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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
Senior Member
New Zealand
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Speaks: English*, German, French

 Message 9 of 12
01 April 2009 at 9:35am | IP Logged 
Steve Kaufmann is one important example of a genuine polyglot who advocates Stephen Krashen's "input hypothesis". I am not sure how much he has read of Krashen's works and I have not myself read anything of his, but to whatever extent Mr. Kaufmann's own views on this theory differ from those of Stephen Krashen, I believe he nevertheless carries a substantial amount of credibility given that he has learned nearly two dozen languages mostly via passive listening.

Here are links to two videos of his in which he discusses the matter:
Silent period
Krashen and language acquisition

Christopher Button

Edited by ChristopherB on 01 April 2009 at 9:38am

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United States
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 Message 10 of 12
01 April 2009 at 7:20pm | IP Logged 
Thank you, Mr. Eddlemon, for your words of appreciation and concern. However, the reason I have not yet begun the Romance and other series is purely technical: my new camera (a Flip Mino F360) is much better for narrative videos, but it actually cannot focus as well upon pages of text as my old one (a Canon Powershot SD600), which was barely adequate. I cannot bring myself to use the old one again for this, as it not only makes that mechanical whirring sound, but fills 1 GB in about 9 minutes. I found this very constraining, and now that I am not bound by the 10 minute general limit but can make films as long as I want, they still have to be under 1 GB in size, so it just will not do. So, I am holding off because I am hunting for a camcorder that can take really clear magnified footage of a page of text. I have been to a number of electronics shops, but without success, as apparently this is a relatively rare desideratum. I do not want to divert this thread into this sidetrack, but if anyone knows of any specific makes and models of camcorders that, if not specifically designed for videoing text, can still do so particularly well, I would be grateful for this information.

Thank you, Mr. Standefer, for describing the learning environment of this methodology, and thank you, Mr. Button, for pointing out that Steve Kaufmann is the kind of polyglot who can learn well in this fashion: he says often and openly that he does not like formal study and cannot learn by means of it but must rather get away from all kinds of didactic material and into authentic material as swiftly as possible. This is all obviously counterintuitive to me and indeed antithetical to my own approach, but I can appreciate that there are those for whom it is suitable, and in my intensive institute for foreign language learning skills, I would certainly want to have a niche for it, as I would for all possible methods and approaches to learning. There is nothing more inimical to the pursuit of knowledge than time lost in methodological controversy. Half of my own time in graduate school was forcibly focused on squabbles between this theory and that method, and as a result, there was far less acquisition of knowledge than there could and should have been. What makes me generally appreciate older methods more than current ones is not their approach, but simply their greater quantity of actual substantive content.

Alexander Arguelles
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Super Polyglot
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 Message 11 of 12
01 April 2009 at 9:36pm | IP Logged 
I sincerely hope that you will soon find the suitable equipment for making a Romance series and maybe others, - I have seen all the Germanic videos and found it very interesting to have one person's comments to so many languages. I have read books that treated the Slavic, Romance and Germanic language families, but getting to hear AND see an actual text (with translation) in each language is to my best knowledge not something that you can find anywhere else.

While Mr. Kaufmann was still an active member here I had several discussions with him about the use of grammars, and I have never really understood why he had so much against their use in language learning, but I got the impression that it wasn't as much a theoretical statement as a reaction on some aspects of his own learning process. With Krashen I have the impression that it IS a theoretical statement, and as such it is supposed to be applied to all languages learners. Personally I like to use genuine texts from an early stage, but always while doing parallel studies of vocabulary and grammar. I would under no circumstances try to learn a language without harvesting some hard facts from dictionaries and grammars. Small children don't have this possibility, but I do have it, and it would be silly to forsake such obvious sources for information.

I have also expressed several times my conviction that any language worth learning should be learnt as an active language (including Latin and other 'dead' languages), but in my case that primarily means thinking in the language until I feel that I can express myself at a decent level. I might break that principle while travelling, but not at home. It is quite a different matter with writing, where I can take my time to look up words, checking constructions in grammars or making Google searches for certain expressions. People who are more sociable than me may not have the same preference.

Niels J.L. Iversen

Edited by Iversen on 01 April 2009 at 9:38pm

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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: French, Russian, Hungarian

 Message 12 of 12
02 April 2009 at 1:43pm | IP Logged 

To add to this interesting thread, I'd like to mention the following. The majority of my learning has been autodidactic, using Assimil, FSI and similar courses. I've found it necessary to actively speak, and shadow, the audio material in order to properly learn it. I believe this active speaking has the bonus effect of anchoring the vocabulary.

Based on your advice, I decided to make Spanish an active language, by attending classes in the Cervantes Institute. This required a level assessment, and I was pleased with the results. The teacher commented that my accent was exceptionally good, and wondered how I acquired it. I found it a little difficult to explain shadowing through Spanish, but I think she got the gist.

However, now that I'm attending classes, I feel my accent has degraded. I attribute this to listening to other non native speakers in the class during conversation practice, and subconciously using English prosidy over Spanish so I'm understood. If the classroom environment was based purely on passive listening, I'd conjecture this wouldn't occur. Therefore I believe the dialectic is not between "Active Speaking" and "Passive Listening", but the best use of solo and group study for language learning, pronunciation and accent modelling.


Edited by DaraghM on 02 April 2009 at 1:43pm

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