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Introverts and Extroverts

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 Message 33 of 59
19 November 2010 at 12:39am | IP Logged 
I've never known if I should describe myself as an extrovert or an introvert. The term ambivert might fit my personality better as I can sometimes talk for hours yet be completely silent at other times. Another reason the terms extrovert and introvert are inadequate for me is that I can be equally interested in both people and certain topics of conversation, it just depends on my mood at the time.
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
As a pathological chatter-box, who can make conversation with the telephone pole, I can hardly describe myself as introvert. I have however had the experience of being in a surrounding where people would try to push me into speaking, when I had absolutely no wish to speak. At the age of 18 I returned to the village in Spain where I had grown up as a child, but having focused on French for two years, my Spanish was almost gone.

I did however tag along with my friends, and on Sundays after church, about 30 of us would go to a bar, and I would be surrounded by Andalusian Spanish at a speed I was unable to follow, so I would just sit there and keep my mouth shut. Inevitably, at some point, the conversation would come to a halt for a moment, and someone would say: "Hey, Cristina, say something". 30 Andalusians would look at me, expecting me to speak, at which point my mind inevitably went completely blank, and I could not speak to save my life. Fortunately, it only took 3 months before I was up to speed again, and after that there were times I think they would have wished I was back in my mute period. :-)
Isn't that annoying when people expect you to comment on something and you can't? My somewhat similar experience was a conversation about hunting deer and flyfishing. I've never gone hunting or flyfishing so I had nothing to add to the conversation; but since I am known for sometimes talking a lot, the other people present immediately assumed there must be something wrong with me because I didn't say much.

Edited by mick33 on 19 November 2010 at 2:11am

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 Message 34 of 59
19 November 2010 at 1:11am | IP Logged 
Splog wrote:
Given this, what advise can we give to introverts to help them develop their active

If you want to become a good speaker, you need to practice with someone. Being an introvert or an extravert
doesn't change that.
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 Message 35 of 59
19 November 2010 at 1:51am | IP Logged 
An introvert is somebody who's drained by social interaction, not somebody who doesn't like to talk a lot or anything to do with what topics are being discussed. For example, I could go on for hours if I was interested in a conversation, and have a great time doing so, but it'll still drain me. I need to get away and be alone with my thoughts.

Conversely, extraverts can spend time alone, but have to get out and socialize after a while, even if it's small talk because that's what energizes them. I agree they probably don't really like small talk either, but if it's all that's available they're more likely to take it.

As for what an introvert can do to develop their active vocabulary, I'm going to second writing. Not just any writing, but writing to people online, in forums like this if possible. That way you can find the topic you actually want to talk about, and you can disengage if you have to. It's even possible to find someone you want to talk with more, and then you could potentially have a conversational partner as well, because speaking is important too.

Edited by hjordis on 19 November 2010 at 1:53am

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Li Fei
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 Message 36 of 59
19 November 2010 at 2:36am | IP Logged 
From what I've read, you are right about how introverts gain energy from solitude while extroverts gain it
from interaction. I lean toward introversion, but as much as I like your suggestion about writing forum posts
to interact, I don't think it'll work for me yet. My Mandarin skills aren't there yet, so I'd probably do better
stumbling through a few polite Pimsleur phrases verbally. I can't wait to get better at reading and writing!
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 Message 37 of 59
19 November 2010 at 3:19am | IP Logged 
Ah, yeah, that's also a problem when one is a beginner and self studying. In classes they usually at least make you talk. I still suggest using the internet, but instead a language exchange. Someone who wants to speak your native language, but is willing to speak theirs with you for a short while at the beginning. Since you don't have enough vocabulary to go much further they'll still get their practice in too.

This can be harder to do, since you have to search through all the people for someone who shares your interests, and then following through and contacting them, and keeping contact. I also have trouble with this. I don't like it as much as writing, but it's at least still more on your own terms, as you can decide when you talk(as long as they're online) and when you don't feel like it.

I'm sure you'd already thought of that though.
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 Message 38 of 59
19 November 2010 at 7:24am | IP Logged 
I don't get why there is a "problem"

I am a total introvert and I do fine with conversation. I just have introvert style conversations in a personal, meaningful environment as opposed to massive amounts of people chit-chatting about meaningless things, which drain me.

Introvert is about quality over quantity...I don't see that being at odds with acquiring language. If anything, introverts have longer sustaining power in deep conversations, vital to acquiring vocab.

However if you are shy, then yes you may have a problem in this regard.
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 Message 39 of 59
19 November 2010 at 9:24am | IP Logged 
hjordis wrote:
An introvert is somebody who's drained by social interaction, not
somebody who doesn't like to talk a lot or anything to do with what topics are being

if you are referring to my previous post, I was talking about situations when social
interaction actually happen (that socialising is tiring for introverts is a separate
story). I do think that in a social interaction introvert is more interested in the
topic, purpose of the interaction, than interaction itself (compared to an extrovert).

I guess people who could experience problems in language learning are introverts who have
to get to oral fluency quickly (not just learning a language out of enjoyment) and shy
extroverts. In other cases goals and preferred learning methods are much more compatible.
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 Message 40 of 59
19 November 2010 at 12:28pm | IP Logged 
I'm increasingly starting to see a relationship between active language skills and playing strategy board games (like Go or Chess).

When playing Go or Chess, knowing the basic rules is not enough to play well. While you can calculate out a couple of moves, no one ever gets good just by learning those basic rules. What distinguishes the better players is that they automatically only consider the "good" moves, and can find a good move much faster.

In conversation, one can memorize all the grammar rules one wants, and perhaps you could calculate out a sentence based on grammar rules, but it'd be painfully slow. In the same sense as Chess and Go, the experts have a natural feeling for good sentences, and they just "come out" without thinking too much.

It's my hypothesis that these are related to development of your brain with this new skill. You need to do some type of repeated deliberate practice to burn in some new pathways or something. In Go, you get good by solving practice problems, and imagining the stones in your head. Some people say you should just get better by playing more games, but that's much slower progress for almost anyone. Doing targeted practice problems is superior, because you can find a bunch that aim for the same concept, and practice until you're good at that concept, whereas it might only rarely be found in your games.

So, since I can, as a Go player, get much better at Go without playing any games with other people, merely by doing individual deliberate practice, how can we apply this to languages?

Firstly, let's assume that you already have decent pronunciation (at least according to knowledge and production of all the sounds). If not, then do that first. Given that, I think step one is just reading out loud. You have some predefined content, so the bottleneck is not in coming up with material, and you just read it out and try to get it smooth. This will get you used to producing the language at a real speed. In all the languages I've studied, I experience a time period where I can pronounce everything very well if I'm doing it one or two words at a time, but for several sentences at regular speed, I get a lot worse. So, simple practice reading out loud.

Next, now that you can utter multiple sentences correctly when they're already supplied, you want to work on your ability to produce those sentences. I think this relates well to the task in Go (and I suppose Chess) of having to practice imagining the next 3, 4, 5 moves in advance in your head. It's hard at first, but improves with practice.

So one thing to start off with is to imagine some situation you might encounter, and then work out a bunch of things that you can say in that situation...which will probably take some time at first. Then, you can act out the situation while visualizing it in your head. Pretend it's actually happening, and then try to give the response naturally, and imagine what the other person is saying next, etc. Basically, self role-playing and working through a number of scenarios so that you'll be prepared when those scenarios come up.

This has the added effect of confidence, which is something I find quite important. When you actually get into one of these situations in real life, then you can quickly respond because of your practice. Given the confidence that comes from this familiarity with the situation, you can allow yourself to feel relaxed as the conversation proceeds, and hopefully you'll be better able to draw on your passive vocabulary as things get more difficult.

Along with situational practice, I think one should also practice structural practice, where you work on some sort of sentence pattern and try to substitute other things in. What immediately comes to mind for me is logical connectives. The conversations I prefer are the ones where we're discussing something of interest to me, and I want to make a point about my opinion, or perhaps argue against someone else's opinion (like, say, on a language forum ;).

Practicing logical connectives and explanations will be very helpful, no matter what the conversation topic is. There's certain vocabulary necessary, and certain sentence forms, and they apply to almost anything, so you need to have them well-practiced so they come out fast and naturally. Then you can pause, if necessary, to search your passive vocab for whatever the difficult words might be, but the rest of the sentence will flow well.

So, in summary, come up with ways to practice on your own in such a way that you are pretending that this realistic scenario is happening, and you're trying to make the words flow. You should research the words that are likely to happen in these scenarios and practice saying them genuinely, so as to build up your active abilities with them. Also, once is not enough. You need to do this many many times in order to really burn it into your brain. If the strategy games are indeed a proper analogy, then thousands of practice runs will be necessary.

Some people seem to find it easier to try and gain this practice purely through going to bars or cafes and talking to real people, and a certain amount of that is necessary, but I firmly believe that a lot can be achieved by deliberate practice alone in the comfort of your own home.

Oh, and one last thing, while I'm on the topic of games. I also find it much easier to practice a language when there are not as many expectations placed on me, and I've found that this is the case when playing board games! Play a game of Settlers of Catan or Agricola or something, and try playing the game entirely in your language. Describe what you're doing ("I'm drawing two cards, and discarding one of them"). The speech required is very formulaic, and nobody expects you to say something deep and meaningful, or even to follow up anything you've said. You have fun playing the game, and it's a low-pressure practice situation too :)

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