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How do you learn best?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
22 messages over 3 pages: 1 2
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kipeesh.comRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 17 of 22
20 April 2012 at 7:48am | IP Logged 
I definitely second the general consensus here that the immersion method is the best, regardless if you are living in
the target language country or creating your own immersion environment in your own surroundings. In fact, this is
what I have used to develop my language skills. Surrounding yourself with the language is the most natural way of
acquiring language skills and probably the most quickest as well
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Senior Member
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Speaks: English*, French
Studies: Polish, Slovak, Uzbek, Turkish, Korean, Finnish

 Message 18 of 22
20 April 2012 at 8:47am | IP Logged 
Solfrid Cristin wrote:
So my question is: Am I the only one who is wired that way? Do you need the grammar and the rules in order to feel that you learn anything, or is it easier for you to learn directly from natural sources?

I seem to work best using at least those two approaches as I don't see them as exclusive. The first language that I learned on my own and never ended up taking classes (yet) is Slovak. On one hand, what I learned from drilling and study with Swan's "Beginning Slovak" has stuck while the immersion that I got later on by meeting Slovaks in my hometown and while travelling in Slovakia didn't hurt either. However I doubt that I could have got this far with only one of those elements. My mind is too inquisitive to ignore a grammar book for long after encountering an unfamiliar structure, while I'd get too restless if my study of a language were nothing more than drilling, drilling and drilling some more.
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Studies: Spanish, Arabic (Written), Swedish
Studies: Danish, Dari, Kirundi

 Message 19 of 22
20 April 2012 at 4:42pm | IP Logged 
I realise it's the minority I am in, but I always must understand grammar first.
Learning whole sentences is too hard for me.

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Senior Member
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 Message 20 of 22
20 April 2012 at 11:47pm | IP Logged 
I probably can learn from any kind of material as long as I can comprehend it and sustain my attention, and as long as I don't feel pressurized. But my language usage relies mostly on heuristic processing, and for that to build up I need exposure. Of course I add metaprocessing to my heuristic processing, but that just serves as a touch-up.
It seems that I could learn from grammar/rule heavy sources, but I really hate not having that heuristic database to rely on; I know the rules that usually are taught are very rough approximations that are honed and refined by exposure to real language (or not at all). That means without my internal database I would have to rely on direct feedback by proficient speakers in order to learn how to use those rules. To me, it seems very messy and disorderly to have somebody else do that for you and correct you time after time until you've finally got it down. The entire process makes me feel pressurized and the repetition necessary to make it work bores me endlessly, so I don't learn with such methods simply because I don't follow through with them.
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Super Polyglot
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Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 21 of 22
21 April 2012 at 10:58am | IP Logged 
As long as I can't read a simple genuine text there is no point in doing extensive listening or reading or (even less) attempts to have conversations. So here the use of extensive methods is not yet relevant. Instead I focus on 'cracking' those texts with the help of dictionaries and grammars - and I also do dedicated grammar studies with subsequent search for examples in my (still few and short) texts. I do of course also listen, but only just enough to get a sense of the sounds and melody of the language so that I can imagine it more or less realistically when I read - and that's that.

The one and only alternative might be LR (listening-reading) as defined by Siomotteikiru, but in practice it has been impractical to do because of the lack of interesting materials - which doesn't include fiction or materials spoken by actors or with background noise. I use the concept of intensive listening or 'listening like a bloodhound' as the tool used for learning to understand genuine speech - this implies listening for syllables, word boundaries and grammatical structures rather than the meaning, which will pop up by itself when my background knowledge of words and grammar is sufficient comprehensive.

Extensive methods sneak in when I reread the things I have been studying intensively, and at some point I can also read materials which haven't been through that process. Somewhere around that point I can also start to think in the language, and from then on I try to push up the percentage of my time I spend on extensive activities AND active activities. It is impossible to give a timeframe for the first phase because languages are different and I do other things too, but if I really concentrated on a language and spent all my time on it (as some might suggest) I would get bored.

To get truly active (i.e. being able to have free conversations) I need to listen and read extensively in massive amounts - the language has to be 'buzzing' in my head, and I get that by watching TV, reading for hours and (if possible) travelling, but the irony is that I don't necessarily have to speak to natives during this phase - the 'buzzing' is the thing I need, not communication in se (actually it could cheat me into parroting prelearned phrases).

With related languages this scheme is compromised because I am tempted to jump right into the middle of the process, namely there where I start doing mostly extensive activites. But I know that this only will lead to a bastardized halflanguage so I still have to do the intensive activities, just in an accelerated speed. Luckily wordlists, grammar studies and copying can also be done with languages which you already understand- you just have to bear in mind that the point is to learn the form instead of doing the capital error of going exclusively for the meaning. Without these intensive activities the language in question ought to remain on the passive list except in dire trouble where you absolutely have to communicate in whatever language.

The last technique I have started to use is detailed listening while notating the individual sounds and (to some extent) prosody - cfr. my log thread for the last month or so. This technique fills out a hole in my previous practices by forcing me to learn how a language actually is pronounced. If you listen in a casual way or listen for the meaning you won't notice all the small details (unless you have some natural gift which I haven't got) - you need to know the variants below the phonemic level to pronounce a language well, and for me that means making them conscious. I have had my share of well-meaning teachers telling me to pronounce something like this, not like that - and it has had little effect because I tend to close me ears when a person starts yelling at me even if it is done in a hypocritical friendly way. Listening and relistening to a prerecorded sound recording while analysing it as detailed as possible is much less distracting and stressful, and then I can start communicating with living humans when my own skills (read defence weapons) have been built up to the necessarily level.

And that pattern of course also holds water with all other parameters of language learning. For me.

Edited by Iversen on 21 April 2012 at 11:34am

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Senior Member
United Kingdom
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Speaks: English*, German, Italian, SpanishB2, FrenchB2
Studies: Arabic (Egyptian), Russian, Swedish, Turkish, Polish, Persian, Vietnamese
Studies: Urdu

 Message 22 of 22
24 April 2012 at 5:57pm | IP Logged 
My methods depend on whether I am learning a language related to one I already speak or something completely new and whether there are outside pressures to learn.

First I like to listen to the language and pick out the phonemes - if I like the sound and believe I can emulate that then onto the next step.
I then like to get to a position where I can read (or a transliterated version of) the language and then read and listen to the language until chunks form in my mind
and I know what the language feels sounds like. Is this the Iversen 'buzz'?
This is where I get into shadowing.

Then I like to get into the meaningful production of the language with people who'll correct me: I don't mind being corrected. I think the pressure to 'get it right' is what I like.I also don't mind talking to myself. ;-)

I learn wordlists either thematic or random - I often start at the top of a dictionary page and learn a page per day. I have had little success with Anki decks produced by other people but if I go to the trouble of making the deck for myself I then don't need much in the way of repetition.

I also found that handwriting my wordlists is better than typing them; as a previous copy typist/cryptanalyst/stenographer I type without the words actually passing through my conscience.

For a couple of languages I was sent through the 'drills' process similar to the DLI but I found it stultifying, as once I knew a construct I really didn't need to thrash it out dozens of identical times but I was assiduous in doing my homework and learning the vocab lists we were set.

Edited by maydayayday on 24 April 2012 at 5:59pm

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