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The multi-track approach

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Serpent
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 Message 17 of 30
21 January 2014 at 3:47pm | IP Logged 
It seems like we mostly agree, then :-) Just remember that your situation is similar to Scandinavian. The part I quoted at the top of the previous page doesn't reflect it accurately, I think.

And then there's synergy. If you treat your reading as learning (and this doesn't ruin the fun for you), you'll be noticing all sort of things that are clear enough to understand but tricky to use. These cool structures you wouldn't have come up with.

BTW in your case GLOSS should be a good choice. I normally skip the writing exercises, but they are there.

But basically my point is that this doesn't apply to all learners. Many people *think* that they understand the related language well, but they wouldn't necessarily even cope with a reading (or especially listening) comprehension exercise. That's common for Russians who think they can understand Ukrainian without exposure or learning, just because it's so similar to Russian.

And then the learners of Portuguese, Spanish or Norwegian can reach a high level without any exposure to the related languages... Your advice is definitely not for them.

Edited by Serpent on 21 January 2014 at 3:48pm

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kujichagulia
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 Message 18 of 30
23 January 2014 at 7:09am | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:

Caveats: This method is NOT THE ANSWER!

Darn it, I thought I found the friggin' answer. THE ANSWER ESCAPES ONCE AGAIN FROM MY HANDS!!!

Oh well, it's all academic, anyway. Everyone knows that Allen Iverson is the Answer. Not to be confused with our own Iversen here at HTLAL, who is full of answers.

...W-Wait, don't go yet! I promise I have something relevant to this thread. Just a moment while I, uh, look for my notes... I thought they were around here somewhere...

<sound of crickets>

Ah, here they are. Okay... where was I...

First of all, iguanamon, I must not visit HTLAL that often, because I've never seen anyone call you "anti-course". You were the one who recommended my current Portuguese course, DLI Portuguese Basic, and I'm on Lesson 31 of that right now. Not exactly anti-course.

Thank you, by the way.

About the multi-track approach (man, that sounds like a studio recording technique Sir George Martin cooked up with John Lennon and Paul McCartney at Abbey Road or something), I pretty much agree with what was said here: iguanamon's elaborate explanation of the approach, Iversen's 2 cents, Expugnator's 3 cents, etc. If I may, I would like to add a few cents as well. (Where did that expression, "Let me throw in my two cents", come from anyway? Who is throwing or offering two cents to what?)

I saw that one caveat of the multi-track approach is that you can't really use it if you don't have enough time everyday. I disagree. I think you can do a multi-track approach with as little as 1 hour a day, which is what I'm doing with Portuguese right now. I wanted to do more than just my DLI course (which is awesome but seriously outdated). I wanted to read native materials and learn more about how Portuguese is actually used in the real world.

But a person can't do a true multi-track approach daily in one hour, unless you are content with spending only 10-15 minutes on an activity before switching it up. I tried that and it was annoying. I'd find that if I spent only 10 minutes on DLI, the next day I would have to review a little before continuing, wasting more of that day's 10 minutes.

The solution for me was to do a rotation. What I do is that I'll do a DLI lesson, and keep working at it every day until I finish it. Then I'll, say, listen to a PortuguesePod101.com podcast or two. After that, I'll read an article/story/other text. Once that is done, I'll write something like a journal or a short conversation or island, to get some output practice in. Then I start the cycle all over again with a new DLI lesson.

Doing it this way, I can still get the effects of the multi-track approach within my limited time. The problem is that those effects come slower than if you have multiple hours a day to dedicate to a language. But if that is no problem, the effects do come along. I've seen how synergy works in my studies.

For me, I've found that the multi-track is not only a memory or learning aid, but also (maybe even moreso for me) a motivational tool. If I just study a language out of a textbook or audio course, it becomes just that: something in a textbook or audio course. Something that stays "in a little box" and has no real relevance to reality. But seeing what I've learned appear in real news articles, on the radio, etc., shows me that this language is not a textbook subject, but a real, living thing. That motivates me to keep going.

Edited by kujichagulia on 23 January 2014 at 7:10am

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iguanamon
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 Message 19 of 30
23 January 2014 at 1:18pm | IP Logged 
kujichagulia wrote:
...For me, I've found that the multi-track is not only a memory or learning aid, but also (maybe even moreso for me) a motivational tool. If I just study a language out of a textbook or audio course, it becomes just that: something in a textbook or audio course. Something that stays "in a little box" and has no real relevance to reality. But seeing what I've learned appear in real news articles, on the radio, etc., shows me that this language is not a textbook subject, but a real, living thing. That motivates me to keep going.


Well said kuji! Here's how Barry Farber phrased it:

Barry Farber wrote:
...Tradition bound teachers would have problems with that kind of “ice plunge,” a naked leap into a foreign language newspaper after only five lessons of grammar with nothing for help but a dictionary, which in many cases can’t help because you won’t know the various disguises (changing forms) of many of the words. What’s the point?
There are several. America is a nation of people who make straight A’s in intermediate French and then get to Paris and realize they don’t speak intermediate French! The knowledge that the text – newspaper, book, magazine, whatever – is a real world document that does not condescend to a student’s level is a tremendous confidence builder and energizer for your assault upon your target language. The awareness that you’re making progress, albeit slowly, through typical text, genuine text, the kind the natives buy off their newsstands and read in their coffee shops, gives even the rank beginner something of the pride of a battle toughened marine. ...


When Farber talks about the newspaper after five lessons, he's talking about working through a paragraph. Then, after some review of the unknown words and some more lessons, the next paragraph- not the whole flippin' newspaper. He says that by the time you get to the end of the page, your highlighted unknown words will be much less and you will have learned quite a bit. I wouldn't necessarily do it that way, but anything will help. (Listening and speaking are very important as well.)

About the limited time caveat, I am talking about people who have a half an hour or so. Your method of rotation is great! As long as you are doing some of the multi-track approach- reading, listening speaking, along with your course, you're getting the benefit of synergy.

I also agree with you that too much course/formal study focus tends to lead one to look at the language as a "thing" to be studied and not so much as a living, breathing means of communication with people. That's what Farber is talking about when he writes that Americans get good grades in French in school but then go to France and realize they don't speak French.



Edited by iguanamon on 23 January 2014 at 2:00pm

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Iversen
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 Message 20 of 30
23 January 2014 at 3:45pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
I've read you on the hyperliteral approach before, Iversen, but sometimes it's more effective to keep using textbooks and learning grammar, at least that was indeed my case with Georgian. The lack of an Assimil-like method did prevent me from having a better understanding of such structures in the beginning, since Assimil had been doing that for the previous languages I had studied.


At home I have a couple of small Assimil booklets plus a fairly large number of Kauderwelsch guides, and I like that they already come with hyperliteral as well as ordinary translations. And I work with grammars throughout my learning process. So I don't advocate that you drop any of the two. The basic problem is that many textbooks just come with ordinatory translations, that they only give bitwise information about grammar and that I prefer choosing my own texts - I prefer scientific or historical or touristic magazines or small tales about fictive persons or - even worse - unconnected sentences. But until I can read that kind of stuff I am as stuck with textbooks as Expugnator. And Assimil probably isn't a bad choice, from what I can see from their language guides, but here in Denmark it is easier to find series like TY and Colloquial etc. or textbooks written by independent authors.

With sources on the internet I can make my own bilingual study materials using Google translate or sometimes human made translation, but the simple fact is that these rarely are 1) errorfree (Google, I point in your direction) 2) loyal to the texts (humans, that's your Achilles heel). This isn't a big problem when I understand the text and feel comfortable with the target language, but with new languages with weird structures I find it much easier to assimilate a new structure through a translation that shares its most poignant features. Just as it is easier to remember words in your own language than in some semi-opaque target language.

This means that I can solidify my understanding of the foreign text better by producing a hyperliteral translation than just by relying on the machinemade or humanmade translation. And I deliberately use the word "produce" here: the hyperliteral translation should summarize MY understanding of the foreign text. If I can't understand a text (its words as well as its grammatical structure) then I can't make the translation, but once I have looked the new words up and maybe some of the grammatical elements I can do it fairly easily. The main problem then is the time it takes, but when I don't need that kind of translations anymore I just stop making them - just as I stop translating in my head altogether when I can understand a given text as it is.

Edited by Iversen on 23 January 2014 at 7:02pm

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s_allard
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 Message 21 of 30
23 January 2014 at 4:09pm | IP Logged 
If I understand the essence of the multi-track approach, it is a combination of systematic study and real-world or
native materials simultaneously. I totally agree; it makes sense to me. Really, who can be against using authentic
materials as early as possible?

I have read Farber's book. It's good of course but obviously somewhat dated. Language teaching has progressed
enormously since Farber's time and is not as tradition bound as he makes it out to be. When I look at the materials
available for classroom Spanish, they are full of authentic materials, and they all come with CD's, DVD's and
websites.



Edited by s_allard on 24 January 2014 at 4:50am

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Serpent
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 Message 22 of 30
23 January 2014 at 7:07pm | IP Logged 
But it's often stuff we *should* like rather than what we really like. Not to mention that the authentic bits are chosen very carefully to avoid scaring the students.

Edited by Serpent on 23 January 2014 at 7:08pm

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frenkeld
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 Message 23 of 30
23 January 2014 at 9:16pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
Language teaching has progressed enormously since Farber's time


Internet access, modern audio-visual technologies and devices, and internet shopping have certainly had a revolutionary impact on what's available to a language learner today compared to Farber's time.

Language teaching has changed too, of course, but the degree of innovation must vary considerably from place to place. I have had a chance to observe my older daughter taking French while in High School, and I found it quite surprising how traditional the teaching was. They did with some regularity watch French movies (with the English subtitles on) in class, but the rest was really no different from when I was in school. I am seeing something quite similar with my younger daughter's school Spanish as well.

And what I find rather odd is not just the traditional methods being used in the classroom, but no attempt to direct the students to avail themselves of the wealth of authentic materials that's available to them when they are not at school. Not even something as simple as a suggestion to watch a Spanish movie at home or a link to a fun website in Spanish. Perhaps the teachers do not feel free suggesting "unofficial" activities, only those that students will be directly tested on, but it's also possible that their thinking and methods are just stuck in the past, an occasional video shown in class notwithstanding. Maybe the universities do better, but schools don't seem to be all there yet.

Farber's formal methods (a textbook, flashcards, etc) are in many ways orthodox. Where he is less orthodox is in attacking authentic materials early on, culling conversational bits from phrasebooks, conversing with native speakers early on and enlisting their help when possible, indulging in a bit of Pimsleur, and other activities where you step away from the traditional instruction and fearlessly expose yourself to the language as she is spoke. I am not sure how good a job of getting the students to fearlessly engage our schools do, even if they get to show more videos in the classroom than was possible 50 years ago.

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Serpent
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serpent-849.livejour
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 Message 24 of 30
23 January 2014 at 11:12pm | IP Logged 
Yeah, this. And many teachers and students look at the modern courses with contempt due to some bad representatives that proudly teach no grammar, are crappy translations of English-based textbooks or just do a poor job otherwise. But especially teachers should be ready to go through a load of crap in order to find the good coursebooks instead of sticking to the "tried and true" methods from the 60's.


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