Tag Archives: studying

The Multilingual Desire

Ever since I started using Duolingo to study languages, I’ve had a growing desire to learn multiple languages. There are many languages available on that platform, and it continues to grow.

My experience learning languages started in 1986 when I was 9 years old. I studied French in school until 1994, when I was 17 years old. I didn’t take French in grade 12, but instead challenged the final exam and passed it easily, getting full credit for the class. I was good at it. I had confidence that I could learn languages easily.

In university, I took a class in Japanese and enjoyed it a lot. I did very well in that class, and it helped me a lot when I moved to Japan in 2005. I had full intentions to learn the language and become fluent. I studied it on my own. However, I worked entirely in English. My interactions with Japanese people were with friends who spoke English well, coworkers who spoke English, students who I taught English, and people in shops. It was when I went shopping or out to a restaurant that I was able to use Japanese. As a result, I have no problem going shopping or ordering in a restaurant in Japan. My confidence in speaking Japanese didn’t grow at all. I didn’t speak well enough to have a conversation with my wife’s parents, or even with my wife. My listening improved, but my speaking did not. That’s my fault.

I started using Duolingo to relearn French. I also started doing Esperanto, since studying it has been proven to help people learn other European languages more quickly. I also started learning Spanish.

My studying has stalled recently. I’d like to get myself back into it. I’d like to focus on French and Japanese. French will be useful for future job prospects in Canada, while Japanese will be useful for me with my family and my in-laws. And since we plan to travel to Japan often, I can use it there.

But I don’t want to stop there. I want to get back into studying Spanish, as well as German, Norwegian, Russian, and Irish. My family heritage includes German, Norwegian, and Irish. My grandfather was born in Russia, so a lot of research into his family history has to be done in Russian. I think it would help. And I’d also like to learn Tagalog. I have some Filipino friends, and I think it would be fun to be able to understand what they’re talking about.

Are you using Duolingo? Are you studying a language? Let me know in the comments section below. Also, you can check out my Duolingo profile and add me as a friend.

Authors Answer 105 – New Knowledge Wishlist

Welcome to our third year of Authors Answer! This is the first question of the new season, and we’re going strong. Last week’s question had a wonderful response and proved to be a very popular question. It was shared many times on Facebook and Twitter, and I think we have to thank our guest authors for that.

This week, we tackle a topic that makes us wish we had instant knowledge. While writing, we often have to do research. But there are some subjects where we wish we could have more knowledge to aid us in our writing.

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 105 – What subject or topic would you like to improve your knowledge of so you can use it in your writing?

Beth Aman

We writers joke about things that we have to research, and how we hope the FBI never looks at our internet history.  It’s true – I’ve done research on arrow wounds and stab wounds and swords and death.  I’d love to have an extensive knowledge of all of those things – swords, knives, bows, guns, wounds, death, infection, illness, edible plants, hunting, building a fire, etc.  (I write high fantasy and there’s a lot of woodsy and outdoorsy stuff.)

Jean Davis

I’d love to have the brainpower to get more into the science end of sci-fi. I tend to hang out on the softer side but there are times when more a more in depth understanding of the information would could be useful to add more sci to my fi.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Monsters. Not that I don’t have a fair bit of knowledge in that field already thanks to the types of books/shows/movies I consume, but I could always learn more. My writing genres of preference are horror and fantasy, both of which are much more enjoyable with an interesting, well-written monster, so I’d love to learn everything there is to know about things that roar and shriek and otherwise go bump in the night. Plus, the research is fun. 🙂

H. Anthe Davis

There are lots of topics I actively look up and study in preparation for writing various scenes, but it’s all from an academic standpoint — I don’t plan to go climbing mountains even though I send my characters almost to the death-zone in a few scenes, and I won’t be headed to medical school despite the intense biological focus of some of my characters’ magic, nor will I be planning any real cities or growing any real crops.  It’s always a piecemeal sort of investigation, so I just hope the details mesh well enough for people who understand the topics — that I’m not pulling them out of the story with bad information.  Frankly my answer would have to be EVERY TOPIC!

Eric Wood

I don’t think there’s just one topic. The children’s books I enjoy reading (and now writing) have a touch of truth to them. Chris Hadfield’s “The Darkest Dark” is about a child scared of the dark until he watches the moon landing on TV. He eventually grew up to be a commander on the Space Station just like its author. But I suppose if I had to pick it would be how to write realistic dialog.

D. T. Nova

The local geography of places I’ve never been. The laws of specific places as well.

I also don’t think it’s ever really possible to know so much about physics that knowing more wouldn’t be potentially useful.

Paul B. Spence

Well, I’m always reading the latest in scientific developments. There are some interesting things happening out there.

I would like to read more philosophy, religion (any), and mysticism. I think that the science of the mind and the question of what is consciousness are fascinating.

C E Aylett

Not a topic so much, but more of a skill and that skill would be how to research thoroughly and more efficiently.

Linda G. Hill

It varies in that there’s invariably something I want to know more about, every time I start a new project. What always trips me up is what my characters do for a living. It’s the one thing people in any given profession will read about with a keen eye, and I hate making mistakes!

Gregory S. Close

Right at this moment I would love to download a decade worth of research into Native American history, religion and customs directly into my brain.  I’m daunted by what I don’t know, how much I need to know it for my work in progress, and finally how little time I have to do anything about it.

Jay Dee Archer

There’s something that’s lacking for me. I write both science fiction and fantasy. I’m confident in my ability to navigate through science, geography, politics, and culture. However, the thing that I would love to improve is my knowledge of military and battle tactics and terminology. Both genres I write in often feature battles, both individual and military. I want to know about large scale military battles and strategy, as well as hand to hand combat. I need to know more about weapons, as well. It would be extremely helpful.

How about you?

What would you like to know more about? It doesn’t matter if you’re an author or a reader. Let us know in the comments below.

Authors Answer 100 – Taught By an Author

One hundred! This is the one hundredth Authors Answer. One hundred weeks of questions and answers! Some of us have been doing this for all one hundred weeks, and some of us are newer. But this is a big number to achieve. I had no idea it would go this long. So, for this week’s question, we thought about who can teach us to write better. Which author would we love to be our teacher?

320px-Modern-ftn-pen-cursiveQuestion 100 – If you could take a writing class taught by any author, who would it be?

Cyrus Keith

Louis L’Amour. His descriptions were so brilliant, and he was so prolific a writer, if I could bottle just a little of what he had, I’d be better off.

C E Aylett

Probably Tracy Chevalier. Or Stephen Donaldson. But for vastly different techniques and styles. Mmm, if it came to a toss up..? Can we not have a made-up perfect mutant author instead? Pretty please?

Beth Aman

Can they be a dead author?  Then definitely C.S. Lewis.  I think he would be delightful and funny and down-to-earth.  I love the voice in his writing, so I’d love to get to meet him.  If it can’t be a dead author, then maybe Ally Carter, because I’ve met her and she’s wonderful.  Also she’s funny and writes hilarious but also amazing books.

Linda G. Hill

Stephen King!!! Without a doubt. He’s my sempai.

H. Anthe Davis

I would attend a class by Robin Hobb, just to learn more about how she makes normal day-to-day events in characters’ lives so engaging.  I know it’s not something everyone likes, but I always find myself fascinated by the simple details of characters’ work and personal interactions before the main story kicks in.  I’m very much an action-oriented writer, though I have done a bit of ‘rural downtime’, I suppose you could call it.  I just feel like I could do it better, and I think it would be valuable to learn from her.

Jean Davis

If George RR Martin had the time, which is a hilarious thought with all he has going on, I would love to hear what he has to say about writing fiction.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Honestly, I’m not quite sure how to answer this question because, even though there are authors I love and admire, they all also have quirks and traits that I wouldn’t want to learn. Do you know what I mean? For instance, I love George R.R. Martin, but his penchant for telling every moment of a character’s backstory only to kill them off…yeah, I don’t want any of that.

If I had to choose one, I suppose I’d probably choose Stephen King, simply because he comes up with some grotesque stories, and I love that kind of thing.

Gregory S. Close

Tad Williams.

Eric Wood

I would want to take one by Markus Zusak. I love his writing style. Also, Sheree Fitch has become one of my favorite children’s authors over the last year. If you haven’t read “Monkeys in My Kitchen” I highly recommend it!

Elizabeth Rhodes

I would love a writing class taught by Asimov. I’ve always been a fan of his style but don’t have the language to describe it properly. Bonus points if it includes a lesson on writing robots.

D. T. Nova

Cassandra Clare. Her writing includes excellent examples of many of the things that I most want to improve at, and she writes for roughly the same demographic I hope to reach.

Paul B. Spence


Jay Dee Archer

As someone who loves worldbuilding, I’d want an author who has done some amazing worldbuilding to teach me. I haven’t read Brandon Sanderson, so I can’t say him yet. However, I’d love to hear about how Steven Erikson co-created Malazan. With his detailed world, he also includes many different cultures and a long history. I’d enjoy learning how he created them.

How about you?

If you could choose any author to be your writing teacher, who would you choose? Let us know in the comments below.

Greek on Duolingo!

Finally! This is one of the languages I’ve been eager to learn. I’ve been waiting for Greek to be released in Beta on Duolingo, and now it has been.

This is going to be a very interesting language to learn. I’ve learned the alphabet, and had to know it in university, but that’s only because astronomers name stars with the Greek alphabet. But it’s also used in equations in math and physics. Even though I know the alphabet, I don’t know how to pronounce much of it. I’ll have to learn that.

Another language coming soon is Romanian. It’s a Romance language, so I expect it to be an easier language for me to learn. And for those who know Spanish, Guarani has also come out.

But I’m anticipating a few other languages that are in development, especially Indonesian, Hindi, Korean, Swahili, and Klingon. That’s right, Klingon. But I’m really hoping to see languages like Tagalog, Arabic, Finnish, and of course, Japanese. And Latin, too.

Anything you’re interested in learning? Let me know in the comments below.

Language Test Drives

Several months ago, I did a few language test drives for languages that are available on Duolingo. Since then, there have been several new languages, though three of them use different alphabets. I’m thinking about doing some more language test drives, but I want your opinion.

It’s not easy to choose a language, especially when they’re significantly different than English. So, please vote for which language you’d like to see me attempt first.

Ukrainian and Russian use the Cyrillic alphabet, while Hebrew uses the Hebrew alphabet. Surprisingly Vietnamese uses the Roman alphabet, as does Hungarian.

Let me know which one you voted for a why in the comments below. Thanks!

Week in Review – June 5, 2016

Another week has come and gone, and a lot happened in the last week. Some good and some really not at all good. But I’ve also started focusing on something and have already seen some positive results. Let’s find out what happened.


Nothing at all. I caught a cold and felt so tired most nights that I didn’t feel I could read. I’m at 41% on Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds. I need to get working on this!


Big setback here. We had a sump pump failure in the basement with a bit of flooding. It’s been repaired, but the office will be closed until the flooring is replaced in one corner.


Not unexpected, but I’m still at 0 patrons and $0. I don’t expect much until I’m producing more videos and gaining more subscribers there. Also, once I start writing and getting the new material out, I should start getting some.


I worked on some more Esperanto. I should get back into French, too. That’s my primary focus.


We went swimming at the rec centre, and my daughter loved it. We’ll definitely go again this week.


I have three new videos out this week, but one is only available on my Patreon page. But go check out the public videos on my channel. But the biggest news with the channel is that I’ve started making improvements to the channel, as well as coming changes to the videos themselves. I’ll be using cards and annotations far more often to direct viewers to different things while watching. And video production is going to pick up, especially with Japan-related videos. But I’ll also be Booktubing!

The Blog

I talked a lot about social media again. But you’ve already seen that with the Video section above.


Started a course on the British Empire on FutureLearn, except that I haven’t even looked at it. I guess I should tonight.

The Next Week’s Goals

I’m going to do a lot of work on my YouTube channel this week. I can’t do much about writing until the office is put back together. So, I’ll focus on my other creative outlet, other than this blog. Thinking about collaborations for YouTube, actually. Got something in mind, but I need to talk to the people I’d like to collaborate with. Keeping it bookish, actually.

How was your week? Let me know in the comments below.

Studying the British Empire

As you may know, I have an interest in history. Understanding history often helps with writing both science fiction and fantasy, as they deal with different times and societies, while also having rich and well-developed histories of their own.

I’m getting back into using FutureLearn, and this week, the course called Empire has begun. It’s about the British Empire. I’m from a country that was part of the British Empire, so I’m expecting something about Canada in this course. But the British Empire was the largest empire in the world at one time. There’s a lot to learn. Below, you can see how much of the world was part of the empire (click to see a larger version).

The_British_Empire_AnachronousThat’s a lot of countries. You can see a strip through Africa, much of south Asia, parts of the Middle East, and plenty of Pacific islands, as well as Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the Thirteen Colonies.

Do you know any interesting facts about the British Empire? Share them in the comments below.