August 8, 2010 | Hindi

Hula Hoops, Pimsleur, and a 404-Day Studying Streak

My powers of multitasking multiply; my Hindi creeps along.

Yesterday I had an unusually social-engagement-heavy day and almost ended up breaking my streak of 403 consecutive days of language study. There was a picnic, there was an afternoon get-together, there was a party. I arrived at a very late hour without having done a single minute of studying. I was tired. I wanted to go to sleep.

One of the Day's Social Engagements: Annual Running Team Picnic, Central Park

One of the Day’s Social Engagements: Annual Running Team Picnic, Central Park

I thought to myself, I don’t need to be compulsive; I could take a day off. But it was hard to relinquish the streak. My goal is to do at least two hours of studying a day, and I generally achieve that, but if I get a minimum of half an hour done, I get credit.

So, at 3 a.m. (not a typo), I decided to do 30 minutes of Rosetta Stone before going to bed. It wasn’t easy. I was almost falling asleep on my computer, but I still enjoyed it, in a weird and perverse way. And I made it to day 404 with a little more Hindi in my brain.

Today I got to work immediately, to ensure no more late-night Hindi rendezvous. I did quite a bit of Pimsleur while stretching, and eventually decided I would like to try a run.

Things did not go all that well. My latest running injury fallout is a phenomenally tight psoas muscle, and I had to abort the run after a mile. Too painful. I walked home.

On the way home, though, I had the brilliant idea of getting out my hula hoop. I could try to do Pimsleur while also doing some cross-training! And maybe it would help with the psoas (which connects the lower spine to the hip and which you can feel if you press on the front of your abdomen).

My Oddball Hula Hoop

My Oddball Hula Hoop

I bought this “magnetic health hoop,” much heavier than the traditional hula hoop, a couple of years ago.

It has little protrusions, I think for magnets, all along the inside. They dig into your stomach and sometimes even tickle a little.

Honestly, I don’t really recommend it. But now that I have one hula hoop, I don’t feel like buying another.

When I retrieved the hula hoop from a closet, I noticed that the writing on the box was partly in Korean. I wouldn’t have known that when I last pulled it out a year or so ago, but because of this project, I can now recognize Korean with ease. I like that. 

Magnetic Health Hoop Box, with Korean

Magnetic Health Hoop Box, with Korean

Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually understand the Korean. Maybe it was saying: “Studies have shown a marked increase in stomach cancer among users of this magnetic health hoop. Proceed at your own risk.” Of all the languages I have studied to date, I am afraid this is the one I got the least far with in terms of reading skills. 

Before I began, I had to put on an extra T-shirt for cushioning, because those little bumps can really hurt. I hooked my iPod Shuffle with my Pimsleur lessons to my shirt, put on my headset, pressed the start button, and gave the hula hoop a spin.

I didn’t really have high hopes for this multitasking effort, at least not with this particular hula hoop, because the weight of it requires some concentration. But it worked out fine! It was great, in fact.

I actually found it very relaxing to spin around while trying to come up with phrases in Hindi.

I am learning conjunctions at this point. I love conjunctions; they are so fundamental to being able to express yourself. If you can’t glue concepts together in a language, you are basically screwed.

Hindi Pimsleur Lesson 5 in Progress

Hindi Pimsleur Lesson 5 in Progress

One learning challenge is that in Hindi the word for “and” is pronounced more or less like or. Expressing an additive property with a sound that I associate with alternatives is taking some getting used to.

The Hindi word for “but,” while more complicated, is easier for me to remember. It is pronounced mughur, which sounds a lot like “mugger” in English.

I can remember that, because muggers are a negative thing, and “but” sets up contrast. Also helpful is that the day I first encountered mughur, a news guy from Channel 11 stopped me in Central Park and interviewed me briefly about a rash of muggings there. So basically I am all set with remembering the Hindi word for “but.” But remembering to say or for “and” is going to take some time.

I have been writing about Pimsleur lessons for months, but if you haven’t tried one, it is probably hard to imagine them. As I have explained, they are interactive audio lessons where you are prompted to say things in whatever language you happen to be studying.

Sometimes you are translating, sometimes you are participating in a dialogue, but in any case, it is like verbal ping pong. Challenges keep flying at you, and you try to whack them back with accuracy each time. 

In this video, I am responding to Pimsleur prompts. I say something, I listen, I repeat, and so on. Brandt took this clip near the start of lesson 5 of Hindi. Oh, yeah, and I am also hula-hooping, but just ignore that part.

After the end of the clip, I continued to spin around for another 25 minutes, all the way through the end of the lesson, without dropping the hula hoop once or destroying Hindi grammar more than half a dozen times. I fear that this video may establish me as a huge nerd for all eternity, but I am willing to sacrifice my reputation for the sake of the larger language-learning good. 

Maybe I will try this again tomorrow or Tuesday.

Comments (5)

Julie • Posted on Wed, August 11, 2010 - 7:57 am EST

I will never accuse you of not being able to walk and chew gum at the same time.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Wed, August 11, 2010 - 8:43 am EST

Well, that’s a different skill set.

Kristina • Posted on Thu, August 12, 2010 - 7:24 am EST

The hula hoop was invented in Bloomfield, CT, your father-in-law’s home town! Clint can’t remember the man’s name, but remembers that he had two sons and lived on Haviland Road. Just some trivia to clog your intellectual synapses. :)

Rick • Posted on Sun, August 15, 2010 - 2:49 am EST

Hola Ellen/ had some neighbors over tonight. Interestingly, they spoke about learning spanish/ did I have suggestions. Recommended both Pimsleur and rosetta stone/ also Rocket spanish. Told them about your blog/ and the inspiration you are to me. The hula hoop may keep my 4 year son occupied while I study…lol. Enjoy the journey/ Rick.

Ellen Jovin • Posted on Sun, August 15, 2010 - 8:38 pm EST

Rick, I am supposed to be trying out Rocket Hindi; thank you for reminding me. Also, who knew hula hoops had so many practical applications for language study?!

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