How Lucky We Hams Are who Speak English

Working hams around the world reminds me how lucky we English-speakers are.  Most hams who work DX or are on D-Star also speak English.  Some are fluent, while others speak only enough English to get through a basic exchange.  But, why don’t more of us Americans speak foreign languages?  It is probably because we don’t have to – English is the most common second language in the world (French is second) so when we travel or do ham radio, we can get by.  I recall a Chinese couple, now married, who were students at Georgia Tech.  One spoke Mandarin and the other, a different dialect of Chinese, so they could not speak to each other except in English.

The most widely-spoken language in the World today is Mandarin and for many years English was second but now Spanish is number two.  But, English is still rated as the most influential language in the World.

It can be handy to know a second language, even as a lucky American.  The number of us who are bilingual is pretty low, around 18 percent, versus some fifty percent in Europe.  I speak enough French to get around, and am studying Italian and Spanish, just for the heck of it.  Speaking some French means I can go to small villages in France where, unlike the bigger cities and tourist spots, English is not available, and still get along.  My crowning achievement though was once in a small B-and-B in Italy where the proprietor spoke only Italian and some French, and me, no Italian and some French.  It was very gratifying to converse and get directions from him in French.  Give it a try – duolingo.com is a very good, and free, website for language learning.  It features three-minute segments, which is perfect for my attention span!

Signing off for now, de k4wk, www.hamdon.com.  Thanks for listening; you’re in the log.

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CW Atrophy: If You Don’t Use it, You Lose it!

After two months of chasing CW DX, where the exchange is sometimes as little as 599, TU or at most, 599 GA Ken, and often at 25wpm, I engaged in an actual honest qso with an American ham, K6OLE this morning.

It was at abt 15wpm and the first thing I notice was that I could copy only parts of the qso because it was more than just the “standardized” and predictable DX exchange.  Normally, I shouldn’t have a problem at 15wpm so to me it is a revelation how much one loses fm lack of use or practice.  I would call it “CW atrophy.”  Atrophy is the wasting away of, say, a muscle, from lack of use.

This happened to me on xmit as well.  My sending was, well, frankly sloppy, again due to lack of use.  In contest DX especially, I barely touch the paddle.  Instead, my call is recorded and so is the exchange, so I just push buttons on the radio.  At contest DX speeds, sometimes 30wpm, that’s all I can manage!

Note to self #1: resume practice of CW and resume real actual QSO’s instead of just DX or contest exchanges if you want to be comfortable with CW.

Note to self #2: I will do this after I get my Diamond DXCC (special award for 100 countries worked in 2012) and my 100 countries on ten meters.  (I’ve already gotten 100  on 15 and 20m this calendar year.)

Propagation can play funny tricks

Worked Madeira Islands Thursday on 17m.  Madeira is more or less east of Atlanta, as it is off the coast of northern Africa, nr Morocco.

My wire antenna is oriented north-south so it’s lobes are east and west.  My beam antenna is pointed due south and presently I cannot rotate it due to faulty rotor controller.

Knowing those facts, one would expect the wire ant to do better in hearing and reaching Madeira and the southward beam worthless.

I heard him fairly well on the windom wire ant but couldn’t break through after several attempts.  Switched to the seemingly sub-optimal beam and not only heard him better, worked him quickly after just 1-2 tries.  Not what I expected!

New band-country, however.