Barreling Ahead on Toki Pona

I return to my greatest challenge once again: reading books for kids.

Toward the end of week one of this mini Add1 Challenge of learning Toki Pona, I predicted I’d be moving past the pure study phase of learning soon.  What I didn’t expect, was how much I could do a single week after starting in on this language.

Like, okay, sure, I know the lexicon is tiny and that people often say you can learn Toki Pona in a few weeks, but I find skepticism in situations like this to be very healthy.  People say you can learn natural languages in three months, too, and that is untrue in all but the very loosest definitions of ‘learn.’  And of course, as I sit at two weeks down and surprised by my results, it’s not like I’m fluent or anything.  There is a lot that’s a struggle, a lot I don’t understand readily, and a long way to go before I would be comfortable claiming to speak, or even understand Toki Pona.

So on Thursday, day nine of working on this language, I started reading jan lawa lili, a translation of The Little Prince into Toki Pona.  Long=time followers of this blog might recognize The Little Prince as the first book I read in Spanish for this blog project.  It was not the first book I read in Spanish period, that was Charlie y la Fábrica de Chocolate, but I started this blog after I’d been working at learning Spanish for a while.

And that’s the thing that’s surprising to me, because that ‘a while’ translated to ‘six months’ for me.  Now, the first six months of learning Spanish was full of less than ideal methods for learning, and I could plan for and approach this project with a ton of hard-earned efficiency, but it’s still wild to see what took six months be accomplished in a week.  And it really does feel like a direct analog there, because when I first read El Principito at the start of this blog, it kicked my ass pretty bad.  It was complicated and confusing, and full of grammar and words I didn’t really understand that well, but could follow enough that it wasn’t like I was looking at an incomprehensible brick wall, and I finished it feeling discouraged enough that I went back at the nine month mark and reread it in order to ‘redeem’ myself.

Reading jan lawa lili kicked my ass a little.  There’s a lot of it that’s confusing and hard to follow, with grammar I don’t really understand.  Truth be told, I would have been happier starting off with jan Charlie li tawa tomo pali pi moku suwi, but I don’t have that luxury with a conlang.  That said, though, I gotta say, I had an easier time following jan lawa lili after nine days of study than I had following El Principito after six months.

Then again, maybe that’s not true.  It feels that way right now, but perhaps what’s actually going on is I now have more experience ‘letting go’ of not understanding something when I read it.  Maybe El Principito was as easy or easier for me to read then, but I was still so new to learning a different language that my shortcomings were significantly more frustrating to me.  There’s a lot of jan lawa lili that I struggle to understand, but it doesn’t feel like as monumental of an undertaking because, well, I’ve been here before.  It’s the nature of subjective things, I suppose.

One major difference is that I’m going to be forced to make do with the relative lack of content available in Toki Pona compared to Spanish pretty quick here, because it isn’t a bottomless well I can pick and choose my way through like I have been doing up to this point in this blog.  It’s a pretty well supported conlang compared to most, as it’s pretty rare to find much that’s been translated into other conlangs, let alone whole books, but I’m not going to have the abundance of riches that led to me reading millions of words in the space of a couple years.

Then again, if I could get from zero to reading jan lawa lili in nine days, maybe I don’t need that much content to get to the same place.

Anyway, let’s take a look at this week’s numbers now.

Tuesday 6/30

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Studying (visual): 5 lessons of o kama sona e toki pona, ~60 minutes
  • Studying (aural): 12 episodes of jan Misali, ~60 minutes

Wednesday 7/01

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Studying (visual): 5 lessons of o kama sona e toki pona, ~60 minutes
  • Studying (aural): 12 episodes of jan Misali, ~60 minutes

Thursday 7/02

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Reading: 7 chapters of jan lawa lili, ~90 minutes

Friday 7/03

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Reading: 7 chapters of jan lawa lili, ~90 minutes

Saturday 7/04

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Reading: 7 chapters of jan lawa lili, ~90 minutes

Sunday 7/05

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Reading: 7 chapters of jan lawa lili, ~90 minutes

Monday 7/06

Spanish:

  • Duolingo: 20 XP earned, ~0 minutes

Toki Pona:

  • Reading: 33% of nasin suli pi jan Melin, ~90 minutes

Total Spanish:

  • Total Duolingo: 140 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 0 hours 0 minutes

Total Toki Pona:

  • Total Studying (visual): 10 online lessons read, 120 minutes
  • Total Studying (Aural): 24 video lessons watched, 120 minutes
  • Total Reading: 1 and 1/3 books read, 450 minutes
  • Total Time: 11 hours 30 minutes
  • Combined Total Time: 11 hours 30 minutes

These weeks are looking grim and slim compared to what things were looking like before this project, but it’s the nature of the beast, really.  It was at the point with Spanish that I could sit back and hammer out a couple episodes of television over my morning coffee and ‘wake up,’ because there was no mental power required to get through them.  Reading Toki Pona is not a waking up activity for me at this point.  I have to focus and think through how constructions work, and often need to mentally translate them into something I can understand.  It’s slow and kinda arduous, and I need to space things out over the course of the day differently.  It is getting easier, though.

After finishing jan lawa lili, I settled on nasin suli pi jan Melin as a follow-up.  As I said earlier, not a ton of variety for media options in Toki Pona.  I’m fast running out of stuff of any real length here, which is a bit of a bummer, because it means I’ll probably need to switch learning tactics soon.  There are a handful of blogs and communities that are run in Toki Pona floating around on the internet, so it’s likely that I’ll need to go to those places for my input.  That’s something I’ve done in limited quantities with Spanish, but it might end up needing to be my primary focus here.  We’ll see how that goes.

Of good news on this front of things, two weeks in I’m feeling like it’s likely that I will be satisfied with the level of Toki Pona that I’ll be able to achieve in 3-4 weeks and will be ready to switch my focus back to Spanish pretty soon.  I’m not planning on abandoning Toki Pona at the end of the month, but it feels like something that will slot in well in the margins of my usual day to day activities and other language learning.  We’ll also see how that goes.

And as we brought June to a close this week, let’s take a look at the numbers for the month.

Spanish

  • Total Duolingo: 600 XP, 0 minutes
  • Total Watching/Listening: 36 tv episodes, 32 youtube videos, 1 podcast, and 1 movie, 1,735 minutes
  • Total reading: 2/3 whole books read, 1,590 minutes
  • Total writing: 800 words written, 75 minutes
  • Total Speaking: reading out loud, 690 minutes
  • Total Time: 56 hours 40 minutes

Toki Pona

  • Total Studying (visual): 1 book and 19 online lessons read, 420 minutes
  • Total Studying (Aural): 84 video lessons watched, 420 minutes
  • Total Time: 14 hours 0 minutes

Combined Total Time: 70 hours 40 minutes

And here’s the breakdown for money spent.

  • Toki Pona: The Language of Good, Fiction, paperback, Amazon, $15.75
  • Netflix Subscription Standard HD Plan, Television and Movie Streaming, $10.99 per month, $10.99
  • Disney+ Subscription, Television and Movie Streaming, $6.99 per month, $6.99
  • Amount Spent on Fiction Books: $15.75
  • Amount Spent on Services: $17.98
  • Total Spent: $33.73

This thing got a whole lot more complicated after adding on an additional language.  Anyway, while numbers are overall kinda low, they’re hardly the lowest this blog’s ever seen for a month, and overall it’s because approaching a brand new language requires different things compared to working on a language I’m already skilled at.

In the cost breakdown section, I decided to include Toki Pona: The Language of Good as an expense this month because it factors into this project, though in truth I bought the book back in June of 2018.  Part of the goal behind including the monthly expenses is to provide a roadmap of costs associated with language learning, and ‘book that I bought on a whim two years ago so it doesn’t count as an expense now’ doesn’t feel very roadmappy to me.

In writing news, I continue to be flatlined on the fiction front, getting 5,939 words for blogs put down and nothing else.  I really would like to return to writing eventually, but I just haven’t been feeling it throughout this entire quarantine thing.  A lot of my other writer friends have found big bursts of inspiration and put down a ton thanks to the boredom of being trapped at home, but my job’s just been so busy, and I’m so emotionally worn down from everything.  Whatever, it’s fine, I’ll be able to write again one of these days.  I better.  I’ve got a draft of a novel to get finished before I die.

Anyway, here’s where I’d talk about plans for the month, but it’s been pretty dang obvious what those plans are since last blog, so I’m just gonna keep on with the Toki Pona for now.  If things continue to progress as quickly as they have been, we might be back to focusing on Spanish before we know it.

That’ll do for this one.  TTFN.  Or should I sign these off with mi tawa?

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