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An Assimil Experiment

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magictom123
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 Message 33 of 51
07 February 2011 at 7:25pm | IP Logged 
Well, that's why I asked - there are others that talk of
thinking in the language very early on. I have dreamt in
Italian and could force myself to think simple thoughts in
the language. So, have you managed to have
conversations or interact in the language in any way?



jtdotto
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 Message 34 of 51
10 February 2011 at 6:48am | IP Logged 
In my experience, thinking in a language is more of a conscious choice than a natural phenomenon, at least
certainly before attaining an advanced ability in a given language. Once at this level, when conversing and writing in
the L2 it is often more natural and fluid to think in the L2 - sometimes you may not even realize you're doing it.



BartoG
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 Message 35 of 51
12 February 2011 at 6:55pm | IP Logged 
I'll have the latest update tomorrow, but to respond to the questions about exposure and thinking in a language...

I haven't found much for exposure to Alsatian as far as audio goes. As I noted above, I do pick through the Alsatian wikipedia. And I've been around other web pages as well, of course. I find that comprehension is a lot easier than production - surprise, surprise - but that if I'm reading about something that I've read about in the Assimil, I can glean a fair amount. So what's in Assimil, I'm picking up.

With respect to thinking in a language, jtdotto is largely right about thinking in a language being a conscious choice at earlier stages. At the very least, if you want to start thinking in the language sooner rather than later, you have to make a conscious choice to do so. When presented with a situation where I would know what to say in Alsatian, I make a conscious choice to remind myself and mentally role play it. This associates Alsatian thoughts with real life experiences so the next time I encounter the situation that association is there and waiting to be strengthened. This is mostly small stuff: "I want to eat now"; "I have to work now" but can extend to things like "I have a headache" or "I saw [so and so] at [such and such place]". Over time, however, it has become less unusual for an Alsatian thought to pop into my head out of the blue in my internal narrative.

I think part of the reason why advanced speakers think in their language is not just because of what they know, but more because they have a longer experience of expressing themselves and relating to the world in that language. That is, it's a matter of habit. You can't add more hours in a day, but you can decide how to use the ones you have. A lot of people look at this, and look for ways (with flashcards) etc to squeeze in more study time. But sometimes what you need is not more learning but more living. That is, if you want to think in the language, you don't need the ability to recall thousands of words in a study context. What you need is fewer words, but at the ready when the situation calls for it. Playing little games with yourself so that you're used to having those words at ready won't make you good or proficient with the language, but it will give the illusion of living in the language until it starts to become a reality. And then, you can start to "think" in the language naturally, even if those thoughts aren't always very useful or exciting.

One final thought on the thinking in a second language when you're not advanced: You're not going to be able to think at the same level as in your first language or a language you know well. There's no need to try. If you monitor your internal dialog, you'll find that you think a lot of relatively uninteresting thoughts over the course of a day: "Is it 5:00 yet?" "I need to stop at the grocery store" Make your start thinking mundane thoughts. Accept that your Alsatian (or whatever language) personality just won't have your scintillating intellect and flair for expression that you have as a native speaker (yet) ;) and revert to a tongue you're surer with when you need to do high level thinking. Ease into living life in your new language and bit by bit it will become a part of you.
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BartoG
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 Message 36 of 51
16 February 2011 at 6:50am | IP Logged 
Nineteenth update: 15 February 2011
Lesson 47 revised

Running a little bit slow with nasty headaches a couple days. And so I redid a few lessons. In particular, lessons about street sweepers and kitchen remodeling gave trouble. I'm not in the habit of talking about these in English, nor French, so the Alsatian lessons didn't take me too far. And it's a reminder of one of the limitations with the method: Vocabulary sticks for the things that come up here and there. But for things that don't come up so commonly, you get the sense that you ought to be able to go from French to Alsatian well enough since this so often happens and it goes with the Active Wave, yet here it doesn't. And so you remind yourself that coming up with the word for a mechanical street sweeper is not so important and blip over it.

I'd toss out that with no method should you expect to master every last thing taught, particularly those things that only come up once or twice. A benefit of Assimil is that you can soak up a lot without getting bogged down so often in deciphering idiotic phrases put together to illustrate grammar points. But you do have to let go of those things that if they don't come up often enough to stick may not be so important. A good case, by the way, against memorizing every dialog or inputting every phrase from Assimil or any other program into your SRS. Live the language and over time what's important will come up often enough to stick.
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BartoG
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 Message 37 of 51
22 February 2011 at 12:52am | IP Logged 
Twentieth update: 21 February 2011
Lesson 52 revised

Last week, I wrote about living the language and letting it start to stick. It's good to remember this, because some of the Active Wave lessons have been pretty slow going. But as I noted, knowing every Assimil phrase by rote is silly because the variety is there to help you pick up the structure and become acquainted with the language. It's not like memorizing the 50 most useful sentences from some phrase guide. This last week, I put more focus on reviewing the lessons in Alsatian and far less on reconstituting them from the French. It wasn't a deliberate choice, just a reality to be addressed because some of the vocabulary eluded me.

Over the weekend, I listened to the first two discs of Michel Thomas German. My thought was actually to revise my German and Alsatian, which is its own thing, wasn't a real consideration. But later, as I found myself muttering one of those longer sentences Thomas loved to drill, I wondered where my Alsatian stood. So:

Können Sie es mir bringen, denn ich brauche es heute.
Kenne-Se 's mer brénge, denn éch brüche 's héte.
Can you bring it to me, because I need it today.

Es tut mir Leid aber ich weiss nicht wo es ist; ich kann es nicht finden.
Es tuët mer Laid awer éch waiss nét wu 's ésch; éch ka 's nét fénde.
I am sorry but I do not know where it is; I cannot find it.

No promises that the German or the Alsatian are tip-top correct, especially as regards the accents on the Alsatian which I mainly know from Assimil's transcription system.

On the one hand this is sad: These sentences are learned in hours with Michel Thomas German so you'd hope that months of study of Alsatian would permit one to learn them! On the other hand, Assimil has no exercises of this kind. To drop into Michel Thomas style sentence building requires that a) you've been doing it with Michel Thomas right along or b) you have some structures and vocabulary floating around in your mind that you're ready to make use of. The Alsatian I put up there might be part-German and part of my own devising, but it shows that something has stuck that can be made use of outside of the Assimil context.

I'll continue revising German with Michel Thomas while building my Alsatian with Assimil, but I think this intersection was not without its uses: It gave me a context for coming up with Alsatian other than recreating the Assimil dialogs in order to activate my learning, and it gave me a way of verifying that I am learning. This is why, when possible, it's good to learn with different resources: not just for different perspectives or to make reviewing concepts more interesting, but also as a way of judging whether you're learning the language, or just learning to play along with the method.
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jtdotto
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 Message 38 of 51
23 February 2011 at 9:58pm | IP Logged 
I enjoy this log and it has inspired me to start my own Assimil experiments. I'm currently working through Spanish
With Ease and German With Ease back to back, adding a lesson a day, in total doing exactly 9 lessons of review and
one new one. Using a methodology described by Alexander Arguelles, these 10 lessons are broken up as follows: 1-
4 reading only the L2 text when necessary, repeating as much from mental text; 5-7 reading back and forth
between English and L2 to really let the meaning sink in; and 8-10 I read only the English while repeating what I
hear.

And much like you're doing BartoG, I do not do extra lessons to make up for a lost day. I pick right up where I had
left off, and I do not engage with the Assimil material for longer than 30 minutes each day (for each L2), though I
went onto SharedTalk last night and made an interesting first conversation in German and a little more advanced
conversation in Spanish.



BartoG
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 Message 39 of 51
01 March 2011 at 5:53am | IP Logged 
Twenty-first update: 28 February 2011
Lesson 56

I slowed down a bit this week, reviewing a couple lessons twice and missing a day. I've been reading a bit about memory and association, and I came across a very nice idea: While the memory associations we make must be vivid, they must make sense to us. Some people, of course, can do amazing memory associations, but I forget both the association and the item when I try this, whereas if there is a real connection among words it's a different ballgame. So something I'm going to try going forward is to build associations with phrases that strike me as useful for illustrating either an idiom or a point of grammar. The main idea is that while memorizing Assimil's content strikes me as over the top, there are things I remember because the phrase in which they appeared caught my attention. The question, then, is how to get my attention caught if it's something I need to remember but its illustration is not so, er, illuminating for me.
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BartoG
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 Message 40 of 51
07 March 2011 at 2:38am | IP Logged 
Twenty-second update: 6 March 2011
Lesson 61 completed

I'm a little bit more on my stride, but perhaps because my attention to full accuracy in reproduction is a little looser. A couple dialogs of late have involved a young child talking with a grandmother or grandfather, and while the words don't always come easily, the sense of the piece does. As a result, reading through them and trying to recapture them for translation back I have a sense of what the sentences are supposed to feel like, even when little words go missing.

I have also continued, on the side, with building Michel Thomas style sentences which gives me something to think about and a chance to practice the modals. This doesn't help with some of the little words, especially the prepositions, but I find it activating my brain to think a bit more in Alsatian where careful attention to being able to reproduce the dialogs - more memorization than language production at times - doesn't.



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