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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
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Studies: German

 
 Message 537 of 1317
30 April 2013 at 3:17pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

Indeed, I now have a huge repertoire of useful French words and phrases just below the activation threshold. When I speak, there's always the temptation to pause for 2 or 3 seconds while my brain hunts for le mot juste. Or I can just plow ahead immediately and wait for my brain to tell me that I'm doing it wrong. Either way, speaking can be very frustrating and I often lack fluidity.


This reminds me a lot of 'tip-of-the-tongue' phenomenon, which has been studied a lot in psychology. When people are in such a state, they can tell you various things about a word (e.g., the number of syllables, the first letter etc), without being able to report the word itself. The standard explanation is that the word is encoded in the brain, but is not activated fully enough for it to come to full consciousness.

emk wrote:

It's possible that I might be able to fix this with another 5 or 10 million words of input. But I know from previous experience that I can tackle output directly. All it would take is perhaps a month with a college-style "bull session" every night, discussing the world at large and struggling to hold my own in the conversation. Thirty hours over the course of a month would make a real difference, just as it did for reading and listening.


This sounds very reasonable.

From what I've read, spoken language is much more impoverished than written language. So reading is actively and developing a lot of words/phrases, that aren't necessarily going to be so helpful when you speak. Or perhaps a better way to say it, is that if you speak for 30 hours vs read for 30 hours you are going to focus on a much more restricted (but very useful) subset of words/phrases.

I also do think (though I have no evidence) that if you are really actively engaged on the language this helps. Of course, when you read you are actively processing, but I can imagine that it can be a bit more passive (you certainly skip over words, and certainly not worry about case/gender). My guess is that when you speak are very conscious of every word and every phrase.

And finally, I think L1 -> L2 just requires a lot more active recall than L2 -> L1, which makes words stick a lot better in memory, which is why for individual words on Anki I also do both L1 -> L2 and L2 -> L1 (though not for phrases/sentences).

Edited by patrickwilken on 30 April 2013 at 3:20pm

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emk
Diglot
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 Message 538 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 1:56pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
This reminds me a lot of 'tip-of-the-tongue' phenomenon, which has been studied a lot in psychology. When people are in such a state, they can tell you various things about a word (e.g., the number of syllables, the first letter etc), without being able to report the word itself. The standard explanation is that the word is encoded in the brain, but is not activated fully enough for it to come to full consciousness.

For me, this is a short-lived phenomenon. It lasts for maybe a second or two, and it feels a bit like trying to remember somebody's name. One thing to keep in mind is that I'm usually not translating from English to French—I'm trying to map a specific context or situation onto what I'd expect a French speaker to say, bypassing English entirely. (This ability to predict what a French speaker might say is also hugely useful for listening comprehension.) Often, to my annoyance, the necessary phrases and grammar arrive about 75% "assembled", and I need to slot the remaining pieces into place myself, or wait another second while my brain cycles through a couple of possibilities and decides which sounds right.

To me, all of this really feels like kinks in my output system, the sort of thing which can easily be improved with a bit of practice. Now, there are subjects where I get a vast amount of exposure and practice (parenting, day-to-day life), and on those subjects, I speak quite fluently. And there have been times in the past where I discussed a wider range of subjects regularly, and could do so relatively well, despite a much smaller vocabulary than I have today.

When I combine this personal experience with the examples of heritage learners with C1+ passive skills and less than A1 output, I'm convinced that at least some people actually need to "activate" their passive knowledge.

patrickwilken wrote:
I also do think (though I have no evidence) that if you are really actively engaged on the language this helps. Of course, when you read you are actively processing, but I can imagine that it can be a bit more passive (you certainly skip over words, and certainly not worry about case/gender). My guess is that when you speak are very conscious of every word and every phrase.

Up until a couple of weeks before my B2 exam, my reading was very "blurry". I could follow stories without any problem, but there were a lot of grammatical details I tended to gloss over. But one day I was reading Tintin, and I realized that I could explain every verb ending, and almost every turn of phrase.

The hard part was building a hyper-awareness of gender, because I left this until much too late in the process. But today, if somebody uses a word with a gender I don't expect, it will sometimes stand out in sharp relief from the surrounding text or conversation. This feels like progress.

patrickwilken wrote:
And finally, I think L1 -> L2 just requires a lot more active recall than L2 -> L1, which makes words stick a lot better in memory, which is why for individual words on Anki I also do both L1 -> L2 and L2 -> L1 (though not for phrases/sentences).

I've pretty much given up on any kind of L1 involvement in my French. Here's why:

1. Back around B1, I was reflexively mapping certain French words and grammar to their English equivalent. This was fatal to high-speed listening comprehension. I needed to go "cold turkey" on any kind of L2 -> L1 translation, especially in Anki, in order to get my speed up.

2. L1 and L2 definitions never match up exactly. And at my level, this starts to matter. In fact, I've noticed that if I write an essay in French, and translate it to English, I get lousy, substandard English unless I make an enormous effort to break out of the "translator's interlanguage". If I'm going in the other direction, what hope does my French have to escape the overwhelming influence of my English?

Now, none of this is to say that no L1 influence leaks through into my L2. It certainly does. But it's not something I encourage these days. My French needs to stand on its own.
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tarvos
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 Message 539 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 2:10pm | IP Logged 
Emk, I am very interested in those observations of yours concerning "predicting what a
French speaker" would say. I for one have major trouble translating directly from
English to Dutch, because my personas in both languages (apart from the fact it's me
talking) tend not to match up at all in my experience. In the same situation in Dutch
and English, I would express the same sentiment, but the phrasing could differ very
markedly (and have nothing to do with any direct translation whatsoever). Similarly,
when I'm writing in French, it's different again. (It's not as good by far though, but
that's because I didn't grow up speaking it as a child).

In my experience, above B1-B2, active Anki repetitions and such don't really help
anymore. Because you have a framework in place, you can preempt empty spots much more
easily. Your house is basically 80% built; you know you need to paint the windowsill,
and the only thing that matters is whether it's green or brown, you don't actually have
to build a windowframe and everything. In this case, you don't really need to translate
anymore, you function like a native speaker with a lesser command of vocabulary (and
perhaps you have some advanced grammatical structures to sort out that you didn't get
any exposure to).

I don't use any vocabulary training techniques in any of the languages I list as
"speaks", because they are usually immediately obvious from context or can be clarified
with a "what's that mean" in the target language, and usually a synonym does the trick.
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emk
Diglot
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 Message 540 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 2:30pm | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
I don't use any vocabulary training techniques in any of the languages I list as
"speaks", because they are usually immediately obvious from context or can be clarified
with a "what's that mean" in the target language, and usually a synonym does the trick.

I was very pleased yesterday to successfully guess lacet 'switchback' from context. The characters in Le puits des mémoires were walking down a mountain, and there was one last lacet in the trail, and really, it's not that hard to guess what they're talking about if you've ever been hiking.

When I'm doing extensive reading, I find that at least 20% of unknown words will "give themselves away", and reveal their meaning from context, or at least offer up one more clue. The others, well, I can wait. And since I'm not looking up any words in the dictionary, I can read quickly and encounter lots of chances for words to give themselves away. (The calculus changes if I'm reading on a Kindle, where the pop-up dictionary is very fast.)

Of course, this means I know a lot of words which I can't define precisely, but for which I could give a you list of contexts in which a French speaker would use them, and for what effect. I actually prefer this, in many cases, to knowing the English translation, because it gives the word a chance to stand on its own without being stretched in unnatural directions by the influence of English. But this is, to a certain extent, a luxury of relatively advanced passive skills.

Edited by emk on 01 May 2013 at 2:32pm

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2580 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 541 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 2:45pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

1. Back around B1, I was reflexively mapping certain French words and grammar to their English equivalent. This was fatal to high-speed listening comprehension. I needed to go "cold turkey" on any kind of L2 -> L1 translation, especially in Anki, in order to get my speed up.

2. L1 and L2 definitions never match up exactly. And at my level, this starts to matter. In fact, I've noticed that if I write an essay in French, and translate it to English, I get lousy, substandard English unless I make an enormous effort to break out of the "translator's interlanguage". If I'm going in the other direction, what hope does my French have to escape the overwhelming influence of my English?

Now, none of this is to say that no L1 influence leaks through into my L2. It certainly does. But it's not something I encourage these days. My French needs to stand on its own.


If we disagree at all, I think it's mostly because your French is more advanced than my German. :)

I don't personally have a problem with L1 -> L2 words. It's true that there are overlaps in meaning, but generally I don't see these too much (the L1 prompt is usually unique). Also I don't think of the L1 translation has anything more than a ballpark estimate of the meaning. It's just meant to give a sense of the L2 meaning. The precision comes from a tonne of input, not from a tonne of (active) output.

As I read I tend to read in my L2, without thinking in my L1, but when I come across a nearly learnt word where my L2 equivalent is weak it's very helpful having the L1-estimate pop into my head.

Edited by patrickwilken on 01 May 2013 at 2:51pm

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tastyonions
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 Message 542 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 4:34pm | IP Logged 
I don't use translation exercises to improve my French as much I used to, even L1 -> L2. These days I mostly just speak or write the language and ask people to correct me. Though it can be a good challenge when conversation partners ask me for French equivalents to English phrases and sentences they have come across.
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emk
Diglot
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 Message 543 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 4:45pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
As I read I tend to read in my L2, without thinking in my L1, but when I come across a nearly learnt word where my L2 equivalent is weak it's very helpful having the L1-estimate pop into my head.


This is indeed very convenient, though given the choice, I'd personally just as soon remember a good example of the word in context. In the end, this probably doesn't matter one way or another as long as I'm getting lots of input.

My problem with L2 -> L1 cards was probably something fairly specific to me. Several years ago, I'd allowed my SRS review time to creep up and displace my exposure to native media. Since my SRS decks at that point were all L2<->L1 cards with single words, this meant that I trained myself to reflexively map certain French words to the corresponding English word.

After a couple of months, this reflex became deeply ingrained for certain important words. For example, every time I head dont, the English words "of which" popped into my head. For really slow, clear speech (or for reading), this was good enough. But to understand faster speech, I needed to break this translation reflex. Getting rid of virtually all L2->L1 cards was part of this process.

There's no reason to think that this advice applies to anybody else, unless perhaps they're running into very similar problems.
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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
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Joined 2580 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 544 of 1317
01 May 2013 at 5:00pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
My problem with L2 -> L1 cards was probably something fairly specific to me. Several years ago, I'd allowed my SRS review time to creep up and displace my exposure to native media. Since my SRS decks at that point were all L2<->L1 cards with single words, this meant that I trained myself to reflexively map certain French words to the corresponding English word.


I don't want to derail your log. I hope you don't mind responding to your comments though.

I didn't have this problem with Anki, but early on I had a lot of sentences as well as words in the my deck (probably 70:30 - I was inspired when starting out by the Antimoon site). Now that I am reading a lot, I have stopped putting so many sentences in my deck, as I figure I'll get lots of example sentences anyway.

One thing I do that works well for me is, that I mostly now take complete definitions from my German dictionary and covert these into cards. So I have L1 <-> L2 for the basic word, but then for many words I have lots of additional cards with example phrases in L2 -> L1.

I think mostly what this shows is that I don't like extensively reading. I like to look up words as I go along and input them into Anki so I keep the meaning. Whether this is an optimal strategy I don't know.

I obviously learn the words I come across faster and more precisely than if I only extensively read (and I also learn lots of related words plus alternative meanings as I look up words - e.g., when looking up Hai (shark) I also added to Anki Grundstückhai (property developer)). On the other hand I read slower, get less input and therefore less exposure. Also the flow of the reading is somewhat broken up.

I am sure both methods work. I just don't know which is more optimal. On the plus side (for you) all the C2+ speakers I know went your route, not mine.

Edited by patrickwilken on 01 May 2013 at 5:03pm



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