Register  Login  Active Topics  Maps  

How many words to speak?

 Language Learning Forum : General discussion Post Reply
309 messages over 39 pages: 1 24 5 6 7 ... 3 ... 38 39 Next >>
Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3492 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 17 of 309
31 August 2014 at 5:52pm | IP Logged 
James29 wrote:
A lot of work went into developing and defining the language "Basic English." It is a subset of English with a controlled vocabulary of 850 words. Many books have been translated into this language. I read the Bible in Basic English and it is extremely functional. Two or three words can very easily substitute for other words. They say that basically anything can be translated into these 850 words (plus proper names and locations).

This, of course, does not deal with being able to understand regular speaking, but it seems relevant to this discussion.


Yes, this is a relevant issue but I believe English is a special case. For exemple, none of my other languages allows you to express so much with just a few verbs: to be, to go, to make, to do, to get. English is a language wits lots of synonymes. It is very common to have a "pure" English word for something and a Latin/French based one which means the same thing but sounds more educated. And there could surely be more such exemples of why is English more suitable for such a simplification than many others. And it is a matter of discussion whether such a change is desirable and for what languages and their uses.

Last but not least, the simplification had been wildly happening long before the Basic English was constructed. Just think of the wide spread of English to unprecedented variety of second language speakers from extremely wide range of backgrounds when it comes to native languages, intelligence, education, learning opportunities, money, careers and so on. While all the previous lingua francas were reserved for the more educated social circles (selection both by money and intelligence), English is for everyone and therefore its simplification among large masses of speakers (perceived as mutilation of the language by some) was inevitable. This is something that hasn't naturally happened to any other language.
2 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

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

 
 Message 18 of 309
31 August 2014 at 7:28pm | IP Logged 
I love it. Some people think I have nothing better to do but stir up trouble and go around making wild
statements for the fun of it. It's interesting to see that people get so hot and bothered over a simple observation:
a hyperpolyglot briefly speaks 15 languages to 15 different people in a casual, informal manner. He is not buying
a SIM card, he is not having a long complex conversation, he is not at a zoo with children. I don't see any
evidence that he has rehearsed these sentences. What I see is a limited vocabulary being used fluently and
correctly. We are told that Marini can do this in 30 languages.

Is Marini speaking at the A2 level in the 15 languages? Is that how a A2 speaker sounds in Spanish, or German or
Russian? Does Marini speak his 30 languages at the A2 level? Like Richard and Luca?

My interest in all this actually stems from two observations The first is that I see time and time again people who
despite having lots of vocabulary and great comprehension are unable to have a fluent and idiomatic casual
conversation with a native speaker. Let's say someone you meet on the bus. What I see is usually a person
speaking in an awkward manner and making all kinds of mistakes.

My other observation comes from my following of the work on Le français fondamental, a project somewhat
similar to the Basic English movement mentioned by James29. Most of this work dates back to the 50s and 60s
and we don't hear much about it now but its influence is still felt today.

Here is the link to the French wiki entry. The English version is very incomplete:

Le français fondamental

If you read the article, you'll see that the researchers identify a core vocabulary of 1,000 to 1,500 words for
speaking French. And here is an important observation:

"Le français fondamental a eu une influence certaine, en particulier dans l'enseignement du français langue
étrangère. Mais il a ensuite été rejeté au cours des années 1970, avec le renouvellement de l'enseignement des
langues, sans être pour autant remplacé par un nouvel outil. Un colloque organisé à l'École normale supérieure
lettres et sciences humaines de Lyon en décembre 2005 a tenté de faire le point sur les évolutions qui se sont
produites depuis sa création.

Dans un esprit similaire mais sans filiation apparente, Radio France internationale (RFI) diffuse chaque jour un
Journal en français facile4 de dix minutes qui utilise un vocabulaire restreint (300 mots)5 et simple et donne le
contexte des événements. Cette démarche est analogue à celle de la Voix de l'Amérique, qui diffuse depuis 1959
des programmes en (en) Special English, une forme d'anglais basique avec un vocabulaire restreint à 1 500
mots."
1 person has voted this message useful



Cavesa
Triglot
Senior Member
Czech Republic
Joined 3492 days ago

3277 posts - 6778 votes 
Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
Studies: Spanish, German, Italian

 
 Message 19 of 309
31 August 2014 at 8:11pm | IP Logged 
Well again, it depends on the definition and goals. If the goal is to be recognized as a speaker and polyglot, it is a totally different situation from someone who needs to function normally in the language. And whether a person makes mistakes, that is still another thing. Whether it's more valuable to speak with few words in few situations perfectly or in a wide range of situations with sufficient vocabulary even though with mistakes, that is more up to each learner. Speaking idiomatically is again a different issue and totally overestimated, in my opinion. Speaking idiomatically is something that comes with practice and exposure and is a much less important goal per se than many others. Those situations emk an I described are in my opinion much more important than idiomatic and fluent small talk. I am not trying to lighten achievements of all the polyglots mentioned or to claim their shows to be rehearsed. I just don't think perfect small talk is that important and I'd love to see them in a real and challenging situation for inspiration.

Sure, there are people who could give definitions to several thousand vocabulary entries and still are unable to hold a conversation. Noone doubts that and some arguments including those people are just beating the straw man. Noone says wide vocabulary is all you need to speak a language.

Experiments like Basic English or the French one are interesting and surely have some value. But I don't think proficiency at Basic English should be confused with being speaker of English. A language resctricted to so few words necessarily loses a lot more than just difficulty. Those "extra words" that are being crossed out of such newspeak dictionaries do matter. With loss of words, you are bound to lose lots of details and nuances (including those really important ones for practical use), lots of beauty, lots of cultural and historical memory and heritage tied to it. A language is not only meant to provide you with the means for the most rapid, simple and "efficient" communication possible. A novel translated into Basic English will necessarily be mutilated and less valuable than the normal one.

So, I think someone going for 1500 words and stopping because "there is no need for more" is making a huge mistake. And Basic English may be a good beginner tool but carries a large risk of affecting the real English too much. Our civilisation is already getting dumber and dumber, there is no need to artificially potentiate the process.
4 persons have voted this message useful



iguanamon
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 3745 days ago

2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 
 Message 20 of 309
31 August 2014 at 8:12pm | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
...My interest in all this actually stems from two observations The first is that I see time and time again people who despite having lots of vocabulary and great comprehension are unable to have a fluent and idiomatic casual conversation with a native speaker. Let's say someone you meet on the bus. What I see is usually a person
speaking in an awkward manner and making all kinds of mistakes.

My other observation comes from my following of the work on Le français fondamental, a project somewhat similar to the Basic English movement mentioned by James29. Most of this work dates back to the 50s and 60s and we don't hear much about it now but its influence is still felt today.


Thanks for the link, s_allard. I would love to see you come up with a challenge for the membership along the lines of what Christina has done with her super challenge. You set the guidelines and rules, of course. If there were sufficient resources available to identify and teach this core vocabulary- aside from Swaedesh lists, I think a lot of people would love to be functional and flowing with such a limited vocabulary, but as has been said, responses would be difficult to understand unless a native-speaker adjusted his/her vocabulary appropriately. If that were the case then, yes, communication is possible. If that wouldn't be the case then, it would be a one-sided conversation.

I think what a lot of people may be missing is that having such a solid base would allow a learner to improve language skills by actually using the language itself to ask for the words/idioms/constructions needed. I've always said that the first phrase taught in a Spanish course should be ¿Cómo se dice X en español?.

I also think that many may be perceiving your pet project as a final goal- "only learn 300 words". I may be wrong, but I am not reading that. I'm seeing "master the basics first" to help improve the language on your own.

Every so often we'll get someone come on here who thinks he/she has discovered the magic pill to language-learning and announces a Swaedesh list log. Invariably they soon disappear without ever achieving mastery of the basics. So, one fear I have is that beginners may think: "Oh, great! i just have to learn 1500 words on Anki and I can speak French!"- not happening. Now if there were a course designed with these high frequency 1500 words being manipulated and shown in dialogs and readings, maybe- at least in a very limited way.

Edit: I completely agree with Cavesa's last post.

Edited by iguanamon on 03 September 2014 at 12:11am

2 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5080 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 21 of 309
31 August 2014 at 8:48pm | IP Logged 
As for lists of the most useful words, Erik Gunnemark compiled some :) They do count pronouns, numbers and other words of this kind, so that you can say quite little with the 500ish words offered.

I also think that for many of us this feels like a pointless race. My reaction is generally: "so what? It's a nice beginning but I need to learn many more words anyway."

And I'm getting tired of reminding that most of us are very different from the language learners you encounter offline. Specifically, most members don't live in areas where their L2 is an official language. When we start speaking is generally our own choice.
3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

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

 
 Message 22 of 309
01 September 2014 at 12:32am | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
...
So, how many words to speak the language well enough to begin functioning in the normal situations? I'd say at
least 5000 words of passive vocabulary and 2000 active. And this is still just a beginning, my favourite German
course of A1 level teaches over 2000 words and I don't feel confident enough to claim to really speak the
language by far. You are going to need thousands of words, I'd say 10 000 for full functioning in a language.


This is a typical example of the dominant school of thinking about how many words are needed to speak a
language. Note 2000 active and 5000 passive to "begin functioning in the normal situations." Balderdash! I say
300 active to start speaking French. I'm not really concerned that much about passive but I imagine it would be
something in the range of 1000 - 1500. Then we are told that one needs 10,000 for full functioning in the
language.

Let's return briefly to our hyperpolyglot Marini and his 30 languages. By this calculation, as a strict minimum
Marini, who probably admits that certain of his languages are stronger than others, has to know 60,000 active
and 150,000 passive words Maybe that's asking a lot. Let's just use the 15 languages in the video. That makes
30,000 active and 75,000 passive words. And that's just to begin functioning. Imagine what it would take for
Marini to be fully functional in 15 languages.

Is Marini a fraud? In fact, are all those well-known polyglots frauds? Does Richard Simcott know 10,000 words in
each of his many languages? I don't know.

Instead of imagining things and inventing all kinds of figures, let's look at real conversations. Here is a web site
with conversations in French with transcripts:
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
France Bienvenue

In English there are dozens of web sites with recordings and transcriptions. For analysis of spoken English there
is the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English, but this is a highly academic work.

Since I'm more familiar with the French site, I'll use that example. Here are the first few lines of a typical
conversation where a person L is interviewing J about his pastime, bodybuilding or musculation:

L : Alors Joran, j’ai entendu (1) que tu faisais de la musculation.
J: Oui, c’est ça, donc ça fait trois ans maintenant que j’ai commencé la musculation.
L : Oui.
J : J’avais dix-sept ans.
L : Ah, quand même jeune !
J : Oui, oui, on peut dire ça comme ça, oui. Et donc j’ai commencé donc à en faire dans une salle à côté de chez
moi.
L : Tu habites où ?
J : J’habite à côté du centre commercial "Grand Littoral".
L : C’est à Marseille ?
J : Oui, dans les quartiers nord de Marseille.   

There is nothing very difficult here. The entire conversation is like this. There are some specific references to
places near Marseille, but the rest of the words are very common. For example all the verbs are among the most
common verbs in the French language. Is this A-2 French? Maybe for some people it is, but this is an authentic
conversation between two native speakers. If this is so simple, how come most learners of French will never be
able to speak spontaneously like this, especially with the right accent and fluency?

Now, somebody will certainly say, "Aha, they're talking about musculation, suppose they were talking about
another topic like meteorology, they would need a wider vocabulary." Sure, but unless they were two
meteorologists talking between themselves, the conversation would not be very different from what we have
here.

How many different verbs are being used in these conversations? Maybe 30. Maybe 50. Not 100. A tiny fraction of
all the verbs in the French language. But, and this is the big but, you have to know how to use these 30 verbs
very well because they are used over and over again.

Now, suppose you go to buy a SIM card for your mobile phone in France or in Quebec, do you have to know many
new words? Those 30 or 50 verbs will probably do fine. You'll have to add some new words that you'll hear the
sales person using but we're talking about maybe 10 - 15 new words.

As for talking with a child at the zoo, they will teach you all the vocabulary you need to know and you'll do just
fine with your small repertoire of words.

The big myth here is that small vocabulary equates limited speaking. People think that with 500 words, you must
be able to talk about only five things. After that you have to shut your mouth because you can't talk about
anything else. That's far from the truth, as everybody can see. If you master the most common components of
the language, you can reuse them infinitely to speak idiomatically. This is exactly what natives do.

Your vocabulary will expand with exposure, such as through schooling or technical literature, but to start
speaking idiomatically you only need to master the basics.

Edited by s_allard on 01 September 2014 at 1:21am

1 person has voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 5080 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 23 of 309
01 September 2014 at 2:23am | IP Logged 
s_allard wrote:
I'm not really concerned that much about passive but I imagine it would be something in the range of 1000 - 1500.

Does this exclude the words you get for free between English and the Romance languages?
3 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3913 days ago

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

 
 Message 24 of 309
01 September 2014 at 2:30am | IP Logged 
I could hardly believe my eyes. Here is a commercial web site for teaching English that uses the same philosophy
that I espouse (Note: I do not endorse this site. I'm including it here solely to show that I am not all alone with these
ideas)

English Harmony




1 person has voted this message useful



This discussion contains 309 messages over 39 pages: << Prev 1 24 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39  Next >>


Post ReplyPost New Topic Printable version Printable version

You cannot post new topics in this forum - You cannot reply to topics in this forum - You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum - You cannot create polls in this forum - You cannot vote in polls in this forum


This page was generated in 0.8750 seconds.


DHTML Menu By Milonic JavaScript
Copyright 2020 FX Micheloud - All rights reserved
No part of this website may be copied by any means without my written authorization.