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geoffw
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 Message 849 of 1317
30 December 2013 at 4:59pm | IP Logged 
In my US university, there was no standard percentage, as grades were based on curves. In some courses, you
could reportedly pass the occasional exam by skipping it, because the average grade would be so low that the
average was near (or even below) zero. So a zero could be an above-average grade. You never knew what your
score meant without seeing the mean and std. dev.

As for the French system, some (possibly) related anecdotal evidence: I had a teacher in high school who was
originally from the DROC (and presumably was schooled in French). He once told us that where he was from, the
grade a student received was supposed to represent the percentage the student knew of everything the teacher
knew. Thus, if the student had learned, say, 25% of what the teacher knows, that should be not too bad. But it
would be unthinkable for a student to know 90% of what the teacher knows, especially since the teachers were
expected to be superior. It was unacceptable, for example, for a teacher to say that he didn't know something that
a student asked.

No idea how much of that was French ideas and how much was local.

Edited by geoffw on 30 December 2013 at 4:59pm

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tastyonions
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 Message 850 of 1317
30 December 2013 at 7:19pm | IP Logged 
En passant, merci d'avoir fermé le fil "Protect your memory." J'avais écrit à Richard Burton une réponse un peu bilieuse et sarcastique mais heureusement le forum l'a bouffée, haha. Pour une fois son inconstance était une bonne chose. :-)
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emk
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 Message 851 of 1317
30 December 2013 at 7:41pm | IP Logged 
Teango wrote:
I think this is a great way to fill in some of that academic French vocabulary, as well as dab oil on any rusty maths skills as a happy by-product (or should my priorities be the other way round ;) )! I've written a serious note to my future self to follow suit and try out some courses once I reach a good enough level in French.

I will post my thoughts and reflections at the end of the course. But for now, let me just say that this course is more about my math skills than my French. On the other hand, I am picking up and internalizing tons of useful mathematical terminology that I use regularly in English. And if the work load were lower, I would spend more time hanging out on the class forums helping people. As it is, I generally go there to beg desperately for clarification!

Teango wrote:
So imagine my shock (now the shoe's on the other foot) when I'm told to hand out grades in the mid-high 90 percent range for diligent students. Every time I do, my ears grow red from the undoubted malicious whispers of the ghosts of Wittgenstein and Newton berating me from beyond...

If there's a theory behind the US system, it might go something like: "The teacher should have a pretty good idea of what they want the students to learn. And if the teacher is competent, they should be able to teach those things in a way that will make it possible for a reasonably-intelligent, hard-working student to master most of that material." So 95% means, on some level, that the student learned 95% of what they were supposed to learn, which is considered quite good.

The theory behind, say, the DELF B2 is a bit different. Here's my best guess at what the test makers were thinking: "Languages are big and complicated things, and everybody has strong and weak areas. So we'll confront students with various difficult challenges, fully accepting that they'll sometimes crash and burn. But as long as they do reasonably well on most of the challenges, they'll pass." My wife says this system is common in France. Neither approach is necessarily unreasonable—but moving between the systems can be a nasty surprise!

Thank you, patrickwilken and geoffw, for bringing more international perspectives. One of the fun things about language learning is the way it shakes up my perceptions of the world. People are people, and they're pretty much the same everywhere, but cultures vary in the little details, and they sometimes assemble the same materials in a very different way.

A half articulated thought re: stressing out over beginner courses

I haven't boiled this down into a well-articulated idea yet. Let's see how much I can get across. Let start with some of the underlying "data" behind the thought:

- I receive no Urdu input. I understand my Urdu input perfectly, since there is nothing to understand.

- I saw the word tergiverser in a bunch of places. It's not really common, but I'll see it at least once a month, assuming I read 500 pages per month.

- I saw the word flagornerie in a French novel. I could spend 3 minutes to learn this word for life. Is it worth 3 minutes?

- I tried to read the Egyptian translation of Peter Rabbit the other day, and I ran into a lot of unknown words and unfamiliar verb endings!

- There was some weird grammar in the Assimil review lesson, but I can't get my head around it. Maybe they'll give me some examples soon, preferably in context?

And now let's try to distill this into a something that vaguely resembles an idea:

1. If a given language is not present in your environment, then the optimal amount of knowledge is zero.
2. If a given language is your primary way to interact with other people, then the optimal amount of knowledge is close to that of a native speaker.
3. Anything you need to know about a language will eventually appear in your environment. If it never appears, you didn't need to know it.
4. If you see something 1,000 times, it will seem intuitively obvious.
5. There's nothing wrong with voluntarily changing your environment!

Conclusion: Stressing out over an Assimil lesson is counterproductive. Your time is better spent changing your environment to contain more of the target language. Of course, at the beginning, it's nice to get the target language "pre-chewed," either by patient parents, by a graded reader, or by analogy to a language you already know well.
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tastyonions
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 Message 852 of 1317
30 December 2013 at 7:59pm | IP Logged 
Parfois je vois l'anglais (et maintenant le français aussi !) comme mon "parent" qui me guide pendant la période débutante. :-P

Edited by tastyonions on 30 December 2013 at 8:01pm

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emk
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 Message 853 of 1317
30 December 2013 at 8:36pm | IP Logged 
If anybody is interested in Beeminder (a clever tool for remaining motivated over the long term), I posted a review in Serpent's thread. This is for people who want to lash themselves to the mast as Ulysses did.


Ulysse et Nono, le petit robot.

tastyonions wrote:
En passant, merci d'avoir fermé le fil "Protect your memory." J'avais écrit à Richard Burton une réponse un peu bilieuse et sarcastique mais heureusement le forum l'a bouffée, haha. Pour une fois son inconstance était une bonne chose. :-)

Je ne supporte pas que les discussions hors-sujet soient grossières et personnelles. Mais pour ceux qui s’intéressent au sujet du rayonnement haute-fréquence et de la santé, je vous présente ce texte en anglais écrit par un radioamateur. Apparemment, quand on dit « je suis cuit », ça peut être tout à fait vrai !

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Teango
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 Message 854 of 1317
31 December 2013 at 8:03am | IP Logged 
Seeing images of Ulysees 31 still makes my heart race in excitement, especially as I never did see it all the way to the final episode all those years ago. This used to blast onto the screen around 4.30pm, shortly after I arrived back home from school, and was the highlight of the tv week (it used to win hands down over The Mysterious Cities of Gold on the other channel). Life is full of tough decisions when you're a kid, but here I have no regrets. ;)

I'm very tempted to buy the French dvd sets, emk, but am worried I'll run into problems ordering from the US, as this has happened several times with foreign language DVDs and books already. I have a US Amazon Prime account if that'll work, otherwise I'm not sure whether I can score a French Amazon account as well - any advice or tips would be very welcome (and apologies if you've explained this elsewhere before, I seem to recall you may very well have done)...?

Edited by Teango on 31 December 2013 at 8:08am

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emk
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 Message 855 of 1317
31 December 2013 at 2:51pm | IP Logged 
Teango wrote:
Seeing images of Ulysees 31 still makes my heart race in excitement, especially as I never did see it all the way to the final episode all those years ago. This used to blast onto the screen around 4.30pm, shortly after I arrived back home from school, and was the highlight of the tv week (it used to win hands down over The Mysterious Cities of Gold on the other channel). Life is full of tough decisions when you're a kid, but here I have no regrets. ;)

I keep telling everyone Ulysse 31 is awesome! But nobody believes me. OK, OK, it's an 80s cartoon for 8-year-olds and there's an adorable talking robot. But every time I see the générique, I silently cheer to myself. :-)


Quiconque ose défier la puissance de Zeus doit être puni !

Teango wrote:
I'm very tempted to buy the French dvd sets, emk, but am worried I'll run into problems ordering from the US, as this has happened several times with foreign language DVDs and books already. I have a US Amazon Prime account if that'll work, otherwise I'm not sure whether I can score a French Amazon account as well - any advice or tips would be very welcome (and apologies if you've explained this elsewhere before, I seem to recall you may very well have done)...?

This is much easier than you might guess. Let's walk through it.

1. Make sure you have a multi-region DVD player. These start around $40; I bought mine here. This is the ideal gift for any student of languages, because it allows you to put down your textbook, stretch out on the couch, and learn languages while watching TV. (Unfortunately, it works better after you reach B1!) It's also possible to buy a DVD reader for your computer, and rip everything using Handbrake. Consult your local copyright laws.

2. Go to Amazon.fr and log in using your regular Amazon.com account. They'll have your shipping address, your credit card, etc., ready to go.

3. Fill up your cart and check out normally. This process should be entirely familiar. For the US, use one of their ~10-day shipping options. There's an important trick here: Shipping is something like $10 plus $2 per item. So if you place a $10 order, shipping will be really expensive, but if you place a $100 order, shipping will be cheap. So save up your book/DVD budget for a while, and then splurge. Do you know how awesome it is to get a $100 package of cool French stuff in the mail? :-)

4. Amazon.fr ships to the US quite reliably these days. A few years ago, they had more trouble, and one of my packages went badly astray. When this happened, I used their "online chat with a support representative" feature, and they just sent me another package. This is basically the only time you would need to know some French!

In other words, once you reach A2 or so, shopping on Amazon.fr from the US is easy and painless. Basically, it's just like shopping on Amazon.com, except it's in French and the shipping takes a bit longer. Same account, same credit card, same system. Amazon is really, really happy to take your money and give you stuff in French! And if you place reasonably large orders, it's one of the cheapest ways to buy French media.
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sctroyenne
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 Message 856 of 1317
31 December 2013 at 4:28pm | IP Logged 
It should be noted that if you have Amazon Prime or Amazon gift cards in the US they won't work on the
French version of the site. Otherwise it's easy and usually they have big DVD sales in January. Otherwise
there's that Italian site that has books and media for the major European languages with free worldwide
shipping but apparently the shipping takes a long time (I can dig out the site name if interested). You can also
watch any region DVD on your computer using VLC or whatnot and there are little kits for attaching your
laptop to the TV if that sounds more "convenient" than a region free DVD player.


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