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The Lernen to Talk Show | Season 4, Episode 1: We are in Jordan!

April 25, 2017

I had fun making the Lernen to Talk Show in Germany. So I’m doing it again, this time in Jordan. I hope you like it. Here’s Episode 1.

Note: This time around, subtitles are displayed via YouTube, so click “CC” for the subtitles. Click the little gear icon to switch between English or Arabic subtitles.

0:11 – This was filmed about 30 minutes after I landed in Jordan.

0:31 – “alhamdulillah” – you’re gonna hear this word a whole heck of a lot this season. It means “praise be to God”, but it’s used in all sorts of situations. Here it pretty much means the same thing as “I’m doing well”, but I like keeping the direct translation there because I think it says a lot about the culture here.

0:35 – I’m shocked that he understood what I was trying to say here.

0:45 – What little Arabic I go on to display in this video is the remnants of what I had learned in the summer of 2008, when I spent 6 weeks in Amman taking an Arabic class and an Islamic history class at Princess Sumaya University for Technology. Sadly I didn’t make any Lernen to Talk Show videos back then… I hadn’t had the idea yet! The only YouTube record of my time then was this video of me badly interpreting a Badly Drawn Boy song… which, incidentally, also features the voice of Mohammed, my guest in this episode, at the very end!

1:01 – By now I’ve displayed pretty much all the Arabic I knew coming into this.

1:09 – Mohammed literally just said nahnu”, and I repat “nahna” back to him. I’d like to think this is more on account of the fact that I just got finished with a 16 hour journey from Chicago.

1:25 – Here I’m trying to distinguish between using the article “al” before words… “Jordan” has a “the” in front of it in Arabic, but Amman doesn’t…

1:31 – …and when said after certain prepositions, like “fee”, a contraction is made. Which is why Mohammed says what sounds like “fill”, which, when separated, would be “fee” + “al”.

1:44 – As the old talk show host saying goes, “ask what you know!” Right?

1:51 – Qusai nailed it. I was trying to say “I’m happy”.

2:19 – Just like in Spanish, you gotta add a plural ending to adjectives you’re using to describe more than one person at once. In Arabic, that ending sounds like “-oon” (at least in this case).

2:35 – I gotta agree with them here.

2:52 – Qusai is trying to keep things in “formal” Arabic here, by correcting my use of the word bukra to instead use ghedden to say “tomorrow”. What he doesn’t realize is that in my head bukra meant “after”… but of course I was wrong. Bukra means “tomorrow” in Jordanian Arabic.

2:57 – To my American ear, the letter غ in Arabic sounds kind of like the rolled “R”… In fact it’s supposed to be pronounced totally differently, coming more from the back of the roof of your mouth, not from a fluttering of the tongue. Mohammed was hearing my mistake, even though I wasn’t. That’s what’s going on here.

3:05 – Annnnd we’re already using the future tense.

4:20 – Masalaama, is how it should be pronounced… I’m embarrassed about how long I went on saying this way.

I hope you like watching this new season as much as I like making it!

Keep lernen,


5:40 mile in 5:40

August 21, 2016

I’m sick. I’ve had a cold for about a week. Before that I was traveling. So for about two weeks I didn’t really run at all. Not good for somebody trying to get faster.

Anyway, today my throat wasn’t sore enough to justify not running. But my nose was stuffy enough to give me an excuse for not running exceptionally fast. So I did a time trial on the track. 5:40. I’m glad I’ve gotten faster from the last time I was timed (5:47, 3.5 weeks ago), and I can forgive myself for not going way faster because hey, I’m sick!

What’s a good frequency of re-testing? Once a week? I dunno.

5:02 mile in 8:19

July 31, 2016

Those times yesterday were what I guess I’ll refer to as unofficial. I was running around a park and I only measured the distance using the mapping tool at It told me that the distance I was running is really 0.24 miles, not 0.25 miles. But hey you gotta work with what you have. And if a 0.24 mile course is right outside my house then I’ll use it and I’ll call it an almost quarter mile.

Today I ran on an actual Track so I think these times are more accurately described as semi-official.

Same deal as yesterday. 400 meters, 4 times. A little slower, but with less rest in between. I aimed to run at a 5-minute mile pace for each quarter, resting for one minute in between. It was harder than I expected. But that might have been on account of the 300 feet of stairs I climbed during the 15-minute “warm-up” run to the track.

400 meters in 75 seconds.

Rest 1 minute 6 seconds.

400 meters in 73 seconds.

Rest 1 minute 3 seconds.

400 meters in 76 seconds.

Rest 1 minute 8 seconds.

400 meters in 78 seconds.

5 minutes and 2 seconds of running, 3 minutes and 17 seconds of rest. I want to do 5 minutes and 0 seconds of running with 0 minutes and 0 seconds of rest. That seems kind of impossible right now. That mile today was really, really rough. Especially the second 100 meters of the first two 400s and the last 200 meters of the last 400. I was going as fast as I could but it didn’t feel fast at all.

I’ve never really cared about this before – being fast. I’ve always had a kind of “it is what it is” attitude with regard to how fast I can run. But for some reason I’m like Obsessed with this idea of finding that speed somewhere. I wonder where it is.

4:20 mile in 11:45

July 30, 2016


So I still haven’t run that 5 minute mile. And I haven’t worked on it as hard as I said I would on September 20, 2014. But I still want to do it. I’m gonna try harder this time I swear.

On Wednesday I ran a 5:47. It certainly feels more intimidating to try and cut 47 seconds off my time than cutting 13 seconds seemed almost two years ago. I really should’ve done it then. I can’t even remember why I didn’t.

But now I will. For real.

Today I ran 400 meters 4 times. It went like this:

400 meters in 63 seconds. That’s faster than I need to be running for a 5-minute mile.

Rest 3 minutes 25 seconds. That’s more time than I can rest during a 5-minute mile.

400 meters in 63 seconds. Even after the big rest I was surprised I could do that again.

Rest 1 minute 35 seconds.

400 meters in 65 seconds.

Rest 2 minutes 25 seconds.

400 meters in 69 seconds.

So that adds up to 4 minutes and 20 seconds of running to cover a distance of 1600 meters aka 1 mile. The way I see it… this proves that I am able to run the instantaneous speed of a person running a 5-minute mile. I just can’t do it for 5 minutes. But I’ll get there.

75-second 400 meter splits. That’s what I gotta be able to do. So how about this? What if I just do 400 meter repeats at that pace, gradually reducing my rest between intervals until I’m not resting at all, thus fusing my 4 x 400 meters into 1 x 1600? Won’t that work? It’ll take a while, sure. But… I think that’s the key. So if tomorrow I slow down a little bit but also decrease the rest in between, I think I’ll have a more realistic sense of how much work it’ll take to get this thing down to 5 minutes.

Because what can I do with that data from today? Nothing, really. Unless I want to see how fast I can run a 400. Oh man, I don’t want to go down that road.

I gotta get a better stopwatch.

The Lernen to Talk Show Goes Global

December 1, 2015


Reader most fair,

if the Lernen to Talk Show is what brought you to this blog, I urge you to turn your attention to the following page:

And while you’re at it,

LIKE it:



Let’s do this!!!


My quest for the elusive 5-Minute Mile – Day 1.

September 20, 2014

Ten years ago I ran a lot. I was on the cross country team and, for one season, the track team. That year, I ran my fastest mile time of 5 minutes and 16 seconds (I was never one of the best people on the team). About an hour ago I broke my ten-year-old record with a time of 5 minutes and 13 seconds.

I want to run a 5-minute mile. I cannot tell you why. But I want to. So I’m gonna train for it and I’m gonna write about it here and maybe in the process I’ll find a good reason for all the effort.

Favorites of 2013 (to be expanded)

December 31, 2013

Whoa that was fast. The craziest and most unpredictable year of my life is almost over. WordPress notified me last night that I only published 26 posts this year or something like that. Sorry I didn’t write more. I’m gonna try to get better at that, as usual. Anyway, I wanted to share with you a brief list of some of my favorite things from the year.

Top 10 Movies:

1. Pacific Rim

2. Upstream Color

3. Gravity

4. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

5. Before Midnight

6. Into the Wonder

7. The Place Beyond the Pines

8. The World’s End

9. Fast & Furious 6

10. The Grandmaster

I actually only saw three other movies in theaters, but I didn’t really like ’em. They were FrozenSide Effects, and something else. I forget. Oh right, it was Captain Philipps. That was pretty good I thought.

Top 9 Albums

1. Brother the Lights Don’t Work by The Rutabega

2. Horseradish by Nate Henricks

3. Reflektor by Arcade Fire

4. The Next Day by David Bowie

5. North America Ghost Radio Station by YOUNGEST CHILDREN

6. …Like Clockwork by Queens of the Stone Age

7. Shaking the Habitual by The Knife

8. Eternity of Dimming by Frontier Ruckus

9. Chelsea Light Moving by Chelsea Light Moving

#10 would probably be the Nine Inch Nails album or the fourth Bronx record, but for some reason I haven’t really listened to them yet.

My New Year’s Resolution is to watch more movies.