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iguanamon
Tetraglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
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2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole

 
 Message 897 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 9:12pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
...Native materials are usually much more interesting than courses, and they encourage you to understand a lot of stuff vaguely, rather than just a few topics in detail. It was pointed out to me this week that I'm supposed to have years of study under my belt before tackling the Westcar papyrus, and that's true in a certain sense: I'm fudging my verb forms horribly and I'm butchering the grammar. But you know? I'm totally OK with saying, "Eh, that's probably one of the 7 different sDm=f forms," or "Ah, an infinitive thingy." This drives some very smart and capable people completely nuts. :-) But if my experience with French is any indicator, many things will become much clearer with time, and there's nothing wrong with a half-baked approximation in the meantime.


Robert A. Heinlein wrote:
Freedom begins when you tell Mrs. Grundy to go fly a kite.


The frustration comes in when people expect to understand native material perfectly in the pre-intermediate stages. It's not done "with ease". If a learner can accept not knowing/understanding perfectly, and be happy with a more vague or general understanding, then playing around with a stretch of text, audio or text and audio for ten minutes in a day, maybe a couple of times a week, in most IE languages with Roman scripts isn't going to damage anyone and could be a big help in turbocharging learning. Gradually, it does become clearer with time, as you well know. When the synergy happens, when you see/hear a concept, phrase, or word in your course from a genuine, real world text, conversation or audio that you've seen, heard or spoke- that's magic! Sure, you'll eventually get it with a course or grammar alone, but I believe it will stick better if you've had a hand in discovering it yourself.

I hope you'll keep playing around with Egyptian outside the course as you go through Assimil. I think you'll be pleased with your progress as you continue to advance.

Enough said.

Emk, you have been and continue to be a huge help and inspiration to the community through this log. Someday, after you've wandered to C1/C2 in French, you should seriously think about what Benny has done and write the French language equivalent of "Beyond Beginner's Spanish". Half the book is already written here in your log, you'll just have to organize it. Who better to serve as a guide than someone who has already made the journey and knows where the pitfalls and landmines are along the way!

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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3639 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 898 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 9:58pm | IP Logged 
Thank you for the kind words! You inspire me, too, you know. As a matter of fact, HTLAL is full of awesome people.

iguanamon wrote:
The frustration comes in when people expect to understand native material perfectly in the pre-intermediate stages. It's not done "with ease".

Yeah, there's something weirdly self-defeating about demanding perfect comprehension in the beginning:

1. A great many things will make no sense until you've seen them a hundred or a thousand times. Then they'll be completely obvious.

2. The only way to see anything a hundred or a thousand times is to get tons of exposure.

So that's my big beef with old-school grammar-translation classes: They force you to get everything right in the beginning, and they won't let you get any exposure until you do. Oops.

The solution is to cut the Gordian knot, and to give yourself permission to suck. If you don't mind doing a bad job (and cheating outrageously!), there's no reason why you can't read ancient Egyptian literature before reaching Assimil lesson 40. Just be sure you can satisfy the criteria of (a) semi-intelligibility and (b) enjoyment.
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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4704 days ago

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 Message 899 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 10:50pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Native materials are usually much more interesting than courses, and they encourage you to understand a lot of stuff vaguely, rather than just a few topics in detail.
Well, this depends. For me, the pleasure gained from native materials is what tells me that it's completely okay to read about football and medicine before I'm even able to order a coffee :-) But I guess what we both mean is that the typical textbook topics are overrated :)
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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3639 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
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 Message 900 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 11:18pm | IP Logged 
Serpent wrote:
emk wrote:
Native materials are usually much more interesting than courses, and they encourage you to understand a lot of stuff vaguely, rather than just a few topics in detail.
Well, this depends. For me, the pleasure gained from native materials is what tells me that it's completely okay to read about football and medicine before I'm even able to order a coffee :-) But I guess what we both mean is that the typical textbook topics are overrated :)

Ooops. I should clarify. :-) The problem with many courses is that they often want you to get 100% solid one part of the grammar before moving on to the next. It's almost like you're not allowed to read a text until you understand every nuance of every verb form which appears in it. Which means you'll be reading some pretty boring stuff.

But with native materials, you're going to run into all sorts of weird stuff, and you'll just have to muddle through. So you wind up knowing a little bit of everything.

Now, as for spending all your time watching football and reading about medicine, of course I approve enthusiastically!
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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4704 days ago

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 Message 901 of 1317
18 January 2014 at 11:22pm | IP Logged 
Ahhh yeah very true! That's my biggest problem with recs like "complete all the volumes of FSI before starting native materials". Eh? If you want to put off native materials, sure, but then why are you learning the language in the first place? :D
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Cavesa
Triglot
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Czech Republic
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 Message 902 of 1317
19 January 2014 at 12:58am | IP Logged 
sfuqua wrote:

I can't believe that studying grammar is completely useless, but my
brain seems to suggest that you can speak a second language well
without being able to describe how the grammar works.
Just saying... :)


I think people often mix up two things together. Learning the grammar and learning about the grammar. Knowing the explanation, the table or the rule is useful as long as you need to know it in order to use it. Once you use the grammar without remembering the rule, it's totally ok not to know it anymore. But that doesn't mean you are speaking without knowing the grammar or without having learnt it.

People speaking about grammar like "it isn't important to know the grammar as long as you can use it" are saying total nonsense. You cannot use something you don't know. And you can know something without knowing how to describe it. You know how to breath (and if you don't believe it is quite a complex process, read something about physiology and anatomy), you know it enough to use the knowledge many times per hour. Yet most people are unable to describe how they breath. The best final point of learning the grammar, no matter how you get there, should (in my opinion) be like breathing. You use it automatically to reach higher goals (use the proper grammar to communicate as proficiently as possible just as you breath to livet). But that doesn't change the fact that you need to learn the grammar first anyhow.
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Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
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 Message 903 of 1317
19 January 2014 at 1:11am | IP Logged 
Heh, I should refresh threads before responding to something I loaded hours ago :-D

I agree about the native materials being more interesting than textbooks. But I think the trouble lies elsewhere. The textbook is trying to give you the most useful language first, at least theoretically. But it doesn't usually succeed. Because it is trying to do that while following some common teacher made feeling of "this should be learnt after this and that should be learnt years later despite being useful all the time".

I agree it is often necessary to master the grammar points in order to progress through a course. But! The textbook rarely gives you enough opportunity to do that. I almost believe the publishers do it on purpose. They put in the course too few exercises and too little reading and listening material (and too few tools like vocab lists) to make you buy supplementary material. And I'm afraid the FLE publishers are among the worst in this area.

And one of the reasons why the material in courses is boring is pretty simple. Too little grammar is presented at once. You are supposed to chew one spoonful before going on instead of getting a pile and a lot of material to learn it on. But there is only so much fun you can make out of that spoonful. I remember an interesting topic on htlal where a teacher was looking for advice on interesting material for her ESL student, a teenage girl. It boiled down to something like: "But there is no educational material on present perfect featuring vampires!". Well, I'd like to see any real book featuring vampires that can do without present perfect.
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sctroyenne
Diglot
Senior Member
United StatesRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3498 days ago

739 posts - 1312 votes 
Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Spanish, Irish

 
 Message 904 of 1317
19 January 2014 at 1:20am | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
Heh, I should refresh threads before responding to something I loaded hours ago :-D

I agree about the native materials being more interesting than textbooks. But I think the trouble lies elsewhere. The textbook is trying to give you the most useful language first, at least theoretically. But it doesn't usually succeed. Because it is trying to do that while following some common teacher made feeling of "this should be learnt after this and that should be learnt years later despite being useful all the time".

I agree it is often necessary to master the grammar points in order to progress through a course. But! The textbook rarely gives you enough opportunity to do that. I almost believe the publishers do it on purpose. They put in the course too few exercises and too little reading and listening material (and too few tools like vocab lists) to make you buy supplementary material. And I'm afraid the FLE publishers are among the worst in this area.

And one of the reasons why the material in courses is boring is pretty simple. Too little grammar is presented at once. You are supposed to chew one spoonful before going on instead of getting a pile and a lot of material to learn it on. But there is only so much fun you can make out of that spoonful. I remember an interesting topic on htlal where a teacher was looking for advice on interesting material for her ESL student, a teenage girl. It boiled down to something like: "But there is no educational material on present perfect featuring vampires!". Well, I'd like to see any real book featuring vampires that can do without present perfect.


This is exactly the problem. If you learn French in high school, it's going to take 3-4 years to even learn that the subjunctive exists because that's "advanced" grammar, even though it's used all the time in everyday speech. We didn't learn the past tense until the second year because there are all kinds of complications. You don't have to produce perfect sentences (and you certainly don't need to understand all the intricacies of agreement of the past participle) to be able to read a story. And conditional statements are ridiculously harder to understand in isolation in a set of exercises than in just reading them naturally in a passage of text. Just get them a bilingual reader and some recorded dialogues and have them start absorbing some of it before they have to wait to get to the right chapter in the textbook.


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