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Activating passive skills by immersion

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 Message 1 of 11
05 October 2013 at 4:26pm | IP Logged 
I believe Iversen, prof Arguelles and Huliganov (the Goldlist guy) have said that once an
extensive passive vocabulary has been built up, it can be "activated", possibly in a
matter of days, through immersion in the target country. Has anyone else had similar

(Apologies if I have misrepresented anyone, and no doubt the question has been discussed
many times before)

Edited by schoenewaelder on 05 October 2013 at 4:27pm

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 Message 2 of 11
05 October 2013 at 6:29pm | IP Logged 
I have.

I've done over a couple hundred hours of L/R. Then after watching TV/movies for a week or so, I was able to hear words I had previously seen before. Everything starts getting clearer the more you watch. As it gets clearer, new words are easier to understand, and with new words you can start understanding those "native speaker contractions".

I imagine that being in the country would make the process faster.
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 Message 3 of 11
05 October 2013 at 7:09pm | IP Logged 
Huliganov says exactly what the OP mentions.

I'm not sure if the Professor puts it in quite those terms, but his techniques of
shadowing and scriptorium would tend to support active-type skills as much as they
might help passive ones. so one would have something of a head-start, I believe.
Somewhere he talks about going to Russia, and then having intensive one-to-one sessions
with a native teacher to activate his Russian. I get the impression he'd be generally
OK with the basic idea though, perhaps with the degree of success varying with the
amount of active-type work one had done beforehand.

Iversen can of course speak for himself. :-)

My own experience, for what it is worth is that after about half a week in Germany, I'm
much less tongue-tied than I was when I entered the country. I think it partly depends
upon what you are doing when you get to the country.

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 Message 4 of 11
06 October 2013 at 2:10am | IP Logged 
As it happens, Huliganov has just updated one of his GL threads on his blog. I got it in an email, as I seem to be
tracking it. I'll try to post a link, but I'll copy and paste the text, in the hope that it is of interest:

huliganov wrote:

in response to elco2:

Hi, I’m pretty much on the silver level at this point. Now I have never been able to easily understand a SPOKEN foreign
language. What is a reasonable about of time for this to happen?

It’s not a question of time but of the presence of certain ingredients in your brain. If you have done at some stage a
Pimsleur or some audio course so that you know what the words and phrases you are goldlisting are supposed to sound like
in a pretty standard version of the language you are learning, and you have goldlisted about 10,000 words or more and
taken them through to the end of silver if not gold levels, then you can do the following activity with a much higher
assurance of success.

You need to get hold of an audio book for a book you can read in that language, and where there is a translation in
English. The best place for this is Audible, where the app allows you also graded speeds of listening to the same
material – and you can start off with a slower speed and build up. Listen to the same piece of 10 minutes long with
short, ten minute breaks about three times over. This is not a long-term memory exercise it is an ear exercise and so
you are perfectly OK using short-term memory techniques for this, they are quite appropriate. This is not the point at
which you learn the words, you should have learned most of them before. This is where you push your ear and get it to go

Once you have done this, you are likely to find that some parts of the spoken text have become a tad clearer and some
still baffle you. You then open the book and read the text, which you should not have done before this point.

Having read the text, if there are any words that you do not know, please mark them and find them in the English text,
please also make sure that anything you get from the English text which you didn’t get from the original – work out if
that’s the fault of your lack of nuancing or too much freedom on the part of the translator. Add any missing knowledge
back into your headlist and put it through the Goldlist system in due course.

You then should read the text while listening to it at normal speed. You can do this a couple of times if you feel it

You should be able to speak along with the recording now, while reading the text. If this is hard at first, use the
pause button and precede each recorded sentence with your own attempt.

Then finally you can go back to just listening but use higher speeds, like 1,25 or 1,5* normal.

You then move on to the next chunk of text, rinse and repeat.

But every so often you go back and listen to what you heard before.

Not only will this improve listening comprehension, but also accent.

Nevertheless, it is not a way of learning to the long term memory, it’s an aural fitness routine. You therefore, like I
said at the beginning, should only start to do this once you are really nearing your goldlist target.

It is a way of getting to speaking fluency as well around the “listening” route described in my articles here on my Four
Function Diagram.

Many thanks for the question which I will turn into a lead article.

I've just spotted that the question he was answering was about listening comprehension, and not really about activating
speaking, but anyway, it might be somewhat relevant to the OP, and of interest to others.

link to the comment on

I'm not sure that Prof. A. would agree with him that this wouldn't help with getting words into the LT memory (at least
not if done in a shadowing fashion), since Prof. A. has said and written several times that he's never made any
conscious effort to memorise vocabulary. He just seems to do things like shadowing, use parallel texts, and scriptorium
and eventually the words stick. Huliganov's approach is obviously different, but nevertheless, they have certain things
in common, e.g. no "rote learning" of vocabulary.

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 Message 5 of 11
06 October 2013 at 12:19pm | IP Logged 
Professor Arguelles is shadowing his languages while learning them, which means that in one way or another he speaks/activates them right from the outset, and the intensity of his method enables him to think in a language too after having finished the shadowing stage. Considering this holistic approach I assume that a separate activation process won't be necessary for him.

In an old thread on his polyglot institute project he made some general observations on the usefulness of deliberately developing practical abilities: in his scheme they are virtually redundant.

ProfArguelles wrote:
I firmly believe that focusing on developing practical abilities is, paradoxically, an inefficient way of attaining them, and that studying languages in the holistic fashion that I propose—which always necessarily includes diachronic developmental study of the language to whatever extent this is known—imparts these abilities as a matter of course. In other words, students who focus upon learning how to speak stand a good chance of failing in this endeavor, while those who focus instead upon getting to know the essence of a language will naturally come to be able to speak it where it is being used.

[...] For now, let me just correct one misconception that I appear to have given you: the attainment of high practical abilities may not be the deliberate focus of the kind of education I am proposing, but this does not mean that it will not be the result. The outcome of a thorough knowledge of what languages are and how they came to be what they are should be a much higher level of conversational ability, etc., than can be obtained by mere pursuit of such functional goals alone. When you know a language in depth, you can certainly speak it with polish, and I would not offer anything less.

Somewhere else he mentioned an airplane test: When he went to a foreign country after having learned its native language, rather than practice speaking he would attempt to read a novel in that language without recourse to a dictionary while sitting in the plane. If he is able to finish the book without problems before arrival he knows that he will be OK. At least he did this (successfully) when he went to St. Petersburg after having learnt Russian.
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 Message 6 of 11
06 October 2013 at 5:40pm | IP Logged 
For me, I thought that the distinction between "passive" and "active" proficiency was
the difference between able to understand the language, whether written or spoken, and
being able to actively use it to communicate. Has anyone really had the experience of
quickly converting purely passive ability to active ability just by being immersed in
the language environment, and if so, how similar was the language being converted to
languages that they already had active skills in?
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 Message 7 of 11
08 October 2013 at 12:35pm | IP Logged 
I've probably mixed up a couple of things in my own head. There's the usual
passive/active distinction that we usually use about language learning, going from
being able to understand the written or spoken word, to being able to spontaneosly
generate words or phrases in the target language, and then there's the more general
meaning of "active", i.e. actively being able to participate in conversations
(henceforth to be referred to as "actively active". Or possibly not).

I'm interested in both aspects. When I first start really speaking, e.g. with tandem
partners, it can get exhausting just doing it for half an hour, and this is one aspect,
that I'm pretty sure lots of or even most other learners experience. (That's after a
few years study, after I've acquired a vocabulary of a few thousand words, not right at
the beginning)

But that's presumably because I haven't really interalised the language passively

Edited by schoenewaelder on 08 October 2013 at 12:37pm

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 Message 8 of 11
08 October 2013 at 2:02pm | IP Logged 
In my experience, you don't even need immersion. You just really need both reading and listening.

Within a year of starting Finnish, I could read, write and think pretty well, within the limits of my vocabulary. But I was unable to (orally) understand or produce the same things that I was able to read and write. I got the Da Vinci Code audiobook and the paper book, and I went through the whole thing. I also shadowed most Assimil lessons.

Thanks to Italian I just realized that all of that was simply making up for not listening enough from the beginning. I expected to use the same techniques but I didn't need to. Football and LR made a huge difference.

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