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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2642 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 553 of 1317
05 May 2013 at 12:40am | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

1. The students don't want to take personal responsibility for learning the language.
2. The teachers are just as happy that nobody that holds them accountable for the student's success.


That seems like a very accurate summary of the situation. My sense is that people often become quite passive when they are in classes. I did a few semi-intensive German classes last year, and I used to ask people in the coffee breaks what they were doing to learn German. No one could give me a coherent answer. One older guy looked quite annoyed with me and said "I go to German class".

I think both your points are quite valid, but I can tell you that the teachers I know simply think the students here in Berlin are quite lazy. It's hard to get them to do any homework, so the teachers simply don't believe that they will do other things like read in their spare time. Of course this becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

A lot of them are ex-pats now living in Berlin and who can get by in English (though in a pretty limited way), who probably are doing the language course partly from a feeling of guilt, without being serious about the hours needed to actually learn. I am sure there are plenty of people who buy jogging shoes, but never really get fit for similar reasons. I guess there might be a similar group of anglophones in French Canada; though from my experience in Montreal in the 1990s it seems the French Canadians were a lot less tolerant than the Berliners of the 2010s.

emk wrote:

And the sad is thing is that learning languages is basically an agreeable and pleasant process. Sure, it involves a lot of hours. But a lot of those hours can be spent doing pretty self-indulgent things: reading books, watching TV, reading websites, and so on. I mean, between parenting and my business, I can't justify spending much time vegging out on the couch or chatting with random strangers online. Learning French gives me an excuse.


I think the problem is that the students are not taught how to be independent. They are given a huge amount of grammar early on, with very little actual language content, so they struggle to get to an intermediate stage. Even if they do get to B1, they have become so passive in the learning process they would struggle to see the value of self-reading.
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tastyonions
Triglot
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United States
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1044 posts - 1823 votes 
Speaks: English*, French, Spanish
Studies: Italian

 
 Message 554 of 1317
05 May 2013 at 12:55am | IP Logged 
And one can forget how rare it is for people to do significant amounts of independent study. At my French meetup, one guy asked me how much time I spent on the language, and when I said I that tried to get in at least a couple hours of practice every day, he and the other people listening to us seemed really impressed. But since I read HTLAL regularly, the amount of time I spend learning languages really doesn't seem that out of the ordinary to me. :-)

And man, I don't know how some people can sustain their learning if they never get into native media or actually talk with natives a good bit! I'm sure I would have dropped French long ago if my learning process consisted of just class after class or textbook after textbook...

Edited by tastyonions on 05 May 2013 at 12:57am

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Julie
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PolandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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Speaks: Polish*, EnglishB2, GermanC2, SpanishB2, Dutch, Swedish, French

 
 Message 555 of 1317
05 May 2013 at 1:39am | IP Logged 
tastyonions wrote:
But since I read HTLAL regularly, the amount of time I spend learning languages really doesn't seem that out of the ordinary to me. :-)


That's the thing I love about HTLAL - on one hand, it makes you feel completely normal. On the other hand, it gives you perspective and something to aspire to. :)


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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
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 Message 556 of 1317
05 May 2013 at 1:31pm | IP Logged 
patrickwilken wrote:
A lot of them are ex-pats now living in Berlin and who can get by in English (though in a pretty limited way), who probably are doing the language course partly from a feeling of guilt, without being serious about the hours needed to actually learn. I am sure there are plenty of people who buy jogging shoes, but never really get fit for similar reasons. I guess there might be a similar group of anglophones in French Canada; though from my experience in Montreal in the 1990s it seems the French Canadians were a lot less tolerant than the Berliners of the 2010s.

There are quite a few anglophones in Montreal who can't speak French, and they manage to get by somehow. They do, however, whine incessantly about the situation. Strangely enough, a few of the monolingual French speakers aren't that much better, and you can always find someone who will complain about how the bilingual nature of Montreal is a great tragedy.

But for the most part, it's an amazingly friendly city (one of my favorites), and paying customers are allowed to speak whichever language they wish. The few times I've interacted with people in social situations, they've been a little too eager to switch to English, but only because they're trying to be friendly and pragmatic.

The thing to understand about Montreal is that everybody has to switch languages on regular basis, occasionally even 20 times in a single conversation. Anybody who gets huffy and awkward about switching languages is going to spend most of their life being huffy and awkward, which is no way to make friends.

So if you really want to deal with Montreal on its own terms, you need to speak one of the two languages fluently, and the other one at a B1 level or better. But on the other hand, this means that an anglophone with B1 French and a willingness to use it is perfectly normal in Montreal. Lots of people there spend lots of time using their second language, and that's just life as usual.

But leaving aside Montreal, I fundamentally don't understand people who move to another western country without learning the language. Sure, if French is just your hobby, you might find it hard to justify putting in 500 or 1000 hours. But if somebody's an ambitious professional, I can't understand why they'd lock themselves into a whiny expat bubble for a decade. Seriously, if they're moving between any of the Romance or Germanic languages, 500 hours is enough to get "over the hump", and start a slow, inevitable slide towards fluency. And no self-respecting professional should balk at investing 500 hours into self-improvement and actually learning how to read and talk. (Obviously, the situation is entirely different for economic immigrants who work 70 hours/week in exhausting, low-wage jobs.)

As Khatzumoto put it, "You don’t have a foreign language problem, you have an adult literacy problem." Once you see language learning from that perspective, the idea of sitting in a class for two hours a week in hopes of learning the local language, well, it starts to feel a little pathetic.

tastyonions wrote:
And man, I don't know how some people can sustain their learning if they never get into native media or actually talk with natives a good bit! I'm sure I would have dropped French long ago if my learning process consisted of just class after class or textbook after textbook...

Ain't that the truth. The best part is when you can finally watch a TV series for fun without falling asleep. Now that's language learning…

Julie wrote:
That's the thing I love about HTLAL - on one hand, it makes you feel completely normal. On the other hand, it gives you perspective and something to aspire to. :)

The weird thing about learning French is that I'm picking up a whole new culture, but I can really only share it with my wife. It's sort of like being one of the only kids in town who reads science fiction books—when you finally find a science fiction convention somewhere, it feels like meeting "your own people," because you can finally say, "Oh, have you read ____? Wasn't that an amazing book?"

HTLAL offers me a partial outlet for this: I can post lists of cool French books, and occasionally somebody replies, "Oh, wow, that was awesome!" I live for that. And it's nice to be surrounded by lots of successful language learners when I'm struggling with my various weaknesses in French.

Edited by emk on 05 May 2013 at 4:56pm

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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3641 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 557 of 1317
05 May 2013 at 2:16pm | IP Logged 
Resuming Anki

For the last several months, I've been keeping up with my Anki reviews, but I haven't been learning any new cards. This was because I wanted to get caught up on the Super Challenge, and because I was busy with an emergency project for a new client. Despite my lack of new cards, I learned a ton of new vocabulary just from reading and listening, and I solidified a huge amount of existing vocabulary.

But the thing is, learning cards in Anki is fun, and it gives me a nice sense of accomplishment. And since I'm branching out into new genres, including detective stories (by Fred Vargas) and epic fantasy (Les puits des mémoires), I'm seeing a temporary spike of new vocabulary—typically as many as 1 to 3 words per page that are (a) fairly opaque, and (b) seem worth knowing.

Here are a few Anki cards, which I've typed in manually. I almost never type sentences (and AJATT Nutshell strongly recommends using only electronic sources for making cards, so I'm not alone in this). But I don't have easy access to French ebooks, and I can't find this vocabulary with a useful context in any electronic source.

All quotes are from Le puits des mémoires and all definitions are from Wiktionnaire:

Quote:
L'Anguille, qui n'avait pas son pareil pour glaner des informations, avait graissé la patte d'une fille de salle dont le cousin avait un cousin apparenté à un mystérieux contact, très bien renseigné sur les mouvements des prisonniers en fuite.



glaner = Ramasser des épis de blé après la moisson.

apparenter = (Pronominal) Se rendre parent par alliance.
S’apparenter à la noblesse, à la bourgeoisie.

parent = Membre de la même famille, de la parentèle.
Elle est devenue ma parente en épousant mon cousin.

Quote:
Eh ben c'est ce qui arrive aux trouillards, on leur bouffe leurs poires. La prochaine frois, il se laissera pousser une paire de couilles !



trouillard = Personne peureuse, craintive, pétocharde.

I don't make these cards when I'm reading. Instead, I cut off tiny pieces of Post It notes and stick them in the book next to interesting words, and then go back later and enter a few of them into Anki.

As you can see, Le puits des mémoires has some nice vocabulary and a certain degree of dry humor.

Edited by emk on 05 May 2013 at 2:31pm

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emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3641 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 558 of 1317
08 May 2013 at 6:58pm | IP Logged 
A few more language-learning phenomena I've observed (and which have often been observed elsewhere):

When I learn something, I will suddenly see it everywhere. Just the other day, I learned the following Anki card, taken from a Topito article:

Quote:
Front: Le mec qui se la pète grave avec ses abdos et son mini-slip de bain: A fuir de toute urgence. Marche le torse bombé et l’air fier.

Back: bomber le torse = Gonfler la poitrine, la mettre en avant, bomber la poitrine, bomber le thorax.

This corresponds roughly to the English expression "puff out your chest". Anyway, I just opened up Le puits des mémoires and what did I see?

Quote:
Les soldats s'alignèrent dans l'immense cour carrée de la caserne, le menton haut, la poitrine bombée.

This always happen. I know it's just a statistical illusion, but it's weird. It's not like French speakers actually say le torse bombé all that often. (Yes, my Anki cards are really starting to focus on lots of strange little idiomatic expressions like this.)

Immense fatigue. After reading or listening to a large amount difficult French, my brain suddenly decides to shut down, and I find it almost impossible to stay awake even in the middle of the day. I'd love to know the underlying neurological mechanism here.

Edited by emk on 08 May 2013 at 7:06pm

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patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2642 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 559 of 1317
08 May 2013 at 7:18pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:

Immense fatigue. After reading or listening to a large amount difficult French, my brain suddenly decides to shut down, and I find it almost impossible to stay awake even in the middle of the day. I'd love to know the underlying neurological mechanism here.


It's interesting how tiring learning is. Obviously this is not unique to language learning. Chess players and musicians complain of the same things. Even virtuoso musicians don't practice more than 4-5 hours per day.

I wonder if it's simple glucose metabolism. Isn't it the case the brain should be using about 2% of the energy of the body by size, but ends using closer to 20%?

---

I am not that these words we learn are so rare. My theory is we just don't notice them until we learn them.

Edited by patrickwilken on 08 May 2013 at 7:21pm

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Bakunin
Diglot
Senior Member
Switzerland
outerkhmer.blogspot.
Joined 3239 days ago

531 posts - 1126 votes 
Speaks: German*, Thai
Studies: Khmer

 
 Message 560 of 1317
09 May 2013 at 4:56pm | IP Logged 
emk wrote:
Just the other day, I learned the following Anki card, taken from a Topito article:

Quote:
Front: Le mec qui se la pète grave avec ses abdos et son mini-slip de bain: A fuir de toute urgence. Marche le torse bombé et l’air fier.

Back: bomber le torse = Gonfler la poitrine, la mettre en avant, bomber la poitrine, bomber le thorax.


May I ask how you use those cards? I assume 'front' comes up first and you see the sentence and 'le torse bombé' in bold letters. How do you test yourself? Do you just check that you understand what you read, or do you try to recall the definition on the back? Am I right that you mainly focus on comprehension here, or is there an element of active recall from 'gonfler la poitrine, la mettre en avant, bomber la poitrine, bomber le thorax' to 'le torse bombé'? What do think is the added value of putting this card into Anki after you've checked the French definition; is it your experience that without Anki you would risk forgetting the meaning of 'le torse tombé'?


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