Friday, 31 December 2010

---> Insert Cliche'd New Year Reference Here <---

Well here we are at the end of another year waiting to see in the next one and hoping it will be better than the last. For me 2010 has not been so bad, it has certainly been better than the few before, my recovery from depression has come a very long way and I know it will only improve in 2011.  That said it still feels that my life has been on hold again and Iwant to start living again I want to mix with other humans more, which means I have to overcome my insecurities which sometimes stop me from getting involved.

I have achieved some really good things this year, I have travelled by myself further than the shop at the top of my road, I have been as far as to Germany and back several times.  I commited to a degree and I have worked hard to receive some great results for my efforts and I didn't give up when it looked to hard, instead I took time out to calm down and to find a solution. i am quite proud of how far i have come.

I am not really sure if I will write any New Years Resolutions, pretty much they are the same every year aren't they?  Mine usually are anyways, I just want to continue to step forward, but perhaps some directions would be good.  I will think about it some more, but goodbye 2010... Happy New Year Everyone!

Monday, 20 December 2010

I get knocked down, but I get up again...

Most of the time I am excited and motivated about moving to Germany, but every so often I am reminded about what an absolutely mammoth life changing decision I have made.  Yesterday for example we had dinner with Uwe's family, seven of us in total, the food was lovely and I wish i could comment the same about the company. Now don't get me wrong I didn't hate the company, far from it, the lack of commenting is because I didn't understand the company.

I had really hoped that after a year of learning German that my understanding would be better and I would have the confidence to open my mouth and let some words of my own come out. Unfortunately none of the conversations over the dinner table involved booking hotel rooms or purchasing a train ticket, well unfortunate from my grasp of the language side of things anyway.  I could understand the odd word here and there, but mostly I was blankly smiling at people wishing that Star Trek universal translator thingies had been invented.

I think what disappointed me most was that even the few questions aimed at me sparked an internal panic, Uwe's half sister asked me when I flew over to which I turned immediately to Uwe and said "ummmmm Mitwoch?" I understood the next question too about the weather and I really should have been able to answer it had I tried but I didn't. Instead I ummed again at Uwe and he took over answering for me, which I was mighty relieved at.

I was pretty depressed by the whole thing, and I really don't know what is stopping me. Yes part of it is this panic, but I think part of it is because I don't want the attention on me and on my inability to speak their language.  Everything will take 10 times as long because i can't get my point across.  I totally understand why babies scream to get their point across, I felt like crying the entire time :(

I was totally exhausted after the experience but it isn't going to stop me, it just reminded me that things are a lot harder than I sometimes remember but I will get there in the end.  Although it didn't seem like it I am pretty sure I understood far more than I did a year ago, it's just that I still don't understand enough to be useful yet.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Schnee und Glühwein

Well I have been in Germany for a couple of days now, didn't do much though as Uwe is still working and I have an essay due soonish, we did get to Esslingen Christmas market last night though and it was very lovely, albeit cold.  I wanted to take some pics to post on the blog but unfortunately both our camera's had dead batteries so perhaps we can go again this coming week.

It has a medieval theme so there were a lot of people dressed up and plenty of entertainment, from musicians to fire jugglers. I of course had to sample many different yummy treats but was disappointed not to find Reibekuchen and Apfelmus which I had been promised by my German teacher that all German Christmas markets serve.  I did however have some Wurst, Käsespätzle and Stockbrot.  I also managed to recognise the German for that old, ahem, English christmas favourite Turkish Delight, which Uwe was not convinced about meaning more for me! Mind you it was -6 and the Turkish Delight was hard.

Just a short one for today, will write something more interesting, with pics, soon!

Friday, 17 December 2010

Big Read Challenge - #75 Bridget Jones's Diary

What better way to replace one Darcy but with another? Having watched the film a number of times i thought I knew what I was getting with the book but was surprised by quite a number of plot differences.  The film - which I think I am more fond of -  is certainly more like Pride and Prejudice than the book, which isn't surprising as the guy who penned the BBC adaptation also collaborated with the screenplays.

One thing I noticed whilst reading the book is how dated it has become, there are a lot of references that had I read it back in 1996 when it was published I would have immediately recognised.  At one point she starts to keep count of the the days "instants" and at first I was confused, I knew that I should have known what she was talking about as it was quite familiar.  It wasn't until later when she explained about the national lottery that I of course knew what she was talking about, back in 1995 the whole lottery itself was new and Britain was lottery crazy, I used to work in WHSmiths on a Saturday and often manned the Lottery till and we had queues winding around the shop and right out the door every Saturday for the couple of years I was there. Had someone mentioned instants back then I would have immediately known what they were referring to.

The other reference which i have to admit to identifying with is her 1471 obsession, and I cannot remember the last time I ever used 1471 not really needed with caller ID, which got me wondering how Bridget would have coped with the myriad of ways to be spurned by possible love interest.  It is set before mobile phones, texting, email and the internet were commonly available.  Facebook was at least 10 years away with it's status updates and relationship indicators.

It isn't too surprising that it has aged when you take into consideration that it started as a newspaper column reflecting the life of a mid-nineties thirty-something and therefore detailing current trends and national obsessions.  Pushing those aside Bridget is still as identifiable in her hang ups as a thirty-something woman 15 years later, remembering she is a caricature and not a real representation, and there are certainly traits and insecurities I can recognise in my own behaviour and that of my friends. I very much enjoyed reading it, and now really want to watch the film again, and after a little Googling am quite excited at the prospect of a new film and a possible west end musical to come!

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Big Read Challenge - #2 Pride & Prejudice

It seems quite fitting to post this first review today as Google helpfully informs me that today is the 235th birthday of Jane Austen. I must admit I struggled a little when I started reading the book, I think it was due to my preconceptions that it would be an easy read and that even though I have been studying the history of English, I am embarrassed to say, I didn't think that the language used 200 years ago would be much different to now. I was also reading at bed time so my tired mind was a little perplexed at first.

However once I got past that initial bump I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. I had some idea of the story from having watched some if not all of the BBC series from the mid nineties. I have been wondering whether I would have been rooting for Mr Darcy quite so much from the start had I not already been aware that he was being misrepresented in the beginning.

Often I found myself a little confused as to who was talking when there were long stretches of dialogue, I am not sure if that is because of Austen's writing or, as odd as this might seem, if it was down to the edition I was reading, I switched from a physical copy to the Kindle halfway through and I didn't find it so much of a problem afterwards.

Like all good books I found myself thinking about it when I wasn't reading, in fact I still do and I finished it a couple of days ago, and I was quite sad to say goodbye.  It is easy to see why there have been a number of sequels written by other writers over the years. I suppose the only disappointment I felt was with regard to Wickham who at the end seemed quite unaffected by his previous behaviour, I suppose I would have liked him to suffered a bit more, but then in my own personal sequel he does!

I have steered clear of the classics since I left school and I see I have been missing out on some, erm, classics! I look forward to discovering more.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

How to Read

I got my Kindle today, an early Christmas present from my Dad.  He wanted to give it to me so i could set it up before my flight to Germany on Wednesday.  The first thing I have to say is how amazing it looks, I had heard the comments that the screen looks just like paper but really not believed it as how can it, it is a mini computer no? But really it does, which is down to what is called e-ink, a small explanation from the more technical father was that unlike lcd's which refresh a few times per second there is no refreshing of the e-ink until you 'turn the page'. Whatever it is I say it's jolly clever!

It is pretty simple to use I am currently about a 3rd of the way through reading Pride and Prejudice, part of my Big Read challenge, so I have downloaded it onto the Kindle (for free!) and will continue with my bedtime reading from there tonight. I have even managed to work out how to transfer one of my OU textbooks from the student website onto the Kindle, so feeling very pleased with myself indeed. The only thing I am missing is one of those expensive leather covers which will protect it and have a built in reading light.

Being so new I have had a quick check around for questions, like making sure I know how to get it into flight safe mode and as such I found myself on the Amazon Kindle forum and a topic caught my eye immediately called How do you read? No, I'm serious - I've just been told I should relearn! and I have to say it raised a discussion that I have never ever thought about, which is the way we read.  I suppose I just took for granted that everyone reads in the same way, I knew that some people were faster readers than I was but I never thought that they actually read using a completely different method.

Like the poster, I too read each word aloud in my head, but from what I can work out some people read by sight alone and their brain must process the information in a different way. Some people say there is a right way and a wrong way to learn to read and I apparently have the wrong way, which might make sense, I have a mild-ish form of dyslexia, unless I am stressed then it can get much worse. However, surely the way in which one person learns to read is very much personal and works for them, just like the hand we find it easier with which to write?

The question that quite interests me is how our interpretations of what we are reading might differ depending on the way we read.  By reading each word aloud in my head I find I have a narrator voice which is quite expressive, I am not sure if that would translate to someone that reads with just their eyes.  Do they have a more or less vivid illustration of the world they are reading about?  I wonder if thinking is exactly the same, I quite often think in words but I know other people that hardly ever internally narrate their thoughts but instead have images.

It is a subject which just 30 minutes ago I had no opinion of, but now I really want to find out more.  Do you or anyone you know read in the same or different way?

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Well I had been hoping to have results for both my assignments in English and German by now but alas I do not. I am happy to report that I did exceptionally well with my German and got 97%, although when converted into final marks it sounds a lot less impressive as it was only worth a max 5% of the continuous assessment mark, which in turn is only 2.5% of my overall score.  Anyway if I get stranded at an airport or need to spell my name or give my telephone number out I am golden apparently...

English is a rather irritating story.  I had hopes that because we had a tutorial yesterday morning that like last time the results might materialise some time on Friday.  They did not.  When asked our tutor said that he had marked them and it must be a computer glitch that we hadn't got them, benefit of the doubt things like that can go wrong. However shortly afterwards he said that the cut off was 24th November and that he'd sent them off about 10 days afterwards which was around Monday... hang on... but yesterday was the 10 day mark.  Okay so he's an English teacher not a Maths teacher, number of days might escape him.  So can he give us our marks individually? Nope they have to go via the system, he isn't allowed to discuss our own marks with us on a one to one basis... erm... oookay.  Lastly, we did have a small discussion at break between us students about the last TMA and the fact we all posted so we could read each others, and bearing in mind this guy is quite passionate about linguistics he didn't mention anything about any of our postings, such as variety, interest etc.  So conclusion? I must admit to thinking he hasn't looked at our assignments yet, let alone marked them.  Oh well the OU says that we should expect to get results back up to two weeks after submission, hopefully I'll have them before Wednesday.

Apart from the non marked assignments the tutorial was pretty useful with regards to the assignment due in January, I just need to find a program to transcribe.  I was thinking of Jeremy Kyle because it is at least linguistically interesting but he's gone and changed the format of his show, they've given him a desk and everything now! I will need to have it transcribed by the time I go to Germany or find a suitable clip I can access while I am over there, otherwise it might put a spanner in the works.

Sorry for the somewhat boring post... seems I needed a rant!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Things that make you go wowzers!

The past few days have been dotted with unexpected surprises.  Sunday I was woken by the doorbell ringing, I padded down the hallway in my PJs to have a nose through the spyhole at the cold Jehova Witnesses but it wasn't them.  It was the postman!! My immediate thoughts were that I must be mistaken and it is Saturday, or that I had managed to sleep right through to Monday, but no it really was Sunday and the postman handed me 2 packets.  One of Uwe's crimbo prezzies had arrived and so had my new glasses! On a Sunday!!

I excitedly explained to Uwe what happened and he being used to the 'odd' things we can do on Sundays in England said "wow and even you are surprised by this happening on a Sunday"  In Germany Sundays are still days of rest, not only do the shops not open but well anything that involves too much noise as I can see is also a no go.  It is actually one of the things I am looking forward to, enforced laziness!  Seriously though it gives people time to do non-shopping-related stuff together as a family, besides café's and restaurants are open so what better time to discover new towns?

My gorgeous new Black/Brown Jessica's from Glasses Direct, a bargain to boot!

Yesterday I was surprised by my Mum, I had spent about 3 hours trying to teach her how to use MSN Messenger a week or so ago.  I thought it best to get as much practice in before I go to Germany rather than afterwards, this way I am actually here to sort out any problems she has in person.  I wasn't entirely convinced she had the hang of it, especially as later the same day she'd logged into msn, I sent her a message which she seemingly ignored before logging off.  Later she told me she'd seen the message and was replying but nothing had got through, a quick explanation that using the 'enter' key is a work around for a lack of a 'send' button solved this problem the next time.

I hadn't moved on to the more complicated step of sending me a message without being sent her one first, but she managed it anyway! Her and my step Dad have been in Scottland for the last week and I have received a couple of email updates telling us what she's been doing.  Yesterday I saw her log on and about 20 minutes later a message box popped up which just said "Love Mum xx" an admittedly odd opening line to which I replied "Hi Mum xx" which she followed with a "This is so much quicker!", although at her typing speed that is slightly debatable (love you Mum!!).  I find it very cute that she does a proper written ending to her messages, more as if she were writing a letter or an email instead of a phone call.  This makes me feel much more confident she'll be pro by the time July comes.

This morning I woke up to the sound of excited children squealing outside my bedroom.  In a B-movie zombie like style I dragged myself to the bathroom, noting that the light outside was brighter than the past days.  You could see the cogs moving in my brain.  Screaming happy children... brightness... the rest of Europe being covered in snow... **CLICK** omfg we have snow!!  A whole inch of white fluffy loveliness!! As an adult my inner child is always impressed that having my own garden means I have my very own personal patch of pure, white, uninterrupted snow.  It has had the added side affect of the temperature warming up from a chilly -6 to a heady -1 degrees.

I had hoped that the surprises would continue and I'd log on this morning to find out my English assignment had been marked but nope not yet.  However my first OU German mark is awaiting release so I will be staying up late tomorrow night to grab it the minute the submission deadline passes!!

Monday, 29 November 2010

So this means we're grown ups now...

On Saturday morning I found out that one of my best friends from school is getting divorced after being together for 15 years.  They are the first people I know of my age to go through it and unfortunately it isn't going to be amicable.  He cheated on her with someone else we were at school with, her part in this doesn't surprise me as she was only interested in attached guys even back then, once she had them she didn't want them, so the soon to be ex will hopefully be in for a lovely surprise when she gets bored and he finds himself alone.  However he has emptied their bank account without a thought for how my friend will provide for their child and is sending threatening e-mails, I fail to see it from his point of view at all and believe he is probably being manipulated into doing it.  What I find worse is that he was absolutely appalled by the similar behaviour carried out by his father on leaving his mother, so I add hypocrite to the list of smaller more Anglo-Saxonesque words I have taken to referring to him as.

A quieter more secret part of me is pleased he is gone. I think my friend was always too good for him, and although it is all too raw for me to say it to her right now she will meet someone far better, having a little fun along the way road-testing - if you catch my drift ;)  Myself I have had many break-ups in the past to know that the feeling that no one will ever find you attractive again is not true, and I know that the pain gets less with every passing day, that I am better without every one of them, but 15 years of being with the same person, the person you promised "'til death do us part." I cannot imagine the pain.  Then there is the practical stuff that needs to be sorted, the legal things, the day to day things, the question of who gets what and on top of that carrying on and putting a brave face on for her son, when I am sure all she wants to do is stay in bed and eat cheesecake for a week.

My own parents have now been divorced for almost twice the amount of time they were married.  The first time he left - which incidentally was for a woman that shares the name of the husband stealer above, a woman that also stole the husband of my step-mum in an unrelated event - he came back home a short while later, by that time my Mum had accepted it was over, realised they were better apart and they split for good. They remained amicable and neither ever tried to turn me or my brother against the other, of course there were the odd irritated grumbles, but they'd be there even if they were still married.  The funny thing is that I find it quite alien to think that they could have ever been dating let alone married for 14 years with 2 kids, but I suppose that is down to them divorcing when I was 5 and spending the past 27 years getting to know them individually.

Ironically Saturday was also the day that my teenage crush got married, we had one of those Joey & Dawson things going on for a while and I was convinced we'd end up together and although we had moments of shared teenage fumblings we never did.  I haven't seen him since last millennium (haha how old does that make us sound?) and I have no interest in seeing him, but still it felt a little bit odd.  I do however wish him as much luck and happiness and hope that his new wife is every bit as amazing as my beautiful boyfriend.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Feeling Festive

My Nigella books turned up today, which was a nice surprise because with my goldfish brain I'd forgotten they'd be coming.  The first book I have looked at is the Christmas one and it really got me excited I love, love, love Christmas, and it is a sign that I am getting out of my depression as the last year I wasn't so excited and the year before I spent it alone, my Stepdad making a delivery of a portion of Christmas dinner which was really sweet of him and my Mum.

This year I will be spending it in Germany for the very first time, which I am looking forward to as their traditions are quite different to ours, food and presents are done on Christmas Eve and of course they don't have Boxing Day, but then I can live without Boxing Day lol.  I am looking forward to nosing around the Christmas Market in Esslingen too, it apparently has a Medieval theme, I probably won't get to any of the others in the area but Mum will be coming over next year especially for them so I'll see plenty then!

Uwe doesn't share my excitement for Christmas, I think for him there have been some family tensions which have made things uncomfortable, but I am looking to change this for the future so as Christmas Day will be just the two of us I want to plan a wonderful day which will hopefully be the start of some traditions of our own.

Talking of traditions, I was told that in Sweden they have a rice pudding at Christmas which contains one almond, and whoever gets the almond in their pudding makes a wish which the others eating the pudding have to make come true.  Obviously it has to be a realistic wish, but I thought that really encompassed the season of goodwill.

I am not sure if anyone will read this but I would love to hear your Christmas traditions.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Black Friday

Yesterday was the first day of Amazon's Black Friday promotion, every hour on the hour between 7am and 9pm they release 3 items which are sometimes heavily discounted, sometimes not so much.  There is limited stock so you have to click pretty fast to get one, I managed to get Photoshop Elements 9 for Uwe at £22.99, Scrabble Trickster at £9.99 for my step Dad who pretty much always comes last at scrabble but this version has cheat cards and 3 Nigella Lawson books for £15, the original price for the set was £81, but individually they could be bought for about £40 so even still it was a bargain.  Unfortunately I missed out on the Wii for £50... £50!! There were some lucky people who must have been very happy with that.

As with anything there were a lot of losers moaning about it being a farce, and even one person spamming Amazon message boards saying that everyone that said they got a bargain was lying and an Amazon employee because no one he knew managed it.  I find it quite amusing how people don't think outside their little bubbles, there are more than 60 million people living in the UK, if 1% of them decided to try for an Amazon bargain that would still be 600,000 people clicking add to basket when the offer starts of course not everyone is going to be able to get the item.  Some people are saying Amazon must have only had 5 items of each product, but even with 10,000 items - with a 1.6% chance per customer - they would still be gone within one minute by this system.

The one criticism I have with the whole process is that some people decide they are going to click the 'add to basket' button regardless without looking at the price that pops up at the very same time, this results in them dismissing it later which means that someone who actually really did want the item is potentially left disappointed. The deals on have a waitlist option so if someone adds to their cart but dismisses it it defaults to the next in line as long as you are still browsing the site, seems like a good idea to me.

Yesterday was also a day of deliveries for me, most of my Christmas presents for people turned up and I only need to buy one more.  One of Uwe's presents was a little larger then I expected and quite heavy so not sure if I'll have much room to take clothes lol.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Was ich heute gelernt habe

Today was my first tutorial for L193, I was a lot more nervous about this then I was for the English one even though I was pretty comfortable with the topics covered in Thema 1.  I think it is because the dreaded speaking is involved, and with language classes you're usually made to get up and wander around asking everyone the same questions, which we were and as usual it wasn't as bad as I anticipate it to be.  It is always good to meet people that are also learning and sharing tips.

I did learn a few new bits of vocabulary which I have written down and will add to my flashcards, speaking of which I was recommended a site called Quizlet to use which has the L193 vocabulary set up by a course tutor but it can also be used by everyone to create groups and add vocabulary for any subject they like, I will add this address to my links on the right hand side. There are 299 terms in the set and I managed to get 59% (177) correct in the first try, so will be doing that as often as possible, a lot of the wrong answers were due to giving the wrong gender article or spelling mistakes rather then not knowing the word at all, which was encouraging.

In fact I was so encouraged I have submitted the first TMA which has 4 parts to it, Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking but we are only marked on the Reading and Speaking parts this time.  I think I did okay in the end, I am happy with what I submitted but time will tell, this first TMA is only worth 5% of the continuous assessment mark so not much pressure if I find I have messed it up.

I have now posted part 2 of U211's TMA02 and submitted it as a whole, and the deadline isn't for a few more days yet which is very pleasing.  I had been absolutely dreading part 2, and I changed which person I was replying to more than once and even after I had settled on the word I changed the angle I was taking with the investigation and stumbled on some really good finds.  I really hope I have done well in this TMA as I worked hard with the research aspect and really enjoyed it a lot so it would be a shame to find out I have done poorly.  Just playing the waiting game now I don't expect to hear anything for about 3 weeks... will I be able to stand the wait?

Monday, 15 November 2010

Investigative Happiness

The last week or so has been spent doing a mini research project for U211's TMA02 into a word from a non standard English variety.  I have to admit to have been dreading this task, although I drop my t's and have an estuary like accent, the majority of my spoken language is what I would regard as standard.  However that was until I contemplated my online gamer side and realised that I spoke a very non-standard and creative variety.  I picked a word which to me was interesting and reflected that creativity and started from there.

Usually when it comes to word counts I am struggling to meet the limit, this time I could have easily gone over it and had to cut so many bits that I had discovered to fit the meagre 600 word limit.  Once finished the most scary part of all arrived.  This assignment is not just written in word in the safety of your own space but instead posted on our tutor group forums for your fellow students to read! I know we are all in the same boat, that they post theirs for me to read but it doesn't make things better, especially when you're the 20th person to post and you can see how everyone else's compares.

So why is this so public? Well the second part of TMA02 involves replying to one of the other threads with further investigation into their word/phrase/etc.  I haven't had a chance to look properly at them all yet, I didn't want to scare myself too much by comparing what I've written to what they have but I hope to have as an enjoyable time researching this part as I did with the first.

This TMA also signals the completion of Block 1 of the course, we are a quarter of the way through the module!  The last couple of chapters I have kinda skimmed through but I don't care so much, I have decided that I will not answer a question on the exam from this part, and as long as my glossary is up to date it is fine.  This has the added bonus of me now being 2 weeks ahead of schedule and I hope to stay that way at least so I don't have to do too much while I'm in Germany next month.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

8 Months to go

Well 8 months and 3 days to be precise, but I have been thinking about the move a lot, as you'd expect it is a big upheaval after all.  Originally we had pencilled in a move for November 2010, which means I would be moving right now.  I have been asking myself about whether I would have been ready to make the move right now.

Part of me says yes, the part of me that feels like life is on hold until July, now I am beginning to come out of my depression and starting to want to live in the real world again.  Little things like attending the tutorials for U211, the second of which was this weekend, where before I would have been too scared to probably even go let alone speak in front of people and make an effort to strike up conversations, I am starting to want to be social again.

I spent the weekend in London two weeks ago and even that was not as bad as it would have been, I mostly enjoyed myself, I did have to take some time out to deal with my panic attacks, but I had far fewer then before.  I remember when I suffering badly and my Mum would take me on trips to quietish shops, even  with hardly anyone around I would suffer from panic attacks almost as soon as we'd arrived.

I find it easier to be in Germany, I think because I don't speak the language I find it easier to pretend I'm anonymous, and that in itself has given me a freedom I have not had for a long time.  I do get slightly startled bunny when people start to talk to me and run to Uwe (the part of me that misses him tells me I am especially ready to make the move) and that is one of the reasons I feel better about waiting until July, some more time to learn German so that I might have the confidence to reply.

The other thing is that I am moving because I believe that Uwe is my "soul mate" I want us to be together until we're old and grey, and that means I will be in Germany until I am old and grey.  I will of course visit the islanders regularly but England will no longer be my home and I need some time to say goodbye.  In January I become an Auntie, I want to spend some time with my brand new nephew before am too far away to see him often.  My Dad is 70 in June and I want to be here to celebrate with him, and spend the next 8 months continuing to repair our relationship fully so that it will withstand the distance between us.

This time next month I'll be getting ready to fly over for a month so it is not as though I am far away, and I am going to be setting myself some challenges to do some things on my own seeing how far I can get on my limited German, as Susan Jeffers says 'feel the fear and do it anyway'!

In other news I did get my TMA result back and I did get over the 65% that I had been hoping for, my mark isn't extraordinary by any means but I am extremely happy with it.  Now working on TMA02 the first part of which needs posting by Monday, but I am sure I'll post more about that soon.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

The waiting game

I am kind of in Limbo at the moment, it has been over a week since TMA01's deadline and although I read somewhere it should take 2 weeks for it to be marked I am constantly checking to see if my result is back yet.  I think this was not helped by some people getting their result back at midnight after the deadline was up, if I had been given a specific date that the result would be available I could at least put off checking until then, but it could arrive back at any time and I am curious to see how I did and what the feedback is before starting on TMA02.

Most people seem to be disappointed with their results so perhaps not seeing it is for the best, although these are often people that have a result of over 70% which for me would be a great result.  I have been thinking about my own expectations, 40% pass will make me relieved but not really happy, but as long as the feed back is helpful then I guess even that is okay and points me off in the right direction. 50-65% is where I am expecting to be placed, and I would be satisfied with that kind of marking, given that I have found the material rather challenging.  So 66% and above will see me smiling, the higher the number the bigger my grin I expect.

I have been wondering if my degree plan as I have it mapped at the moment is actually how I want to proceed.  I am finding the linguistics incredibly challenging and that has me wondering if I should change to study French and German, after all I do have some experience learning French previously and being trilingual would have its advantages, but would it be too confusing?  Do I instead look at mixing the degree into an Open degree and choose subjects I am interested in? I wouldn't mind popping in some Maths or Psychology units, but then an Open degree does not carry the same weight as a pre determined path.  I am not rushing into making any decisions right now as I do want to give this course a go and from reading reviews of this compared to the Level 3 English courses it seems that they are more enjoyable and that even U211 becomes better to study the further into it one gets.  I wonder how I'll feel when that result finally comes through...

Thursday, 28 October 2010


Well the past few days for all U211'ers has been quite stressful with the run up to the first TMA deadline of the course.  There has been so much support and comradeliness on the Forums it has been great, the new posts were coming in thick and fast as people were taking a break from the word counting, referencing, general muddling over what the question meant.  Whatever time of day you visited it was active, for the first time I felt that I was not alone and that I was part of our community.

As for the TMA itself well, I am glad to be rid of it, I managed to hand it in with plenty of time to spare before deadline which was great!  I don't know what to expect in terms of a grade, I am hoping for a 40% pass at least I might even be hopeful for 50-60%.  The biggest sense of achievement really comes from actually carrying on when I wanted to give up and making a submission of something I worked my hardest on.

I have learnt a lot from this experience, I know that going forward to make notes as I read, I know not to worry about other peoples experiences of the course and to concentrate on how I am getting on and deal with it in my own time, I know that I can ask for help or express a concern on the Forum and will be met with others in the same boat.  I am not the worlds most organised person, and if it were a sliding scale I'd probably be closing in on the worlds least organised person, but I have begun to make use of organisational tools.  Every TMA and Tutorial is marked in my Outlook calendar, with alarms to remind me plenty in advance, I have also marked in other appointments and commitments so that I can make study appointments with myself.  As a result it is not only helping with my studies but every area of my life.

Now we all just have to think about what we wrote until the marks come back, which should be within the next two weeks, I'll keep you posted.  Now best get started on the next lot of studies and checking out TMA02!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Snow big deal...

So most of my posts have been about my studies but I want to make this as much about that as it is about the hugest thing in my life, moving to Germany!  I really am so excited about it, and I still have such a long time to go before the move happens.  I know that the closer the date gets some of that excitement will be overshadowed with fear and self doubt which is only natural, which is another reason for wanting to post more about the subject, so that when I do wake up at 5am panicking I have somewhere to come to calm me down and remind me just why this is the best decision I can make.

Originally when we talked about relocation it was supposed to be next month and it was decided before I set foot on German soil, we had of course covered what would happen if I arrived and hated it there, luckily for us both I didn't I instead fell in love with the place.  The first visit I had to his home was last December, we had spent Christmas in England with my family and flew out on 28th to spend New Year with his.

Originally his mum had chastised him for bringing me over during winter for my first visit, but actually this is part of the reason I knew I made the right decision.  It wasn't just because the place is insanely beautiful when covered by 6 inches of snow, which it is, or that even though it was cold it wasn't damp like England can be but crisp and refreshing.  It was more to do with the fact that life carried on as normal, and back home there was utter chaos and everything was at a standstill, if we had been at home we would have been housebound but instead we still got out and about exploring.

Although I have felt very much at home there each time, and his family and friends have been extremely welcoming, I decided that I wasn't ready to make the move.  There were a variety of reasons for this, such as my Brother having his first child in January and I would like to be able to spend some time getting to know my new Nephew, I was accepted on my OU courses as well as wanting to continue with the group of people I am at evening class with through to next year. I also wanted some extra time with my Dad, our relationship over the years has been turbulent and we are finally spending some quality time together on a regular basis and I wanted that to continue for a while before leaving, safe in the knowledge that we can maintain that level while being far away.

I have now made 3 trips over and will be spending another month there this Christmas, and I will be seeing my BF in 10 days time for a long weekend, can't wait!  A long distance relationship is hard but, as I have said before, we do make the most of our time together and we are never far out of contact, whether it be hours chatting to each other in the evening or MSNing during the day.  We can talk about anything with each other and neither of us judges the other.  Like everyone does, we do have the odd disagreement but never fall asleep unless it is resolved.  It is hard to describe how you know you have found "the one" but with all my past relationships there has always been a voice in the back of my mind saying 'well when I'm single again I'll...' and with Uwe that voice just makes plans for us and our future together, and for me that is how I know.

I have been busy with investigating moving and this week I have been looking at shipping prices deciding that I don't have enough stuff I want to hold onto to justify paying the extortionate rates involved so, unless I can find someone that fancies a road trip across Europe, I will be taking 4 suitcases max 80 kilos, hopefully less, it depends on what my big de-clutter leaves when I start it in January.

Three firsts...

Well I really meant to post before now as there has been quite a lot going on to report.  I had my first U211 Tutorial at the weekend and I found it to be very useful.  The group was a nice size of about 11 people and the tutor was quite enthusiastic which was nice as I had been worried that his lack of contact was going to be an indication of tutorial quality, but I am pleased to say that was not the case.  It was good to know that like myself most people also felt a bit daunted by the module, I think that comes from the fact that it is a compulsory module in so many degree combinations so a lot of us wouldn't go near this subject by choice.  That said it is very interesting and the tutor told us that most people find the first block the hardest going and find the rest of the course a lot better, so there is hope!

TMA01 is due next week and I have been working through the text book with my highlighter pen and writing summary notes for each sub-section which I am finding extremely helpful and I have decided that I will tackle the materials this way from now on.  I don't think that I have ever been taught how to study properly, I really have never taken notes about anything but now I am able to identify areas of interest and by trying to summarise in my own words I am finding the information is even sticking!  I don't expect to get a high mark for the TMA and at the moment I am aiming for the 40% needed to pass, which is helping to take the pressure off, of course I am trying my best and it would be nice to get higher but 40% would suffice.

L193's website opened today and the first thing I checked, as I think most OU students do, was the TMAs and their submission dates.  I was surprised at the pace of the course, although I suppose it is beginners but the final TMA is due at the end of August and the ECA at the End of September, I expected that because it started one month after U211 that it would finish a month after too which would make it mid July.  I will aim to get ahead as much as I can so that I don't find L130 too much of a step up.  As for the TMAs themselves they look quite straight forward and I was happy that I can complete most of the first one without looking anything extra up, so over the past year of evening courses I have retained some knowledge!

I am still excited to be studying, I will be happier after next week when the first assessment is under my belt though.

Bis später!

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Nine Months

Well, after some discussions, a few days ago we finally set a date for me to move to Germany, and it is a lot sooner then it was going to be, nine months today in fact.  I am very happy to actually have a date pencilled in the diary, by that time both U211 and L193 will have finished and I will be quite far through L130 too, and I am happy that I should have enough German to get by and really the best way to learn a language is to immerse oneself in it.  I am of course even happier that I will get to go to bed, with and wake up next to, my lovely German boyfriend.

I have already started gathering useful information such as German bank accounts etc, and after Christmas I shall start my 6 month de-cluttering project!  I do have too much "crap" around and I want to move as little as possible to make room for other essentials like Newkie Broon and English Mustard to last for quite some time :p

Monday, 11 October 2010

Distracting Distractions

Well I finally wrote the first 51 words of TMA01 today, being sick with Flu too.  I think they are a good 51 words, well I suppose good is in the eye of the beholder but I am happy with them.  The TMA is split into two parts.  In the first part we have to explain the meaning of two linguistic terms, which have been chosen by the course moderators, in 100-150 words per definition.  Part two is a 900 word essay about one aspect of the history of English.

I still have 2.5 weeks before it is due but I am not sure how I am going to understand what is expected more than I do today, our tutor so far has made no contact, other people have at least had a welcome email even if for some it had out of date information.  Others are lucky and have active tutor group forums with activities and advice, I am hoping that the tutorial will be good next week and he is just waiting until he has met us in person before posting on-line, but somehow I'm not holding my breath.

So because of my lack of knowing which direction to go in pretty much everything else seems a lot more interesting than studying, such as the U211 forum which as you might have noticed from my previous posts is not short of controversy.

There are couple of people that are self confessed experts and feel the need to chime in and assert their egos dropping highly academic concepts to people that for all they understand might as well be written in Chinese, and there are people that seem to praise them every time they say something which only encourages them to get more involved.  I am sure they are trying to be helpful but there have been a few occasions where they have been wrong and most of all they are making a lot of people feel very uncertain with their ability, so this week I was happy to see the emergence of something called "The Out Crowd" which is open to anyone who doesn't have a clue what is going on.  The other thing to bear in mind is that as interesting as I am sure it is, we need to stick to the U211 curriculum and it might be that the information given to us by people other than the tutors might be a hindrance rather than a help.

(Edit: I wanted to add to the above as there was a post on the Out Crowd thread from someone that has been very helpful and not one of the people I was referring to above saying that he will no longer post on the forum because he doesn't want to make people feel put off by "clever answers".  I have found all posts by the guy in question to be extremely helpful and easy to understand.  The posts that I am referring to contain highly technical information that a person with no linguistic background cannot understand, which is why most people find it frustrating.  I shall say no more on this subject as it is not my intention to offend anybody just to vent my own inner thoughts, which is why I have added this here and not created yet another new blog entry on the subject.)

The other thread which is getting most attention is one about Linguistic Pet Peeves, which does have some of the things in there that you might expect such as They're/Their/There, Your/You're, etc but a lot had to do with the pronunciation and regional dialectal variations, such as pronouncing "garage" as garridge and valette instead of valet, which has unsurprisingly riled some people.  The many varied dialects and accents of Britain are wonderful and should be celebrated, it is a way of identifying immediately with someone you have just met and most of us wear our accents with pride.  I love a nice west country accent personally because it reminds me of my Nan and many childhoods spent there, of course there will be some accents we prefer to listen to, and some we might not even be able to understand but if we all spoke in the same way then wouldn't television be boring?

Thursday, 7 October 2010

The Joys of Forums

Forums, they are a great source of information and if you find the right one to pose your question on there will be someone that knows the answer to that question no matter how obscure.  Often they are also the home of a fantastic (insert sarcasm) breed of people called "Forum Trolls", generally they have no life and will post anything if they believe it will provoke a negative response from other users, nothing is sacred and because they can hide behind the anonymity of their avatar they are more outrageous and confrontational then they would be in real life.  One of their favourite things on Facebook is to create a number of false accounts and join groups just to troll, they will post racist, sexist and any other kind of negative and offensive -ist comment and unfortunately people rise to the bait, in fact I have heard people refer to it as Baitbook.

It happens on all forums to different degrees, I have spoken before about the self promoting know it alls, but someone brought up a good point on the U211 forum earlier that often hostility arises from misinterpretation of written language compared to spoken is this accidental trolling?  When you speak to someone, even if you can't see their facial expressions, you can hear their intonation and intention.  When it is written it the person may have penned a cheeky comment that if spoken would have been light and mischievous in tone, the person reading may interpret it in a more direct way as if it was meant to insult.

In the case I am referring to in particular someone asked a question in a new thread when it had already been answered in the exact same way in another larger thread of the same subject, there are in fact about 7 or 8 threads with the same topic, unfortunately the forum has no sticky or else an FAQ thread could have been started, another person pointed it out and expressly said that he was not ranting but just offering advice. The original person then took complete offence and wrote quite a direct reply back which could have only one way of interpreting it, you get the idea.

As with everything there are pros and cons to forums and for the most part they are, as I stated at the beginning of this post, great sources of chat/information sharing/ideas bouncing, but how can we make the most of them and post our pieces of text to be interpreted the way they are meant to be?  This extends to not just internet forums but all forms of written communication such as email, texts, instant messaging, internal memos, etc.  With more and more ways of communicating instantly via textual means this is something that might evolve in the future, a version of English that can be taken the way it is meant to be.

Other than that I have finished all the units and am still not so sure about my ability to write the TMA, everyone else seems to be talking about how many notes they have taken and I have to admit to taking none, I never have taken notes but I am wondering if perhaps doing so might help my learning and understanding, so from tomorrow I will be reading through the first three chapters of the book for the third time, but at the end of each sub section within the chapter I will try to write a summery of what it was about in my own words.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Home Comforts

After having a conversation with friends on a forum where I informed them that Lemsips were not available in Germany, I have added a new page to the blog, it will be a list of things that I cannot get in Germany and will miss. A very modest amount of items on there at the moment just the aforementioned Lemsips and English Mustard, there is a good range of mustard available but not English!

I have also found a few good websites answering questions related to moving to Germany, the most general one is called Toytown Germany ( aimed at English speaking ex-pats it contains forums where you can ask for advice from people that have, a searchable wiki with lots of useful information as well as job listings and news (Edit: there is a large expat contingent who appear to hate all things German, everyone does need a place to vent every now and then and after a while you learn to ignore them). I found a brilliant German Wage Calculator ( which allows you to see exactly how much your net income will be and the breakdown of taxes and other contributions. So I will look at adding a links box down the side of the blog, just need to work out how to do it :p

Saturday, 2 October 2010

On the Up

Well last night after my panic I did go on to work through the whole of unit 2, some of it I had looked at before I knew the subject of TMA01, and I am now confident enough that I could be able to draft a an answer to past of the question and I know the structure needed for another part of the question.

In the coming week I will study unit 3 which is the last unit which TMA01 is concerned with and then after that I shall start drafting, I would like to have a first draft of the TMA ready by the tutorial on 16th October, that way afterwards I will hopefully have a better idea of what the tutor is looking for and therefore be able to tweak it into a finished version.

I am really pleased that I worked around the panic attack, which blocks be from functioning as a human being for so many things, I really want to make a go of this module, I am not expecting miracles like a distinction but I would like to pass with more than just the minimum mark.

The one concern that I am having at the moment is my lack of note taking, I am sure that I should be doing something, but I suppose that if I want to know a particular piece of information I know where it is located within the unit/course books/dvds and should be able to access it fairly easily, unlike a lecture which when it is over it is only available in memory and notes taken. My Glossary of Terms is getting slightly bigger though so that is something at least.

Anyway I am going to have some time away from the books today and do something fun...

Friday, 1 October 2010

Panic Stations

U211 officially starts tomorrow, so now that I have started understanding the more basic grammar terminology I thought I would start working through the course materials to get a head start. Armed with all the materials I need I sat down and looked at TMA01 so that I can hopefully pick out the areas which will be helpful.

Unfortunately this has put me into a full on panic about my ability, complete with nervous sick feeling in my belly. I wanted to just give up right now but instead I decided to take a break after re-familiarising myself with the first unit, I took a walk to the shop for some fresh, albeit wet, air and decided that I need to blog in order to convince myself that I can do this.

I am not supposed to open up the TMA booklet and see a question that I can answer immediately, if that was the case why am I studying the course. I haven't even started working on the parts that will most relate to the questions so of course I don't know where to start yet. There is a tutorial between now and the cut off date where any questions I have can be asked.

I know that I am not alone, yes there are a few people on the forums that seem to have studied linguistics before either professionally or out of personal interest but they are the minority, there are many people that have used the word "daunted" for a variety of reasons. It is a natural human trait to show off how much you know about something already, I am sure I have done it myself when it came to a subject I was passionate about, even so it can make you feel a little on the dumb side if you are lacking confidence in the first place.

I do think that the course is going to be extremely interesting, what I have read so far strengthens that view. I think most of it is down to the fact that I have not written an essay to this level of academic study on this subject ever before, coupled with the knock I took a couple of weeks ago in my understanding of Grammar.

I am pleased to report that blogging has indeed calmed me down for now, so Unit 2 watch out! I'm coming to get you!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Getting Ready for Study

So it took a while for the OU to get themselves sorted when allocating tutors but it looks like everyone has been allocated one now and tutorials all set up before U211 starts on Saturday. I have 8 tutorials which is about once a month which are very local to me, and there is one day school which is about 60 miles away, I am not sure if I will attend that one as I can't drive and going by train means trekking across London, but as I get closer to that I'll make a firmer decision, I might feel that I need the guidance. I am not sure what to expect really but my first tutorial is in a couple of weeks so I'll report back then, so far although the general forum has been very lively the tutor group has been silent.

I have also signed up for another 30 point German course L130 which starts in February, after looking at the L193 texts it covers a lot of German I already know so I feel confident enough to take on a second course, I am also starting my evening class tonight, so all this German some of it should get inside my head!

I have started getting to grips with Grammar too, some of it makes my head hurt but someone posted about some great youtube vids of an old American Cartoon which actually really helped me, here are my favourite ones!

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Why Were We Not Taught Grammar In School?

Okay so that is not strictly true, but why are we as native English speakers not taught formal grammar? Well I read in one article that it is because in the 1960s and 70s it was decided that it stifles creativity. So instead we are taught that something is a "doing word" or a "describing word" or a "naming word". We know that you have to say "the brown dog" and not "the dog brown".  If you listen to children learning the language it is clear that they have applied some rules through association, past tense is very often given an -ed and through hearing them say "I runned" or "I goed" it is clear that they have recognised the rule, now to teach the exceptions.

Yes most of us know that a sentence needs to begin with a capital letter and end with a full stop, we understand there is a need for commas and question marks and often a whole tirade of exclamation marks. After some thought I can come up with the correct definition for a Verb (doing word), Adjective (describing word) and Noun (naming word) but I can often have trouble associating an actual word to a group. I have no idea what an adverb is, or a split infinitive, or a pronoun, or the genitive case is.

My boyfriend who learnt English as a second language has no problem understanding grammar and through playing online games it seems a common view of the non-native English speakers that the English have no grasp of their own language. Something that often brings a violent reaction in chat is when someone uses the phrase "would of" rather than "would've", personally I forgive this error completely because it is more of an accent issue.  When speaking the "'ve" part is pronounced "uvv" which sounds a lot more like of then it does have and in English it doesn't sound completely alien to say "I would of done it" then say "I would from done it" the problem comes when translating it back to another language like German when "of" can also be translated to "from". Maybe I am more forgiving because I was 12 when I realised which the help of Richard and Judy that "this morning" was spelt that way and not actually as people with my accent say "the smorning".

I am not so forgiving about "they're", "their" & "there" and "your" & "you're". Yes they do pretty much sound the same when speaking, but this is much more common and corrected a lot more often then the "would of" situation. I was quite pleased when I managed to explain to get through to one young lad and he started using you're correctly, until someone else in chat used "your" in the correct context and he helpfully chipped in that "your is not an actual word".  After hitting my head on my desk I went back to the drawing board. But the question is if we went back to a time when we were taught formal grammar would our language skills in the age of instant text be any better?

I am sure that anyone that is familiar with grammar is probably shaking their heads at my postings, with my ignorant mistakes I undoubtedly make. It annoys me, but never before has it really stopped me until a couple of days ago when I was trying to get ahead with my U211 and I came across an exercise about changing words by adding morphemes (e.g. -er, -ed, -ing) and part of it was to say what the word had changed from and too. I couldn't do it. It frustrated me to the point of tears, yes perhaps that was a little over the top but I have a fragile disposition at the moment.

My lack of understanding Grammar in English has a knock on effect that I find it hard to understand Grammar while learning German, something which I had become increasingly frustrated with and not associated the two as being related. I relaxed a little last night when my L193 Beginners German course books arrived last night and in the Other Resources section a book called English Grammar for Students of German with the description "This is a guide written in plain English aimed at people who have no previous knowledge of grammar in any language" was recommended.  The fact that this book exists made me realise, yet again, that I am not alone in my complete lack of understanding of the subject.

I have decided to put my studies of U211 on hold, the official start date is not until 2nd October anyway, and I have ordered a grammar guide with a workbook in an attempt to teach myself in the hope that it not only helps my understanding of the course but means that my TMAs will be of a higher quality and correctly structured.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The Obligatory "Hello World" Post!

Okay so I suppose I had better introduce myself and tell you why I am writing this, I am not sure why I suppose I must do it, maybe so that I, myself, can read it back at a later date and remember why I felt the need to start blogging.

So why?  Mainly it is because I know I am on the verge of a great shift in my life, one which is going to shape the rest of my days. I haven't really achieved too much in my first 32 years of life and I am sure that like many other 30 somethings this is the first time I have really assessed my own life and acknowledged that the carefree days of my 20s are gone and that I now have to think about the bigger picture of my life.

I have made decisions that if I have had my time again I would have chosen a different option. I don't hang onto regrets, what has happened has happened and had it not I would not be the person I am today, would I have been in a better position then I am now? Perhaps, but these events have brought me to a place where I have met the man that I would like to spend the rest of my days with.  Unfortunately he lives in Germany and I live in England, but although we don't see each other often it is not a hindrance to our relationship. Yes we miss each other terribly when we cannot see each other but it means that when we do we make the most of it. It forces us to take things slowly and to get to know each other, rather then rush and move in before the first month is over, we have been together for 2 and a half years now and although we have decided on relocation and moving it will not be for a other year or two before we can be together on a permanent basis. We talk every day, we play online games together most evenings and over the weekend, so we do spend a lot of "virtual" time together chatting, laughing, venting and putting the worlds to rights.

After lots of discussion we made the decision that I will be the one to move to Germany, rather than him moving here. I would be easier, especially on my part, for him to come here. He speaks fluent English, I did GCSE German 16 years ago, therefore it would be a lot easier for him to get a job. I am recovering from a particularly painful period of my life which crescendo'd in my complete mental breakdown, I didn't leave the house for about 6 months, heck I didn't leave my bed. I finally asked for help and was formally diagnosed as having Depression, I am gradually getting better, I am still not able to participate in life fully, crowds scare me and I am prone to panic attacks.

So why does a person that has to use every ounce of strength she has to even walk up to the corner shop for milk want to move to another country, which speaks a language she doesn't fully understand? Because I don't plan on being so crippled for the rest of my life. Yes it would be easy to stay in my house forever being paid benefits that other people go out to work and pay their taxes for, but how does that help me become well? It just fuels the depression and the sense of worthlessness.

I have started to admit to myself that I am brave after a session with my therapist when he told me I was brave for attending a small evening class. I told him I didn't feel brave as every week I wished for something to happen so that I would have an excuse to not go, that I didn't feel brave because I was too scared to open my front door and step out into the world. That bravery is something that the fearless possess.  He then asked me if I did not believe that I brave because I am scared of opening the door but I opened it regardless. I had no other option but to concede that he might have a point, and it has changed the way I think.

The way for me to get better is to make sure I have some goals to achieve and some challenges to rise up to. Yes moving to Germany is a massive thing, but it will be a new start far away from anything related with the bad things that have happened and it excites me as much as it scares me.  I have broken it down into the smaller chunks so that I can make baby steps out from the cocoon to being a fully functioning human, with hopefully something to offer the world.

I have just signed up for a 3rd session of evening classes and I am starting an Open University Degree in Modern Languages - English and German, and for the first time in a very long time I feel like I am moving forward rather then backwards.