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Iversen

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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4889 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 1 of 107
20 July 2006 at 11:01am | IP Logged 
I don't like to complain to much in my first post, but the system to discribe your learning steps is quite complicated and it takes a long time to fill out all those forms, and the idea of the whole things gets lost in details.

I think I can summarize my personal history of language studies much more succinctly (and cross-language) like this:

I started out without any special plans by learning the obligatory languages in school: English, German and (much later) French and Latin. Latin is a special case, because the methods only favored reading and no other linguistic skill. Let's keep that out of the discussion. With at least English and German it was an immense support to be able to watch TV programs in those languages (thanks to Danish TV for not dubbing!). And I read library books in the two languages.

Somewhere around the age of 12-13 I begin checking out books about Italian (because I liked classical music) and Latin (because I liked zoological nomenclature), - this was before these languages popped up in school. This changed to a general interest in languages, so I added Spanish. I used ordinary text books with drills and all that, I translated from easy books to Danish and back, and I listened to films in TV with subtitles. I suppose this is the old fashioned not-very-fashionable way of doing things, but in my case it worked.

Then came French in the 'gymnasium' (age group 15-18), where I had a marvellous teacher, who habitually and out of context poked me questions in Italian and Spanish in the middle of a French session, - that kept me working hard on those languages!).

After 18 two things happened: I started travelling a lot (alone), which is a simple but efficient way of getting immersed into languages. And I started at the university. I first took a small exam in literature, but that just changed my waning interest in fiction from moderate to active disgust. Then I took a larger exam in French, but at this time I have conceived the idea of learning every single modern Romance and Germanic language plus whatever else I could get time for (ancient language forms, modern Greek, a bit of Russian). I continued using drills, even boring ones such as making lists of unknown words and rewriting them again and again, - memorizing them aurally is not enough. I also studied grammar across languages and did genuine linguistic research even as a student. But being at the university I could also slip into courses in other languages than those covered in my French curriculum, - for instances I followed a course in Icelandic for two semesters without ever being inscribed formally in any way to that course.

I should probably stress one point: conversation training in groups works very inefficiently with me, - it is so boring talking about irrelevant texts that it may even harm my own home studies.

However in general I made good progress with the methods I used at the University, and when I left in 1981 I knew at least a dozen languages fairly well. But I couldn't get a job and dropped linguistics almost totally. Now I have more or less lost the languages that I don't need in my daily life. Television, books and my travels are the things that keep a few languages alive, but I have just about stopped training languages actively nowadays. I can still read some of the languages though...

.... and now: how should I ever be able to put that into x formal steps for y languages without losing the thread or drowning in details?
In my case the general three-step cross-language development would be: 12-18: discovering that languages are fun (but working with oldfashioned drills), 19-27: seriously doing something about it (with a wider palette of methods), 28-now: letting it all gradually slip away. The rest is just trifles.



Edited by Iversen on 23 September 2008 at 3:28am

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fanatic
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Senior Member
Australia
speedmathematics.com
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 Message 2 of 107
25 July 2006 at 8:56am | IP Logged 
Welcome to the forum.

Iversen wrote:
I first took a small exam in literature, but that just changed my waning interest in fiction from moderate to active disgust.


Hey, why are you disgusted with fiction? I read all kinds of fiction. I love it.
Iversen wrote:
I also studied grammar across languages and did genuine linguistic research even as a student. But being at the university I could also slip into courses in other languages than those covered in my French curriculum, - for instances I followed a course in Icelandic for two semesters without ever being inscribed formally in any way to that course.


I have textbooks on linguistics I just read for pleasure without taking any exams. I enjoy comparing languages and seeing the mechanics of a language.

How did you go with Icelandic? Were you able to read or converse in the language?

I like your approach to learning languages. We all learn differently. I think schools should use a variety of methods in the classroom. If your method works for you then use it. I still like to look for ways to improve though.

I look forward to your posts on the forum.
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lady_skywalker
Triglot
Senior Member
Netherlands
aspiringpolyglotblog
Joined 5076 days ago

909 posts - 942 votes 
Speaks: Spanish, English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, French, Dutch, Italian

 
 Message 3 of 107
25 July 2006 at 10:10am | IP Logged 
fanatic wrote:
Iversen wrote:
I first took a small exam in literature, but that just changed my waning interest in fiction from moderate to active disgust.


Hey, why are you disgusted with fiction? I read all kinds of fiction. I love it.


I think I can sympathise with Iversen on this one. I used to enjoy fiction a lot before I was 'forced' to study set texts for my English literature GCSE and A-Level. Somehow, the British education system is more interested in pushing you through exams rather than allowing you time to develop a personal interest in literature so I ended up fairly frustrated, especially after dreary months of dredging through Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. Since then, I've taken to reading mostly non-fiction but I do read fiction once in a while (although I admit that it can sometimes bore me quickly).

Back on topic...Iversen, welcome to the forum and look forward to reading more about your language studies. I totally understand the feeling of 'losing' a language. It has happened to me with Mandarin, even though I am theoretically exposed to it daily here in Taiwan! This is due more to a loss of interest in the language and culture but I still find it frustrating to pour so much time and effort into learning a language only to end up practically back to square one after years of neglect.
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4889 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 4 of 107
25 July 2006 at 10:39am | IP Logged 
fanatic wrote:
Hey, why are you disgusted with fiction? I read all kinds of fiction. I love it.


Well, I think a couple of years where I had to endure endless Marxist interpretations of literature because I was dumb enough to study literature in Denmark during the seventies did the trick. But that disgust was a temporary phase, and I don't blame literature itself for it. However I still primarily read non fiction because I am so deeply interested in natural sciences, history and whatever that it takes towering literary masterpieces like Lord of the Rings or Shakespeare to drag me back to fiction. Which of course is bad for my language learning because most non fiction is rather primitive from a lingustic perspective.

- As for Icelandic/old Norse I had the advantage of being Danish. It is safe to say that speakers of the moderne Scandinavian languages don't understand a word of Icelandic when they first meet it, but when you have to build up your vocabulary it is the most arcane and old fashioned variations of Danish you need to know, because it is here that you find the parallels to Icelandic. We have had a massive influx of Low German in the 1500s and now English, whereas Icelandic escaped all that.

My method: I set out with professor Wimmers classic collection of Old Norse texts, a dictionary and a grammar, and then I just translated and translated back and wrote word lists, invented drills and all that, - I didn't really use a text book, and I didn't really hear any Icelandic for at least a year or two. Then I saw that something called "West Nordic Institute" had its rooms quite close to the "Romance Institute" where I studied, and I went over there to ask whether they would object to having me sitting there. At the time they only had two or three "real" students so they didn't mind a bit. The only problem was that they only had advanced courses that year, so it was a bit of a rude awakening, but I survived, and I did indeed learn to speak a little. Since then I have had to put Icelandic on the list of languages I cannot really keep alive, except for reading a saga now and then. It is therefore listed as a "beginner" language in my language profile.

Well, that became one more long meandering post. I will try to write shorter and konciser texts in the future like the rest of you guys.


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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4889 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
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 Message 5 of 107
25 July 2006 at 11:01am | IP Logged 
To Lady Skywalker:

I just read your post where you mention the notion of "language loss". I have just written another post to a thread called "Losing the languages" (under General Discussion), where I describe how it was to see a semidead language get back to life for a while just because I happened to spend a couple of weeks in the right place.

In my opinion the important thing is to walk around with a pocket dictionary or something so that you can check out anything you are puzzled by while you're still in the situation. But maybe that's more difficult with Chinese due to their writing system? And apart from that: talk, read, speak to shopkeepers and people in trains and buses for hours on end, think in the foreign language even it means that there are 'potholes' in your inner monologue. And be wary of people who try to force you to speaking English, of course. You know all the tricks as well as I do.


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lady_skywalker
Triglot
Senior Member
Netherlands
aspiringpolyglotblog
Joined 5076 days ago

909 posts - 942 votes 
Speaks: Spanish, English*, Mandarin
Studies: Japanese, French, Dutch, Italian

 
 Message 6 of 107
25 July 2006 at 11:17am | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
To Lady Skywalker:

I just read your post where you mention the notion of "language loss". I have just written another post to a thread called "Losing the languages" (under General Discussion), where I describe how it was to see a semidead language get back to life for a while just because I happened to spend a couple of weeks in the right place.

In my opinion the important thing is to walk around with a pocket dictionary or something so that you can check out anything you are puzzled by while you're still in the situation. But maybe that's more difficult with Chinese due to their writing system? And apart from that: talk, read, speak to shopkeepers and people in trains and buses for hours on end, think in the foreign language even it means that there are 'potholes' in your inner monologue. And be wary of people who try to force you to speaking English, of course. You know all the tricks as well as I do.


I've studied Mandarin formally at university for several years so I'm a little beyond that stage these days! Nevertheless, I have lost a fair bit of the language but also have little interest in reviving it. Yes, I guess it's frustrating that I devoted 4 years of study to Mandarin and now suffer the same mistakes as some beginners but frankly I've given up caring. My time in Taiwan has killed any remaining interest in the language and culture and I feel almost ready to let it go. While I know people would normally say that changing my study strategies would reawaken an interest in the language, I've developed a fairly strong dislike for Mandarin lately, to the point where I pretend I only speak a few words of it. This loss of interest, coupled with the constant frustration experienced in trying to speak standard Mandarin here in Taiwan, means that I'd be happy to never have to use the language again unless it's purely in its written form (which I do as I'm working as a freelance translator at the moment).

Sorry that I sound a little bitter and negative about my experience with Mandarin but I don't think I'm the only person who has lost all interest in a language. It's probably a terrible thing to do and a seeming waste of time and effort but I'd rather devote my energy to languages I *am* still interested in as I feel it's impossible to progress any further when there's little or no motivation or interest. Nevertheless, I'm glad that I studied Mandarin as it did expose me to a new culture and language...and it's given me a slight discount on learning Japanese. :)
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Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4889 days ago

9078 posts - 16470 votes 
Speaks: Danish*, French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, Romanian, Catalan
Studies: Afrikaans, Greek, Norwegian, Russian, Serbian, Icelandic, Latin, Irish, Lowland Scots, Indonesian, Polish, Croatian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 7 of 107
09 January 2007 at 5:29am | IP Logged 
I decided to refuel my language studies in June 2006 after discovering this site (thanks, folks). So now half a year later I think it is about time to make a status, like several other members have done.

My English has never been in danger, - I use it daily and have always done so.

My German is somewhat homemade, but with 4-5 TV programmes and many travels to Germany it has not been in danger. However I discovered that the genders of nouns needed a repolish, so I have systematically notated the genders whenever I have used German in my wordlists (sometimes I write my 'other' wordlists in German, because so many of my dictionaries are German)

My French should be OK, with a university degree in the language and French grammar as my favorite subject, but I have used it far too little since 1981. It did get a repolish with a trip to the Loire valley, and I have made some specialized word lists.

My Spanish is mostly self taught, most effectively during travels in Latinamerica, so in the summer of 2006 it actually seemed that I was more fluent in Spanish than in French, - but with many more errors and a more limited vocabulary. I have extended my vocabulary in the second half of 2006, but still make far too many errors.

My Catalan was all but stone dead in the summer of 2006, but I have worked hard on it, and when I visited Valencia in the autumn I could read everything and understand normal spoken language on TV, - I didn't have enough opportunities to speak the language, but when I did it worked.

My Portuguese was never really good even during the seventies, but when I bought a trip to Cabo Verde I had to learn it, and it went surprisingly fast. Just as with Catalan I can understand just about every single word on TV, and unlike Catalan I had lots of opportunities to speak the language.

My Italian was quite good 25 years ago, but had as an active language slipped to a level where I even had problems speaking it when I visited Italy a couple of years ago. I have done some repolishing (quite intensively right now), and it seems to have reemerged unscathed.

I could speak Romanian in 1981, but since then I had no chance at all for 25 years to use it. So when I went to Romania and Moldova for 2 weeks in July I started out as a very low level, but studied hard during the trip, and near the end I mostly spoke Romanian to people. It still needs a lot of work, but I'm approaching basic fluency.

I learnt the basics of Modern Greek grammar around 1980, but only few words, so even though I have visited Hellenophone countries since then I could not use the language to anything. Since October I have been working hard to learn new words because I think that's the thing that will get things going. I am now on the point where I can understand most of an ordinary newspaper og magazine article, but not naturally spoken Greek, and I don't speak Greek yet. Frankly I had expected it to go faster...

Icelandic? Something of a disappointment. I got it back to the level where I can read a simple saga or similar modern text, but then I had a problem getting suitable material, and when I started Greek and Portuguese in September Icelandic just slipped out of my mind

Swedish, Norwegian: well, I understand them perfectly and some day I just might want to make them active. But not now.

Latin: I got high notes in Latin thirty years ago, but because it was only a matter of reading and studying grammar I couldn't keep ruminating on Latin in my head, and without that I can't keep a language alive. So next time - and there will be a next time - I'm going to study Latin as a living language

Dutch: I understand it perfectly when written, to some extent when spoken, but I have never really tried to learn to speak or write it. That's on my list for 2007.

And then I'm starting to think seriously about studying Russian (because it is the largest Slavic language, the one with most material and I can already now read the alphabet). I'm most worried about the moving accents, - in Greek at least every single accent is pinned down in writing, in Russian it seems to be one mess.

All in all I think I have spent the second half of 2006 well.


Edited by Iversen on 09 January 2007 at 4:52pm

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luke
Diglot
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United States
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 Message 8 of 107
09 January 2007 at 7:30am | IP Logged 
Your posts are enlightening and inspirational. Thanks for telling us about your experiences.


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