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Tarvos - TAC 2015 Pushkin/Scan

 Language Learning Forum : Language Learning Log Post Reply
1511 messages over 189 pages: << Previous 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 ... 164 ... 188 189 Next >>
tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1305 of 1511
24 December 2014 at 10:31pm | IP Logged 
So how do I practice writing in a coherent fashion?

You figure out what you want to write about and you write about that. And the key
thing is that you figure out what you want to write about BEFORE you put pen to paper
because otherwise it's going to be a long, dull evening staring at your keyboard that
could be better spent partying with TL speakers. And that's if you hate partying as
much as I do.

So. The thing is that you need to start with a theme, an idea, which you're going to
work out later. Something that makes your brain bells ring and think and go "that's
cool!" This could be telling a story about your day, but once you get past the bit
where you've mentioned how fluffy Fido was when you cuddled him today, it's not going
to last very long. It could be a ten-page essay on botany (not my personal favourite).
The point is that you're going to introduce this theme in the first paragraph (the
first!) so that we all know what topic you're going to be talking about.

Then you're going to use that paragraph to explain what the hell you want to do with
that topic. This is especially important if you're writing a longer text (less if
you're doing a column or a blog-entry type thing where rambling is a lot more common).
But the point is that the tone of the first paragraph should make clear to anyone
reading your work what you're going to do. That's why that paragraph is so important.
Every other paragraph (except the concluding one) is always going to build on the
premise you introduce there.

No cheaty-cheaty! Don't try and put it in the second/third/whateverth paragraph, it
doesn't work. People generally read the first paragraph first and they quit if that
doesn't interest them, so the purpose has to be in there! If you need a second
paragraph to explain the purpose of your text, you're writing a pretty long piece
already and then you need to look at your professor/editor/whoever told you to write
15 pages in Quechua.

The last paragraph is also key because in it you will want to refer to your first
paragraph somehow and tie the knot so to speak. Note that this is very hard if you're
only writing a few paragraphs, so you might have to make the reference a little short
or concise. But that's okay, because conciseness is a virtue.

So what you end up having is


paragraph 1 - why?
paragraph 2, 3.... n-1 all this stuff explaining the why in coherent terms
paragraph N (final) conclude and check if you did what you set out to do in 1.

In some styles of text, like a formal application letter, this takes very specific
rules and you can just follow the guidelines for how cover letters work, but even if
you do free writing you need to have some semblance of this structure intact because
otherwise No One Is Going To Want to Read It. Not even the guy on lang-8 who corrected
the neighbour's awful Chinese text.

But a paragraph is really short? How do I shove my thoughts into a paragraph?

You formulate a key sentence and you open the paragraph with it. If you're a really
advanced writer (that is, not me, a professional journalist or something) then you
know all of this already and you can play with it, but if you're not, like me, then
the first sentence of the paragraph's the one that does the heavy lifting. The rest
just supports him. "Key sentence: - cause - consequence - extra information - so final
thought leading into the next paragraph".

You split the paragraph where your thoughts can be reliably separated into two. Like
in this text; the paragraph above is about formulating Key Sentences and this one is
about Splitting Them. Got it? Good.

The key is that every paragraph logically tacks onto the previous one, or onto one
before that (but then make sure the order isn't random and you tie two thought lines
together). Some people like explaining the layout of an essay in the first paragraph
entirely, but I'd do that more if it was an academic piece - I forego that crap if
it's a blog entry. If it's a newspaper article then I would mention it, by the way.
Those articles tend to have very fixed structures.

I tend to write pieces that are about five to six paragraphs long (something around
one A4 page is good enough). They can be a bit longer if there are more thoughts in
your brain to work out, or shorter if writing that much is too exhausting from looking
up words, but pick a length that isn't too long so that you don't exhaust yourself
while writing (or pick the length your exam stipulates if that's why you're doing it).
And furthermore it's good to be concise, because you'll get to the point faster and
you'll have to use less clumsy circumlocutions and complex grammar! Keeping it simple
is allowed. Recommended, even.

Another reason to keep the text this short is to make sure you can keep track of all
your mental thoughts during the writing process. Half the battle when writing isn't
grammar. It's about getting your thoughts to translate to paper properly. Grammar's
just a tool you use to get that done neatly. If you write longer texts you can, and
you will, get lost in the wilderness of stuff you wrote unless you've planned
everything out in advance (and then you'll have to rewrite everything anyway).


Ok, I've got an idea, and I know what I want to write. But who's going to read my
stuff? Am I just writing to my computer screen? What's the point? This writing is
going to push me into an existential crisis!


Never fear. Now you decide the style. Usually your choice of theme somewhat determines
the style anyway, but in certain languages there's a written register that you need to
be aware of. In French, for example, I wouldn't drop any negations in writing. In
speech - almost always. Determine who you think is interested in reading your stuff,
and if you can, adapt the wording such that it'll be more interesting for them. If you
have the vocabulary to do this properly, you're in the upper ranges for your language,
by the way. C1-C2 is all about this kind of stylistic stuff.

Ok. I have a text. What do I do with it? How do I find out if the Grammar Police
will approve?


First of all, I personally revoked their badges. Second, this is an important thing to
remember: once you've written your text, no matter how much brilliant input, you will
have made mistakes and there will be things you can, should, and must word
differently. No matter how many novels you've read or podcasts you've listened to.
Unless you're at that stage of writing where you're so good that the only person
capable of correcting you is a professional editor (because everyone else just doesn't
know the subject material well enough), you are not exempt from this feedback. You are
not.

So who do you pick to give you feedback? Well, it depends on what you wrote. Some
things can be corrected by a friend if it's just informal stuff, but if the text's
somewhat longer and more complex (or if you're really serious and keep up a blog with
your writing practice, like yours truly), it's good to enlist someone who's bloody
good at correcting!

Who's that? The one who is the most nutty user of red pen. The one that figuratively,
really gets turned on seeing your mistakes and gets to cross them out with an evil
glint in their eyes. Why? Because they're critical, and they'll point out every
single mistake you make
. And that's what you want. Because the more critical that
person is, the more they'll point out in one text, and that's a whole load of errors
fixed already.

NB: it doesn't have to be a professional tutor. You do not have to follow s_allard's
advice. Some of the best correctors can be your best friends, as long as they're not
afraid to dish it out. The most important thing is that they're critical. However
professional tutors or writers/journalists have a sixth sense for what is good
Romanian and what isn't. So if you're in doubt, or you can't find anyone, enlist that
tutor just to help you correct things. I personally spend half my maintenance time in
my good languages on tutors who do EXACTLY THIS AND ALMOST NOTHING ELSE. Another
reason is that at a high level, your issues are going to be minor and only a critical
eye is going to reveal the little stuff that plagues you. Those critical keen eyes
will figure out exactly the little things that improve your writing and let you take
it to the next level.

Be especially attentive if they notice a pattern, because that might mean you have a
structural grammatical issue and pay attention to that in particular. For example, if
you're like me and you fudge grammatical details, make sure that your corrector is
very strict on le/la/les and gender agreement. You'll thank her later.

The last thing that I want to mention here - leave your ego at the door. The first
time you write something and think it's amazing and you hand it in in a foreign
language is going to be a rough disappointment in 90% of cases. This is NOT a slight
on your level. It is, I repeat, NOT a slight on your level. They are not there to pat
you on the back, they are there to make you better and get you to make the most out of
your abilities. At the high levels, one of the most important qualities you need is
humility and bravery. Not accepting critism at this stage is where many people fall
flat - they think they're good enough and get complacent. That's killing for your
progress at the C levels. At the A level - make people give you all the encouragement
you can get. You want the momentum and the spirit to learn more. At the C level - make
people bitch at every little detail so you can weed out every last error you make.
That's how you get better.

I've found a good corrector, I'm done with my text, do I get a medal? How many
texts do I have to bloody write?


As many as it takes for you to be satisfied with your personal goals. Those goals need
to be tuned to your needs, so if your goal is to write job applications then you need
to write as many as you need to be sure that you're good enough at them.

But more is always better. Don't come running to me if your tutor's constant bitching
makes you hate yourself, though.

Famous last words?

That's it, folks. That's my two cents on writing tasks.

I'm planning to write something in this log called "The Engineering Approach to
Language Learning" and give people some short insights on how I approach problems at
various stages in my learning. I'm a firm believer in that people need to seek
context-oriented solutions for their problems. People need to zoom in, fix and solve
individual puzzles. Once you get into the habit of doing that, you'll progress
eventually.

Edited by tarvos on 24 December 2014 at 10:39pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1306 of 1511
25 December 2014 at 11:53am | IP Logged 
Ok, so more stuff on ecology (or well, global warming and the greenhouse effect) in
Greek!

This is some hard stuff to write, by the way. My Greek is an A2 probably, maybe a B1 but
I'm not really confident and my oral skills are not that fantastic. Greek is definitely a
language in which I write and read better than I speak and listen. (There are languages
for me in which the opposite is true - they tend to have harder scripts, but I tend to
also have practiced the languages more orally; Chinese and Hebrew are good examples. And
I am fluent in exactly none of those).

Το φαινόμενο του θερμοκηπίου
1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1307 of 1511
28 December 2014 at 8:58pm | IP Logged 
The past few days I have concentrated on other things than Chinese (my motivation for
it is running low - I am thinking that I need to change my methods for Chinese somehow
- I need an approach lighter on textbook material that my teacher uses, perhaps to
switch teachers to focus more on new vocabulary areas, to develop my speaking and so
on). I also really need to concentrate on Hanzi which I'm sorely neglecting. The fact
I still don't know enough Hanzi is now starting to hamper progress as it prevents me
from my usual tactic to amass vocabulary, which is read like an idiot. (The same could
be said for Greek and Hebrew, but in Hebrew I have at least read one novel and in
Greek I've been doing tons of writing exercises.) It's also been Christmas and I've
worked more, so that's reduced the intensity of my spirit. January will be less
intense, so I have all the time I want to return to my Chinese studies in the new year
and to keep going with Greek (it's important because Greek is the next language that I
will have to use in-country, if I don't visit something in between - which I probably
will, but likely that will only force me to use languages I already know well such as
German or English).

In the category of polyglot weirdness I can also present to you the tale of the family
members that believe I speak Spanish. (I haven't really studied Spanish properly
ever). However I have a fairly basic vocabulary I can use accurately and I know the
pronunciation rules, so I will sound fairly good even when pronouncing something basic
like "claro que no..." or something. My parents also were weirded out when I spoke
Spanish but I assured them I hadn't studied it - I don't think they were really
reassured on this count.

You see, this is a polyglot problem - which languages to keep and which to drop? I
haven't studied French seriously for a while, and I can feel my motivation dropping,
but I know that the only motivation I have is social contacts. And to rekindle
motivation I should see a serious use for the language somewhere and for that I need
to rekindle my interest in French culture (or at least Francophone culture because my
interest was always bigger in Belgium and Switzerland than France itself).

I've also booked half an hour of Hebrew as a trial class to identify how to work on my
weak points, which in that language are reading and writing.

As you can tell, I have a very organized idea of how I want to improve my language: I
like to fix certain issues that really bother me. Some of them are big in scale so
they take a longer time (Hanzi aren't covered in a week, for example), others you can
do by simply forcing yourself to take a new look at the way you are using a certain
language.
1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1308 of 1511
31 December 2014 at 2:51pm | IP Logged 
Χωρίς μεσάζοντες

This is about the organization in Greece that helps people sell their wares directly
to their customers by cutting out the middle man (and keeping prices down, lower than
in supermarkets). This is locally sold produce (such as olive oil, cheese, potatoes,
tomatoes, milk etc) that people can produce themselves. It's become a trend in Greece
to combat their current dire economical situation. It's based on a Dutch documentary I
saw on the topic, but many of the interviews were in Greek (subtitled in Dutch).

Also part of that documentary was an interview with the Czech economist Tomas Sedlacek
who believes we should stop defining economics so rigidly in terms of numbers and
growth, and try and redefine it more in terms of the socio-economic implications so
that it is better suited to society.

Edited by tarvos on 31 December 2014 at 2:53pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Solfrid Cristin
Heptaglot
Winner TAC 2011 & 2012
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 3505 days ago

4143 posts - 8862 votes 
Speaks: Norwegian*, Spanish, Swedish, French, English, German, Italian
Studies: Russian

 
 Message 1309 of 1511
01 January 2015 at 6:46pm | IP Logged 
Hi!

So happy to see you back on the Russian team, you have been sorely missed! And I look forward to
seeing your opening post about 2015! Great to see all the impressive advice you have written on the writing
process.

Hugs from Cristina

Edited by Solfrid Cristin on 01 January 2015 at 6:48pm

1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1310 of 1511
01 January 2015 at 7:14pm | IP Logged 
@Cristina: Thanks! I never know if people actually read my musings, but I guess from
the amount of votes at least a few people find my thoughts useful.

I can't change the title of this log, sadly, but this is the log I'll continue to use
as my treasure trove, so people will be able to find me here.

As for my plans for 2015, I already set out tentative goals in my summary, so I won't
do that here again. What I will do is put down, as I said, some examples of how I
concretely aim to tackle my biggest language-related issues in 2015, to show people
how I actively deal with problems that I have. I'll also put up some that are open to
advice, or I'll explain how I have done things in the past.

This is what I term the "engineering approach to language learning" (inspired by Benny
Lewis, but that I'm going to make more concrete here). Benny covers the mentality on
his blog but I want to cover the idea of how you concretely take steps to tackle
specific problems, and how you remain self-critical when engaging in language learning
in order to improve.

Edited by tarvos on 01 January 2015 at 8:16pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3337 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 1311 of 1511
01 January 2015 at 9:19pm | IP Logged 
tarvos: maybe a moderator will help? 2014 and Gumiho no longer exist, after all. Welcome back to the Russian team and welcome to the Scandinavian one, btw.

I read your log all the time. This year I need to do a problem-solving approach too, if I want to see progress happen.
1 person has voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 2878 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 1312 of 1511
01 January 2015 at 9:28pm | IP Logged 
I'll PM one of the mods about it, or contact them privately (I am in regular contact with
at least one).


1 person has voted this message useful



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