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Kuji’s Krazy Log II

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emk
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 Message 697 of 706
13 July 2015 at 5:28pm | IP Logged 
kujichagulia wrote:
That leads me to the other hand. I feel like I'm not quite done with the episode, like there is more work to be done. That probably comes from the fact that I've done so much work on previous episodes. In fact, I feel like I... cheated. I just read the Portuguese, used the English to understand what I didn't understand, read it again and listened to it a couple of times. It doesn't feel like work; it feels like... I don't know, fun? It was relaxing, and the story was nice. I'm excited to not have to wait a while for the next episode; I can start on Episode 5 today!

This is a really good sign! If you had fun with episode 4, and you're looking forward to episode 5, then you're probably in the "sweet spot"—you understand enough that you're having fun, but you're still stretching yourself a little. It's also good that you have the English translation—radio broadcasts are sometimes harder than TV, because TV has lots of pictures that you can use to fill in the gaps. But here, the English translation can serve the same role as the pictures would. It gives you enough context and enough hints that you can get more out of the Portuguese.

kujichagulia wrote:
This is newly-chartered territory for me. I tend to not trust things so much or have faith in things. I don't have faith in myself or anybody else. I tend to want to know that something will work 100% before I try it.

The way I look at it, the only thing you need to have faith in here is your brain. :-) Your brain is an enormously-sophisticated machine for learning languages. OK, so maybe one or two parts of that machine are bit rusty or need occasional maintenance, so you can't learn languages exactly like a native 2-year-old would. And you probably need to jumpstart the machine until you reach B1 or so, unless you're living in full immersion. But if you're willing to help the machine a bit, it will still run, and most of the language-learning magic is still there.

So what do you need to do to make the language-learning machine in your brain work? Well, I live in a multi-lingual household with young kids, and as far as I can tell, they only learn languages when they have no choice. We speak to them all the time in French (and we buy them plenty of French media), so they more-or-less have to understand it, and they do. But every French speaker they know understands English just fine, so they don't really have to speak French. And they don't, or they do so only rarely. (Sometimes they get frustrated, and ask somebody to translate: "In English?" Other times they ask me, "Daddy, how do you speak French?", and they wish they knew more. I believe that child and adult language learners have a lot more in common than many people think.)

So that's my recipe: Do whatever it takes to reach a basic level of comprehension. (Say, B1 or so—the point where I can function in a limited but independent way.) Then surround myself with the language, and cut off all retreat. Then have faith that my brain still knows how to learn languages, and maybe give it a hand here and there if it seems stuck. I'm not dogmatic about only using "natural" language learning methods (because I'm older, and I'm learning under rather unnatural circumstances). But I still have faith that my brain can do a lot of the work on its own, once it realizes that's it's going to be surrounded by cool French media and plenty of French speakers.

And I suspect that this is one of the reasons why "momentum" is so important: Not only does it give the language learning machine enough time to reach full speed, it also convinces some hidden part of your brain that it's worth activating all this expensive language-learning machinery. Also, I'm not sure if you've ever noticed, but if I watch four episodes of a show in a single sitting, the first episode is sometimes rough, and the last episode is generally much easier. Momentum helps with a lot of things.

I could also put this in terms of a scientific hypothesis:

1. Learning a language is expensive, in terms of mental exhaustion, social awkwardness, and sheer time. So your brain would prefer to avoid it altogether if there's an easy way to blow it off.

2. But if all the people around you speak a language, then not knowing it is disastrous, because you can't communicate or function in society. And this is still true if you're 25 and you move to a new village or tribe for whatever reason. So adults need to be able to learn languages very quickly under certain circumstances. I would even hypothesize that there has been evolutionary selection for adult language learning ability.

3. Krashen is mostly correct when he says "We acquire language when we understand messages." When you hear something, and when you understand it (even via "cheating"), then your brain partially internalizes the language used to communicate the message. Maybe this isn't the whole story (you'll probably also benefit from speaking practice, from occasional intensive exercises and from other things). But large quantities of comprehensible input are amazingly, enormously helpful, and they tend to make things like grammar study much easier and more productive when you get around to them.

Anyway, once you start listening to radionovellas and watching TV, progress is generally measured in seasons. So don't hesitate to binge on entire DVD box sets or whatever; it works amazingly well for many people. And even if for some reason it doesn't work, then you still get to do cool stuff in Portuguese. And that's a habit well worth building. :-)
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Serpent
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 Message 698 of 706
13 July 2015 at 8:41pm | IP Logged 
kujichagulia wrote:
Looking back on the way I study, it's amazing that I've made any progress at all.

Seeing words like flow, momentum and snowball made me think of something odd. One of my favorite albums of all time was a 1996 album from the British band Jamiroquai. It had a clever title: Traveling Without Moving. Thinking about my study methods, I feel like I've been moving without traveling. I picture myself running in place, legs pumping, arms swinging, sweating... but going nowhere. That is probably what is happening when I continuously break my flow when reading a story or an article to concern myself with the details of a new word/phrase.


Don't be so harsh on yourself, kuji. You've been very dedicated and you've learned a lot.

(I think an equally big problem was your lack of study time at home. You can have flow with intensive activities too, but that would require maybe a 30-60 min session. And you'd probably not want to have another look at the article etc for a week or more. Extensive activities are much easier to pause and resume later.)
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kujichagulia
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 Message 699 of 706
16 July 2015 at 4:12am | IP Logged 
@kraemder -Yeah, it's much easier to do extensive reading with Portuguese than it is with Japanese. Portuguese has a lot of words which are similar to English words, so that helps. Plus, when reading something, even if I don't know the meaning of the Portuguese word, I can always sound it out, and that helps it to "get in my head" for later on when I see it again. It's not so easy with Japanese. If I see a word I don't know, I can't pronounce it because in most cases it's just a Chinese character or two, and I have to look up the pronunciation in a dictionary anyway. And even if I do that, I might not necessarily recognize it the next time I see it, because Chinese characters take longer to get into my head. But all of that is not necessarily a bad thing; I'm supposed to be spending more time on Japanese anyway. :)

And I think you are right about changing my attitude. A little bit of faith and positivity can go a long way.

@iguanamon - Muito obrigado! Eu acho que é um pouco estranho, mas estou começando a habituar a este.

I have not yet started Episode 5 of Futebol em África because I had to create the parallel text for it, but that is done and it's on my iPad (why is it always a pain just to transfer files to my iPad?) and ready to go. While waiting for that, I started on a new DLI chapter - it's been a while - and I'm wondering how intensive to go with that.

But yeah, this extensive, "momentum"-approach seems to be going well, although it might take a while before I really notice the difference. I think it is helping with my Japanese as well. The public broadcaster NHK has a website called NHK News Web Easy. They have daily news articles in simplified Japanese. They are short and have the readings printed above the kanji. It should be nice, quick and easy reading for an intermediate student like myself. However, I took the same approach to it as I did with the Portuguese radionovelas, etc., and a two- or three-paragraph news story took days to go through.

Now I'm just reading through the articles everyday. The great thing about it is that with my level, I hardly have to look up any words, and some articles I don't have to use a dictionary at all. They put out perhaps three or four articles a day, and I'm cranking through them in no time. It makes me wonder how I spent days on one article. With those articles, sometimes I knew all the words in the article and could understand it, but the way the sentences were constructed were new or troublesome to me, or I would see sentences I never thought about constructing before, so I would put those sentences into Anki. But now I can see how that is not necessary. If I read enough, I'll get used to sentences like those without using an SRS.

@emk - I would say that, for me, I don't really notice a series getting easier until maybe the 10th or 11th episode (LOL), but yeah, I understand what you mean. I still have trouble taking that Krashen quote to heart. I mean, it seems "easy": just understand the messages and eventually you will acquire the language. But like you said, it's not the whole story, but it seems to be an important part of it, and I'll keep going with it on faith. I think I might need more faith to binge on entire DVD sets, though. I can rent Japanese sets, obviously, but I really need a leap of faith to order DVD sets in Portuguese, especially since (a) they are probably extremely expensive because they are imports (the more popular American shows somehow avoid this), and (b) it's hard for me to find out which Portuguese-language dramas are good, other than word of mouth.

@Serpent - Yeah, that is another major problem of mine: studying at home. If I can get a system going at home, where I can study/read/whatever while dealing with distractions, then my language learning will be much improved. I am working on it, though. I've had to cut out a lot of what I do in English, which I'm a little worried about because my profession is teaching English - especially natural, conversational English - so I do need to keep up with the trends in the language. But I'm sure there's a way for me to get more Japanese and Portuguese time at home (especially Portuguese) and still get my English fix. Thank you for the encouraging words, by the way.
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1e4e6
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 Message 700 of 706
16 July 2015 at 5:05am | IP Logged 
If you want Portuguese series that are free and accessible, try the ficção section of
RTP: RTP ficção. They have dramas,
sitcom-style programmes, and comedies. I personally watch Os nossos dias, which is
a drama, and it is not funny or anything, but more about everyday people. Not very fun
things happen, like some of the characters end up in hospital, couples have disagreements
and stuff, but they send a 45-minute episode each weekday. Same with the other series.
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kujichagulia
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 Message 701 of 706
16 July 2015 at 6:24am | IP Logged 
1e4e6 wrote:
If you want Portuguese series that are free and accessible, try the ficção section of
RTP: RTP ficção. They have dramas,
sitcom-style programmes, and comedies. I personally watch Os nossos dias, which is
a drama, and it is not funny or anything, but more about everyday people. Not very fun
things happen, like some of the characters end up in hospital, couples have disagreements
and stuff, but they send a 45-minute episode each weekday. Same with the other series.

1e4e6, thank you for the suggestion! Sometimes I listen to RDP radio, but I haven't really started to explore the videos at RTP Play yet. I like dramas about everyday people and everyday life, so Os nossos dias sounds really interesting. I'll give it a try.
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Serpent
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 Message 702 of 706
16 July 2015 at 7:35am | IP Logged 
kujichagulia wrote:
I am working on it, though.

My main point was that your lack of study time is less big a deal for extensive learning. Don't stress about not doing enough, just go with what you have :)
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Ruan
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 Message 703 of 706
23 August 2015 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
kujichagulia wrote:
@kraemder -Yeah, it's much easier to do extensive reading with Portuguese than it is with Japanese. Portuguese
has a lot of words which are
similar to English words, so that helps.


Although some words are similar ( and other words, like the word "similar", are identical ), this can be very misleading sometimes. The word
charade can mean either a riddle or a deceptive act, but in Portuguese it can only mean a riddle, and nothing else. So this is a little bit
worse than what is called a "false friend", that is, words that look alike but have no shared meaning whatsoever; sometimes this kind of thing
makes me wish I was born a native speaker of Japanese instead.

If I were learning Portuguese as my second language, I would definitely not ever mix Brazilian and European Portuguese. They're drifting away
very rapidly and linguists say that Portugal is getting so mesmerized by importing words and phonology from other European countries that it's
on the verge of becoming an entirely different language from Brazilian Portuguese. In fact, there are Romance languages in rural areas near the border
between Portugal and Spain that are more intelligible to Brazilians than what's spoken in Lisbon.

Edited by Ruan on 23 August 2015 at 10:05pm

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Serpent
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 Message 704 of 706
24 August 2015 at 12:36am | IP Logged 
No need to dramatize ;) Especially before you actually try learning something like Japanese or even Finnish.


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