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"Myths" of foreign language learning

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nowneverends
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United States
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Speaks: English*
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 Message 1 of 72
23 April 2010 at 8:45pm | IP Logged 
http://antimoon.com/other/myths.htm

In my experience, some of these are completely true, but others only partially. The numbered statements are the ones that the article argues are false.

"Myth" 1. The best way to learn a foreign language is to go to a foreign country.
Sure, you won't automatically learn a foreign language by going to a foreign country, but maximizing input should accelerate learning. Output is another story, which brings me to:

Myth #2: "The best way to learn a foreign language is to speak it"
Myth #3: "It is OK to make mistakes"
Myth #4: "As a beginner, you're bound to make a lot of mistakes"
2-4. These are all variations on the same theme. Number 2 advocates passive learning before active, which makes sense. Number 3 takes it farther, saying that making mistakes should be avoided, even at the cost of not speaking at all. The argument is that producing incorrect sentences reinforces errors. He claims that once a sentence is reinforced, it is nearly impossible to change. I think that might be true when it comes to someone trying to learn enough to "get by" but if you are like many of the people on this forum, trying to become fully fluent, you will notice and correct your mistakes. Confidence in production is worth the possible mistake.

Myth #5: "You are a foreigner, therefore you will always have a foreign accent"
Myth #6: "If you didn't learn a foreign language as a child, you will never be fully proficient in its grammar"
Myth #7: "Studying pronunciation is not important"

The rest seem fine to me.
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Smart
Tetraglot
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 Message 2 of 72
23 April 2010 at 10:21pm | IP Logged 
Those are some odd myths. I have only heard the second one.
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tracker465
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 Message 3 of 72
24 April 2010 at 12:08am | IP Logged 
Myth #7: "Studying pronunciation is not important"

I agree with this myth pretty much. I have heard some pretty bad English pronunciations i my day, though I usually stick with the belief that if one is understandable, albeit with a foreign accent, then life is good and pronunciation should not be worried about. I have this attitude mainly because I have seen people who refuse to work with a language, until they acquire the perfect pronunciation, which seems silly to me. If I speak a foreign language and have an understandable, albeit not 100% correct, pronunciation, then I can comunicate, and as such, feel that it would be better to use my energy working the grammar and vocabulary aspects of the language, as opposed to devoting the time to perfect my accent. I guess it all is different for every individual, however.
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dolly
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 Message 4 of 72
24 April 2010 at 6:44am | IP Logged 
I think #7 just reflects the reality of high school language instruction: teachers do not have time to correct everyone's pronunciation.

I'd like to add a few:

"French and Italian are sophisticated/glamorous." I really wish these languages didn't have this baggage. People who learn French and Italian are not putting on airs. You, the language geek reading this thread right now, you know this already. But there are culturally-conservative, narrow-minded, monolingual people who think you're showing off if you don't keep your language-learning hobby a secret.

There are people who are frankly shocked that someone would learn a language for enjoyment. They think it's weird. Someone asked me what was in a package I received and I told them it was a Turkish language textbook. And they replied, "Learning all these languages is insane".

There are people who think that multilingualism is a great intellectual achievement. It prevents people from learning a new language because they don't think they're smart/gifted/young enough, and that's a shame.
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etracher
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 Message 5 of 72
24 April 2010 at 7:08am | IP Logged 
dolly wrote:
But there are culturally-conservative, narrow-minded, monolingual people who think you're showing off if you don't keep your language-learning hobby a secret.

There are people who are frankly shocked that someone would learn a language for enjoyment. They think it's weird. Someone asked me what was in a package I received and I told them it was a Turkish language textbook. And they replied, "Learning all these languages is insane".


This reminds me of an incident that occurred when I first started learning Italian. My grandmother mentioned to my aunt that I was studying Italian and planning to spend a semester abroad to study the language. Upon hearing this, my aunt gave me a haughty look and said, "Well, I suppose Italian is fine if English isn't good enough for you."
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Cainntear
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linguafrankly.blogsp
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 Message 6 of 72
24 April 2010 at 3:45pm | IP Logged 
How about http://www.babylonia-ti.ch/BABY207/PDF/mondria.pdf.

A professional academic whose myths are very different from those on Antimoon....
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josht
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 Message 7 of 72
24 April 2010 at 5:03pm | IP Logged 
I really dislike #3. I'm not quite sure how the Antimoon minds work, but if I say or write something incorrectly, even repeatedly, that doesn't mean I can't fix it later. It's absurd to me to think that if I said "Folg mich!" enough, I wouldn't be able to later learn that it's actually "Folg mir!"
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Cainntear
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linguafrankly.blogsp
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 Message 8 of 72
24 April 2010 at 8:53pm | IP Logged 
josht wrote:
I really dislike #3. I'm not quite sure how the Antimoon minds work, but if I say or write something incorrectly, even repeatedly, that doesn't mean I can't fix it later. It's absurd to me to think that if I said "Folg mich!" enough, I wouldn't be able to later learn that it's actually "Folg mir!"

I used to buy the idea of uncorrectable "fossilised errors" wholeheartedly, but I don't believe in it any more.

Why?
I learned several closely related languages -- Spanish, Italian and French. What is normal grammar in one is an error in another, and if errors could really get 100% fossilised I would now speak Spanish like a Frenchman, as I did to begin with.

Besides, the way it's described by the Antimoon guys doesn't make sense. They claim that we don't learn correct language by producing correct language, but that we learn mistakes by producing incorrect language. This is an incompatible paradox. There is no fundamental difference in how the brain deals with correct and incorrect language. A learner's language is a language -- just a language that no-one else actually speaks.
Now, I'm not claiming that the learner's incorrect English, for example, is a legitimate language -- no, the learner wants to learn English as it is spoken by other people.

My point is that if you can learn mistakes by making mistakes (due to lack of knowledge of the language) then it follows that you must be able to learn correct language by producing correct language (by applying knowledge of the language).

Their logical standpoint is internally inconsistent.


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