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How many words to speak?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
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tarvos
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China
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 Message 113 of 309
10 September 2014 at 2:03pm | IP Logged 
It's more important to concentrate on what people say, and how they say it, than to be
rigidly obsessed with any classification systems. You should learn as practice requires,
not as theory prescribes.

I agree with Robarb. But substitute Cantonese with Mandarin, Greek, Portuguese and a few
others.
1 person has voted this message useful



s_allard
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 Message 114 of 309
10 September 2014 at 3:45pm | IP Logged 
tarvos wrote:
It's more important to concentrate on what people say, and how they say it, than to be
rigidly obsessed with any classification systems. You should learn as practice requires,
not as theory prescribes.

I agree with Robarb. But substitute Cantonese with Mandarin, Greek, Portuguese and a few
others.

I think anyone is rigidly obsessed with any classification system. In fact, I don't see any classification system at all
here. We're talking about what one can do with a small vocabulary as a starting point.

But to come back to robarb's experience with a Cantonese tutor. This is typical when we are learning. We search
for words. How can I say this? This is normal. But there are three possible phenomena:

1. We don't know the word. e.g. How do I say GPS in Cantonese?
2. We don't recall the word that we already know. e.g. Oh yes, I knew GPS but I had forgotten it.
3. We didn't think of a workaround. e.g. I could have said navigator.

Again, I hope people don't think that I'm saying that a small vocabulary is better than a large one, but the point
of all this is that small vocabulary is not synonymous with trivial and shallow conversation. Plus, one should keep
in mind that a small vocabulary is not a prison, If you don't know a word, you do what robard did, you ask for it.
Can you talk about the parts of an automobile with a tiny vocabulary? Not easily, but at the end of the
conversation, you'll have more words in your vocabulary.

Isn't this what native speakers do. I gave the example earlier that just a few days ago I learned the meaning of
"suicide doors" on automobiles. Now I know.



Edited by s_allard on 10 September 2014 at 3:46pm

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
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 Message 115 of 309
10 September 2014 at 10:31pm | IP Logged 
This is typical when interating with tutors who speak your L1. But:
-this isn't the only way
-it can easily become pointless in the real world
-the discussion is not "how soon can you start speaking with a tutor". obviously a good tutor should adjust and teach you more vocab, but this isn't a random native speaker's job
4 persons have voted this message useful



Maecenas23
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 Message 116 of 309
12 September 2014 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
I strongly dislike this reductionist approach to the languages and language
acquisition. I am a seasoned language learner and your 300 words theory sounds at
least humiliating. Moreover I consider Benny Lewis' 3 months challenges to C1 almost as
humiliating. Language is not a pile of words from which you can pick and speak. If it
was so - many people simply would find language learning boring and derived of its
fascination. Language is a hugely complicated interconnected system and to implement it
to your brain and make it work takes thousands of hours of exposure. I don't believe
anyone who claims to be fluent at 30 languages unless he is 100 years old and has spent
every waking hour of his life acquiring those languages.
Some people can pretend to be fluent, given they are speaking about a 'comfortable'
topic, but when they do one step aside of that familiar territory you see them
stumbling in every single phrase - they are like trains who follow only a stict
directions in their languages and have limited abilities to turn away from certain
topics which lie in their comfort zone.

Edited by Maecenas23 on 12 September 2014 at 11:45pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
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 Message 117 of 309
12 September 2014 at 9:44pm | IP Logged 
Maecenas23 wrote:
   I strongly dislike this reductionist approach to the languages and language
acquisition. I am a seasoned language learner and your 300 words theory sounds at
least humiliating. Moreover I consider Benny Lewis 3 months challenges to C1 almost as
humiliating. Language is not a pile of words from which you can pick and speak. If it
was so - many people simply would find language learning boring and derived of it's
fascination. Language is a hugely complicated interconnected system and to implement it
to your brain and make it work takes thousands of hours of exposure. I don't believe
anyone who claims to be fluent at 30 languages unless he is 100 years old and has spent
every waking hour of his life acquiring those languages.
Some people can pretend to be fluent, given they are speaking about a 'comfortable'
topic, but when they do one step aside of that familiar territory you see them
stumbling in every single phrase - they are like trains who follow only a stict
directions in their languages and have limited abilities to turn away from certain
topics which lie in their comfort zone.

Please, when you come late to a discussion, it is a matter of basic courtesy to find out what we have been talking
about.
2 persons have voted this message useful



Maecenas23
Triglot
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Speaks: Ukrainian*, Russian, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 118 of 309
13 September 2014 at 3:03pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
Maecenas23 wrote:
   I strongly dislike this reductionist approach
to the languages and language
acquisition. I am a seasoned language learner and your 300 words theory sounds at
least humiliating. Moreover I consider Benny Lewis 3 months challenges to C1 almost as
humiliating. Language is not a pile of words from which you can pick and speak. If it
was so - many people simply would find language learning boring and derived of it's
fascination. Language is a hugely complicated interconnected system and to implement it
to your brain and make it work takes thousands of hours of exposure. I don't believe
anyone who claims to be fluent at 30 languages unless he is 100 years old and has spent
every waking hour of his life acquiring those languages.
Some people can pretend to be fluent, given they are speaking about a 'comfortable'
topic, but when they do one step aside of that familiar territory you see them
stumbling in every single phrase - they are like trains who follow only a stict
directions in their languages and have limited abilities to turn away from certain
topics which lie in their comfort zone.

Please, when you come late to a discussion, it is a matter of basic courtesy to find
out what we have been talking
about.

Actually, I've read what you were talking about before I made a post. I thought
everybody here is free to write their opinions about the main topic regardless of the
current arguments in discussion. Can't see how it relates to what you call a "basic
courtesy".
4 persons have voted this message useful



tarvos
Super Polyglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
China
likeapolyglot.wordpr
Joined 3141 days ago

5310 posts - 9398 votes 
Speaks: Dutch*, English, Swedish, French, Russian, German, Italian, Norwegian, Mandarin, Romanian, Afrikaans
Studies: Greek, Modern Hebrew, Spanish, Portuguese, Czech, Korean, Esperanto, Finnish

 
 Message 119 of 309
13 September 2014 at 5:17pm | IP Logged 
Maecenas23 wrote:
   I strongly dislike this reductionist approach to the languages
and language
acquisition. I am a seasoned language learner and your 300 words theory sounds at
least humiliating. Moreover I consider Benny Lewis' 3 months challenges to C1 almost
as
humiliating. Language is not a pile of words from which you can pick and speak. If it
was so - many people simply would find language learning boring and derived of its
fascination. Language is a hugely complicated interconnected system and to implement
it
to your brain and make it work takes thousands of hours of exposure. I don't believe
anyone who claims to be fluent at 30 languages unless he is 100 years old and has
spent
every waking hour of his life acquiring those languages.
Some people can pretend to be fluent, given they are speaking about a 'comfortable'
topic, but when they do one step aside of that familiar territory you see them
stumbling in every single phrase - they are like trains who follow only a stict
directions in their languages and have limited abilities to turn away from certain
topics which lie in their comfort zone.


Call in the language police! Actually, you can pick and choose words to use in
languages. That's what we call talking. For example, I could say something else right
now, but I don't - I'm picking and choosing my words in order to send you this
message!
3 persons have voted this message useful



Maecenas23
Triglot
Newbie
Ukraine
Joined 3045 days ago

21 posts - 56 votes 
Speaks: Ukrainian*, Russian, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 120 of 309
13 September 2014 at 10:18pm | IP Logged 
   When I speak a language I mostly don't pick the words - the process of talking is
like some kind of natural reflex to me - I don't think about the words and phrases but
they appear subconsciously, when I try to express the idea. There is certainly no
ongoing analysis in my head about the choice of words or phrases.In my opinion language
is not for the most part related to articulated thinking - I would say 90 percent of
what we call speaking is an unconscious process, some kind of instinct. I agree that
you can pick the words when you are writing, but obviously, while speaking, you have
little conscious control over the ways of expressing the ideas.
And this ability to pick the words comes from the enormously big database of contexts
of usage in your brain. So the pile of 300 or 10000 words without knowing the contexts
is useless.Some polysemic words can have a great variety of meanings and they are also
most frequently used (one example is phrasal verbs in English). It seems the usage
of these words gives an impression of laconic speech and virtuosity. So language
learning is more about contextual knowledge of words' meanings than about the sheer
size of vocabulary itself. Language is not a pile, but a precise system and you are
always restricted in using certain words - it's not up to you to chose the way to speak
most of the time.
One famous German philosopher Heidegger once said that "We don't speak the language,
it's the language that speaks using us". And he wasn't joking. Language is not a tool
of communication as most of the people are used to see it - it's the essence of being
human.

Edited by Maecenas23 on 13 September 2014 at 11:39pm



3 persons have voted this message useful



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