Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Farewell, Harry Potter

Photo by Roland Lösslein on Unsplash
I don’t know if I wrote a similar post before or not but here goes nothing.

I finally finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. And you might think well you have 3 more to go. Right! Is that what came to your mind?

Well, you are wrong. I finished reading the rest of the books a long time ago. I only had the fourth left to be read.

So here how it happened?

Before my discovery of Harry Potter I didn’t read much. I lived in Egypt and the act of purchasing/borrowing books was not widely spread. I didn’t know what to read/how to choose books/where to get them from. I remember not having a bookstore close to me. If I wanted to purchase books, I either had to go to Cairo’s downtown or wait for Cairo’s annual book fair. And even when I went to the book fair I didnt know what to look for. I had zero knowledge and zero interest.

Then came a night, unlike other nights. It happened in 2005 as I was flipping through the TV, something caught my eyes. In short, it was Harry Potter. I watched it in complete amazement with my brother. Needless to say, it became my favorite thing my eyes ever came across.

The next morning was Sunday which meant the start of the week. I started my day with so much excitement in the air because I was about to tell everyone at school what I watched the other night.

It turned out that everyone knew about the Harry Potter series already. Mind you, I was the last person in the entire universe to know anything about it. But that didn’t stop me from blabbering about it day and night…and for that whole year…until today.

Note: one of my friends ended up lending me her copy of Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets and I read it religiously. I remember reading it during my ride back and forth from school.

The movie I had watched was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Harry Potter and the chamber of secrets was broadcasted the following week. I watched Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban years later. Then one of my friends told me that the fourth movie was coming out. I went and watched it with my brother. I was once again amazed by the production/acting/story,etc. It was so great (probably my favorite movie out of all the Harry Potter movies).

Thankfully, it was almost time for Cairo’s bookstore. This time I was excited to go. I decided to get Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix in order to know what happened after the movie had left off. So my first book I ever purchased was the fifth book in the series. I know. I never felt eager to buy a book in my life before. I devoured the whole thing.

Note: Reading the fifth book before the release of the movie was not a bad idea.

 A newspaper held a contest(that was when I had moved to Canada) in celebration of the new movie release. I was to answer a question to enter a draw to win the fifth movie's original soundtrack. The question was based on the fifth book plot. I submitted my answer online (I think it was online) and I was among the winners. Its one of the things that I cherish greatly.

I went to all the movies since, during the first week of its release. I read all of the books that were released after in order. Then read what I was missing from the series which were the first book and the third book.

And the journey ends today. But I know that Harry Potter will always be part of me. This might be my last Harry Potter related post but you never know.

Thank you Harry Potter for making me read

Thank you Harry Potter for my first blog entry

Thank you Harry Potter for being a good friend

Thank you Harry Potter for teaching me many things

Thank you and farewell!

Sunday, September 2, 2018

How to continue learning a language when your progress is slow?

We tend to give up on languages we want to learn because we don’t see results right away. We give it a try for a couple of weeks, months or years. Some of us keep going and some of us stop for different kinds of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is seeing no progress in the skill you are trying to master.

Photo by Daniel H.Tong on Unsplash
I have been learning Korean on my own (using online resources) since 2013. You might be thinking “five years should be enough to be fluent”. That is not true. I still struggle with understanding, reading and writing Korean. I am nowhere near fluency, but I don’t see myself giving up anytime soon. I just keep going even though my progress is very slow. It is too late to go back anyway. My whole life is immersed in the Korean culture/language. And if I ever decide to stop learning Korean, I won't stop watching its dramas, listening to its music or checking out Naver.

Korean has become more than a language for me. It is part of my lifestyle now. Even as I write this, I have a local Korean radio on as a background noise.
I do believe this is the key to continue learning a language even when the progress is unnoticeable. It is that I am always learning indirectly even when I am too lazy to sit down and actually study.

Maybe it helps that I really enjoy Korean entertainment. There is always something to watch/listen to. There is something in this language for everybody. That is the beauty of it. You can find Korean content online easily. Even learning resources are available unlimitedly.

The other thing is I don’t measure my progress with a ruler. In fact, I don’t measure it at all. I just pat myself on the shoulders if, for example, I understand a scene in a drama, etc.

Something else that I do is coming up with new goals to motivate myself. Because change is required to get you out of the boring routine of learning a foreign language. So below is an image of how my goals started simple and got bigger over time:

Goal #1: Learn the Korean alphabets
Goal #2: Understand Korean catchphrases from dramas
Goal #3: Finish all of the 9 levels posted on TTMIK
Goal #4: Be able to watch Korean dramas/shows without subtitles
Goal #5: Learn Korean Idioms

As you can see my first goal was so simple. I was planning to stop there but I got greedy. I decided to explore more of this language when I completed my first goal. Gradually my goals became bigger and bigger because my interest deepened. So yes you can say that you should start small and go big not the other way around.

From time to time you have to change how you study your targeted language. Don’t depend on one source. Don’t depend on one method (even if you think its working for you). Continue to evolve your ways not to get bored. However, if you stay with the same method for a long time, you will eventually stop.

So these were my tips. What are yours? Comment them below.

Thank you for reading

For more tips follow me @basma_aalx

Friday, August 3, 2018

Duolingo: A Review

A month ago, I finished the Korean course on Duolingo, reaching level 1 on all of the categories (now I am in the process of getting level 2s) in the course.

Duolingo is an app/website that helps people to learn different languages. There are over 20 courses for English speakers and according to their website, they have over 200 million users. So, it is a well-known stop for learning languages.  

My Experience: 
When I first downloaded the app, it had no Korean course (the language that I have been studying since 2013), so I was only using it to study French. Then last year Duolingo released the beta version of the Korean course. I added it right away and started working. 

I didn’t study using the app every day (which is the ideal thing to do); I only used it when I had the time and energy. Personally, I think Duolingo is a great way to expose yourself to new Korean vocabulary. It is also a way to measure how much you know of a language. Of course, for me there is still a lot to be learned. 

Duolingo always has new words introduced in different colors within sentences. It covers many areas from alphabets to verbs, nouns, adjectives, etc. It has you covered. It is one destination to learn basic Korean. 

I really liked how the lessons were available in order. It motivated me to finish more lessons so that I can access more.  

The course was useful in testing my skills in constructing sentences in Korean. It was the closest thing to writing in Korean since I don’t practice writing Korean at all. 
There are different types of questions available which is very important for language learners. You ought to discover them yourself. 

I believe for Duolingo to provide an excellent experience for its users, they must commit to some changes. 

One of the biggest issues is that after a few lessons they stop introducing new words separately with a picture (for the visual learners). They just provide sentences and if you don’t know the meaning of any of the words, you just click on it (and the meaning will appear in English). This is not a good way to memorize new words because you are only copying and pasting. Instead, the words colored in yellow/green should be introduced first. Then the user can be tested by translating sentences.   

Secondly, there are many useless sentences that I wouldn’t use in real life. I wish Duolingo would focus only on sentences that I would need to communicate. 

If you are going to learn Korean using Duolingo, you must have a little background. You cannot jump into the course without previous knowledge. 

Finally, I recommend using Duolingo to learn a language in a fun way. But don’t expect fluency at the end of the road.

What do you think? Have you ever tried Duolingo or any other similar applications?

Twitter: @basma_aalx 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson

It took me forever to finish this book. Not because it was boring but because it was thick of information. With each passing page, I had to pause to take in what I learned.

When I first picked up the book from Cairo book fair last February, I thought it will give me a summary of historical events. However it actually turned out to be about the history of the universe, earth, when the elements you see floating around in the periodic table was discovered, etc.

If you are interested in science, this book is right for you.

It talks about biology, physics, chemistry and the list goes on and on. I honestly don’t know how this book was compiled together with this amount of information.

My live reactions:

I believe that you need a little background in science to understand many of the things mentioned in this book. I am not a science major, but I took biology and chemistry classes in high school and I think it helped a bit. If you are still interested in reading this book (without previous knowledge in science), you can use Google (it helped me a lot).

This book was informative, funny and an eye opener to the wonderful world we live in. 

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Elizabeth: The Struggle for the Throne by David Starkey

When I saw this book in the midst of the other books, I knew I had to buy it.

It is about Queen Elizabeth which I barely knew anything about. The book contained colored illustrations so that was a plus. And finally the cover had the Queen on it and I just had to conform to her orders.

So I don’t have to go further about my excitement towards this book when I first saw it.

Now upon reading the book, I felt bad for Elizabeth’s struggles. She had to grow up in a place far away from her mom. Her mother was executed when Elizabeth was very young. And as the title suggests, it was a struggle to the throne. Elizabeth went through a lot. It was probably because of the era she was born in. Everything was just too complicated back then.

I had fun reading the first part of the book (knowing about Elizabeth’s upbringings and such). However, later on, I became disinterested because the book turned into a political scene. It focused on politics which doesn’t cross off any of preferred genres. For some reason, I prefer reading history over politics. I know both genres collide from time to time. But you know preferences. What can I do!

So I recommend this book if you are into both British history and politics. Also, if you have a little background about the Elizabethan era.


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