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I have spoken to Ziad Fazah

 Language Learning Forum : Polyglots Post Reply
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guitarob
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 Message 9 of 104
10 November 2011 at 2:42pm | IP Logged 
I am basically curious about what he means by "go over his other languages before he could use them actively". How long is this process of "going over them"? how many hours? to me "speaking" a language means being able to use it anytime. How can someone say they speak X language if they can't even understand simple questions like the ones they asked in the chile video)?
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lichtrausch
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 Message 10 of 104
10 November 2011 at 3:37pm | IP Logged 
guitarob wrote:
I am basically curious about what he means by "go over his other languages before he could use them actively". How long is this process of "going over them"? how many hours? to me "speaking" a language means being able to use it anytime. How can someone say they speak X language if they can't even understand simple questions like the ones they asked in the chile video)?

Yes. It would have been understandable if he had not been able to answer the questions in the language they were asked. But he clearly didn't even understand the questions. Which means he not only didn't have active abilities in the languages, but also didn't have passive ability.
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smallwhite
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 Message 11 of 104
10 November 2011 at 3:52pm | IP Logged 
guitarob wrote:
I am basically curious about what he means by "go over his other languages before he could use them actively". How long is this process of "going over them"? how many hours? to me "speaking" a language means being able to use it anytime. How can someone say they speak X language if they can't even understand simple questions like the ones they asked in the chile video)?


If it takes me 2 years to learn French to B2 and him 2 days to revise French to B2, I say he speaks French.

Come on, who on earth would constantly maintain all their languages? We're talking about 59 languages here. What for? Just to satisfy (irrelant) people that he can speak all those language at each and every point in time of his life?
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guitarob
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 Message 12 of 104
10 November 2011 at 4:57pm | IP Logged 
@smallwhite year and days are a bad way to measure, because everybody studies a different amount of hours in a year, month or day. If he can revise french to B2 in 2 days(as in 48 hours of study) that means he should be able to at least understand basic questions in french without having to do that "refresh" session (which he was not able to do in that video).
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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 13 of 104
10 November 2011 at 5:18pm | IP Logged 
guitarob wrote:
I am basically curious about what he means by "go over his other languages before he could use them actively". How long is this process of "going over them"? how many hours? to me "speaking" a language means being able to use it anytime. How can someone say they speak X language if they can't even understand simple questions like the ones they asked in the chile video)?


I can ask him about it the next time I call him, but I think it is a matter of definition. I would think that we on the forum feel we need to have a fairly good level before we say that we speak a language. At least B1. Most other people would probably say that you speak a language once you can communicate in a simple way and get basic meanings across - let us say A2. Let us assume that when he learned all those languages years ago, he learned most of them to A2/B1 - and some of them to C1-C2. Over the years he has not had the possibility to practise most of the languages. This means that the ones that he gets to use, Arabic, French, German, English and Spanish and perhaps some others, he has to a C1-C2 level, but the ones he has had less occasion to use will have fallen more or less into oblivion and will be somewhere between A1 and A2. That means that if he has occasion to practise and review them, he can fairly quickly get to a stage where he can talk them again, which is why he feels he can say that he speaks them.

This is only my theory, of course, but it would explain some of the inconsistencies.

The only language I have spoken with him which is outside the ones he commonly uses, is Italian. We had no problem keeping up a conversation in Italian, but of course none of us had used Italian much for the last 20-30 years. It was a flowing, if not fluent, conversation. If it is typical of how he speaks the other lesser used languages, then I would say he has a good level, and he can most certainly say he speaks them, but of course I have no way of saying whether Italian is one of his strongest or weakest "lesser used language".

So I think we are dealing with two different definitions of "speak a language". He, of course, feels his is the correct one, we feel that ours is.

Edited by Solfrid Cristin on 12 November 2011 at 8:29am

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Solfrid Cristin
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 Message 14 of 104
10 November 2011 at 5:42pm | IP Logged 
lichtrausch wrote:
guitarob wrote:
I am basically curious about what he means by "go over his other languages before he could use them actively". How long is this process of "going over them"? how many hours? to me "speaking" a language means being able to use it anytime. How can someone say they speak X language if they can't even understand simple questions like the ones they asked in the chile video)?

Yes. It would have been understandable if he had not been able to answer the questions in the language they were asked. But he clearly didn't even understand the questions. Which means he not only didn't have active abilities in the languages, but also didn't have passive ability.


There are a number of factors which can make you fail in a setting like that. The only one he explicitely mentioned to me in our conversation, was that he did not know that he was going to be tested at all, and that he was partly in shock to be put in a situation like that.

We all know what it is like to get at an exam, and forget everything we have learned. In Norwegian we call it "getting the iron curtain", because it is like an iron curtain hides all our knowledge from us. Imagine not being at an exam, but on TV in front of X million viewers - that might give anybody the jitters. I say I speak German and Italian, but I do not know if I would have deared to in front of a live audience. We must also keep in mind that he was translating to and from a language which was neither his own (Arabic) nor the one he speaks on a daily basis (Portuguese).

It as also a well known fact, that if you are in a state of shock, you can completely forget things that you know well. Torbyrne mentioned once that after the Tsunami in Thailand there was a big demand for Scandianavian interpreters, because a lot of Scandinavians, who usually spoke English very well, were unable to speak it because of the shock. I read somewhere else, that he also had difficulty hearing the speakers.

All in all, a lot of reasons why this could go as badly as it did.
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smallwhite
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 Message 15 of 104
10 November 2011 at 5:46pm | IP Logged 
smallwhite wrote:
If it takes me 2 years to learn French to B2 and him 2 days to revise French to B2, I say he speaks French.

guitarob wrote:
@smallwhite year and days are a bad way to measure, because everybody studies a different amount of hours in a year, month or day. If he can revise french to B2 in 2 days(as in 48 hours of study) that means ...


I'm not going to reply you by saying that hours are a bad way to measure because everybody studies a different amount of minutes in an hour.

"If he can revise french to B2 in 2 days (as in 48 hours of study)" that means he can be at B2 every other days in his life if he wants to. Does that bother people??

Edited by smallwhite on 10 November 2011 at 5:48pm

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Leurre
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 Message 16 of 104
10 November 2011 at 5:50pm | IP Logged 
Solfrid,
Different definitions of 'speaking a language', sure.
Somehow not being able to understand the question 'what day is it today?' in a language
you say you speak, stretches matters incredibly, and that was the whole shock of the
Chile video.
You say that over the years he has not had the opportunity to practice many of his
languages, and that some have "fallen more or less into oblivion"; very well. At which
point to say that he knew, say, Russian, or Chinese, is not the same as to say that he
knows Russian or Chinese.
I like to think that my criticism of Ziad Fazah is not founded on some high-brow my-
standards-are-better-than-yours attitude (if not logic), but rather on the idea that
words have to have a meaning, and one saying that he or she speaks a language, but then
can't actually say anything in it, calls one into question.


Edit: (I'd rather not double-post)

"If he can revise french to B2 in 2 days (as in 48 hours of study)" that means he
can be at B2 every other days in his life if he wants to. Does that bother people??


For me it's not that it bothers me... but it means that there is a time when he is at a
certain level, and a time when he is not. Saying that you have the skills to hold a
conversation in a language, but only if you study beforehand, is akin to saying "I'm
free every day of the week, except Friday".
Which means, that you're NOT free every day of the week, yeah?

Edited by Leurre on 10 November 2011 at 5:57pm



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