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What impresses you?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
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 Message 17 of 73
13 November 2011 at 1:58am | IP Logged 
smallwhite wrote:
I'm most impressed by effort spent, regardless of results.

You beat me to it, though I wanted to say: I respect the effort spent, especially when it's obvious that something is difficult for a particular person.

I'm impressed by people who just know a little and go out to find situation where they can practice it; because that something I could never do. I'm impressed by impostors, even though I don't have any respect for them.

But I'm impressed by people - and respect them - who clearly have put in a lot of effort but stay modest and want to improve even more.

It doesn't really depend on the target language, though I believe that any language that's spoken by a close-knit community takes more effort to learn because you have to be accepted by members of that community. I probably have more respect for Germans who grew up in Germany and learnt to speak Swiss German fluently as adults than I have for Germans who speak English really well.
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 Message 18 of 73
13 November 2011 at 11:58am | IP Logged 
I'm impressed by most of what has been stated here already: people who have a high level
of proficiency in a language; those who are proficient in numerous unrelated languages; a
great amount of effort and persistence, etc.

And I'm very impressed by people who can read scripts other than the Latin one, even a
script as comparatively easy to learn as, say, Cyrillic. To me, making meaning out of
something that I find virtually inscrutable is an impressive feat.
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 Message 19 of 73
13 November 2011 at 1:06pm | IP Logged 
I'm most impressed when someone genuinely enjoys learning what they do, and is an actual
hobby for them. I've a friend who is one of those "learn a few phrases in this and that
and try to impress everyone". He turns our shared L2 into a competition, which I hate,
and doesn't impress me.
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 Message 20 of 73
13 November 2011 at 4:05pm | IP Logged 
The good thing about being late to new threads is how much useful/interesting/fun things others have said that you can read right away; the down side is that's so little left for you to say... :)

I truly respect effort but, at the risk of sounding snooty, it doesn't impress me (positively, anyway) that you don't have something to show for it. If you talk about hard to please, well, here I am. Now, please don't misunderstand me, but I'm often amazed at how easily others are impressed by the most mundane things (once you have a bit of background information, that is), so I've ended up being a bit more sceptical than your average Joe.

What is Impressive to me? The highest achievement/effort ratio. Speaking like a caveman (or cavewoman) after years of study tells me you probably didn't pick the most efficient method. Doing the same after going through some book while in flight to destination, well, that's impressive (and a true true story, BTW: a Swiss German partner of mine did it before landing with me at the uni). Speaking n languages? Not if that's less than everyone else in the family.

Unfortunately, background info is not always available, and I [have to try not to] set 'insanely high' standards if I have to judge from achievements alone to be impressed. The good news is, everything I'm about to say has happened more than once, so there are some truly amazing people out there (and hope for me :)
So, without more dilation:

-Particularly appropriate word choice (as in 'knows a dozen ways to say it but that is it').
-Accentless speech (as in 'no regional accents'), the more if it's not your native language.
-Correcting someone in a [near-]native language. Points for saying it right first and sparing others the embarrassment of saying it wrong.
-Giving that witty/accomplice look when you get a pun / change of subject / word play / hidden nuance and others didn't. Extra points if those others are natives.
-Adding 'do I have to explain it?' on top of the above. A zillion points if the others are natives.

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 Message 21 of 73
14 November 2011 at 3:21am | IP Logged 
Effort and skill are impressive, but most of all, I think passion is impressive. When people learn for enjoyment, whether they become fluent (whatever your conception of fluent may be) or not.

Yesterday, my four-year-old nephew was sitting with me talking. He said, 'I can speak English.' I laughed, knowing he probably meant something else. 'What words do you know in English?' I asked him. He then said something unrecognisable. It took me a while to figure out he was trying to say 'bonjour.' His accent was mangled, but he knew he was saying 'hullo' in another language. He said, 'I can say thank you', and approximated 'merci'. It didn't matter to him whether it was right or wrong, he was just so happy to playing with foreign words. I taught him a few more words, including 'good bye'. At the end of the day as he was leaving, he called out to me 'au revoir!' That impresses me! The language was for him a toy, something fun to play with.
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 Message 22 of 73
14 November 2011 at 3:41am | IP Logged 
1.Learning any language to high level fluency and accuracy without ever living in the country. If you live there for years, I'd say it's part of the deal to learn (even with a strong accent etc,) and the opposite is stupid as it is more often not trying than being unable to learn (but I may be wrong and naive of course).

2.Anyone learning Czech and especially learning it to a good level. There are so many beautiful languages and despite my love for my native one, I don't understand most of the learners' motivations. But I am excited to find out you are there and if I can help (for exemple by corrections at Italki or by an advice) I'm always trying my best.

That applies partially to all the minor languages with just ten millions of speakers or even less or much less. Perhaps one of the definitions of a true language lover might be "a person who has the same chances to accidentally meet a native of their target language and win a lottery".

3.Learning several various languages to high level. I don't mind accent as long as pronunciation is understandable without troubles. But the correct grammar, vast vocabulary, no difficulty with speaking or writing in quite whatever combination of languages, that will fascinate me.

4.Anyone better at learning than I am, which is unfortunately not that hard. I don't mean someone learning faster and remembering easier or just knowing more. I mean people less lazy, able to learn regularly, with more discipline and less procrastination and losing focus. That applies not only to languages. I admire such people and hope that one day I might get to their level.

5.Anyone brave enough to start and keep learning a very different language. The more if there are little chances it will "pay off".
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 Message 23 of 73
14 November 2011 at 4:33am | IP Logged 
What would impress me most is someone who goes off the beaten path and learns to fluency a language that is
both difficult and uncommon. As an example, with so many Chinese people learning English, what if a Chinese
person were to learn Mongolian and get up to fluency? Or a Russian person getting fluent in Georgian, or an
American getting fluent in Navajo as a second language?
On subject of accent, the speaker of a foreign language should be close to native accent, and be able to
understand most of what other people are saying and writing in the L2.

Now, here are some things that won't impress me, and other posters have covered some of the same points.
1. Fake polyglots -- For lack of a better term, people who claim fluency in multiple languages but in reality only
have a survival level command of the languages and not full mastery.
2. A person who claims to be "conversational" but admits he/she can't read in the language or understand the
natives. I admit that I'm in that area with regards to my Korean and have to put in a lot more effort before I can
fully understand the Koreans and read without the help of a dictionary.
3. Show offs -- enough said.

As far as amount of effort or time spent on the language, it would be impressive if someone is enough of a
genius to reach fluency in Korean in less time than I've spent on it. But I am suspicious of anybody who claims
fluency in a Category 4 language after spending a few years of study.

Edited by skeeterses on 14 November 2011 at 4:36am

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 Message 24 of 73
14 November 2011 at 7:03am | IP Logged 
skeeterses wrote:
2. A person who claims to be "conversational" but admits he/she can't read in the language or understand the natives. I admit that I'm in that area with regards to my Korean and have to put in a lot more effort before I can
fully understand the Koreans and read without the help of a dictionary.

There is a vast difference between being conversational and being able to read in a language. The vocabulary needed for conversation is pretty small, whereas that of litterary works can be pretty huge. Not to mention there are many languages (such as Mandarin, Cantonese and Japanese) where litteracy takes hundreds of hours of extra practice. I can't see the problem with claiming you're conversational if you can actually converse. Even if you have to say "Huh?" and "Could you slow down, please?", if you can have a conversation, you're conversational in my book.

Same thing with fluency. Since there's no technical definition of fluency, I'll accept whoever claims to be fluent as such, even if he/she only knows a single word. There's a level of vitriol on this forums with regards to people who exaggerate their language abilities that is normally reserved for murderers and rapists. Three points from me:

1: If someone claims C1 when they're actually A2 or whatever, yeah, that's lying. If someone uses fuzzy words like "fluent" or "speaks" or "conversational", you can't hold them to your definitions. You're wrong and they're right, plain and simple.
2: Their claims do not make your efforts any less worth. Try to find appreciation in your own sense of accomplishment, regardless of the claims and abilities of others.
3: Overconfidence is an aid to success. This applies to many situations, but I'm pretty sure it applies even more to language learning.

This post isn't meant just as a reply to skeeterses, but rather as a response to the general atmosphere on this forum with regards to these issues. Yes, if people are making money through objectively false claims it's wrong and illegal. But if they're just guilty of exaggerating their own accomplishments, they're at most guilty of a personality flaw, and probably they're not themselves aware they're doing it. And it doesn't make their actual accomplishments one iota less impressive.

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