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The multi-track approach

 Language Learning Forum : Learning Techniques, Methods & Strategies Post Reply
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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4767 days ago

9753 posts - 15776 votes 
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 9 of 30
20 January 2014 at 11:58pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
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.
To take care of the "unknown knowns", as I call them. The opposite of Prof Argüelles' term "known unknowns", which are the words you've seen many times and can even reproduce, but don't know the meaning of.

In closely related languages, the transparent words form a continuum. At the two ends there are words you actively have to "decipher" to recognize, and words you know so well that you can use them in your speech. Obviously, the more you see the word, the easier it will be to understand it. The first time you see a word, it may be almost opaque, and you'll need the surrounding context to figure it out. Each consecutive time will be easier, and you'll come to a point where you recognize it without the context and without thinking of the word from the related language. (my slight problem with Spanish might be that I like the Portuguese words popping in my head when I read/listen and I don't want them to stop doing that)

Originally, I started watching football in both Italian and Spanish (while maybe being active B1/passive A2 in Portuguese) just to "get used to the sound of the language", and because I wanted to watch the Spanish and Italian leagues anyway. What I found was that around the same time I reached passive B2 in Portuguese, I also was a passive B1 in these languages! With Italian, it's been mostly a matter of reading to activate my passive knowledge. (if you start with reading, you'll need listening for that)

(and in the process I kinda forgot about my original plan and got discouraged that in Danish the effect was much less significant :S)

Anyway, of course it's much less useful if you've already had tons of exposure and can actually have Portunhol conversations (or the equivalent with your specific languages). But if many, many people would be happy to do reading/listening with your level of comprehension, surely it isn't useless? Methinks you just don't want to miss out on the beginner's joy, with the rapid progress. I totally prefer the joy of going from 75% to 90%, even if it's a more subtle thing.

As for "too close", I find that having an extra language as a reference point really helps. Previously I found it really hard to remember which Belarusian words are exactly like Russian (often pronounced the same but just written in a more phonetic way), and which are different. Nowadays Polish and to some extent Ukrainian help me notice how many words are "in between" or even unique to Belarusian, and which ones seem close to Russian only if you don't speak any other Slavic language. So in your case it might be beneficial to do Italian before Spanish.
2 persons have voted this message useful





Iversen
Super Polyglot
Moderator
Denmark
berejst.dk
Joined 4873 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 10 of 30
21 January 2014 at 12:43pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
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.


I have used hyperliteral translations to deal with this specific problem. So far my 'weirdest' language has been Irish, and the process was the following: first I used the texts of an old Teach Yourself Irish, which are given both in Irish and English. Later I made bilingual texts with Google translate (although I soon found out that the translations from Irish are unusually poor, presumably because of the scarcity of bilingual texts), and then I bought Harry Potter I in Irish (I already had the English version). But even a decent ordinary translation isn't precise enough, so I copied sentences from the Irish sources and added my own hyperliteral translations, based on dictionary lookups, elements in the existing translations and a good deal of guesswork.

The idea of using a hyperliteral translation as a bridge is that it makes you internalize the structure of the target language through a language you already know, but without letting the structure of this language dictate the form of the translation. If necessary you can invent your own additions to your toolbox. For instance verbs generally stand at the beginning of Irish sentences, but if you do that in English or Danish the effect is that it looks like a question. So to contravene this I put an exclamation point after the verb in the translation. Or an example from Indonesian: "akan" means something like 'going to', but in many cases it just marks future (in cases where this isn't clear from other time indications). In such a case I write the equivalent of "[future]" or "[goingto]" within brackets. In a few specific cases I consistently use a word in another language. For instance Indonesian has a connector "yang" which is used both with and without a verblike thing in the subordinate element - and when I make my hyperliteral translations into Danish I always translate "yang" with the English word "which" - without any regard for proper English or Danish grammar:

kereta api yang dapat melintasi Stasiun Tanah Abang
vogn ild (=tog) which kan passere station Land Storebroder
(or in English: train(s) that can pass Tanah Abang Station)

When you don't need these crutches any more you will of course stop using them, but until you have become really comfortable with the structure of your target language doing hyperliteral translations can be one more useful tool in your collection.

Edited by Iversen on 21 January 2014 at 1:12pm

5 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3702 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
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 Message 11 of 30
21 January 2014 at 2:21pm | IP Logged 
Iversen wrote:
Later I made bilingual texts with Google translate (although I soon found out that the translations from Irish are unusually poor, presumably because of the scarcity of bilingual texts), and then I bought Harry Potter I in Irish (I already had the English version). But even a decent ordinary translation isn't precise enough, so I copied sentences from the Irish sources and added my own hyperliteral translations, based on dictionary lookups, elements in the existing translations and a good deal of guesswork.

The idea of using a hyperliteral translation as a bridge is that it makes you internalize the structure of the target language through a language you already know, but without letting the structure of this language dictate the form of the translation.

I've been doing much the same thing with Egyptian. You can see an example in my log, where I translate the hieroglyphic edition of Peter Rabbit:

emk wrote:
𓌉𓇳𓈖 | 𓂋𓆑 | 𓇾𓏤𓈇 | 𓆓𓂧𓈖 | 𓋴𓄡𓂝𓏏𓃹 | 𓇋𓄿𓏏𓀗𓁐
ḥḏ.n | r.f | tꜣ | ḏd.n | sẖꜥt | jꜣ.t
bright-PRF | so | land | said-PRF | rabbit.M | old.woman-F
So one morning, old woman Rabbit said,

ḥḏ tꜣ is apparently an idiom meaning “it becomes day.” r.f theoretically means “as for it,” but in the second position in a sentence, it’s pretty much just a filler like “so” or the French “alors.”

Here, I'm more-or-less using the Leipzig glossing rules, which are a set of conventions used by linguists for hyperliteral translations. So for example, when you see "PRF", read "perfect." It's safe to assume that my verb tenses are very vague, and that my translation is generally riddled with faults. :-) But that's actually not very important at this stage—I'm just trying to get the broad outlines of Egyptian grammar as it applies to narrative.

This sort of thing is actually quite fun in moderation, if I have an excellent grammar and dictionary at hand. And there's no reason to use any sort of official glossing convention; making up your own will work just fine.

However, when Assimil makes a course for a language like Egyptian, they basically do most of this work for me. Each lesson includes:

1. A text in hieroglyphs.
2. A transliteration to an extended Roman alphabet.
3. A word-for-word transliteration.
4. A loose translation to give me the intended sense (which isn't always easy to get from the word-for-word transliteration).
5. Notes explaining any interesting grammar or vocabulary.

...and for living languages:

6. Clearly articulated audio.

So fundamentally, what I like about Assimil is that it basically does all the hard work of finding easy texts, making hyperliteral translations, and looking up all the grammar for me. This saves a huge amount of time and allows me to get right to the "meat" of the problem: seeing how the new language fits together.

And that's why my preference has been, until recently, to do Assimil first and worry about native materials once I have a basic level. So what changed my mind?

1. Tastyonions' remarkable progress in French (compared to mine at the same stage). He started using native materials early.

2. Iguanamon's post from about two months ago, complaining about "Just use Assimil + Anki" as a popular answer in the Advice Center.

3. My own experiences starting native materials early with Egyptian. Thanks to working with bilingual editions of the Westcar papyrus and Peter Rabbit, I've figured out a lot of useful things, including (a) where to look up strange grammatical particles, (b) where to look up obscure vocabulary and (c) basic narrative structures.

So I've come around to iguanamon's way of thinking, but with the caveats I mentioned above: if you can't have fun working with native materials yet, there's nothing wrong with doing a bit more Assimil or whatever until you have a decent command of the basics.

Edited by emk on 21 January 2014 at 2:29pm

5 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3336 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 12 of 30
21 January 2014 at 2:34pm | IP Logged 
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.
1 person has voted this message useful



ElComadreja
Senior Member
Philippines
bibletranslatio
Joined 5408 days ago

683 posts - 757 votes 
2 sounds
Speaks: English*
Studies: Spanish, Portuguese, Ancient Greek, Biblical Hebrew, Cebuano, French, Tagalog

 
 Message 13 of 30
21 January 2014 at 2:44pm | IP Logged 
More and more I discover the usefulness of this advice:

Blatantly Cheat! :)
4 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3336 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 14 of 30
21 January 2014 at 2:49pm | IP Logged 
I replied before reading emk's post. Well, I still think it's better to have Assimil do
the job for you when possible. At my current routine, while I'm still at an A1 level, I
prefer to study an Assimil or other textbook lesson for 15 minutes than spending 1 hour
trying to figure out patterns on my own. It's more of a personal taste and a search for
time optmization. I prefer to start using native materials when it's actually easier to
start using them. I still have thrauma with all the time I lost looking up words on my
own at Russian and Georgian texts. In the case of Russian it was worse, because I'd
type in latin and wait for the translator to convert it to cyrillic, sometimes with
errors, sometimes lagging. I do acknowledge it's effective to try tiny bits of native
materials, but in fact I start a language very slowly and only after a few months I
decide to intensify my studies.

@Serpent , it's not that I miss the beginner's joy and that prevents me from doing some
Spanish. It's rather that, being such a close culture, I can't accept not to master it
in depth. A superficial study won't bring me any more benefits than my own Romance-
granted passive skills. In fact, the best thing I should do for my Spanish would be to
try writing on my own and wait for corrections. I don't think I speak sole Portunhol,
I've taken 1 year of classes and read stuff in Spanish here and there, like a textbook
on German and another on Chinese. No literature yet because I'm not studying Spanish
yet, I'm working on German now. When I get down to Spanish, I'll surely work
differently than with Georgian.

I think of all those techniques available, it's the emphasis I put on each of them that
varies according to the language. If I'm studying Spanish which has 90% vocvabulary
correlation with Portuguese, I don't think I'll need 20 books to get to the same level
I did with French. And I don't think I'll need SRS to make essential A1-A2 vocabulary
stick, because this vocabulary is mostly cognate. And if I have time constraints, I'm
better off watching stuff in Norwegian and Chinese, for which I still need to achieve
basic listening fluency.
3 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4767 days ago

9753 posts - 15776 votes 
4 sounds
Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
Studies: Danish, Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian, Croatian, Slovenian, Catalan, Czech, Galician, Dutch, Swedish

 
 Message 15 of 30
21 January 2014 at 3:05pm | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
@Serpent , it's not that I miss the beginner's joy and that prevents me from doing some Spanish. It's rather that, being such a close culture, I can't accept not to master it in depth. A superficial study won't bring me any more benefits than my own Romance-granted passive skills. In fact, the best thing I should do for my Spanish would be to try writing on my own and wait for corrections. I don't think I speak sole Portunhol, I've taken 1 year of classes and read stuff in Spanish here and there, like a textbook on German and another on Chinese. No literature yet because I'm not studying Spanish yet, I'm working on German now. When I get down to Spanish, I'll surely work differently than with Georgian.
You totally underestimate the exposure factor :-) The discount is nothing without exposure. And yeah, I also want to master especially Italian in depth. It's just that learning to speak is much easier if you already can both read and listen. Of course it's a matter of priorities. For me speaking is only a priority while travelling.
1 person has voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3336 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 
 Message 16 of 30
21 January 2014 at 3:12pm | IP Logged 
I don't, as a matter of fact, it exists whether I'm actually studying the language or
not. I don't have to open a textbook to be exposed to Spanish, in fact, I don't have to
go much far. Through all those occasional exposures I've learned a little, so it's not
like I'd start from zero with only my portunhol. And I've already studied some Italian up
to a reading level (needless to mention Spanish), that's why whenever I'd start I'd
rather get down to speaking (or writing), if only to enjoy talking to Italian friends.


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