Question of the day (22nd September).

Did you ever study a foreign language by yourself?

My answer:

Sure, I think that’s the best way of learning a language if only you can manage to do it this way because no one knows what works for you quite as well as you do, and no one knows as well as you do what things you enjoy so only you can make your language learning thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve been learning English by myself since I left the blind boarding school when I started hanging around the Anglophone Interwebs and realised what I was already beginning to think years earlier, that school, any school really (at least I haven’t encountered a school over here that would be really good with languages unless it specialises in it but even then it’s no guarantee) isn’t going to teach me a language, and if I want to communicate in English and understand people I’d have to do it by myself. What school had done so far was it only managed to discourage me in some way, but thankfully more from English as a subject, which I found infinitely boring, rather than English as a language, but it was very close to it as well. I was pretty good at English at school most of the time and that was part of why I disliked the subject, that a lot of the time I had little to no constructive stuff to do in class.

Sometimes I feel like a kind of jerk when I say that I’ve taught myself English, first because I was going to school for so many years so surely it must have had some impact, and also I don’t really feel and never did like I put a whole lot of effort into my English learning, like most people do when they teach themselves anything. And yes, I did get the beginnings from school, as I wrote in the last post, I’m absolutely sure it all wouldn’t go as smoothly as it did if I had to start from scratch completely on my own. And I am extremely grateful for the bits and pieces that school did give me. But with what I got from school, while I had very good grades at English and could have a very basic conversation with someone with a lot of good will on both sides, I wasn’t really able to communicate effectively nor comprehend English very well either when reading or listening. I also don’t think it’s something fully due to my own merrit that I’ve managed to learn English to the extend that I did and as smoothly and easily as I did. I don’t believe in a “linguistic talent” because if it was the matter of talent we would have much more mute people or people with all sorts of language/speech disorders than we do, we also wouldn’t have had as much migration because people wouldn’t be able to learn another country’s language. But there are certainly some traits that people may or may not have that may make it easier to absorb languages, like a talent for catching the phonetics which I seem to have. And I think that has simplified the whole thing for me a whole lot, I also like learning languages and if someone does not, it’s typically going to take more time.

But even if I do have some particular language skills, I still feel like my English learning was kind of miraculous and insanely speedy given how little conscious effort I put into it. I immersed myself a lot into English, listening to different accents and just a lot of stuff in English and wanted to learn to distinguish different accents better than I could, and possibly also imitate them. I read a lot in English on the web so that it quickly became my habit that if I was googling something I did it automatically in English rather than Polish and still do. – I changed the interfaces of the devices/apps I used to English. I wrote my journal at least partly in English. Later I started penpalling which was at first very strenuous indeed for me to understand people and write in a comprehensive way, writing to a pen pal would take me ages but after that my brain would be buzzing in English for the next 24 hours so it was clear that it was doing me a lot of good, and over time, not very much time at all, it became less of a chore and much more of a pleasure and I think it’s penpalling and blogging that has been helping me the most. Then when I was already able to communicate quite well I also started this blog which had been my dream for years. Later yet, I started to read some books in English when I got access to them, and nowadays, I think the amounts of books I read in Polish and English are quite equal, and it has also been a very smooth transition, although it still requires more concentration from me to read books in English, but not the point where it would be uncomfortable or something.

While in my final year of college/high school I had briefly English classes with a private tutor, I thought it could be more helpful to show me what exactly my level is and what I have still to do, or at least help me to prepare for my finals. It did only one good thing for me. My teacher was super chatty and we talked a lot, so my conversational skills have improved. That was good as generally my daily, serious use of English evolves around writing, reading and listening (by “serious” I mean excluding talking to myself and conversating with Misha). I was already good with accents and such but nevertheless not particularly confident in speaking, and talking to him helped me to feel more at ease with it, at least in terms of language skills, as of course there’s also the whole socialising and peopling stress involved which is a totally different thing and can also affect things no matter in which language. Thanks to this, he certainly helped me to prepare for my oral English final exam as well. But other than that, it didn’t really take me anywhere further than I was and my general English level didn’t change because of it. So yeah, I think with English, I learned the most by myself. It’s been about six years since I left the boarding school and thus since I seriously started to learn English on my own, and I’ve learnt more in these 5 years than I did during English classes.

I am also currently learning Swedish by myself, although I started out with a tutor and, unlike school and the English tutor, he did a whole lot for me and I’m sure that if I didn’t meet someone like him, I wouldn’t be able to learn Swedish nor any language on my own now. He worked with me for two years first since I was 10, then we had a long break when I had to go back to the blind school as the integration school didn’t work out and that meant there was no way for us to meet up really. I avoided even the slightest contact with or any mention of Swedish as fire while at the boarding school because I felt like if I couldn’t learn it anymore it was pointless to think of it and it only made me feel extremely depressed, frustrated and angry. I forgot most of what I learned at least on a conscious level. But then I got the faza on Cornelis Vreeswijk when I was 17 and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. The more my faza developed, the more I felt almost literally how all the stuff I forgot was flooding my brain again, and I kept accidentally learning new, sophisticated words from his lyrics and poems, then I even managed to translate totally spontaneously a few of his poems with the little Swedish I had and these translations were really quite damn good as for my generally very poor Swedish skills by then. As it happened, the year I got that faza also turned out to be my last year at the boarding school, and in the autumn of that year I reconnected with my Swedish teacher. During our first lesson, he asked me to just say a few sentences in Swedish, whatever I was able to say, and neither of us was expecting much but I was actually able to express myself fairly coherently. He was very surprised and at first thought that I was learning by myself at school somehow or managed to find another tutor there after all, but then I told him that I was only kind of learning since about May but not really in a very serious way, and he said my brain must have somehow skipped over the most basic stages in no time because I actually knew more than what we’d covered in the past when I was in the integration school. That was weird, but that’s fazas for you, make your brain do strangely intense things without feeling like you’re doing much at all. ๐Ÿ˜€ I loved it and I kept skipping like that for a while yet.

But, skipping or no skipping, I certainly wouldn’t be able to be where I am with my Swedish and with other languages where I am now if he wouldn’t take up the challenge and try to teach me even though he had no idea about teaching blind people and even though back then when we were starting I didn’t even have an idea about any technologies or stuff so it all was really complicated. Most language teachers I’ve encountered are much more of scaredy cats. I just wouldn’t have the confidence that I am actually able to do it.

Now I’m no longer having lessons with him since a few years and I can learn Swedish on my own. With the help of emails from my Swedish pen pals, the Swedish Internet, some Swedish books, mostly children’s, that I can get, and loads and loads and loads of listening. That trip to Stockholm I once went for has also tremendously helped me, as well as my friendship with Jacek from Helsinki and meeting different people through him. I get very little practice in form of writing or speaking these days and somehow can’t figure out how best to change it, at least in terms of writing where it is more doable, in a way that would feel good and not like a chore, which makes me feel that my Swedish is kind of clunky and that it could be better, and I somehow feel like it has regressed a little bit since when my English has started improving so rapidly but I am definitely able to communicate with people and understand everything I read or hear unless it’s extremely sophisticated or someone speaks very fast with an accent that I don’t really get, like Scanian for example. ๐Ÿ˜€

And now I’m also learning Welsh by myself as there’s no other option, as for many of my other languages. I’d actually like it if there was someone in my area who could teach me so I wouldn’t have to think about resources and stuff but it could be just as effective as all of my English classes in the past so perhaps it’s better that I’m dealing with it oon my own. The biggest problem is that there aren’t overly many resources but since I’ve found a website for Welsh learners with a lot of courses and stuff it’s become much easier and structured for me and I don’t have to constantly be on the look out for new things in case I run out of the resources I have now or they stop being helpful. It’s also fairly accessible. Listening is definitely my main way of learning Welsh as it’s kind of a priority in my courses, I’m terribly slow at reading and my vocab could be better but at least with the latter I’m sure I’ll get there in time. I’d also really really like to be better at listening as my brain is kind of sluggish when processing auditory input in Welsh haha. So far, despite I’ve had a Welsh faza, I haven’t had such a speedy jumping like with ENglish and Swedish, with Welsh it would be even better because it’s more difficult, and I’ve actually found learning it much more strenuous than the other two languages, but no less exciting.

And with all of my other languages, I think I’ll also be learning them by myself.

How about you? ๐Ÿ™‚

Question of the day (21st September).

Did you have foreign language classes in your school?

My answer:

I had English classes from the beginning of primary until the end of my formal education, and German kind of on and off since fourth grade in primary until the end of secondary. But I don’t feel like the classes gave me much beyond teaching me the very beginnings of English which could perhaps be hard if I didn’t have them at school.

How was it with you? If you did have language classes, do you feel like you actually benefitted from them in any way? Or maybe quite the opposite? ๐Ÿ™‚

Question of the day (20 September).

What other languages do you speak, if any?

My answer:

This is another thing that I’m sure a lot of you know about me as I write about it a lot and my languages are an important part of my life. But if you don’t, or doon’t remember, so far, other than my native language and obviously English, I can also speak Swedish, I’d say on an upper intermediate or advanced level or thereabouts, and Welsh, which I think would classify as lower intermediate. I also used to learn German at school but my actual knowledge of this language these days is very poor and most of it that I know is by similarity of the words with other languages that I know.

How about you? ๐Ÿ™‚

ร“rla Fallon – “Morning Has Broken”.

Hey people! ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s not morning here anymore, not even for my always jet-lagged brain ๐Ÿ˜€ – today it happened to be very early – but I hardly post anything in the morning and I would like to share this song with you, so why care about timing, especially that there are so many different timezones and you don’t have to view this today but could be any other day, in the morning or not.

I’m sure most people know the Cat Stevens classic, and yes, unsurprisingly, this song is a cover of it. I don’t really like the original, for no particular reason really, it just doesn’t really speak to me. And yes, it’s probably too common for me to like it, lol. This cover by ร“rla Fallon is so beautiful though, I fell in love with it instantly when I heard it.

ร“rla Fallon is one of the former member of an Irish all-female group called Celtic Woman, she was a singer and a harpist there. I really love her harp, and her voice, makes for a very angelic combination. I do not like however that from what I’m observing right now, ร“rla is stretching more towards the country end of the folk music spectrum, and away from the folksy, Celtic, pure folk, that she was doing with Celtic Woman and solo.

I think she makes this song sound exactly as it should sound – sweet, refreshing and happy in a deep, calm way. – Synaesthetically, this song in her version has a very vivid and distinct raspberry flavour to me, and I love raspberries so it’s just so cool. I think it’s especially ร“rla’s harp that makes it so perfect. I wonder if other people see it similarly. So here it is, and I hope you enjoy.

Orla Gartland – “Why Am I Like This?”

Hiya people! ๐Ÿ™‚

Do you ever ask yourself this question, “Why am I like this?” Some people dn’t, but some people do, and if you are one of the latter, this song is likely going to be very relatable for you.

I really like Orla Gartland. She’s Irish. That alone could be a good enough reason for me to like her. ๐Ÿ˜€ Even though she doesn’t do Celtic music and is quite popular. But I also like her because she’s very talented and very natural (very rare thing with “normal” artists these days), and a bit crazy, plus has a lot of distance to herself. Her lyrics are also very genuine and distanced, and I think also easily relatable for people.

This song is definitely very relatable for me. ‘Cause, being an overthinker, socially anxious and having AVPD, I quite frequently ask myself this question. Not like I expect to ever get the answer or like it matters that much, it’s just rhetorical and mostly a way to express my frustration. Now since I’ve first heard this song, whenever I wonder about “why am I like this?” the song immediately pops up in my brain. ๐Ÿ˜€ I can also very strongly relate to the broader topics of the song – overthinking one’s mistakes and anxiety in general. – The overthinking and overintrospecting bit is one of the most frustrating pieces of my AVPD. But I also believe it’s quite a universal experience that people struggle with too much introspection, self-criticism and some shyness on top of that, so I guess it could be very relatable to a lot of people. This is definitely my favourite song by Orla.

I don’t mind songs about love, I do love many of them, but since I myself have never experienced romantic love, and the vast majority of song lyrics are about this, it’s quite rare for me to find a truly relatable song, and therefore I appreciate pieces like this even more.

I couldn’t decide which version I want to share with you – the original or the fully produced – so I’m sharing both, ‘cuz why not.

 

Orkid – “Only If You Want To”.

Hey people! ๐Ÿ™‚

Time for some song of the day finally, eh? Haven’t posted those in a while. So, today I have a Swedish song for you. It’s by a young, Stockholm-based artist whom I really like. She participated in the Swedish edition of the talent show Idol, and now makes her own music under the pseudonym Orkid, which simply means orchid in Swedish, her real name is Matilda Melin. This is the first song by her I’ve ever heard and I think it’s really good.

Lxandra – “Swimming Pools”.

Hi lovely people! ๐Ÿ™‚

I have a song from a really cool, young singer for you today. Alexandra Lehti, aka Lxandra, was raised in an inhabited Finnish fortress called Suomenlinna, and has a Finnish father (Pekka Lehti – bassist who played with a fair few bands including a great female folk Vรคrttinรค, and he also seems to be a music producer -) and a German mother. I’ve heard this song for the first time a couple weeks ago and this was my first contact with Lxandra’s music. I really like her vocals, which are often compared with Adele and indeed there is some similarity. This song is about being true to who you are and where you come from, which is something that resonates with me as I feel strongly about cultivating your roots, on all sorts of different levels, and the message in Lxandra’s song seems to be more about our individual roots and background.

Jack Hawitt ft. Nyaki – “Dark Hotel”.

This song has been one of my favourites for quite a while now. I’ve heard about Jack Hawitt for the first time some months ago, don’t remember when exactly, and this song was the first of his that I’ve heard. This must have been around the time that my faza on Gwil was slowly fading from the dominant position so I was beginning to look for someone new to get a faza on. Jack Hawitt was one of the first candidates that I’ve considered, mostly just because his name was Jack and I wanted to have a faza on Jack, but it didn’t work out, he’s cool but too normal for that.

What I like most about this song is the lyrics, which I think are very relatable but also full of hope, hope that there is help and support out there, for many people with mental illness, or those who experience some temporary lows or crises in life as well. Also it’s just a very nice song, and both Jack and Nyaki are very good singers.

Jack Hawitt is from Britain, and he’s been active as a singer for a while already, and Nyaki is from Norway, but I haven’t heard any other songs by her.

I hope you enjoy this very nice pop piece. ๐Ÿ™‚

Blue Cafe – “Reflection”.

Hey people! ๐Ÿ™‚

It’s Mother’s Day here in Poland, so I thought I’d share a song that both my Mum and I like. It’s actually my Mum’s favourite song as of late. I completely didn’t associate this kind of music with her, but she likes this song, and when I heard it for the first time, I started to like it too. Generally our tastes aren’t incredibly similar.

Blue Cafe is a Polish band which I used to really hate, and am still not a huge fan of at all. They used to have a really awful vocalist, now they have a different one who at least can sing, but this song of theirs is one of the very few that I like and it always makes me think of Mum.

Hamzaa – “Hard To Love”.

Hi people! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve found a new British artist that I really like lately. Her stage name is Hamzaa, which apparently comes from her stepfather’s surname, and her real name is Malika, and she has a gorgeous voice. This song of hers is my absolute favourite, also because I think the lyrics are quite cool.

Aimรฉe – “Break Me”.

Hey people! ๐Ÿ™‚

A song I have for you today is by Irish singer called Aimรฉe. I often decide to show you acoustic versions of songs because I think they often just sound better and are more expressive, especially when it comes to just normal pop, but this time I think the original album version sounds better and conveys more emotion, I just like it more. Though what i like it mostly for is the lyrics. Aime is quite a new artist to me, but I think I’m going to like more of her music.

Nina June – “We Watched It All Come Down”.

Hi people!

As I’ve already told you, I’ve been discovering some Dutch music – mainly in English so far – lately, and my search is continuing, so I may show you some more Dutch music in the near future. Today I have for you a piece from an Amsterdam-based artist called Nina June. This was the first song by her I’ve heard, so far I’ve heard a few more but still I think I’ll need to familiarise myself better with her music to get a proper feel of it. This one is the one that I like the most so far though, so thought I’d share it with you as well.

Song of the day (16th April) – Declan J Donovan – “Anymore”.

Here’s a song I’ve recently grown to really like. In case someone of my more long-term readers would be confused, this is not that Declan I’ve had a faza/music crush on, that one is Declan Galbraith. I do like Declan J Donovan too, even though I don’t think I could ever have a faza on him, and this is my absolutely favourite song of his. I’ve only just learnt about it when preparing a bit for this post that this song was actually played on Love Island, which I suppose might be an interesting bit of info.

Song of the day (14th April) – Celine Cairo – “Strong Enough”.

I’ve said on my blog a couple times that despite one of my most favourite languages that I am aiming to learn at some point is Dutch, I know very little Dutch music, whether English- or Dutch-language, and that I can’t find a lot of Dutch stuff that I would particularly like. Recently though I’ve been discovering some Dutch pop, and hope that from there I can also move on to other genres.

So, here is a Dutch singer called Celine Cairo, and I think this song of her is particularly beautiful.

Olivia Garcia – “Freedom Hearts”.

Today I have a very catchy pop song for you. Olivia Garcia is a singer from Manchester who took part in X Factor some years ago, and then also in British preselections for Eurovision 2017, but didn’t get chosen in the end. I think the song is quite cool and her voice is very powerful, so thought I’d share.

Olivia Chaney – “False Bride”.

Hello people! ๐Ÿ™‚

I have another beautiful folk ballad for you today, and an English one as well. In any case, at least this version is English, the ballad itself apparently comes from Scotland. It is also known as “I Once Loved A Lass” and is told from a man’s perspective.

I know a few versions of this song, but I guess Olivia Chaney’s is my favourite, although I love Sandy Denny’s version too.

And, again, it strikes me how easy it seemed to be for people in the past centuries to die. You only needed an unrequited love, and then you could just lay down and die. I guess, looking at it objectively, it’s good that mankind has grown out of this strange ailment. ๐Ÿ˜‰ At the same time, as someone who has struggled with passive suicidal thoughts for most of my life, I have to admit that I often thought that this ability must have been really handy. I remember listening to “Annachie Gordon” for the first time as a tween or so, and I was so utterly amazed that one can just die in a matter of seconds solely because of love.

Emily Portman – “Two Sisters”.

Today I have a folk song for you, a beautiful English ballad. Well, this performance is English, but the song is actually known in many European countries, like a lot of folk ballads. I’ve heard different versions, both in terms of plot, melody and language. From English, to Scots, to Hungarian… But I think I am right to assume that it originated in the British Isles. Sometimes it’s known as “Cruel Sister”, but Emily Portman’s version is called “Two Sisters”. It’s a murder ballad – somehow I’ve posted a lot of those, well, I guess they must be really good. –

So, as I said, Emily Portman is English, and the song comes from her album titled “Glamoury”, which was made in cooperation with a harpist Rachel Newton (I haven’t heard her own music but from this album I think she must be a great harpist and I really like her harp play) and another singer – Lucy Farrell – I like that, since it’s said in the song that after the younger sister’s death, a harp was made of her breast bone by a minstrel, this song, in Emily’s version, actually contains harp. A lot of harp. The whole album contains quite a lot of harp, though I can be never satiated. Here goes, I hope you like it.