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Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 - 1890)

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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ProfArguelles
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 Message 9 of 30
29 March 2005 at 2:10am | IP Logged 
Wright's biography does make for interesting reading. In it, Burton is specifically quoted as saying he knows 28 or 29 languages at various points in his life. There can be no doubt that he knew a great many hard exotic tongues so well that he could pass as a native, and in the context, it is truly fascinating that he was never able to get the hang of either German or Russian.
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Farley
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 Message 10 of 30
21 February 2007 at 2:52pm | IP Logged 
There has been some talk on the forum about not using prepackaged courses, and how to go about getting to the core of a language quickly. I remembered the “Burton Method” and thought I would give the topic a bump.

John

heartburn wrote:
In chapter 2 of The Life of Sir Richard Burton, by Thomas Wright, Burton says..

"I got a simple grammar and vocabulary, marked out the forms and words which I knew were absolutely necessary, and learnt them by heart. ... I never worked more than a quarter of an hour at a time, for after that the brain lost its freshness. After learning some three hundred words, easily done in a week, I stumbled through some easy book-work and underlined every word that I wished to recollect. ... Having finished my volume, I then carefully worked up the grammar minutiae, and I then chose some other book whose subject most interested me. The neck of the language was now broken, and progress was rapid. If I came across a new sound, like the Arabic Ghayn, I trained my tongue to it by repeating it so many thousand times a day. When I read, I invariably read out loud, so that the ear might aid memory. I was delighted with the most difficult characters, Chinese and Cuneiform, because I felt that they impressed themselves more strongly upon the eye than the eternal Roman letters."

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frenkeld
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 Message 11 of 30
23 February 2007 at 10:37am | IP Logged 
One interesting aspect of his method is rote memorization - instead of going for some type of natural acquisition of vocabulary, he opts for conscious memorization at least in the early beginner stage described in the quote above.

Also, I have an impression that in the old days the word "grammar" was also used for what nowadays we would think of as more of a grammar-translation textbook - it didn't always mean just a reference grammar.




Edited by frenkeld on 25 February 2007 at 2:47pm

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Topsiderunner
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 Message 12 of 30
01 October 2007 at 4:15pm | IP Logged 
I just got an excellent biography of Burton entitled "The Devil Drives" by Fawn Brodie with some further bits about his polyglot career. Apparently he only dove into Arabic after he failed to win a fellowship in a Greek and Latin exam at Oxford:

"Along with his biterness against the language examiners, Burton had developed too a raging contempt for their teaching methods...(Burton's own description posted earlier in the thread is here)...Burton readily admitted the distinction between "learning" a language and mastery of it. And he pointed out, too, that he would forget the most recently learned language when attacking a new one. The Arabic begun at Oxford certainly did not have its neck broken in two months."

After being expelled from Oxford he joined the army in India:

"'I threw myself with a kind of frenzy upon my studies,' he wrote. 'I kept up the little stock of Arabic that I had acquired at Oxford, and gave some twelve hours a day to a desperate tussle with Hindustani.'"

Burton passes an exam first out of twelve in Hindi in April 1843 and becomes a regimental interpreter:

"Immediately he plunged into the study of Gujarti, which was spoken by the local Parsees, and began elementary lessons in Sanscrit...In the next year he passed first in Marathi...Late in 1844 he took up Persian, and eventually went on to Sindi, Punjabi, Telugu, Pashto, Multani, Armenian and Turkish...Burton was not a pedant with languages but a libertine - mastering, using, abandoning."
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William Camden
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 Message 13 of 30
05 October 2007 at 3:05pm | IP Logged 
heartburn wrote:
Just to put Mr. Hawke's book in perspective, here are a few other fine titles from the same publisher:

- DEA Stash And Hideout Handbook
- Do-It-Yourself Submachine Gun
- Screw Unto Others : Revenge Tactics For All Occasions
- Expedient Homemade Firearms
- Special Forces Operational Techniques
- KGB Alpha Team Training Manual
- Interrogation: Techniques And Tricks To Secure Evidence
- How To Make A Silencer For A .22
- U.S. Marines Close-Quarter Combat Manual
- EOD Improvised Explosives Manual
- How To Make A Silencer For A .45
- How Big Brother Investigates You
- U.S. Army Sniper Training Manual
- How To Open Locks Without Keys Or Picks
- SEAL Sniper Training Program

[:[] I guess mercenaries need language skills too.


I like the "Screw Unto Others" and "Techniques and Tricks to Secure Evidence". I'm surprised there is no "How to use human body parts as furniture".

More seriously, I posted on another thread about South Korean troops in the Vietnam War learning pidgin Vietnamese as a matter of routine so they could do without Vietnamese interpreters, who they did not trust and sometimes killed. Probably they learned Vietnamese in much the same "tactical" way favoured by Hawke and perhaps Burton.
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mcjon77
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 Message 14 of 30
07 October 2007 at 8:40am | IP Logged 
Because one of the primary jobs of U.S. Army Special Forces is to train foreign nationals (either Foreign soldiers fighting guerrillas, or foreign guerrillas fighting soldiers) all Army Special Forces trainees and soldiers are required to take foreign language training and maintain proficiency in that language. So it would make sense that at least a few of them would come up with their own method for learning the basics quickly.
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William Camden
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 Message 15 of 30
08 October 2007 at 10:14am | IP Logged 
His book interests me, and I am thinking of ordering it. Learning the basics of a foreign language quickly (not real fluency - that would take much more time) might be something it could help with. At the same time, I have no burning desire to meet the guy socially, or for that matter, any employee of Blackwater.
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manny
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 Message 16 of 30
08 October 2007 at 11:09am | IP Logged 
mcjon77 wrote:
... all Army Special Forces trainees and soldiers are required to take foreign language training and maintain proficiency in that language. ...

Yep, you are right - language and culture.

U.S. Army Special Forces is divided into five Active Duty Special Forces Groups. Each Active Duty SFG has a specific regional focus. The Special Forces soldiers assigned to these groups receive intensive language and cultural training for countries within their regional area of responsibility.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Army_Special_Forc es#Training_and_selection


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