Biking Through the Dunes

Bridge in Haagsche Bos.

One of my friends recently told me that she likes to bike when the weather is good, so I decided I wanted to do it too. I looked around online and I found a route that seemed nice. It would go through the Haagsche Bos and Meijendel, an old park and dunes respectively, while also passing some of our monarchy’s houses. I’m not a big fan of monarchies, but their homes usually do look good.

Sadly, I got lost somewhere in the woods and when I reached Meijendel it was somewhere completely different than I was supposed to end up. It was still a lot of fun and I took some nice pictures. My eventual route was through Haagse Bos, Meijendel and eventually Scheveningen, before going back home.

Bridge in Haagsche Bos.

Bridge in Haagsche Bos.

A break of light through the trees, lighting my path.

A break of light through the trees, lighting my path.

Panorama of lake and road in Haagsche Bos.

Panorama of lake and road in Haagsche Bos.

A tower of Dunea, the organisation taking care of Meijendel.

A tower of Dunea, the organisation taking care of Meijendel.

I wasn't the only biker on the road in Meijendel

I wasn’t the only biker on the road in Meijendel

Going of the bike path to see more of the dunes.

Going of the bike path to see more of the dunes.

Meijendel is a protected area, so stay on the path.

Meijendel is a protected area, so stay on the path.

A view on the dunes.

A view on the dunes.

Panorama of the beach.

Panorama of the beach.

I could see Scheveningen in the distance.

I could see Scheveningen in the distance.

Kurhaus is a pretty old and famous hotel in Scheveningen.

Kurhaus is a pretty old and famous hotel in Scheveningen.

 

There's a museum in Scheveningen that has a lot of interesting statues.

There’s a museum in Scheveningen that has a lot of interesting statues.

The lighthouse near the pier.

The lighthouse near the pier.

Busy Times

I haven’t been writing a lot lately. The main reason being that I’ve started my graduation project.
I can’t say too much about it, but it’s really interesting. I’m researching, mainly through trial-and-error, how to port a decade old Windows system to Android.

Between that and picking up boxing again, I haven’t had a lot of time to practice languages or make vlogs. I write scripts for the vlogs when I can, but I’ll probably film them after I graduate, when I have a bit more time.

I’ve also been looking into going back to China. I plan on going to Beijing this time, to practice more Mandarin under professional teachers. Since a good friend is studying at Tsinghua, I hope to go there, but I’m also applying to BLCU and BFA as backups.

Beijing is very expensive though, so I’ve also applied for a scholarship. If I can’t get that though I might try to crowd fund the difference between what I have and what I need. And if I get more then I can travel as well and visit more of my friends that live in that part of the world.

But anyway, since I’m so busy, I won’t keep to my regular planning of a new blog every monday. It’ll be more like a new blog every time I can.

Return to Youtube

I’ve begun making new videos for Youtube again. It’s mainly to keep me motivated while I’m learning languages, by making videos where I show what I’ve learned.

But, I also plan on making other videos on occasion, such as about my travels.

If you can access Youtube, my channel introduction is below.

Graduation year

2015 is the year that I will get my Bachelor’s degree.

I’ve been studying software engineering for around 4 years at The Hague University of Applied Science and now all I need to do is finish a graduation project at a company.

In Delft I’ve found a pretty great one and I’m currently busy preparing for it. What I liked most about it is that it will allow me to learn a new language, namely Delphi. Once I start and know what parts of the project I can and can’t talk about I’ll tell you more about it.

 

Besides graduating this year, I’ve begun several other projects too, which I’ll tell you about over time as well.

Goals within Resolutions

It’s been almost a week since I made my resolutions and I’ve realised that it would be wise to slice them up in to more manageable goals. Just saying I want to make an app or I want to learn those languages is nice and all, but it’s not really measurable. I won’t plan for the whole year, since I will graduate in 6 months, so instead I’ll set these goals for the coming half year.

First of, again, are the languages. Chinese is my main priority and I’ve already got some experience with it, so I’ve decided I want to reach HSK level 5 within this half year.

For those of you that don’t know, the HSK system is a series of tests that measure your level in listening, reading and writing Chinese. The lowest level being 1, where you know just a few basic words, and the highest level is 6, where you should be able to follow movies and hold complex conversations.

I’m currently already level 3 and I believe I can get to level 4 in 10 weeks. Leaving me with 15 weeks to reach level 5.

For Japanese and Korean I already have some books to study it, so I want to finish those books within the coming half year. They’re at the beginner level, but I’ll tell you more about them in the coming weeks. As a matter of fact, I’ll tell you about all the books I’m using to learn languages in the coming weeks and months.

I’ve ordered some basic books for Tagalog and Thai that should arrive in the next 2 weeks. They are at the lowest level, basically just enough to be a tourist for a few days in the Philippines and Thailand. Seeing as I’m already working hard on Chinese, Japanese and Korean, I’ll leave it at that for now, but should I finish those books well before the end of the half year, I’ll also get some books for Polish and Slovene, to fill up the rest of the time.

 

As for the app. I’ve already decided to make an organiser to start with and I’ve already figured out what to put in it. I just need to figure out how much the Android library and other Google libraries already can do, so I won’t have to do a whole lot of extra and unnecessary work.

 

And finally, for the book reviews I’ve got the first few lined up already, namely the books I’m using to learn the languages. But, if you have any recommendations for me to read, be sure to leave a comment and let me know.

New Year’s Resolutions – 2015

I haven’t made any New Year’s Resolutions in the past, mainly because I didn’t have any specific goals in the past, but now I do and I also have a platform to tell everyone and keep myself accountable to keeping those resolutions.

 

My first resolution is to learn more languages. When I was in China I made friends from all around the world, Korea, Japan, Thailand, The Philippines, Australia, Poland and Slovenia to be exact. Most of them know English, and the ones that don’t I can talk with in Chinese, but it still would be nice to be able to talk with them in their native languages.

I’ve already begun learning Korean and Japanese, because they have similarities with Chinese, so I hope they will be easier to begin with and will also improve my Chinese. On Amazon I’ve found some decent books to begin learning Polish, Tagalog and Thai, you can see them if you click on Wish List in my about section, or here, it’ll link you to my Amazon UK wish list.  Once I feel confident enough with my Korean and Japanese abilities, I’ll begin learning the other languages too.

I feel that the books I have found are a good introduction to most languages I want to learn, but if you have any recommendations for the other languages, please let me know. Any other ways for me to learn and improve my language skills are more than welcome.

 

My second resolution is to build my first app. It doesn’t have to be presentable yet, but it has to fully work. I already have some ideas for what kind of apps I want to make, including the disability apps that I talked about in my previous post, here. I will probably mostly work on the organiser app. So for this I first need to really analyse what everyone wants in an organiser and then I’ll need to research how to design an organiser. That should be easy enough, but then I’ll also need to design the app and research how to implement all those demands. It should keep me occupied for at least half a year, possibly longer with the workload I’ll get from also working on my graduation project.

 

My third and final resolution is to read and review more books. If you’ve checked out my wish list you’ll see that I also want to read more about social issues, such as privilege and oppression, and I have some other books already here at home. I want to start reviewing what I read, but to do that I need to fully read them first. And same as with my first resolution, if you have any good recommendations for me to read, please let me know.

 

As to how to hold my self accountable. At the end of next year I’ll go back to this post and see if I’ve managed to fulfil all my resolutions. I’ll write about it and post it here, while making my resolutions for the next year as well.

 

Now, before we head of into the new year tell me, what are your resolutions for 2015?

 

Building Disability Apps

Right now I’m doing my last course for college, after which I’ll do a graduation project at a pretty cool IT company before getting my Bachelor’s degree. It’s also why I’ve been absent the past two weeks.

The course is about how to build Android apps and it got me interested in making apps to make life more accessible. As a programmer I should always keep in mind how to make programs that are as accessible as possible for its users, such as allowing the font to be changed or changing the back ground colour for better visibility, so I want to do something similar for our day to day life.

To begin doing that, I’ve created a survey where I ask which disabilities people have, how those disabilities affect their lives, which apps they’re currently using and what kind of apps they want or need. I’ve also asked which platform they use to help me decide which platform I’ll build for first and how they would be willing to contribute to the costs of making those app.

At the time of writing this post, Android and iOS had the same amount of users, so at this point I’ve decided that I’ll start with Android, mainly because it’s cheaper to develop for it (one time 25$ registration fee as opposed to Apple’s 99$ a year subscription fee) and I’ve gotten some experience with it already during this course.

It seems that mainly a good organisational app and a good AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) app are wanted, so I’ll start with those. Of course I’ll first need to do some more research on those subjects, so I’ll do some literature research first, possibly supplementing it with more surveys. After those I’ll start on the other app suggestions.

You can find the answers I’ve gotten on this survey here.

The survey is still open to answer, and I’ll probably keep it that way for a long time, so if you’re disabled and haven’t already filled in the form, please do so here.

Birthday 2014

Birthday Present, Horse, Chinese Zodiac, Orchid, Bamboo, Plum Blossom, Chrysanthemum, Beijing Opera

Last friday (the 28th of November) was my birthday. I wanted to celebrate at the stroke of midnight, but a fire broke out down the street, so that took my attention first. After that was over though, I went back inside and had a nice Polish beer, that I had brought back from Krakow, with my parents. I tried to sleep after that, but it took a long time for the smell of smoke to dissipate, so I fell asleep late.

Fire

Fire broke out in a house down the street.

Polish beer, Pszeniczne

A bottle of beer I brought from Poland.

Polish Beer, Pszeniczne

The emptied beer bottle with the glasses.

 

Sadly I had to focus on schoolwork all day, so I couldn’t do much in the way of celebrating then, but I had invited some of my friends over the next day. To prepare I spent Friday night to prepare dumpling filling. The next day, when all my friends had arrived, we immediately started cooking. We first filled the dumpling skins after which I dumped them in a pan of boiling water. One of them started cooking the rest of the meal then, because she’s a much better cook than the rest of us. She made stir-fried potato slices, eggplant with tomato and zucchini with bell pepper. I had a lot of fun hanging out with them in the kitchen and eating with them. Afterwards we played a game of Uno, before they had to go back home again.

dumplings

Uncooked dumplings.

dumplings, potato, zucchini, eggplant

The food we ate at my party. From the top going clock-wise: dumplings, stir-fried potato slices, zucchini with bell pepper and eggplant with tomato.

Birthday Present, Horse, Chinese Zodiac, Orchid, Bamboo, Plum Blossom, Chrysanthemum, Beijing Opera

Chinese style bookmarks and a small skewer one of my friends gave me. From left to right they’re a horse (my Chinese zodiac sign), an orchid, bamboo, plum blossom, a chrysanthemum and the skewer with a Beijing opera mask on top.

Vegemite, Gift

Vegemite my Australian friend sent me.

 

Practicing Mandarin

Although I’ve learned a decent amount of Mandarin, it will fade if I don’t keep on practicing. It’s difficult to practice speaking, since my Chinese friends in the Netherlands are very busy with their studies and the internet connection with the ones in China is often a bit shaky, but practicing reading, writing and listening I can do.

I have several different readers to practice reading, namely the Chinese Breeze (汉语风) series and the Reading China (中文天天读) series. They also have cd’s for listening practice, which I try to combine with watching Chinese movies. For writing I try to write in Chinese as much as possible with my Chinese friends on instant messengers.

If you also want to practice Mandarin, you should try to make friends with Chinese people. They can help you when you when you’re having trouble understanding something and can correct you if you write something wrong. I was lucky to have an internship in China where I made my first friends, but I found new friends in several other ways as well.

At first I looked on penpal sites, such as interpals.net but I found most on QQ. A Chinese IM service, similar to MSN Messenger. At first I was looking for new friends to help me, but I found that a lot Chinese students started adding me to practice their English, so I didn’t need to look too hard myself. You can also use WeChat, but I use that mostly to connect with friends I already have, so I’m not sure how easy it is to meet new people on there.

Starting to learn Chinese

The first thing you need to know when learning Chinese is which dialect you’ll learn. If you just want to read the characters, it doesn’t matter that much, there are two scripts, simplified and traditional, but once you’ve learned one, it’s relatively easy to learn the other. But, if you want to actually speak, you need to decide which dialect you want to be able to speak in. Since the most spoken dialect is Mandarin, I suggest you start from there. That’s what I did.

My first introduction to Mandarin was over five years ago when I met a Chinese exchange student who thought me some basics, like 你好 (nǐhǎo), 谢谢 (xièxiè) and 再见 (zàijiàn).

Then two years ago I had an internship in China where I was taught some more. We used Conversational Chinese 301, but I practiced later by myself using the series New Approaches To Learning Chinese. (Don’t worry, I’ll put the information of the books at the end of this post.)

What I liked about Conversational Chinese was that after every 5 chapters there was a review chapter that has a conversation that uses all the words you’ve just learned, repeats the grammar rules you’ve learned, has exercises for what you’ve learned and has a short passage to practice reading. Also, near the end of our internship we had to learn The Moon Represents My Heart (月亮代表我的心) that we had to perform in front of an audience, which I thought was fun, but ever since then I’ve had the song stuck in my head.

What I liked about New Approaches To Learning Chinese was that it split up speaking, writing and reading. This meant that I could fully focus on what I found important, but the downside was that I didn’t learn speaking at the same time as I was learning to read characters and I noticed that I should have payed more attention to speaking when I was in China. My pronunciation was still bad and my listening skill was practically nonexistent. Since going to China they have improved, but they’re still not as good as my reading skill.

Both books can be used for self study, but I have found that it’s much better to have a teacher, because they can give you pointers and can correct you when you are doing something wrong.

Books

Conversational Chinese 301 (汉语会话301句)

Authors: Kang Yuhua (康玉华) & Lai Siping (来思平)

Publisher: Beijing Language and Culture University Press (北京语音大学出版社)

ISBN:

  • Volume 1 (上册): 978-7-5619-1403-8
  • Workbook Volume 1 (练习册 上册): 978-7-5619-2060-2
  • CD Volume 1 (配套光盘 上册): 978-7-88703-270-6
  • Volume 2 (下册): 978-7-5619-1404-5
  • Workbook Volume 2 (练习册下册): 978-7-5619-2064-0
  • CD Volume 2 (配套光盘下册): 978-7-88703-271-3

 

New Approaches To Learning Chinese (新编基础汉语)

Author: Zhang Pengpeng (张朋朋)

Publisher: Sinolingua (华语教学出版社)

ISBN:

  • Intensive Spoken Chinese (口语速成): 978-7-80052-577-3
  • The Most Common Chinese Radicals (常用汉字部首): 978-7-80052-576-6
  • Rapid Literacy in Chinese (集中识字): 978-7-80052-695-6