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How many words to speak?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
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s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3864 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 209 of 309
20 September 2014 at 4:57am | IP Logged 
Before I address some of the issues raised by recent posts, I'd like to share a an e-mail that a friend gave me for
my collection of case studies. My friend received this from a native speaker of French who spoke very good
English.

"How are you? I'm happy, I'm on weekend and I see you Sunday for the meeting.

I would like having private lessons with you, above all for my understanding and to speak and speak again.

The next week, I don't work on Thursday, so we can try on skype. We discuss on Sunday, ok?

Thanks and have a nice evening.

Best regards,"

The message is quite clear. What kind of mistakes do we see here? Is any vocabulary lacking? How would a native
speaker have written this?

I'll let people make their own corrections, but I want to point out that this is the kind of stuff that I see all the
time in French and English.The vocabulary is perfect, but the many imperfections are in the way everything is put
together. Adding more vocabulary would not have improved this letter. It probably would have made it worse.

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5031 days ago

9753 posts - 15777 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 210 of 309
20 September 2014 at 5:41am | IP Logged 
It's more or less an inevitable stage. The only way of avoiding it I can ever imagine is by input, but even this probably isn't for everyone. Heck, despite my focus on input/silent period, I myself sound more or less like this when I start tweeting in a language - most recently in Danish. More importantly, while getting to this level may be trivial in a very "influential" language (English/French in Canada, Spanish in the USA, English in Northern Europe), I'm sure many would be happy to achieve such a level of writing in a less mainstream language.

As for this particular case, I definitely wouldn't call that a perfect vocabulary. A lot of precision is missing: words like practise, day off, maybe even comprehension. "happy" also sounds too general, something like "excited" could be better. and "looking forward to (having) private lessons", if an agreement was reached before. "speak and speak again" could be replaced by "practise conversation(al) skills and receive corrections" (but then they'd not need a tutor). Of course I'm not a native speaker, but it would definitely sound better to me with the vocabulary I mentioned, even if the grammatical mistakes were still there.

Also, random native speakers probably don't even find mastering the simple vocab as impressive as you do. Someone without a teaching experience, and especially someone who hasn't reached even B1 in any foreign language, is likely to overlook all those subtle difficulties and be much more impressed with someone who knows "complicated" words - ironically, these words might actually be present in the learner's native language too.

Edited by Serpent on 20 September 2014 at 6:02am

3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3864 days ago

2704 posts - 5424 votes 
Speaks: French*, English, Spanish
Studies: Polish

 
 Message 211 of 309
20 September 2014 at 6:27am | IP Logged 
As promised, here is my count of the unique words in transcript of the discussion on how the body recognizes
viruses in a recent post. This is the result of rather painstaking manual labour rather than some dodgy back-of-
the-envelope hocus pocus.

Verbs:     59
Nouns:     100
Adjectives     : 63
Adverbs:     21
Pronouns: 10
Connectors: 33

Total:     286

I should point out that these figures can vary somewhat because it is not always easy to classify words into
certain categories. Additionally, I have systematically lemmatized all the inflected forms. This said, I believe that
this 8-minute discussion uses around 300 unique words.
1 person has voted this message useful



leosmith
Senior Member
United States
Joined 4984 days ago

2365 posts - 3803 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: Tagalog

 
 Message 212 of 309
20 September 2014 at 7:23am | IP Logged 
smallwhite wrote:
They might even name the number 18 after me.

lol - post of the week!

Jeffers wrote:
He makes the excellent point that you can "speak" a language well with a small vocabulary.

If you mean 300 words, I disagree with you.

Quote:

1. you can do a lot with a small amount of words, and 2. speaking proficiency and accuracy are as important (maybe more important) than vocabulary size.

Agreed. And if he stated it as clearly and concisely as this, I doubt if anyone would be arguing with him, and he wouldn't have anything to do.

s_allard wrote:

Where I disagree with some people here is that I believe that the key to success is mastering the core

Change your the to a and I agree.
2 persons have voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3493 days ago

361 posts - 921 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
Studies: Mandarin, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Greek, Latin, Nepali, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 213 of 309
20 September 2014 at 8:57am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:

Adding more vocabulary would not have improved this letter. It probably would have made it worse.


This reminds me of Jonathan Safran Foer's book Everything Is Illuminated, in which he uses this to humorous
effect:

"My legal name is Alexander Perchov. But all of my many friends dub me Alex, because that is a more flaccid-to-
utter version of my legal name. Mother dubs me Alexi-stop-spleening-me!, because I am always spleening her. If
you want to know why I am always spleening her, it is because I am always elsewhere with friends, and
disseminating so much currency, and performing so many things that can spleen a mother. Father used to dub
me Shapka, for the fur hat I would don even in the summer month. He ceased dubbing me that because I ordered
him to cease dubbing me that. It sounded boyish to me, and I have always thought of myself as very potent and
generative. I have many many girls, believe me, and they all have a different name for me. One dubs me Baby, not
because I am a baby, but because she attends to me. Another dubs me All Night. Do you want to know why? I
have a girl who dubs me Currency, because I disseminate so much currency around her. She licks my chops for it.
I have a miniature brother who dubs me Alli. I do not dig this name very much, but I dig him very much, so OK, I
permit him to dub me Alli. As for his name, it is Little Igor, but Father dubs him Clumsy One, because he is
always promenading into things. It was only four days previous that he made his eye blue from a
mismanagement with a brick wall."

In actual fact though, I tend to write/speak more like this when my vocabulary is not too big but too small
and I therefore have to look words up in a dictionary to say what I want to say, but accidentally look up
inappropriate words.

s_allard wrote:

"How are you? I'm happy, I'm on weekend and I see you Sunday for the meeting.

I would like having private lessons with you, above all for my understanding and to speak and speak again.

The next week, I don't work on Thursday, so we can try on skype. We discuss on Sunday, ok?

Thanks and have a nice evening.

Best regards,"


It's quite clear that the writer has enough vocabulary to convey this particular brief, simple message. This writer
has a bit of difficulty with grammar and some rather severe difficulty with usage, which is a completely separate
thing to their vocabulary. If you write English like that and wish to improve quickly, it would be a silly thing
indeed to memorize another 1000 words. Usage is generally difficult to master, and probably requires a lot more
input. Along with this input, they will probably learn a lot of new words which won't help much at all for writing
emails about scheduling Skype calls. These words are the ones you don't need in order to start interacting and
using the language, but will extend the range of topics you can discuss without having to circumlocute.

After a certain point the new words have no effect on your speaking other than to gradually decrease the
frequency of getting stuck because of a missing word, and to enable the option of using fancy language.They're
far more essential for comprehension, especially reading.

Serpent wrote:
Also, random native speakers probably don't even find mastering the simple vocab as
impressive as you do. Someone without a teaching experience, and especially someone who hasn't reached even
B1 in any foreign language, is likely to overlook all those subtle difficulties and be much more impressed with
someone who knows "complicated" words.


In my experience, people are most easily impressed by pronunciation. Many people are willing to rave over your
ability based on a very tiny sample if the pronunciation is good.
4 persons have voted this message useful



luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5639 days ago

3133 posts - 4350 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 214 of 309
20 September 2014 at 9:17am | IP Logged 
robarb wrote:
This reminds me of Jonathan Safran Foer's book Everything Is Illuminated, in which he uses this to humorous effect:

"My legal name is Alexander Perchov...


I would rather talk to this fellow than the student who wants private lessons). This guy has more to say and is more interesting and seems to be a better story teller. He sounds further along. It would be more delightful to help him improve his speech. The errors that he had trouble overcoming would simply add charm to his delivery for someone like me.
2 persons have voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3493 days ago

361 posts - 921 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese, English*, German, Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Swedish, Esperanto, French
Studies: Mandarin, Danish, Russian, Norwegian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Polish, Greek, Latin, Nepali, Modern Hebrew

 
 Message 215 of 309
20 September 2014 at 10:01am | IP Logged 
To be equitable, he was discoursing on a wealthier topic. Petitioning to establish a meeting time is snoozeworthier
than telling some of the yarns he digs the most about himself and his clan.
2 persons have voted this message useful



luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5639 days ago

3133 posts - 4350 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 216 of 309
20 September 2014 at 11:00am | IP Logged 
robarb wrote:
To be equitable, he was discoursing on a wealthier topic. Petitioning to establish a meeting time is snoozeworthier than telling some of the yarns he digs the most about himself and his clan.


Meritoriously stated in a mellifluous manner so befitting this helical ridge of a screw.

Edited by luke on 20 September 2014 at 11:18am



1 person has voted this message useful



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