words of similar shapes/meanings and provides a mnemonic hint to make placing it in one’s palace a bit easier. Below is an example of the sixth which will give an idea as to the overall structure.

Box number 6 with a Japanese kanji, its two readings, number of strokes and a written description of the word and how it relates to other words as well as a suggested mnemonic story that relates to some of the other words.

I haven’t gotten very far into it yet, but I’d found an online app called WaniKani for Japanese that has some mnemonic suggestions and built-in spaced repetition that looks incredibly promising for taking small radicals and building them up into more easily remembered complex kanji.

I suspect that there are likely similar sources for these couple of books and apps for Chinese that may help provide a logical overall structuring which will make it easier to apply or adapt one’s favorite mnemotechniques to make the bulk vocabulary memorization easier.

The last thing I’ll mention I’ve found, that’s good for practicing writing by hand as well as spaced repetition is a Kanji notebook frequently used by native Japanese speaking children as they’re learning the levels of kanji in each grade. It’s non-obvious to the English speaker, and took me a bit to puzzle out and track down a commercially printed one, even with a child in a classroom that was using a handmade version. The notebook (left to right and top to bottom) has sections for writing a big example of the learned kanji; spaces for the “Kun” and “On” readings; spaces for the number of strokes and the radical pieces; a section for writing out the stroke order as it builds up gradually; practice boxes for repeated practice of writing the whole kanji; examples of how to use the kanji in context; and finally space for the student to compose their own practice sentences using the new kanji.

A section of a Kanji notebook (in Japanese) frequently used by native Japanese speaking children as they’re learning the levels of kanji in each grade. The notebook (left to right and top to bottom) has sections for writing a big example of the learned kanji; spaces for the “Kun” and “On” readings; spaces for the number of strokes and the radical pieces; a section for writing out the stroke order as it builds up gradually; practice boxes for repeated practice of writing the whole kanji; examples of how to use the kanji in context; and finally space for the student to compose their own practice sentences using the new kanji.

Regular use and practice with these can be quite helpful for moving toward mastery.

I also can’t emphasize enough that regularly and actively watching, listening, reading, and speaking in the target language with materials that one finds interesting is incredibly valuable. As an example, one of the first things I did for Welsh was to find a streaming television and radio that I want to to watch/listen to on a regular basis has been helpful. Regular motivation and encouragement is key.

I won’t go into them in depth and will leave them to speak for themselves, but two of the more intriguing videos I’ve watched on language acquisition which resonate with some of my experiences are:

Evie (taunting me to tuck her in before she gets to 15): …, 9-Mississippi, 10-Mississippi, 11-Mississippi, …

Me: We don’t Mississippi in this house! Maybe we should Tennessee since that’s where Grandma and Grandpa live?

Evie: I’ve Mississippi’ed since I was three.

Me: Maybe since we’re Welsh we should Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch? You know: 1-Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, 2-Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, …

Together: 3-Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch…

Evie (interrupting): Wait, what number are we on now???

Read Learning Log, Mar 2021 by Melanie RichardsMelanie Richards (melanie-richards.com)
Starting an experiment of the month, and succumbing to my curiosity around Python.
I love how the tired old link log idea has been re-framed here as a learning log. I might have to borrow the idea for my digital commonplace book.

I’m also glad to have stumbled across this so serendipitously for its mention of WaniKani for learning 日本語 (Japanese) kanji. I’m not quite sure what to make of their Crabigator yet, but perhaps Jack Jamieson might appreciate this as well.

I’ve been trying to catch up to a fourth grader in a dual immersion program, and I’ve been falling behind lately while working on my Welsh project. I’ve been too (slowly) working on a memory palace of Kanji with a lot more detail and historical information based on Kenneth Henshall’s A Guide To Remembering Japanese Characters, which seems to be one of the best texts I’ve seen for raw data. This app looks like it uses mnemonic associations in a different way along with spaced repetition that might allow for better immediate fluency.

Naturally I’m always happy to come across apps purporting to use mnemonics and spaced repetition, though I am still search for something with a more fluent focus for Japanese that is similar to SSiW’s immersion method.

Melanie Richards in on Twitter: “@SunhouseCLG Here’s a couple resources on Webmentions if you’d like to learn more about them: https://t.co/ilaWmEmX1T https://t.co/P8jI1kYfSq”

Bore Dydd Calan

This somehow seems appropriate during a pandemic

Dydd calan yw hi heddiw,
Rwy’n dyfod ar eich traws
I ‘mofyn am y geiniog,
Neu grwst, a bara a chaws.
O dewch i’r drws yn siriol
Heb newid dim o’ch gwedd;
Cyn daw dydd calan eto
Bydd llawer yn y bedd.

Ronald Hutton in The Stations of the Sun: A History of the Ritual Year in Britain (2001-02-0) as an example of a Calennig rhyme from 1950s Aberystwyth.

Listened to Nos Wener Ffion Emyr, 04/12/2020 from BBC Radio Cymru
Ffion Emyr yn tanio'r penwythnos gyda dwy awr o gerddoriaeth.
Dwy awr o gerddoriaeth a sgyrsiau difyr. Tybed pwy sydd yn gallu gwneud y coctêl gorau yng Nghymru ar nos Wener?
Hefyd, mae Gwawr Eleri James yn dewis cân i'w ffrindiau; ac mae Manon Williams yn hel atgofion am ei diwrnod priodas.
Listening out of curiosity while working in the kitchen.

phone screenshot of BBC Radio Cymru featuring Ffion Emyr and her show