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Joined 3423 days ago
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Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole
Message 1 of 3019 January 2014 at 5:51pm | IP Logged
This post is intended to explain about and how I use the "multi-track" approach in language learning. I am not intending to "win" a debate. There is more than one way to learn a language. There is no "best" way. I just want to explain why I feel the multi-track approach is a good way to learn a language and add a voice to the chorus.
Caveats: This method is NOT THE ANSWER! I am not a guru or the next great polyglot. We all learn differently. I'm just a guy who has managed to learn some languages on his own and I think I can help some people who might want to try something a little different. If you are a perfectionist, don't follow this advice, it won't help. If you are an obsessive anki user, don't follow this advice, you'll defeat the purpose.
More Caveats: If you are happy with your course(s) and feel like you are doing well, making good progress, don't follow this advice. If you don't like or want to be challenged, if you need or want to have everything explained and need or want the structure that is provided in a course, then don't follow this advice. If you only have a very limited amount of time available for language learning in a day, don't follow this advice. (though not having enough time is an illusion, seek and ye shall find). If you are studying a lot of languages simultaneously because you want to be the next great youtube "polyglot" sensation and record a video of yourself "speaking" those dozen languages, don't follow this advice.
And More Caveats: I have seen proof of members here on the forum who have successfully learned a language using the course-only method and not following any of the advice I am about to proffer. To what extent, they have eschewed native content varies, some people don't consider watching a video or reading an article "study".
Even More Caveats: If you feel that something is missing from your routine, if you feel that you are not being challenged sufficiently by your course, if you are dissatisfied at the pace of your course and the choice of topics covered, if you want to perhaps shorten the time it takes you to reach the intermediate stage, and make the intermediate stage less of a shock to your system, if you want to make your routine more interesting and turbocharge your learning, then read on.
What is the multi-track approach?
WARNING- LONG POST FOLLOWS!!! For a more practical demonstration look at how I applied my approach when I started with Haitian Creole in my log- click my name and then "log". My approach is more holistic. I seem to have acquired a reputation of being "anti-course" here on the forum because I always advise beginners to add in some native material in addition to their courses. I'm not. I don't eschew courses. I think courses in the beginning are highly useful. They give a good grounding in the fundamentals, and you've got to start somewhere. Where I differ from orthodoxy is by recommending simultaneous course(s) along with some type of native material from the start- even when you won't understand very much at all.
Course-world and the real world are very different. Courses are designed for the lowest common denominator, a mass of people. The course designer can't possibly know what interests you, the vocabulary you need to know for your interests and needs, or how you learn. The lessons are designed to teach you in a "logical" progression. I put logical in quotes because, it's the author of the course's logic. The topics can be uninteresting, boring and impractical. You must wait to learn aspects of the language until the course author(s) decide you are "ready" to learn them. It's their decision when you should learn the past tense, for example. Even in the last Assimil lessons, the audio is unnaturally slow. That's one reason why learners are sometimes woefully unprepared for the real thing when, even after they've been "studying" for maybe even a year with a course.
They then try native material and are often shocked to find that they understand a lot less than they expected. Sometimes they give up, or worse, repeat the same course. If you are engaging the language from the start, at the same time as you are doing a course, you are much better prepared for the language as it is actually spoken, written and used outside of course-world.
My advice would be to pick one or two courses and do them at the same time, alternating days or one in the morning and the other in the evening, or one after the other in the same time period. If you, for example, do Pimsleur in the morning and then, say, a course in the evening, you'll find that the material from one will often reinforce the other. Add in some comprehensible input- bilingual text, short news item, a song or even a tweet and you are using the "multi-track" approach.
Barry Farber described this phenomenon in his book "How to Learn Any Language" like this:
|Barry Farber wrote:
...seeing a word or phrase in your grammar book fifty times does not secure it in your memory as effectively as seeing it two or three times and then coming across that same word or phrase by surprise in a newspaper or magazine or hearing it on a cassette or in a radio broadcast or a movie or in conversation with a native speaker.
It may be hard to explain why the multiple track attack works, but it’s easy to prove that it does. It’s somehow related to the excitement of running into someone from your hometown on the other side of the world. You might have ignored him back home or dismissed him with a “howdy,” but you’ll be flung into each other’s arms by the power of meeting unexpectedly far from home.
The rub off effect kicks in nicely almost from the beginning of your effort as words you learned from a flash card or cassette pop up in your workbook or newspaper. Sure, you will eventually conquer the word even if it occurs only in your grammar book or your phrase book or on your cassette, but that learning involves repeated frontal assault on a highly resistant unknown. Let that same word come at you, however, in a real life newspaper article and your mind embraces it as an old friend. ...
Where a lot of people fall down with using the multi-track approach is, worrying too much about understanding everything perfectly (you don't have to) and focusing too much on any one aspect and giving up too early. Too much focus on courses can leave one unprepared for the way the language is used outside of courses. Too much focus on native input can leave you without a good grounding. A good balance is achievable and desirable to create a good synergy and get the chain-reaction going, in my opinion.
In the beginning, courses are most important. In a language like the Romance languages, for example, you have to get to a point where you recognize gender of nouns and adjectives, can conjugate verbs in the present tense and at least recognize the conjugations for the other tenses before the non-course material will really start to make sense. For native material, I wouldn't start off with Don Quixote or Harry Potter. I'd start off with a short news item (ideally with a bilingual text), a song or something of a few paragraphs and, over time, work my way up. Even if you have to look up every word in the dictionary at the beginning, if you can puzzle out what the sentence means on your own, before you check the translation, you'll be on your way.
Cheat! Cheat often! Brazenly cheat! There are many sources of bilingual texts available if you look, even if it's just a users manual for a device, government advice, or news items.
This is an element that many learners leave out until much later- listening from the beginning is extremely important. Speaking, as often as you can, even imperfectly, especially imperfectly, is very important and often neglected. We tend to learn a lot from our mistakes when we get corrected. Lang8 is great for writing and italki is a good place to find conversation/chat partners.
Often, learners will be going great guns in the beginner stages with just their courses and then hit a wall in the intermediate stage because they haven't learned how to learn on their own without the course holding their hand. Using the multi-track approach, you won't have those problems because you'll be used to figuring things out without the guidance of the course. As you progress through the course, the outside resources will become more and more important as the course becomes less of a focus. At this point the course becomes more of a tool to solve problems you're having rather than to teach you from scratch. It's one thing for the course to tell you how the imperfect tense is used, or how the subjunctive is used and why. It's another thing entirely to have already seen it and heard it well before your course gets to it and be aware of it. Then, when you reach that point in your course- "ahhh, that's why they do it that way!". Instead of "what's this!", "how am I ever going to learn this?".
The language you are learning has speakers who have accents, speak fast sometimes, use slang and idioms, run words together, drop letters and do other frustrating things that your course never quite gets around to teaching you. If you already know that and have been exposed to it, the intermediate stage will be a lot easier for you. It will still be hard, just not nearly as daunting because you will now know how to learn on your own- because that's what you've already been doing all along. You won't need Course Part II or III. In fact, you may not even finish the course you're using because you may become so good at teaching yourself that you won't need it- and that's what it's all about.daily basis.
How do you go about using the multi-track approach? Pick one or a couple of courses that don't annoy you too much. If you pick two make sure they're complimentary. A classic combination is Pimsleur and Assimil or FSI/DLI. Do them at the same time, not sequentially. For example, Pimsleur during the commute or at lunch and the book+audio course when you can set aside a block of time to devote to it. The courses will be teaching you different things at different stages. Don't worry about that. This is good because you will see/hear something in one first and then later see/hear it in the other one. One tends to reinforce the other and that's synergy! It makes the concept more sticky. Flashcards can help as long as you're not obsessive about them by inputting and reviewing Anki cards so much that you end up working for Anki instead of having Anki work for you.
I don't even use Anki for vocabulary. I don't count words, I learn them through having them reinforced in many ways, reading, listening, writing and speaking. Again there is nothing wrong with Anki as long as it is just one out of the many tools in your arsenal.
So, how and where do you start?
You don't have to start with a novel or watching a television series or films. A short podcast- one of my favorites in Portuguese is "Vida saudável" which is about a minute long, talking about health and exercise, is sufficient at first. If it takes you a month to get through a three paragraph Aesop's fable (with audio and bilingual text to check) or a short news item or a wikipedia article, no worries. The main thing is to not give up and get discouraged. Be persistent and consistent. The more you do this the more critical mass you will build. Have faith that eventually, gradually, it will start to become clearer. Then one day it will be very clear indeed.
It all starts at the beginning by not making your learning totally, 100%, dependent on courses. Barry Farber talks about waiting until you've done 5 lessons and then pick a newspaper or magazine article (printed of course, his book was written pre-internet). His advice is to look at the first paragraph and highlight every unknown word, look them up in a dictionary (remembering that words do crazy things sometimes- like conjugations, gender, plurals, nowadays there's linguee, WordReference and google translate) and enter them into a flashcard. You could also make a list. Memorization is a whole 'nother aspect of language-learning.
My advice is an adaptation of Farber's. Your forays into the real world should be limited at first. If you have an hour a day to devote to language learning, try to take just 10 minutes or so out of that hour of structured study to puzzle out some native text, at least a couple of days a week- the more the better. Don't worry that it doesn't make much sense at first or if you only have a vague gist of an understanding. What matters is critical mass. The more you do this, at the same time as you are using your course, the more opportunity you have for synergy to work its magic. The same goes for speaking and listening- which is another topic entirely.
I take a walk every day for 45 minutes or so, I use that time to listen to native podcasts, music or audio books. When I was learning Haitian Creole actively, I used it for Pimsleur, an audio book and/or a Haitian news podcast. I am a news junkie. Some people may hate it but I like it. I would often spot a word or phrase I had heard in Pimsleur or studied in my DLI HC Basic Course. I also met once a week for conversation practice with a Haitian friend. Words and phrases reinforced each other across all those "tracks". Caveat: Pimsleur isn't for everyone. It has its issues. Many people hate it.
When I was learning Portuguese, I listened to the NHK World Brazilian Portuguese newscast every day- because it had a transcript and I could also find the same stories on their English site. The newscast was 10 to 15 minutes long. With daily listening I was able to take advantage of repetition of an ongoing story. I could go back and read the transcript. At home, I could read and listen to the text. At the same time I was studying Pimsleur and DLI Portuguese Basic Course (Caveat: I already spoke Spanish prior to learning Portuguese). I also chatted on Orkut with native-speakers, listened to the Deutsche Welle radionovelas with transcripts and bilingual text when needed, and used a tutor for 1 hour skype sessions a couple of days a week.
Twitter is a great resource. I'm not promoting religion but the Dalai Lama and the Pope tweet in several languages, great for a short 140 character bilingual text. You can follow people who tweet in your TL who write about topics that interest you. If you have a smart phone, you can check your twitter feed at idle times while you're waiting.
You are different. You may hate news and love sports, cinema, the environment, politics, music, travel or something else. There is something for you out there, I guarantee it. You just have to find it. One way to find it is to use Wikipedia to look up a subject in your native language and then click your target language, if available. You'll get the TL equivalent of what you're looking for and maybe some external links to follow at the bottom of the TL article. Also, you can search or ask on HTLAL. Most of us are here to help. Be patient though, it may take a few days to get a response.
If you want to find out more, have a look for Barry Farber's book "How To Learn Any Language". He was pre-internet but his methods can be easily adapted to the 21st century.
My point in writing this post is to encourage people, especially beginners, to push themselves a bit, to make and discover connections on your own, to spice up your routine and give you the power of synergy. You don't have to do any of this at all if you don't want to. As long as you are having fun and learning something, that's all that matters. It may take you longer to get where you want to be, but when you get to an intermediate stage, there will be few courses available. So, you'll have to transition to native materials and speakers anyway. The multi-track approach gets you used to that much earlier.
Opinions about language-learning are legion and mine is just one in the chorus. This is just one way to do it. It has worked for me, and others. Good luck in your studies and thank you for taking the time to read this very long post. I hope it can help someone to get the same joy I have by being able to speak a second language.
Edited by iguanamon on 20 January 2014 at 1:13pm
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Message 2 of 3019 January 2014 at 6:13pm | IP Logged
This post was very interesting! I think it is very useful to hear about as many different language-learning methods as possible, because as you said there is no one "right" method. I find it very helpful to hear how other people learn and then take some aspects of that and tailor it to my needs and interests.
For me personally, I do something similar to your approach, just with more coursework. But I listen from the beginning and I really find that it helps a lot, even if I don't understand much at first. For me personally, though, I don't like reading unfamiliar text without having a recording of it until I am very advanced in a language, because I am an auditory learner and I find that it negatively affects my pronunciation. It's generally pretty easy to find text and recordings, though (podcasts, books on tape, etc.).
Anyways, thanks for sharing this! It's great to hear what works for people.
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Message 3 of 3019 January 2014 at 7:32pm | IP Logged
Thank you, iguanamon, for your excellent post! I hope you don't mind if I add some personal caveats based on my recent experiments.
iguanamon and I have been talking about this for a while, and just as an experiment, I tried messing around with native Middle Egyptian materials as of lesson Assimil lesson 30. And just to make things difficult, I went for things without bilingual texts. The results were fun, but more than a little frustrating:
- I was lucky I already knew the writing system moderately well. Without that, I would have been utterly lost.
- With no word-boundaries (and difficult-to-use dictionaries), looking up words was a very slow process. I could just barely make things work because I had a good grasp on the writing system.
- At best, I could pull out word stems, but I could only rarely understand the word-endings.
This is pretty much the same outcome as the time I tried reading Old Norse with nothing but a grammar and a glossary. My conclusion: I am not nearly so clever as Champollion, and if I know neither the writing system nor a related language, there's really not much I can do with a native written book. Well, given 3 hours of painful labor, I might decode a single sentence. Compared to something like Assimil, this is a total waste of time.
However, as iguanamon and I have been discussing, the solution is to cheat like crazy. The ideal solution is a text with a faithful interlinear translation (or even a linguist's morpheme-by-morpheme gloss, if such is available). But once you have all this, well, basically, you have a homemade Assimil course, except you get all the grammar at once. Which isn't necessarily bad, but it's straying away from the idea of "native materials" to some degree.
So based on my experiences, here are three rules of thumb:
1. It's never too early to start listening.
2. Native texts are only useful if you can cheat enough to make the semi-comprehensible. With a familiar alphabet and a related language, this is almost a given. More exotic languages will require more drastic cheating, up to and including fully-glossed texts with transliterations.
3. If it hurts, stop. :-) You can try cheating more, or you can try again later, but please refrain from repeatedly slamming your head into a concrete wall.
That said, if you can find a way to have fun messing around with native materials, I think it's an excellent idea. It's certainly helping my Egyptian, and that's pretty much a worst-case scenario for this approach. So I enthusiastically support iguanamon's advice, given my caveats above.
Edited by emk on 19 January 2014 at 7:33pm
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Message 4 of 3019 January 2014 at 9:57pm | IP Logged
Great post, a lot of the methods you describe are things that I've found work best for me in my studies, though my routine is probably a bit more course heavy with only occasional native material study.
One of my favorite learning methods that's related to this sort of method of study, and I think is incredible for learning grammar, is to take an FSI course, use Audacity to automatically remove all the pauses, and then to just shadow it along with the course book like it was a really long Assiml dialogue. I'm absolutely terrible at picking up grammar from context in random dialogues, and grammar explanations often leave me even more baffled. But show me 20 example sentences specifically designed to train a specific grammar point, and the idea will sink in. I don't try to master each lesson I just aim to understand all the grammar points being exercised and then I move on.
Of course I'm still a novice language learner, so I can't claim any miraculous results or how efficient it is compared to other methods. Just saying that I've struggled with grammar a lot, and this method has made my personal acquisition of grammar points speed up a heck of a lot. So I'd recommend that anyone who likes to learn grammar intuitively from examples, but find Assimil a bit too random at times, might want to try running through an FSI course quick to see if any of the concepts start clicking into place.
Of course this is also just for figuring out grammar rules, developing automatic passive comprehension and then active speaking skills are different skills entirely, but I've found these other skills start developing more through extensive activities when I'm more conscious of grammar rules at play.
Edited by YnEoS on 19 January 2014 at 9:58pm
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Message 5 of 3019 January 2014 at 11:53pm | IP Logged
Let me just add that the specific materials used don't matter as much as the techniques. Here, beginners often ask successful learners whether they used Assimil, FSI, whatever... A more important question is what exactly they did, though. And this applies to reading strategies as well. Choosing a good first book is just the beginning.
Also, music is a great resource that you can use from scratch. And if you find some favourite L2 singers/bands, you can later watch their interviews :)
I don't know if you're intentionally not mentioning specific resources, but GLOSS is awesome, of course. It's more of a semi-native resource but it's much, much closer to the real world than Assimil or Teach Yourself or whatever. You just get good glossaries, translations and recordings (click "source" at the top), and some fun exercises. And learn some interesting facts in the process.
And there's a section devoted to lyricstraining in the music article.
Finally, there's bookdepository.co.uk - an online bookstore with free shipping to all countries they ship to, which is most of the world. Like even to Russia and to places you haven't even heard of (don't want to offend anyone by picking their country as a specific example).
Last but not least, social networks! As iguanamon said, twitter is great because tweets are short. Facebook is great because pictures help and because many already use it anyway. See the links for... more links :)
Now you have no excuse. Incorporate native content into your learning! And remember that every victory counts, no matter how small it seems. They will add up.
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Message 6 of 3020 January 2014 at 1:42am | IP Logged
Well said Serpent! Specific materials do not matter as much as the technique itself. Just make sure you're giving yourself opportunity enough to take advantage of synergy.
I didn't list all the materials and resources available, just some examples. To list everything I'd like to have listed, I'd have to write a book and I am not a linguist or an author. I figured you'd mention GLOSS and Lyricstraining, ;). You are absolutely right. GLOSS (Defense Language Institute Global Language Online Support System) is an amazing, high quality, free and somehow vastly underutilized resource.
The GLOSS lessons teach from real world examples and work on both listening and reading. The audio is the real thing, not unnaturally slowed down and clearly articulated, like in many courses- including Assimil. If you aren't using it as part of your learning routine, you should definitely have a look. It's good enough for the US military/government for their own instructional use. Have a look at Serpent's link before dismissing it out of hand.
Brazilian music was a big part of what got me interested in learning Portuguese in the first place. I memorized the first verses of Tom Jobim's "Aguas do março" when I started learning Brazilian Portuguese and found a lesson online about the song, before I knew about lyricstraining.
Thank you for your kind words, emk. Emk makes excellent points as usual. I like his additional caveats. I thought I added enough, but I didn't, obviously. Egyptian, Mandarin, Japanese, Arabic, Sanskrit, Korean, Finnish, Hungarian and Russian are not French or Spanish, which share a writing system in common with English along with a lot of cognates (beware of false friends!- words that look the same but have a different meaning). Languages with different scripts and non IE languages may be an exception, I haven't tried any, yet! If I do, we'll see how it goes. I'll let you know.
Yes, it will be frustrating working with material from the real world, but don't quit working with native materials (again, I'm not talking novels and Almodóvar films here, at least in the beginning stages) because you're simply "uneasy". Quit because you feel, as emk says, like you are hitting your head against a brick wall. If that's the case, then BY ALL MEANS, STOP!!!! and come back to it later after some more course work. Just don't let simple unease be an easy out. Remember, at some point you will have to transition to native materials if you want to advance your language skills. No course will, on it's own, take you to proficiency. If you accustom yourself to the real world as soon as possible, it will show you what you have to do to get there and give you a benchmark to work towards.
It's hard working without a net. Many, if not most, toddlers need someone to hold their hand when they first start walking, but parents know they can't do this forever Eventually the kid is going to have to walk on her own, fall down, dust herself off and get back up again- and that's the point. Working against resistance makes us stronger. If you dare to challenge yourself, you may just rise to meet that challenge. You'll never know unless you try and give it a fair go. Good luck with your studies whatever you choose to do.
Edited by iguanamon on 20 January 2014 at 1:50am
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Message 7 of 3020 January 2014 at 10:53am | IP Logged
A multi-track approach is definitely better than a narrow approach - and then it doesn't matter what kind that approach is. But sometimes you know that something might be an efficient method, but either your circumstances or deficiencies in the offers prevent you from doing things you know would be efficient. OK, sometimes you can manage to find a way around the trouble points, but mostly you have to settle for some other solution.
For instance I know what kind of interaction I would need to get a better pronunciation in most of my languages, but it would be seriously expensive to establish the situation which could give me the feedback I know would help me most: the thing that came closest to my ideal was working in a language lab with a specialist in phonetics listening and commenting during my French studies in the 70s. The only problem - apart from not having a language lab and not having a dedicated and qualified teacher - was that the texts we used back then weren't really interesting. Even for pronunciation exercises I prefer using materials which are interesting to me.
So instead I just listen (and think) at home, and I mainly speak during my travels - which means that I don't actually get around to speaking most of my languages in any given year, but I try to think a lot in all of them (within the limits set by my skills in each language). And because I find it idiotic and tiresome to speak out in the blue I mostly study pronunciation by listening to short snippets of genuine speech (sometimes using speech synthethizer if their sound isn't too bad), and then I repeat the things I hear in my head. It isn't the most efficient method I could imagine or wish for, but it's doable and then I just have to settle for a less native-like pronunciation, which can be boossted by a trip abroad now and then.
Concerning vocabulary and morphology acquisition I have now a set of techniques which are honed to a higher level than those I was taught at the universty (at least they are more efficient for me) - read: three column wordlists, green sheets for morphology, retranslation exercises in between simple copying with or without hyperliteral translation etc. etc. I use native materials for extensive studies as soon as I can do it, and because I don't expect to learn most of my words through that channel I can focus on ease of reading/listening in spite of minor obscurities. However I am still limited by the quality of my dictionaries - and by the trade-off between quality of information and ease of access.
An exemple: since my last major foray into the world of Polish verbs I know that you need to know two forms of the present tense (1.s. and for instance 2.s) in order to deal with all 6 forms of this paradigm. But even my big fat Pons only gives me the infinitive - plus the forms I can see in the examples. Maybe I could find a dedicated verb book (or use Verbix on the internet more systematically), but for here-and-now lookups that isn't enough, and learning about verbs in a systematic way from dictionaries can't be done in the ideally most efficient way from a source that lacks vital information. So in practice the method I use is the one some of you prefer, namely absorbing the information from reading and (to some extent) listening. But at least I know what to look out for from my morphological studies.
And one final point: children learn from listening to the spoken version of the language(s) in their surroundings. But back home in my armchair I don't hear a lot of spoken Latin or Indonesian or Irish, and even though I have access to relevant native sources on the internet they aren't comprehensible for a beginner. So in practice I first learn the written version of a language (though coupled with some intensive study of the sounds of the language through the available channels) - but at that stage I don't expect to understand native natural speech. Only when I can read fairly fluently I'll atttempt to listen to native sources on the internet or - in rare cases - on TV. And then I still don't claim to be able to speak those languages before I have had several days on a travel destination where it is spoken all around me.
Is that ideal? Well probably not, but I remember with a shudder and absolute horror the kind of classroom courses where I had to play small situations through with fellow pupils who mostly were even less capable than me to say something sensible and comprehensible. When I travel I have at least some justification for asking for a bread, and I expect the shop assistant to be fluent in the local language. I simply stop listening if I have to interact with another low-level speaker in one of my weak languages, as if there was a switch somewhere in my head that protected me from harmful influences from rotten sources. And it would be expensive and complicated to buy native speakes to speak to me, so instead I just learn the written language first even that really is against the natural order for native languages.
In short: if you can't get what you really want, then you have to want the things you can get. And preferably from more than one source and with a choice of methods.
Edited by Iversen on 21 January 2014 at 10:55am
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Message 8 of 3020 January 2014 at 10:12pm | IP Logged
I agree witrh large portions of iguanamon's speech and more to emk's, but I ought to
give my 2c, as my learning experiences in the past 2 years have been fairly different
from theirs. I do acknowledge for the moment that I used to have a similar approach as
Iversen's, but it didn't make sense because my main goal wasn't for reading, and thus
I'm glad that thanks to HTLAL I became aware of the importance of using native material
and that alone helped me move on from that stage when you've finished textbooks and
realized you don't know enough to face the real world yet.
So, my approach is of usually finishing A1 and being at an upper A2 before starting
using native resources. I've just (re)started German and I'm not going to use native
materials by now, because I have at least 5 Assimil books to give me input and also
because, at this stage, I can't start another resource from German without taking away
time from another language. Anyway, German is the typical language for me that isn't
too close or too far. I might have a vocabulary discount of about 50% or higher now. If
things go well I'll reach middle A2 then start parallel reading in a comfortable way.
Why don't I do the same for most languages?
a) When the language is too close to my own, e.g. Spanish, what is the point in reading
texts which I could already read before I studied anything at all? Also, just checked
and I can understand videos without studying either. What I need is to focus on
activating my knowledge, becoming aware of the differences that don't hinder
understanding but make one chuckle while trying to speak. That's why skimming through
an Assimil book, then an Assimil intermediate one then a Business one might do better
This is what I actually did for French and which brought me up from a mere passive-
reading-romance-background skill, and thus it is what I plan to do for Spanish and
Italian in the future (and Catalan and Romanian if I ever get that far).
b) Now the case of exotic languages. I've experienced with Georgian all that
frustration emk did with AE. At the best moments, I had familiar texts - comments on
passages of the Bible - in Georgian and Portuguese, but the parallel reading wouldn't
just work when I did not now how to link one TL word to one SL word. That is to
say, what is the point in having a sentence like "Forgiveness should be encouraged to
humankind in all its terms" in Portuguese and Georgian if I couldn't even recognize 2
out of 10 words from the Georgian and would therefore have to look them up at the
dictionary, despite the translation? Right now the parallel reading starts to
prove effective in Georgian, but only after almost two years. What brought me to
parallel reading too early was indeed the lack of textbooks to make the grammar bridge
up to B1 level while keeping filling my mind with the essential vocabulary.
c) I followed iguanamon's approach mostly with Papiamento, and this is not a
coincidence that we are dealing with another Iberian-based creole. I went through all
the textbooks available and I was benefited from a much simpler morphology compared to
the Romance languages themselves, as well with a huge vocabulary discount. So, while in
Spanish I'd have to deal with heterogenéricos, subjonctif in French and many other
pitfalls, I could skip these tricky issues at Papiamento. OTOH, I had to figure out
some differences on my own, though, like the fact they've adapted nouns into relative
pronouns and conjunctions : "E ta papia manera su tata. -> Él(ella) habla como su
padre///E kas kaminda nos a biba a wordu bendí. -> La casa donde vivimos ha sindo
vendida." This parallel I've drawn hasn't been explicitly dealt with in any of the
textbooks I used, and if requires some linguistics/language-learning background to
figure out such stuff, so, I understand how some less experienced learners get lost
without a textbook.
d) Speaking of resources, Georgian is not at GLOSS :/ What I mean with that is that
when you are studying a LCLL and you don't like repeating anything - books, films - it
may work to save the best for the later (not for the last though, of course). I'm
watching the most well-known and widely-spread Georgian TV series now, and I'm at a
stage when I'm merely doing blind listening, trying to pick up some words. I'm afraid
when I actually get to the point of understanding there may be no episodes left. And
I've watched 65 episodes so far.
To sum up: if the language is too close and I can already enjoy native materials withou
ever studying anything, I go for tuning up grammar and activating vocabulary through
version exercises, writing texts/dialogues etc. If the language is exotic and I can't
even find stuff I like before I actually learn how to search/b] at that language,
then May the textbooks not forsake me till I've reached B1. And for the average
language I'd just reach A2 then start trying to make native resources fit into my
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