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Devising a systematic outline for advice

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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United States
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 Message 1 of 12
17 April 2009 at 4:02pm | IP Logged 
I have been all too busy with other matters to attend this forum for the past week or so, and when I check in now I am happily intrigued to see that several very interesting threads have sprung up on the subject of sleep habits and general study ability.   I wanted to contribute my perspective on both matters, but before I did so, I desired to read over what I had written here about these issues before, and I could not recall where I had done so, nor could I think of a way to find those threads easily.

This highlights a need I have felt for some time to develop a systematic thematic outline for giving advice, and I would like to devise one now before I write any more letters of consultation. I have not proposed this before because I could not, and still cannot, think of a means to incorporate this searchable outline directly into the forum. However, a solution simply popped into my head the other day: I can provide it on my own website. The full discussions can remain here in their entire natural development, but I will also mirror my own most substantive counsel in a topically arranged outline on a page that I have rededicated to “advice” on my website.

As I instinctively began devising the outline, it occurred to me at once that most of the advice for which I am asked falls under four main categories:

I.     Selection (of materials, of languages, etc.)
II.     Procedure and technique for study
III.     Planning and sequencing
IV.     Study habits and discipline

I immediately began fleshing this out and building it up systematically on my own, but then I forcibly stopped myself. I did this because I realized that one problem preventing me from bringing my main treatise to completion is the fact that I did not consider my audience as I wrote it – I essentially composed it for myself to get my ideas out of my head, but now I want to offer it to others, and so many things need to be rephrased. I do not want to make that same mistake here.

This outline is not really for me, it is for you, those who care to seek my counsel on language learning. So, I would like for you all to suggest as many headings, rubrics, topics, and sub-topics as you can for incorporation into a complete systematic outline, upon which I will then impose my own logical organization.

Thus, new comments that I make on such matters as sleep habits and study ability will go both into the discussion-like threads here, and into searchable skeletal form there.   At the same time, I would like to systematically rephrase and re-post the more essential writings that I have submitted here in the past. I know that some of you have somehow organized my “collected contributions” into a whole, and if someone could provide me with that, I would be most grateful.

Please, then, all you who are interested: enumerate and designate the topics that we have discussed in the past or that you would like to see discussed in the future.

Alexander Arguelles
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Joined 4255 days ago

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 Message 2 of 12
17 April 2009 at 6:01pm | IP Logged 

Edited by Sgt.Pepper on 16 March 2010 at 3:25am

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
Joined 4311 days ago

340 posts - 357 votes 
Speaks: English*, French

 Message 3 of 12
17 April 2009 at 11:23pm | IP Logged 
This sounds like an excellent idea, and I'm sure such a section on your website will prove to be very popular.

My top 'request' would be a section that deals specifically with tips on the study scheduling and management of several languages at once. I realise this issue has been dealt with on this forum many times before, but I think it would be good to have a comprehensive guide in one place.
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Super Polyglot
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Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 4 of 12
18 April 2009 at 7:46am | IP Logged 
If you search something on this site using the inbuilt search facility it will only give you a list of threads, - and with long threads that simply isn't enough. Instead you can use the advanced Google options: you can either write "site:" and then your search words in the box, or you can use the advanced facilites, where you have a separate field to limit searches to one domain or site. That being said I see forward to studying the proposed addition to your own website. In all modesty I also tried to collect some of my main ideas in a more concentrated form somewhere, so I put them in my profile thread. But you already have a well-stocked and informative homepage, and adding some kind of structured 'study manual' there would make it even better.

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United States
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 Message 5 of 12
19 April 2009 at 2:57pm | IP Logged 
Thank you Mr. Iversen et al. for the encouragement, but I must not have been clear enough yesterday: I was really asking for specific suggestions. I have been reorganizing a number of other pages on my site in systematic outline form as well, so if this whole idea interests you, please have a look at the way my languages and my links pages are beginning to look. I would like for the advice page to develop along these lines as well. You need not label anything as, e.g., II.C.4.b.ii - I will take care of that eventually - but I would like some input of suggestions for topic names, e.g.:
making best use of time while immersed abroad
developing study habits
changing sleep habits
scheduling and managing several languages at once

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Super Polyglot
Joined 5249 days ago

9078 posts - 16471 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 6 of 12
20 April 2009 at 8:07am | IP Logged 
Dear professor Arguelles

It is easy just to encourage others, it is harder to do something concrete to help somebody. Besides we are all accostumed to getting advice from you, not the other way round. But I'll try.

First, you have for better or for worse proposed some concrete study techniques, and even though you have written that you don't like to be identified with just these techniques they are the concrete foundation for the kind of immediate help you can give to others. So they should be clearly marked as "recommended study techniques" or something like that.

However each of these techniques have one or more goals, and they reside on a number of assumptions about the functioning of the brain.

Let's take a couple of examples. First the shadowing technique. Here you speak out loud at almost the same time as you hear something in a target language, and you do this while walking briskly. OK, somewhere in your system you should have a rubrique "the role of active movement", and in another section "the necessity of speaking out loud, contrary to just listening". This last one should clearly stand out as a parallel to "the necessity of writing, contrary to just reading". But there is one aspect more: you have in one of your videos mentioned that repeating after the source isn't as effective as speaking in unison with the source, so that should have its own paragraph. This gives the following rubriques:

Recommended techniques:
shadowing (with a precise description and answers to specific points about how to do things, including advice about the gadgets needed (MP3, walkman..))
scriptorium (idem)
time table

Reasons and background:
1) Be active
1.1:   why it is a good thing to be physically active while training language
1.2:   why it is a good thing to speak out loud instead of repeating silently
1.2a: ... or even worse, reading silently without pronouncing at least mentally
1.2b: (question: when is it safe to abandon the speaking part, i.e. when can/should you start speedreading?)
1.3:   why is it important to speak at the same time of the source instead of after
1.3a: (question: can you actually speak while listening?)
1.4:   why it is a good thing to copy by hand instead of just reading
1.4a: why writing by hand is better than using a keyboard
1.4b: why speaking while reading is good for you
1.4c: and when - if ever- can or should you stop (it might eventually hamper your speed reading!)

Alongside with the headline advice of being active there should be headline advices about ..

the benefits of strict timeplanning (and I would hope to see a discussion here of the benefits and dangers of choosing your activities on the fly, for instance because you have found an interesting TV program or a specific sentence construction)

the benefits of learning related languages (and this would include questions like the sequence of languages, when to start a new one, how to deal with dialects etc.)

the benefits of using quality sources, which in your case probably would lead to a plea for reading the major literary works, in my case to an advice about reading scientific magazines

Among the recommended techniques you should include some concrete techniques for augmenting your vocabulary, even though I understand that personally you more and more rely on learning words from your study materials. But for those that like to 'prepare' words through flashcards/digital counterparts or - in my case - wordlists, it would feel like a hole in the system not to see your comments to such techniques.

These techniques also lead to a discussion about the ways to make information stick in your memory. I would personally see this as a major point:
2) recall things instead of just repeating them endlessly in your mind
This includes advice like 'never write anything down before you have thought about something else' (if you can't recall the meaning of a word after 10 seconds spent on another activity then it is unlikely that you could do it after say two days).

And finally sections on...

Short- and longterm study planning:

how to define your goals ..
ways to assess your progress...
how to deal with 'dead periods' or brickwalls
how to deal with outside disturbances in your study program

and last but not least
how to choose the right study materials (this is a major one, - one principles should be stated here, but with references to your videos about concrete language learning systems) ... and what to do, if you can't find anything really good for your chosen language

I hope this will be of some help to you, even though the final system must reflect your views on language learning and not mine.

Niels Johs. Legarth Iversen

Edited by Iversen on 23 April 2009 at 9:52am

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

 Message 7 of 12
20 April 2009 at 12:22pm | IP Logged 

A couple more suggestions I'd like to see as specific topics, with a bit of repetition of some of Iversens points.

Developing a Language Strategy, including

  • Deciding on language learning goals

  • Identifying your learning strengths and weaknesses

  • Analysing your daily, weekly and monthly routines including sleep patterns

  • Integrating study into your daily, weekly and monthly routines

  • Estimating the task including differences between L1 and L2

  • Deciding what a study plan should achieve

  • Deciding when a study plan isn't working

Developing a Language Plan, including

  • Designing a study plan

  • Designing a study checklist and time tracker

  • Choosing materials, techniques and methods

  • Discussion on materials such as Assimil, TY, FSI, etc.

  • Discussion on techniques and methods such as shadowing, scriptorium, wordlists, etc.

Executing a Language Plan, including

  • Tuning and adapting a study plan to maximise learning

  • Monitoring of goals and successes

  • Maintaining discipline

  • Overcoming short term hurdles and study glitches

  • Lessons learnt for tackling the next language

Language Maintainance and Life Long goals

  • Developing a life long plan

  • Using great books

  • Overcoming long term hurdles and major life events

  • Sharing your lessons learnt to the polyglot community

  • The Polyglot Council of Elders

A number of these topics were inspired by the discipline of project management, and your advice to use a spreadsheet to track study time spent. Your advice has greatly aided my language learning.


Edited by DaraghM on 20 April 2009 at 12:25pm

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
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Speaks: English*, German
Studies: Italian, Dutch, Greek

 Message 8 of 12
20 April 2009 at 1:43pm | IP Logged 
"The Polyglot Council of Elders"...!? :-O

Mr Malone, is that a serious suggestion!?

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