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Passive Listening vs. Active Speaking

  Tags: Passive | Listening | Speaking
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
12 messages over 2 pages: 1 2  Next >>
flatlandllama
Diglot
Newbie
United States
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35 posts - 44 votes
Speaks: English*, Vietnamese
Studies: Khmer

 
 Message 1 of 12
28 March 2009 at 4:17am | IP Logged 
Professor,
We posted briefly back and forth on your YouTube Accent Analysis post. Unfortunately, the post size on YouTube was not big enough for the conversation that we were having so I am posting on here. For anyone who needs to be updated on this conversation, I copied it off of YT and pasted at the bottom of this post.
My question mainly relates to my last sentence, "On a slightly different note, how do you feel the passive listening affected the other areas of language (grammar, word choice, etc...)?". You said Dutch speakers noted your poor, at that point, accent while Swedes did not do this for Swedish. Did you feel that Dutch speakers were easier to understand (ie. Were your Dutch listening skills more developed from passive listening than your Swedish listening skills)? As for your output, were you able to put together more complex sentences more quickly in Dutch or Swedish? What was the qualitative difference between the output for both languages for everything but accent?
Unfortunately, I have to leave off a lot of information as it is contained in the YT video post or from other YT text postings on different videos, so if there appears to be any information missing that makes this post difficult to understand, please let me know.

Flatlandllama: The part that stuck out with me though was the about your experience with Dutch and Swedish and how you thought the passive listening as opposed to actively figuring out the sound system actually hurt your pronunciation. Could it possibly be because you spent relatively little time listening passively to Dutch? Maybe for passive assimilation you need more exposure? ALGworld says you need 6-800 hours for Thai. Your Dutch presents an interesting problem with this theory

ProfASAr: I did not keep records at the time, but I basically listened to the tapes for an hour a day every day as I went for my morning run for a period of continuous months - enough for me to gain a complete passive understanding of the book of 100 dialogs for which they were recorded. Probably around 120 hours?? Far less than that Thai estimate, but for a far easier language... and at any rate, the real point is: I had 0 hours for Swedish in which I fared far better, accent wise.

Flatlandllama: Obviously you can learn a language and its sound system by actively trying to imitate or look up an outline of a sound system done by a linguist (I did that when I learned Vietnamese). However, your claim that the passive listening hurt your Dutch is the point that I would really like to find out more about (Both from you and as a general idea). On a slightly different note, how do you feel the passive listening affected the other areas of language (grammar, word choice, etc...)?

ProfASAr: Unfortunately, there is no room to have a detailed discussion in this commentary column. If your interest is theoretical, then you can ask questions of me on the language learning forum. If, however, you really want to go into the matter so as to establish the most effective means of studying languages for you, then I encourage you to sign up for a one-to-one consultation on my new site, thelanguage-coach, which should be up and running in just a few days.

Peyton Standefer     

Edited by flatlandllama on 29 March 2009 at 12:01pm

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5798 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 2 of 12
30 March 2009 at 9:04pm | IP Logged 
Dear Mr. Standefer,

Thank you for posting here where we can have a more protracted discussion of the matter, hopefully with the input and insight of others as well.

To begin with, for native English speakers like us, studying languages like Dutch and Swedish is such a qualitatively different task from studying languages like Vietnamese and Cambodian that I am not sure how applicable experience from the one case might be to the other.

Also, there is something inaccurate in what you write or understand about my experience:   it was not when I was in Holland/Sweden years ago that natives remarked upon the quality of my accent, but rather only here and now in comments on my videos. Whenever I have traveled in or stopped over in Holland, and whenever I have overheard people speaking Dutch and accosted them in their own language, my pronunciation has worked perfectly well for conversational communicative purposes. I had no idea that there was anything particularly strong let alone objectionable in my accent until I made my introductory overview video. It was only then that I learned that there seem to be a fair number of people out there who for some reason expected me to have a perfect native accent and were disappointed to hear that I did not.

It has been years since I have been in either country, and even then my time there was very limited, and it may well be that there is another, much simpler explanation for the seeming difference in the quality of my accents: the Dutch video was one of the very first that I made, and it was the first for which my pronunciation took flak. As I recall, I simply picked up the book and read, so I may have been sloppily relaxed when I did so. By the time I made the Swedish video, I had been criticized for both my Dutch and my Icelandic pronunciations, and so while I do not remember practicing and rehearsing my lines, I certainly took more considered care with them.

At any rate, as I said in the video, by the time I got to Holland, I already had my experience in Sweden behind me, and this certainly affected and facilitated my encounter with living Dutch. With that consideration, I cannot recall that there was any qualitative difference in the two “activization exercises," such as better Dutch listening skills or an ability to construct complex sentences more swiftly in Dutch than in Swedish, which might be laid to my prior experience with passive Dutch listening versus my lack of such experience with Swedish.

The real difference that I remember:   my experience with Swedish, actively studying and awakening it in country, was wonderfully exciting and dynamic, challenging in the best sense. Compared to that, my experience with Dutch was rather blasé, tinged with a “been there, done that” kind of sentiment.   My pleasant memories of learning Swedish in March of 1995 are actively in the forefront of my mind, whereas I had to be promoted to recall that I had spent several months listening to my Dutch Assimil tapes while on my morning runs along Lake Michigan at some point in 1992 or 1993.

That passive experience with Dutch was passive in terms of listening only, i.e., in terms of not speaking or “forcing output” or “pushing production”; I did not just listen to those tapes, I also compared the bilingual transcripts and read the grammatical notes. Please note that for any native English speaker, learning Dutch is, objectively speaking, a relatively easy task, given its intimate genetic proximity. In my case, this was heightened to the Nth degree by the facts that I already knew German well, was actively writing a dissertation on Old Norse, and had just studied a good number of other historic Teutonic tongues. Thus, passively listening to and coming to understand Dutch conversations and narratives over a period of months was really not much of a challenge at all. Compared to that, activating Swedish by active immersed study in a period of several weeks was more demanding – but again, in the best of good senses.

That is where I would leave this issue: passive listening as I did it for Dutch would have worked just as well for Swedish had I had a course for it. Although my Dutch accent is apparently not as pretty as my Swedish one, it is still evidently functionally serviceable even given only minimal actual contact years ago; thus, what I did passively to get it must be judged as easy, non-demanding, and “good enough” for anyone who is not obsessed with obtaining a near-native accent without working for it.    For people who are unwilling or unable to study actively, this kind of passive study thus holds great promise.   However, those who can consciously and actively enjoy studying and learning would be better advised to repeat my Swedish experience, particularly if they wish to put a more authentic lilt into their words.

In concluding, once again I must note that I do not know how relevant any of this really is to exotic South East Asian languages and their like, but still I do hope that what I have written may have addressed your concerns.

Yours with best wishes,

Alexander Arguelles
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JonB
Diglot
Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4807 days ago

209 posts - 220 votes 
Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, Dutch, Greek

 
 Message 3 of 12
31 March 2009 at 12:14pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
It was not when I was in Holland/Sweden years ago that natives remarked upon the quality of my accent, but rather only here and now in comments on my videos. Whenever I have traveled in or stopped over in Holland, and whenever I have overheard people speaking Dutch and accosted them in their own language, my pronunciation has worked perfectly well for conversational communicative purposes. I had no idea that there was anything particularly strong let alone objectionable in my accent until I made my introductory overview video. It was only then that I learned that there seem to be a fair number of people out there who for some reason expected me to have a perfect native accent and were disappointed to hear that I did not.


Professor Arguelles, it occurs to me that there are two reasons why you should trust feedback from your face-to-face encounters with Dutch speakers very much more than feedback received via anonymous Youtube comments:

1.) The negative remarks about your Dutch accent on Youtube were made on the basis of a recording played through the internet. Your recordings (though they are excellent as far as they go) are not made in studio conditions with sound engineers. Even if they were, they would still be at the mercy of bandwidth, quality of computer-speaker, etc. Thus there is a possibility that some of the criticisms were made on the basis of a somewhat distorted sound quality, and are therefore more or less worthless.

2.) In a more fundamental sense, I do wonder whether very much weight at all should be attached to Youtube comments? In one of your recent videos you mentioned that you also received some quite nasty and abusive comments about your Dutch and Swedish accents. Well, who are these rude people? Why do they feel the need to be unpleasant and aggressive? How seriously should they be taken? What is their opinion really worth? Indeed, are they even native speakers of Dutch or Swedish? (You only have their word for it!)

Youtube is like an ocean; as well as the many good fishes, there is unfortunately a huge amount of scum and pollution!

Odi profanum vulgus et arceo!


--Jon Burgess
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laoshu505000
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4358 days ago

121 posts - 231 votes 
Speaks: English*

 
 Message 4 of 12
31 March 2009 at 6:54pm | IP Logged 
Yes, I agree with you.We can't really do anything about those ignorant people on youtube. Even I often get nasty comments. You just have to consider the source...

Moses McCormick




JonB wrote:
ProfArguelles wrote:
It was not when I was in Holland/Sweden years ago that natives remarked upon the quality of my accent, but rather only here and now in comments on my videos. Whenever I have traveled in or stopped over in Holland, and whenever I have overheard people speaking Dutch and accosted them in their own language, my pronunciation has worked perfectly well for conversational communicative purposes. I had no idea that there was anything particularly strong let alone objectionable in my accent until I made my introductory overview video. It was only then that I learned that there seem to be a fair number of people out there who for some reason expected me to have a perfect native accent and were disappointed to hear that I did not.


Professor Arguelles, it occurs to me that there are two reasons why you should trust feedback from your face-to-face encounters with Dutch speakers very much more than feedback received via anonymous Youtube comments:

1.) The negative remarks about your Dutch accent on Youtube were made on the basis of a recording played through the internet. Your recordings (though they are excellent as far as they go) are not made in studio conditions with sound engineers. Even if they were, they would still be at the mercy of bandwidth, quality of computer-speaker, etc. Thus there is a possibility that some of the criticisms were made on the basis of a somewhat distorted sound quality, and are therefore more or less worthless.

2.) In a more fundamental sense, I do wonder whether very much weight at all should be attached to Youtube comments? In one of your recent videos you mentioned that you also received some quite nasty and abusive comments about your Dutch and Swedish accents. Well, who are these rude people? Why do they feel the need to be unpleasant and aggressive? How seriously should they be taken? What is their opinion really worth? Indeed, are they even native speakers of Dutch or Swedish? (You only have their word for it!)

Youtube is like an ocean; as well as the many good fishes, there is unfortunately a huge amount of scum and pollution!

Odi profanum vulgus et arceo!


--Jon Burgess

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5798 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 5 of 12
31 March 2009 at 7:21pm | IP Logged 
Thank you, Mr. Burgess, you make some good points. Given that I overtly presented this series as a philological overview of a language family, it is rather frustrating that so many responders seem to focus on my accent rather than my scholarship, as if they imagine that I myself genuinely imagine that I can pass myself off for a native and am attempting to offer my voice as a substitute sample for a real thing. Well, whatever the circumstances, I am really not surprised to learn that my various accents vary in quality -- indeed, given how sadly cut off I have been from these languages for years now, I am rather happily surprised to get feedback that any of them are still any good. In all honesty, I truly wish I could live in Europe again so as to be surrounded by many more opportunities to actively encounter a wide variety of languages in their living environments...

However, all of this is really neither here nor there. Much more interesting and much more important than the quality of my accents is the notion behind these ideas of the value of silent and passive listening, which seem to be increasing in popularity. While this notion does indeed contradict all of my own experience about language learning, I do not have a problem with it as such - there are many approaches to learning, and this could be a backdoor entry, as it were, compared to my frontal approach. Still, some of its formulations are so extreme that I simply cannot imagine them, and I would like to understand them better. How can one possibly remain focused on doing nothing but silently and passively listening to a language that one does not understand for 700 hours? Surely this means, rather, that one studies or is taught, somehow, without ever speaking. But how would that work? When I was the director of foreign language education at Handong University, I would often go by the language laboratory and see students sitting and listening silently, whereupon I would instruct them to speak up. Would my counterpart at ALG do the opposite, that is, find students speaking and instruct them to be silent?

Mr. Standefer, could you and others who may be familiar with the works of scholars such as Stephen Krashen, J. Marvin Brown, or Paul Sulzberger please provide some direct original quotes from their own writings (with full references and, if possible, links to the sources) describing exactly what they mean by silent and passive listening and why they believe it to be valuable? Most of what I have ever seen in this regard is in the form of summaries or articles by 3rd parties that may be quoting them out of context. I would also be very curious to know if any of these scholars are polyglots, that is, whether their theories are drawn from their own direct personal experience in learning languages, or whether they are based rather upon their observations of the way others learn.

Alexander Arguelles
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john234
Newbie
United States
Joined 4919 days ago

15 posts - 15 votes
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 6 of 12
01 April 2009 at 2:12am | IP Logged 
Professor Arguelles,

I hope that the comments of a vocal minority with respect to your Germanic family videos have not deterred you from continuing the Languages of the World series. I learned a great deal about languages I would never have studied in the Germanic installment and have been looking forward to the Romance and Slavic videos. If your experience with the Germanic videos caused you to stop this series, I hope you will reconsider. As always, thank you for your contributions.

Regards,
John Eddlemon     

Edited by john234 on 01 April 2009 at 4:41am

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tpark
Tetraglot
Pro Member
Canada
Joined 5588 days ago

118 posts - 127 votes 
Speaks: English*, German, Dutch, French
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 7 of 12
01 April 2009 at 7:02am | IP Logged 
Dear Professor Arguelles,

I thank you for your presentations on languages. Your experience with such a wide variety of languages allows you to give us a greater insight into the learning process. I think that I had mentioned that certain elements of Dutch culture make some people rather, uhm, direct about their opinions. This, combined with the rather anonymous nature of the internet can lead to some potentially unfair comments. The observations you've made regarding speaking and the problems with passive listening make sense to me. It's like watching tennis - you can learn a great deal by watching tennis, but to actually play well you have to go out there and hit balls. In many ways, language learning is a similar thing since you have to train your tongue to do things it isn't accustomed to doing. If you only hit balls, but don't take lessons, you can also acquire bad habits.

I think that there is some value to listening. Radio-Canada provides broadcasts here that I listen to - I sometimes get lost, but these programs provide some insight into the local French culture. There's also an opportunity to pick up some vocabulary and some idiomatic expressions.

Best Regards and thanks again,

--Ted Park.
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flatlandllama
Diglot
Newbie
United States
Joined 5631 days ago

35 posts - 44 votes
Speaks: English*, Vietnamese
Studies: Khmer

 
 Message 8 of 12
01 April 2009 at 8:48am | IP Logged 
Professor,
I cannot really provide you with much on Krashen as I only read 1 or two short books of his, and it was over two years ago that I did this. From what I remember, in a nutshell he would tell students speaking to be quiet unless they were speaking naturally, ie. not translating into the target language or pushing themselves for words that were not readily coming out. However, other more hardcore followers would say no speaking as they emphasize pure native-quality input. This would mean a speaker with a native accent and command of the language. If you are repeating the speaker aloud, then you would get native command but the accent would be influenced by your own native tongue. This, according to them, is because languages are acquired by input, so if you are reading aloud, you are providing part of the input. If you repeat everything then you would be providing 50% of your input.
I took a class AUA Thailand for almost three weeks this last summer to try it out. They generally have you sit and listen to two teachers. They say do not speak Thai in class (They said this to almost every new student that came in). They talk with each other and tell stories about stuff that is going on in Thailand. This is mediated with drawings on the board or pictures available in the classroom to aid comprehension. Sometimes they really got going with the talking, which I enjoyed because I was there to really focus on learning, and other times they would do activities or games, which had lesser amounts of speaking and would have been more effective for settings with smaller children so as to keep them interested. By the end of the 3 weeks, I found that I was recognizing more and more of the speech in class compared to the first few days so it does have an effect. The questions, I suppose, are whether it is more effective than other methods and whether the end result is really that much better than those of other methods. I can't answer that with the little exposure I had. One good point about this style is that even though there were upwards of 10 students at a given time, I almost never had to listen to another student put together a long sentence that would have been extremely mangled, both syntactically and verbally. On a final note, there was some interaction as they would as us about things and we would indicate understanding and replies in a number of ways ranging from reply in English briefly to using right hand-left hand responses.
Sorry for the belated reply to your original posting. The information you gave does help, even though Germanic and Southeast Asian languages are in no way smiilar linguistically. It seems methods of learning languages cross those boundaries. In fact, if your methods worked for German and Dutch, you would likely have a great deal of success with Khmer or Vietnamese. I know I have done better with Vietnamese than I ever did with German, although there are many reasons for this, one main one benig method of learning. Your background with classical Chinese, which it seems I remember you learning to help with Korean, and Sanskrit would be invaluable to the study of Vietnamese and Khmer respectively. One of my teachers, in fact, mourns the lack of Vietnamese studies people who cannot understand classical Chinese.
I think I hit on all the points that I wanted to, so I'll end here.
Peyton Standefer


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