Monday, January 28, 2013

Language Meditation

I've been trying to do at least once a day what I call language meditation.  That is, I will take a simple concept that has been a particularly difficult thing to retain through conventional study, and try to relax and focus my concentration on it instead of, say, on my breathing.  I'll try to work the word (if it is a word) through different scenarios and forms of the word (slowly and organically, only as it bubbles to the surface, and not through effort, but through visualization), and try to make it the core, unadulterated focus of my descent into relaxation--the mantra, so to speak.  I'll work on forgetting everything about the outside world except the concept I am studying (though I'd hardly call it studying, it's more like appreciation of a conceptual aesthetic).  My goal is to get my brain waves as far away from what would be necessary for associative or agglomerative study and put them more in the area that would be conducive to astral projection.  Looking at the colors of the concepts and hearing their synesthetic music, rather than creating logical and analytical pathways.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The -jmować/-jąć family of verbs

I'm trying to find similarities and differences in verb families.  I find that I get confused with a lot of verbs that have the same roots but different prefix stems.  Today I want to look at verbs that end in -jmować (imperfective aspect) and have perfective paired verbs that end in -jać.

A good primary example of this is:

obejmować, objąć - to embrace, to hug, to grasp; to include, to contain, to encompass

One primary meaning of this verb in English is "to embrace" (hence I have bolded it above), but secondary meanings which can be important to its connotations are also included above.  Another primary meaning is "to include."

The verbal prefix here is "ob(e)-", which means "around, about, of"

Present tense of obejmować (singular 1st, 2nd, 3rd, then plural 1st, 2nd, 3rd):



Future tense of objąć (singular 1st, 2nd, 3rd, then plural 1st, 2nd, 3rd):



Imperative: obejmuj (obejmować), obejmij (objąć)

So all the rest of the verbs in the -jmować and -jąć families follow the same conjugation patterns.  Each of the verb pairs means basically the same thing, though one is imperfective aspect and the other is perfective aspect.  With respect to the perfective verb, the "present"-style conjugation is considered future conjugation.

The roots -jmować and -jać appear to have some meaning related to moving, either with the arms, or metaphorically or mentally moving.  It can be inward motion (taking, grabbing, intercepting, accepting) or outward motion (extracting, taking off).  Some of the secondary meanings seem tangentially related to this movement paradigm.

podejmować, podjąć - to take (steps), to make (a decision), to take up (work), to undertake
Verbal prefix is "pod(e)-", "under, below, up to." Or is it "po-" "de-"?  Probably the former since a literal meaning is "to under + take"

pojmować, pojąć - to comprehend, to conceive, to grasp
Verbal prefix is "po-" ("over, through, after, carrying action for a time")

przejmować, przejąć - to take over; to intercept; to adopt (habit); to overcome
przejmować się, przejąć się - to be worried, to be concerned
"prze" (in front of, before)

przyjmowac, przyjąć - to accept, to admit, to receive
"przy-" ("at, near, close to, by")

ujmować, ująć - to seize; to grasp, to conceive; to formulate; to lessen
"u-" (can mean "off" or "on")

wyjmować, wyjąć - to extract, to take out, to pull out
Clearly this is "wy-" ("out")

wynajmować, wynająć - to rent (e.g. an apartment)
"wy-" ("out") and "na-" ("on, in") are my guesses here

zajmować, zająć - to occupy, to capture, to take up, to take (time)
zajmować się, zająć się - to deal with
"za-" ("behind")

zdejmować, zdjąć - to take off, to take down
This is a difficult one.  Is the prefix "zde-"? Or a combination of "z-" ("with, down") and "de" or "do" ("toward")?

A good deal of what I am writing about these prefixes is pure conjecture.  I don't know if some of these verbs have two-part prefixes or if the second part is just part of the verb stem.  I am trying to figure out patterns and logic that will help to delineate these verbs by their various compound meanings.

These verbs conjugate in the same way.  If you look at the example of obejmować/objąć above, you can extrapolate that pattern to all the rest.  Just put in everything before the -jmować or -jąć, and then use the same pattern for the rest.

For example, for zajmować/zająć:
zajmuję zajmujesz, zajmę zajmiesz, zajmuj, zajmij

Maybe some Polish etymologists can expand on my theories of word formation here.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Attitude Is Everything (Or At Least Very Important)

One of my guiding principles is that there is no such thing as a waste of time.  Time passes no matter what you do; all you can do is waste your attitude.

Another of my guiding principles is that if you are feeling crappy, just wait.  Three days is usually the maximum required for a settled funk to pass, at least in my experience.

Last night when I was studying Polish vocabulary, I was having a real low point.  I wasn't getting any of my flash cards right at all, and I couldn't absorb any of the audio that I was listening to.  Sometimes you are just having a crappy time.  I don't care what kind of cheerful optimist you are, it doesn't help to be in denial about the fact that sometimes you feel bad.  We all sometimes feel yucky.  You can't paint over it with optimistic aphorisms.  But that doesn't mean you have to drown in doom and gloom, either.

There's a technique sometimes used in meditation where one does one's best to empty the mind of any thoughts.  Sometimes one can't empty the mind.  There is a Buddhist term called "monkey-mind", referring to a state that is so agitated and unsettled that thoughts are just jumping all about like a frenzied caged monkey.  One strategy for dealing with this is to acknowledge and embrace each thought as it bubbles forth, and then release it.

The reality of the human condition is that it is not always one level steadfast line.  There are ups and downs; there are peaks and valleys.  Things might move in a circular fashion or in zigzags rather than in a linear fashion.  The optimal way to handle this is to realize it and to deal with it.  Know yourself and how you react to what happens.

The simple truth is that there are times when we will shine, and there are times when we will stumble.  Last night, for me, was an emotional low point.  Maybe my neurons had just fired enough and they needed a rest; who knows.  Instead of continuing with pushing myself uselessly, I just watched a Polish comedy with English subtitles on YouTube (who knows, maybe in a month this link won't even be there).  Actually, I didn't even watch the whole thing; I fell asleep about halfway in.  And I wasn't concentrating on trying to understand the Polish, but rather, just relaxing and absorbing the entertainment value of the movie.

I find that there are times when I'll absorb a high percentage of material that I am studying, and there are other times when I'll absorb a low percentage of similar material.  Sometimes there are things I can do to improve my receptivity to study, and sometimes not.  So if I'm in a place where I'm not gaining any value from what I'm doing, and I'm not able to improve conditions to the point where I am gaining value, then at that point, if I continue, I am truly wasting my attitude.

One thing I like about Anki (a spaced-repetition program that I have raved about in prior postings) is that it gives you statistics about what time of day the success rate of your study is the highest.  For me, the statistical information is really striking--around 11 am, 3 pm, and to a lesser degree at 10 pm, my percentage of right answers is dramatically higher than at other times of the day.  I've used that information to try and make sure that I get at least a little bit of study in at or around these apparent most optimal study times if I have the opportunity and the inclination.

And waiting it out works.  Though I was close to zero percent last night, this morning when I studied the same material, I was at around eighty percent, and this evening, my percentages have been about just as high.