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Iversen’s Multiconfused Log (see p.1!)

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Iversen
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 Message 3793 of 3959
06 January 2015 at 9:58pm | IP Logged 
Well, it is hard to use a keyboard program when you can't even find the common punctuation signs and when keys produce other letters than those printed on them. Maybe I could have fixed the keyboard setup if I had tried, but it is not my job to make such changes on a hotel computer. But now I'm back at home, and I'm sitting at my good ol' PC where I know what happens when I press the key with an - on it. For other languages my usual tool is the keyboard collection at Lexilogos.

It is strange to think that it has taken longer to get home to my own humble abode from Billund airport in Jutland, Denmark, than it took to fly from Málaga back home to Denmark.

I flow down to Andalucia Dec. 27 and left today, and in the meantime I have visited Málaga, Ronda, Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada, Benalmádena and Fuengirola - with two nights in each of the first 5 on the list. Apart from the places where I had access to ahotel computer and could check in here at HTLAL plus one guided tour in Granada, where I was the only one who had asked for a Spanish tour, I have only spoken Spanish ...and it felt actually weird to say in English to the guide in Granada that she didn't have to repeat everything in Spanish just for my sake. I have even thought in Spanish most of the time, and I have watched National Geographic and Odyssey and Viajar and a few other TV programs in Spanish, even when there were alternatives available. So I have in my own opinion been a really wellbehaved visitor who tried to do blend in with the surroundings. But nevertheless almost every ticket seller and hotel receptionist at first spoke to me in English - sometimes even before I had said a single word. But most switched to Spanish when I looked at them with my most tired and sorrowful mine and answered them in Spanish. A few persisted, and so did I.

Besides this I did wordlists from L to a bit into R, and I must have been through at least 1500 Spanish words, probably more - and I could still find totally unexpected new words and word meanings even in the small dictionary I had brought along for the purpose. I have also bought a number of magazines (I'll come back to those later) and one book, of which I read the main part during the flight home and finished in the airport bus: Gabriel Jackson: Introducción a la España medieval.

Now I'll have to bring some order into my photos and postcards and write a travelogue for my own later comsumption (with a shorter version for my travel club), and after that I have to find time to revise my Guide to learning languages part 1 to 5 ... a lot of time!

Edited by Iversen on 06 January 2015 at 10:09pm

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tarvos
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 Message 3794 of 3959
07 January 2015 at 12:10am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:


Now I'll have to bring some order into my photos and postcards and write a travelogue for
my own later comsumption (with a shorter version for my travel club), and after that I
have to find time to revise my Guide to learning languages part 1 to 5 ... a lot of time!


А чего изменить?
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Iversen
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 Message 3795 of 3959
07 January 2015 at 2:50am | IP Logged 
Путеводитель не будет изменены в этом форуме, но я хочу сделать версию, где я, например, может привлечь аргументы и иллюстрации из лекций по конгрессов полиглотов и изменять порядок глав. Результат будет стать узнаваемый.

Edited by Iversen on 07 January 2015 at 2:52am

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Iversen
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Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
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 Message 3796 of 3959
11 January 2015 at 6:47pm | IP Logged 
I have been visiting my family this weekend, and then language learning inevitably suffers. But in the train I did read some articles from the magazine Elevate (the inflight magazine of Air Serbia). It's written in Serbian and English, both using Latin letters, so instead of just copying texts as I often do to slow my reading spead down, I transcribed a couple of the Serbian texts into Cyrillic. I'm at the 'getting the gist' stage in reading Serbian (whatever the alphabet, but preferably in Cyrillic), but with an occasional peek into the English version I understand just about the whole thing. I expect to be able to understand such articles without a translation long before the end of 2015.

SE: 'Elevate' међу осталим интервјуима са неким спортистима. Ја прескочио чланак на рагби тима, али студирао чланке о Србији супер-атлетичарка Ивана Шпановић и наводне јединствене српске акробатске параглајдером Петар Лонцхар. Не почнем да се занимати у спорту из тог разлога, али они су интересантна људи.

I have started to work with the ebook Guide project, and so far has this resulted in a text called "why does the cuckoo say 'cuckoo'?". From this extreme example of inborn sound production it's my intention to get back to language learning through the profuse copying skills of the lyrebird, the meaningful warning calls of meercats and the experiments with dolphins and apes and the inborn grammatical universals of Chomsky.

Edited by Iversen on 11 January 2015 at 6:53pm

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Iversen
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 Message 3797 of 3959
11 January 2015 at 11:37pm | IP Logged 
1.2 How come that the cuckoo says "cuckoo" ?

The coucou's mum put her egg in the nest of a totally different species, and her offspring probably never heard her voice, except maybe as part of the confused twittering from a multitude of bird species in a wood. How does the young cuckoo then know that it is supposed to say "cuckoo" and not "Meeh"? It must be an inborn instinct, but I leave it to the biologists to explain how such instincts can be encoded. Other birds have more complicated and more variable songs, and in some cases young individuals appear to have to learn the finer details of the singing business from older birds. The most extreme 'learner' is undoubtedly the lyrebird, who can imitate just about any sound it hears - including telephone ring tones and the noise from power saws. This skill wasn't taught to the bird - it must be based on an inborn instinct, similar to those that teach birds to make pretty nests or migrate to the right location at the right time of the year. So inheritance does not have to be a specific skill, but it can also be the ability to acquire specific skills.

However the lyrebird doesn't appear to use specific sounds for specific purpose - the male lyrebird simply uses the extreme variability of its repertoire as a means to impress the ladies. There are reports that parrots can be trained to respond to specific stimuli with specific words from their repertoire. One such genius bird even got its own foundation, the Alex Foundation (http://alexfoundation.org), whose purpose is " to support research establishing the cognitive and communicative abilities of parrots as intelligent beings.".

Some social mammals have differentiated warning signals. I remember watching a TV program with a meerkat researcher who claimed meerkats have specific sounds for high and low people and people with yellow clothes - and of course also specific calls for predators in their natural environment, from eagles to snakes. An article about experiments with meerkats in zoos, "The irrelevance of individual discrimination in meercat alarm calls" (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S000334720 7003065), doesn't mention human scare mongers specifically, but demonstrates that meerkats have specific sounds for predators that no animal in a specific group ever has seen - which is quite logical. It would be rather counterproductive to have warning calls which each animal would have to learn from its elders while the ominous entity was on the sky or approaching along the earth surface. So communication systems with inborn meaningful elements are possible - but can such systems also be developed through social interaction within animal groups?

Before we leave the meerkats it would be a pity not to mention the reports about drongos (black African birds) which have developed a clever trick: a drongo may imitate a meerkat alarm call to scare other drongos away from some food item (reported several places, including the blog 'Notrocketscience' (http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/notrocketscience/2010/11/ 03/the-bird-that-cries-hawk-fork-tailed-drongos-rob-meerkats -with-false-alarms/#.VLLLZ3svkvg).

Communication based on elements developed through social interaction rather than inherited directly is present every time a human trains an animal to do something as a response to a verbal command. But it is exceedingly rare that the animal responds with precisely defined sounds (although apparently this is exactly what the parrot Alex did). It has even been difficult to find examples of such communication patterns in the wild - though some reports about dolphins suggest that they invent specific names for individuals (like this one: http://goodnature.nathab.com/wild-dolphins-identify-themselv es-by-individual-names-will-it-change-how-we-treat-them). In the 60s a member of John Lilly's research team, Margaret Lovatt, tried to teach a dolphin named Peter English. I have just seen a TV program about this, which clearly showed 1) that M.L. said English words and rewarded good imitations (recognizable, but not more, to my ears), 2) that Peter could react to specific objects with sounds taught through procedure 1) - or in other words: he could do the same kind of things that a parrot can be taught to do. Similar experiments were made with a chimpanzee named Viki (reared by a family named Hayes), but the vocalizations of chimp Viki were apparently even less convincing than those of dolphin Peter - even though she was reared as a human baby for six years she only learned four wordlike grunts.

The breakthrough in the work with apes came when researches gave up the attempts to teach them to speak English. Instead they taught them either to use sign language (for instance with the chimpanzee Washoa and the gorilla Koko) or symbols on a computer screen (as with the bonobos Kanzi and Panbanisha - lots of references on the internet), and it actually seems to be possible to get proper responses from apes through these communication channels.

Unlike parrots the vocal apparatus of apes (and dolphins) isn't constructed to pronounce human languages, and they also lack some crucial mental circuits that could help them to use whatever apparatus they have got. A recent discovery showed that the gene called FoxPs had a role to play in the articulatory side of human language - and lo and behold, even birds have it (in a different form), but our nearest relatives, the apes, differ from us " by the substitution of two amino acids, threonine to asparagine substitution at position 303 (T303N) and asparagine to serine substitution at position 325 (N325S)." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FOXP2). Is this enough to prevent the apes from speaking? Well, apparently it is. On the other hand, Neanderthals had exactly the same sequence as us, so by inference our latest common ancestor, Homo heidelbergensis almost certainly also had it.

Among other things, FoxP2 has something to do with the fine control over the fine control with the respiratory system that permits us to make finely tuned vocal distinctions. But that's only half the story. The published excertps from communications with apes show many fascinating combinations of meaningful elements. I'll just quote one example to show the general tenor of these claims: "Although Kanzi learned to communicate using a keyboard with lexigrams, Kanzi also picked up some American Sign Language from watching videos of Koko the gorilla, who communicates using sign language to her keeper Penny Patterson; Savage-Rumbaugh did not realize Kanzi could sign until he signed "You, Gorilla, Question" to anthropologist Dawn Prince-Hughes, who had previously worked closely with gorillas." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanzi).

But even if such strokes of genius actually occurred during the experiments, there are still a couple of crucial elements lacking: 1) the notion of phonemes and 2) a complex grammatical system. Both serve to remove the resulting communication system from its purely articulatory basis: phonemes organize the actual sounds into a small unit of standardized units, which then can be combined to form meaning bearing elements. And these can be manipulated through grammatical rules with predictable effects on the meaning.

Homo heidelbergensis probably had the apparatus to pronounce speech, but did this species also have a phonemical system and a proper grammar (i.e. a suitably complicated one)? We simply don't know, but in spite of some (probably exaggerated) expectations to the 'private' language of dolphins we don't have proof that any other extant species than Homo sapiens have a language which is taught, which has phonemes and a grammar .. plus a plethora of languages and dialects belonging to different groups, but accessible to members of other groups.

And at this point it would be difficult not to mention Chomsky's hypothesis from around 1980 about an inborn language mechanism which results in languages with specific restrictions on their grammars. You can hear about these theories from Chomsky's own lips on Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vbKO-9n5qmc), but there are literally thousands of reactions to these theories. I'm not going into details with them, but I have noticed some comments that indicated that the great man has placed less emphasis on the biological nature of the language universals with his 'minimalist program' from the 90s.

And this would be a sensible way to go: there are definitely some differences in the way we communicate through language and the communication systems of other species, and it would be all but impossible to explain this difference without accepting some kind of biological basis. But it is risky business - and totally unnecessary - to assume that the restrictions on grammatical rules also are programmed biologically. It is more than enough to assume that we have a language mechanism in the same way as the lyre bird as an innate talent for mimicry, but the concrete form of the grammatical rules can be the simple result of a combination of practicality and the way languages develop through communcation.

Finding a complete list of Chomskyean universals on the internet is not easy. But one of the most fundamental and definitely the most discused rule is the one that all human languages must have recursive mechanisms, i.e. mechanisms that serve to incorporate utterances into other utterances. But a linguist named Everett has come up with a counterexample from Amazonas: the language of the Pirayãs. Once again I'll leave out the details of the discussion, but there is an article about the events in the Newyorker (http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2007/04/16/the-interprete r-2) and we have also discussed the topic at HTLAL several times (see http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?T ID=23271). But even if there are a few counterexamples, a rule followed by an overwhelming majority of the planet's languages is worth taking seriously.

So assuming a biological basis for language learning while denying that the universals are inborn is certainly a possible stance, and so is the opinion that rules don't have to be totally universal to be interesting.

A more practical angle on linguistic universals is represented by Joseph Greenberg, who from the 60s and onwards conducted some big comparative comparative language projects, which not only lead to some controversial theories about language relationships, but also to some fairly concrete lists of more or less universal rules about languages as they actually are found in this world. I'll just mention one of these rules to show what an implication rule might look like (quoted from Armin W.Buch: Linguistic Universals, http://www.sfs.uni-tuebingen.de/~abuch/12ws/lotw06.pdf):

Greenberg rule 20: When any or all of the items (demonstrative, numeral, and descriptive adjective) precede the noun, they are always found in that order. If they follow, the order is either the same or its exact opposite

Such a rule doesn't have to be inherited to be followed . Actually being inherited wouldn't in any way explain WHY the rule looks like that.

I'll finish this chapter with a reference to some experiments with a savant, Christopher, who in an experiment was taught two languages, Berber and an invented language called Epun, which violated just about every universal in Chomsky's system ("Learning the impossible: The acquisition of possible and impossible languages by a polyglots avant" by Neil V. Smith, Ianthi-Maria Tsimpli and Jamal Ouhalla, http://web.mit.edu/6.863/www/readings/smith-epun.pdf). As far as I can see their main "expectation was that normal subjects would be more easily able to perceive the regularities in a linguistically impossible system and learn it by using their 'general intelligence' as a compensatory device for the in adequate, because irrelevant, language module.

These predictions were partially confirmed, but the controls' performance was itself sufficiently complex to make any definitive explanation of the results difficult.". In contrast Christopher "should find it impossible or extremely difficult to master those parts of Epun which, ex hypothesi, contravened universal generalizations and were not describable in terms of parametric variation." The researchers found that Christopher indeed had problems with Epun because he used the tactic to make inferences from his previous languages (my formulation), whereas the results from the controls were confusing. So maybe they didn't just use formal logic, but also linguistic tactics (my guess), which they weren't supposed to do with a supposedly impossible language.


Edited by Iversen on 12 January 2015 at 1:08am

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Iversen
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 Message 3798 of 3959
12 January 2015 at 2:01pm | IP Logged 
Another new chapter ... and yes, sooner or later I'll start revising the existing chapters in the guide:


1.3.     Your native language ... and the rest     

I have three problems writing about the language development of children: 1) I only vaguely remember the last phases of my own learning process concerning Danish, 2) I haven't reared a kid myself, 3) the literature about the subject is overwhelming and diffuse. So I'll just touch upon a few aspects of this topic - even though it may be the most important of them all.

It is commonly assumed that you have to learn a language 'as a child' to become truly fluent in a language - or in other words: to become a native speaker of that language. But it is debatable what exactly it means to be a child in this respect. On the other hand: if you are exposed to more than one language from your birth you may end up with more than one native language. However it is debated hotly whether this influences the final level you can reach in each of these languages. It is my impression that the number of languages spoken by a person him/herself more or less determines how that person will respond - monoglots think that splitting the time spent on language learning will lead to a catastrophe, whereas polyglots are confident that a baby can absorb two languages without choking. We'll come back to this problem complex below.

Way back in 2009 I found an Italian article by Mado Proverbio (http://www.lswn.it/neuroscienze/come-sono-rappresentate-le- lingue-nel-cervello-umano/) about an experiment where her test subjects were simultaneous interpreters at EU - and given how fiendishly hard this job is, they must have been among the most proficient and fluent speakers of foreign languages you can find. She measured their brain responses and found that the responses to cue words in even their most fluent second languages had a significantly lower amplitude than their responses in their native language AND that the cut-off age for getting truly native responses was as low as 5 years.

Even lower age limits have been proposed concerning the complete acquisition of phonetic awareness - like a limit of 6 months (!) for identifying and internalizing the phonetic inventory of your (coming) native language - and with the assumption that distinctions which aren't caught at this early age can't ever be recuperated. This obviously implies an inborn neural mechanism, which stop functioning after a short time - like the ability to swim without having learned it or the Moro reflex. The idea also reminds me of Konrad Lorentz' classic experiments with geese: he discovered that the first living object gooslings see after being hatched is being identified as their mother, and later experiences can't change this. But luckily the linguistic realities in humans don't correspond to this extreme parallel. For instance there are no nasal vowels in Danish, but that hasn't stoped me from learning to distinguish them in French. The question is whether I'm as good at it as Frenchmen, and that's a totally different question.

If all plasticity was lost after 6 months then you would expect the language heard at that stage - but not later in childhood - to elicit specific responses compared to other languages. But there is evidence to the contrary, for instance in the article " Brain Imaging of Language Plasticity in Adopted Adults: Can a Second Language Replace the First?" by Pallier, Dehaene, J.-B. Poline, D. LeBihan, A.-M. Argenti, E. Dupoux and J. Mehler (http://cercor.oxfordjournals.org/content/13/2/155.full.pdf) :

"Do the neural circuits that subserve language acquisition lose plasticity as they become tuned to the maternal language?We tested adult subjects born in Korea and adopted by French families in childhood; they have become fluent in their second language and report no conscious recollection of their native language. In behavioral tests assessing their memory for Korean, we found that they do not perform better than a control group of native French subjects who have never been exposed to Korean. We also used event-related functional magnetic resonance imaging to monitor cortical activations while the Korean adoptees and native French listened to sentences spoken in Korean, French and other, unknown, foreign languages. The adopted subjects did not show any specific activations to Korean stimuli relative to unknown languages."

Another article suggests that there are difference in brain activity between native and non-native speakers of a tonal language - but now without the early cut-off at 6 months age:

Behavioral and neuroimaging research shows that while native tone language speakers (e.g.,Mandarin Chinese) process tone as a linguistic property predominantly in the left hemisphere, tone processing by nonnative speakers differs as a function of the linguistic role of tone to these speakers (Hsieh et al., 2001;Klein et al., 2001; Wang, Jongman and Sereno, 2001;Gandour, 2006). Specifically, for non-tone-language speakers (e.g., English), the processing of tone (e.g., Mandarin or Thai) is less left lateralized than that for native tone speakers (Wang et al., 2001; Gandour et al.,2003). Furthermore, native tone language speakers (e.g.,Norwegians processing Mandarin tone) do not process tones of another tone language in the left hemisphere,indicating that tones are processed in the left hemisphere only when they are linguistically meaningful (Wang et al., 2004). Further research has shown a native-like lateralization patterns of tone by English listeners who were highly proficient in Mandarin (Wang et al., 2004), indicating a shift from nonnative (L2) to native (L1)patterns as a function of L2 proficiency.

This quote from "Neural plasticity in speech acquisition and learning" by Yang Zhang and Ye Wang (https://apps.cla.umn.edu/directory/items/publication/16808. pdf) contains at least two interesting points, namely that the 'special' processing of tones only happens for linguistically meaningsful tone patterns - which suggests that it isn't just some crude auditive ability that is under scrutiny - and, secondly, that highly proficient individuals can make a shift towards a more nativelike lateralization pattern - which explains how some individuals against all odds can acquire a good accent even after their childhood.

Let's return to the question about children who are brought up in bilingual or multilingual environments. The question is discussed in many articles, but let's just look at one of these. In " The emergence of competing modules in bilingualism" by Arturo Hernandez, Ping Li and Brian MacWhinney (http://repository.cmu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1211& context=psychology) starts out with this question:

How does the brain manage to store and process multiple languages without encountering massive interference and transfer? Unless we believe that bilinguals live in two totally unconnected cognitive worlds, we would expect far more transfer than actually occurs. However, imaging and lesion studies have not provided consistent evidence for the strict neuronal separation predicted by the theory of modularity.

As an alternative a cluster of 'emergentists' theories is proposed (first expounded by Elizabeth Bates), and the authors have even constructed a digital DexLex model, "a self-organizing neural network model of the development of the lexicon" to test out their theories:

The network was trained to learn the 400 most frequent word types in parental speech (184 Chinese words and 216 English words, covering about 56% of the total word tokens). (...) Within each lexicon, the network further distinguished various grammatical categories in its representation (e.g. nouns vs.verbs, state verbs vs. activity verbs, etc. ). The ability of the network to develop modular representations for different languages and different linguistic categories provides a concrete illustration of Bates’s dictum that ‘modules are made, not born.’ The Competition Model [...] predicts that bilingual children will acquire phonological and lexical maps that pull their two languages apart in a similar way.

For example, when the Spanish–English bilingual child is speaking Spanish, both mesa and table are activated as ways of talking about a table. However, because mesa is richly interconnected with other Spanish words, constructions, postures and meanings, it receives far more activation than table during Spanish speech. On the other hand, when the child’s two languages are less perfectly balanced in strength, we find a far greater level of intrusion of the stronger language (SL) into sentences of the weaker language (WL). In such cases, continual practice with the WL eventually allows it to ‘fight off’ intrusions from the SL.


(end of quote)

These realizations not only explain why the bilingual child doesn't end up as one whining wretch sitting in the middle of the floor speaking an umcomprehensible mix of two languages, it also illustrates why adults who try to learn new languages face an uphill struggle:

It has often been noted that people who pick up a second language after the age of 5 retain some form of L1 accent, even if it is only very slight. The standard nativist account of ageof-acquisition effects is that some critical period for language learning has expired. (...). Our emergentist account provides a very different explanation for age-of-acquisition effects. Consider the cases of a child learning L2 at age 9 and a young adult learning L2 at age 24. The child has experienced years of consolidation and entrenchment, leading to progressively more automatic control of L1 in increasingly more committed neural substrates. The young adult starts learning L2 against a background of an even more entrenched L1.

Or in other words: the adult fights against his/her own fully developed L1, but in this theory there is no need to claim that some innate 'language learning motor' has stopped at the end of some kind of licence period.

I'll give the last word to Susan Perry   (http://www.brainfacts.org/sensing-th inking-behaving/languag e/articles/2008/the-bilingual-brain/):

Until fairly recently, parents and educators feared that exposing children to a second language at too early an age might not only delay their language skills but harm their intellectual growth. New research, however, has found that bilingual children reach language milestones (such as first word and first fifty words) at the same age as monolingual children. Nor do they show any evidence of being “language confused.” Indeed, young infants are able to use rhythmical cues to keep their two languages distinct, and do so from the first days of life.

So stop whining, ye fearful monoglot parents and educators. Let your kids become bilingual if the circumstances permit this - they will definitely survive the experience.


Edited by Iversen on 12 January 2015 at 2:14pm

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Iversen
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 Message 3799 of 3959
14 January 2015 at 12:27am | IP Logged 
I have now finished part 1 and part 5 of my Guide in their new versions. At least half of the content is new, the other half is mostly revised versions of the current text and only a minor part is totally unchanged. The middle parts (about translations, grammar and vocabulary) will hopefully be finished within a week and so. Right now the index looks like as follows (44 pages in Word), and when the whole thing is finished it will fill at least 120 pages - maybe more, if I decide to include several scanned wordlists and green sheets plus some of the illustrations from the polyglot gatherings and conferences.

But my concrete language learning suffers these days - I have just read something about Augustus and Tiberius in Latin in the-bus-back-home-from-work plus some articles from the inflight magazine of Air Serbia in Serbian. Not much, compared to what I normally do in the same time. And I have still not written a travelogue/diary about my recent trip to Spain. I made the clickable maps this evening, after writing about twenty pages for the Guide.


GUIDE TO LEARNING LANGUAGES     
PREFACE     
1.     First part - the Language learning process itself
1.1.     Overview:      
1.2.     How come that the cuckoo says "cuckoo" ?
1.3.     Your native language ... and a few more
1.4.     Language learner types     
1.5.     Language teaching fads     
1.6.     How to attack a new language     
1.7.     Silent period, but thinking actively     
1.8.     About intensive and extensive reading / listening
1.9.     Can you learn a language only by reading?     

2.     Second part - How to use translations
...     

3.     Third part - How to learn grammar     
...

4.     Fourth part - How to learn words and expressions     
....

5.     Fifth part - How to deal with speech and writing     
5.1.     Activating languages     
5.2.     Total and less than total immersion     
5.3.     Listening like a bloodhound follows a trail     
5.4.     Training phonetic awareness     
5.5.     To know NOTHING but still understand something     
5.6.     Don't let a weird spelling lead you astray     
5.7.     About the later stages of learning a language     


Edited by Iversen on 14 January 2015 at 12:49am

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
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berejst.dk
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 Message 3800 of 3959
14 January 2015 at 7:52pm | IP Logged 
I have so far written 7 pages today about the topics "How many words do you need to learn?" and "Wordcounts and active/passive vocabulary". In both cases they have basically been written from scratch, but using materials and ideas from my lecture at the polyglot conference in Novi Sad last year. I hope to be able to add at last one chapter more this evening, the one about "learning words from context", where the main point is that you only learn the words you care about and focus on - and even the scientific articles that purport to prove that incidental learning is efficient fail to do so if you study their results a little bit closer.

I hit upon a funny little tale about vocabulary size/use which I didn't manage to fit into the book: apparently the rapper Wu-Tang Clan has a bigger vocabulary than Shakespeare: "Scientist Matt Daniels analysed the first 35,000 lyrics of 85 hip-hop and rap artists and compared the number of unique words to those used in the first 35,000 words of Shakespeare's plays and Herman Melville's Moby Dick. In top spot was Aesop Rock who used 7,392 unique words, highlighted, while DMX sat at the opposite end of the scale with 3,214 unique words". Hehe. Well, I may have commented on this before, but it is still an interesting fact.

The downside is that the ebullient verbal profusions from these gentlemen might include words I would hesitate to use in public.

Edited by Iversen on 21 January 2015 at 1:13pm



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