The simple life

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My life for the moment is very simple.

I get up in the morning and take our kids for their morning walks; two walks, five kids at a time.

I have breakfast and feed the kids.

I then do my vocalising (singing) exercises. I visited Peisha again in L.A. in June July this year for two-and-a-half weeks. During that time, I studied twelve lessons with her and performed one cabaret. The lessons were all recorded on my MacBook Pro, and I now repeat them almost every day. When I visited her this time, Peisha taught me a new (and tough) vocalising technique, one that I wasn't ready for back in 2006 when I first studied with her. This new technique seems to be producing a very significant difference in my singing voice and I'm enthusiastic about where it'll take me. The vocalising part of these lessons takes anywhere from half an hour to forty-five minutes. Believe me. That's enough. Any more would be very difficult to handle.

After vocalising, I vacuum the flat. With eleven kids, there is a plentiful and continual supply of hair, so daily vacuuming is necessary. Vacuuming typically takes about an hour to complete. While I vacuum, I study a new language via my iPhone. Around two years ago, I purchased Mandarin and Indonesian language courses from Pimsleur. I studied Mandarin at the Chinese University several years ago, but without using it, I've forgotten most of it. I purchased the Pimsleur Mandarin course to help me get back up to speed. I purchased the Indonesian course because I wanted to learn the language of our helpers. I was so impressed by the Pimsleur courses that in December of last year, I purchased four more courses; Japanese, Hebrew, Persian (Farsi) and Italian; but it wasn't until August of this year that I actually began using them.

I chose to study five languages simultaneously. People, even close friends, question my decision to do this, believing that studying multiple languages together will be confusing. I chose to study them all together because I believe that becoming familiar with a language requires time. The more time you spend with a language, the more familiar and natural it will become. Your mind requires time to analyse and adapt to the new language. That doesn't happen overnight. I also believe that one will not be confused when learning multiple languages even if as in the Pimsleur case, the subject matter is almost identical. The brain is a lot smarter than that. Admittedly, there are times when my immediate response to a Pimsleur narrator request is not in the language I'm learning, but a reminder from the narrator and I'm back on track again. Time is the key.

I rotate the languages, keeping a record of which language and which lesson I've completed in my iPhone (courtesy of OmniFocus), trying to complete a new lesson for each language at least once every two days. That's only possible if I complete three lessons a day, so vacuuming is not the only time I listen to a Pimsleur course. I also listen when I'm driving (which requires extra concentration because the act of driving itself requires its fair share of attention), and when I'm exercising. I'm hoping to be conversant (obviously not fluent) in these languages within three years.

In the afternoons, I go to the local karaoke to practise my singing and research songs. A typical karaoke session for me runs for one-and-a-half to two hours of almost nonstop singing. Believe it or not, that's actually physically exhausting.

Then it's off to the gym for a workout before picking my wife up at work.

Home again, and it's time to take the kids out for their evening walks; two walks of course.

If my legs aren't injured (my left calf muscle is currently recovering from a serious injury), I'll finish my day with a short run (listening to another Pimsleur course all the while).

My life is simple, but it sure is tiring; both physically and mentally. I've never been so tired. It'll be worth it though. Fit, healthy, singing well, and conversant in five, six or seven languages. That'll do.

But, as Albert (one of my good friends) so aptly noted back in my uni days, I am very much a 大隻講 (big talker) so don't assume that I'll actually complete any of these lofty goals until I've actually completed them.

By the way, did I mention that I'll be one of the MC's at this year's Vancouver Miss Asia Pageant in December?   ;-)

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13 Responses to “The simple life”
  1. Julie says:

    Hello Greg, I'm very curious that having lived in HK for so long, (and mixing with local people) do you now speak English with a weird accent? (like cantonese accent) That would be so funny. When I first moved back to HK from Wales, everyone I know commented how they noticed the Welsh accent crept up every now and again when I spoke Cantonese. :D

    Greg, I'm sure you have a talent in singing, I do hope that you know the right people to take you further.....

    Best of luck!

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi,
    I'm a student from the Shatin Methodist College.
    Do you enjoy the show on Saturday?
    Thank You for coming =]

    Kevinho'

  3. Ethan says:

    Hi Greg,

    I am Vietnamese, I wonder if you're interested in studying Vietnamese?

  4. pamela yu says:

    Please tell me where and when you will be in Vancouver. If I have time, I hope to be able to see you. Will you perform?

    Pamela

    • Angela says:

      good to hear some news finally! I would relaly like some of those push up bars if you have room in the old suitcase.I can only imagine how crazy it must be over there compared to anywhere else you have been.Keep bloging, i love the action!p.s. we are having a girl

  5. Michael Mak says:

    I visited the Pimsleur site and listened to sample lessons.
    They are putting a very patient and human "teacher" into audio files. That is way better than other "language teaching tapes".
    But I doubt when one goes higher level when sentence structure and grammer gets complicated.

    Mic Mac

  6. Michael Mak says:

    Greg,
    What's the difficult area in Mandarin for you?
    Pronounciation? Watch more movie/TV may help.
    I guess the difficulty is sentence structure, right?
    One has to re-write the Cantonese sentence to the more literature style Mandarin, and many Cantonese words just can't be used in Mandarin.
    (reading more non-Hong Kong literatures may help.)

    I faced similar problem learning Japanese.
    Their writing language is different from spoken language. And man's language is somewhat different from woman language. And more....

    Well. These are easier overcome when compared to learning Korean.
    My wife is studying Korean. There are much more phonics to learn. More than that the pronounciation of words changed when it comes after another word. Lots of these.

    Anyway, enjoy your study. I want to see you on CCTV one day, may be... in their New Year celebration show.

    Mic Mac

  7. nyc_admirer says:

    i really admire you for having picked up Cantonese and starred in movies, dramas, etc and can sing and write and read in Chinese. I'm chinese and I cannot though I've finally started learning it last year. It's difficult. But I have used Pimsleur to study languages like spanish and russian and found that within days to weeks, I can say things like greetings and simple questions. good luck to your studies. you are a model that nothing is impossible, no matter where you are born or what your race, ethnicity is.

  8. Kyle says:

    Hi Greg,

    I'm a Vancouverite and I have to say, looking forward to seeing you at the pageant.

  9. Vincent says:

    Hi Greg, I am also a language lover and I love Pimsleur! But instead of buying it, I downloaded it from the web though. :P

    I used it to learn French by myself and I have also learnt German and Spanish too. None of them are as great as your Cantonese though. I am also trying to learn Tibetan in free course. Would you be interested as well?

  10. Joseph Esser says:

    您好格雷格;
    我的名字是约瑟夫。我住在俄勒冈州波特兰,美国。
    我一直在学习广东话近10年。我想我在我的城市为数不多的粤语美国人之一。我知道有更多的在这里说说话也,但我还没有找到它们。
    Please feel free to email me in advance when you are going to be in Portland Oregon, USA. We will go to Chinatown to my favorite restaurant and together we will amaze my friends who work there. Happy studies!
    I got to get back to work. I wouldn't want to break the rice bowl! LOL
    Chee Dee Joi Gin, pangyau!

  11. John says:

    Thank for the advice!I agree that pronunciation must come first. Unfortunately, part of my whole plan is too begin by teaching myself using self-guided materials. The reason for this is that the first phase of the one-year-challenge will be conducted while planting trees full times in Merritt, British Columbia. From now until August, I'll be working full time in the woods. While I work, I'll listen to Pimsleur, podcasts, and mandarin audio talk. After work, I was planning to use Rosetta Stone and some work book materialsClasses or tutoring are probably out.Unless I can find a tutor in Merritt . not likely though.Here's a thought: I've read a bit about these online tutor' services. Do you (or anyone else) have any experience with these? I guess the deal is you can work with a native speaker, based in China, online over Skype. I just don't know if it's well done, worth it, or who to go with.Here's another thought: I have been checking out the website of Chinese Pod and am intrigued/impressed. They offer different packages, from basic to deluxe. My plan had been to subscribe to the Basic package a couple months down the line, when I would be able to get more use out of it. But now, hearing your advice, I am tempted to consider the deluxe package. If I recall correctly, a hefty monthly bill gets you access to the podcast library, plus either phone call or Skype tutor sessions. From once per week to daily. Maybe it's worth the expense for my first two months of study? Until I have the tones down? Then, after that, I could get deep into Rosetta land with more confidence that I am not butchering the sounds .Much to think about. But no time for that, I have a Pimsleur waiting for me!

    • Gregory 河國榮 says:

      hello John.

      sorry for the delay. hope you get to read this before disappearing into the forest :-)

      imo, pronunciation absolutely comes first, especially before reading, and even more so if the language has a latin-alphabet, because what you see will adversely affect what you hear and say.

      sounds like you're going to work hard on the language. good for you. you'll probably do far better than I. contrary to popular belief, I'm quite lazy when it comes to my language studies. I have friends/acquaintances who are far far better in the Chinese languages than I. they work hard at it and it shows.

      online tutors? I've never tried them. however, in considering classes for Hebrew and Persian, I have decided that 'conversation' classes are not ideal, because in effect, other than the teacher, the 'blind are leading the blind' in everything that matters; pronunciation, grammar, etc. if you can find an online tutor who speaks the language fluently (not necessarily a native), and if the internet connection gives you a clear sound, that might be ok. if it was audio *and* visual, even better because you'll be able to see the mouth movements required to make some of the harder sounds, sounds that aren't quite distinct just by listening to them, especially at normal speech speed.

      mmm... a tutor from China online... that might work. why? because it *should* be cheap given that there are *soooo* many people in China who would be qualified to tutor in Mandarin, and who would want the extra cash. but you'd need to be sure that your tutor didn't have a home-town/province accent.

      if you try the Chinese Pod, let me know how it goes.

      cheers.