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Ari
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Norway
Joined 4744 days ago

2314 posts - 5695 votes 
Speaks: Swedish*, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese
Studies: Czech, Latin, German

 
 Message 33 of 170
09 October 2014 at 10:58am | IP Logged 
syrichw wrote:
This is the first time I saw this thread and I am actually doing the
same experiment now. I learned German for four years, acquired basic fluency but got
entirely tired in learning grammar and memorizing vocabulary. So I decided to do
something different. I started to watch Korean drama without any Chinese subtitles
from late June and acquired my first word in Korean after a week. I haven't used any
dictionary, textbooks or audio course as reference. I have done almost two hours a
day, mostly in metro and I have already watched 12 TV series (16-20 episodes each). I
have spent more or less 200 hours on it.


Ok, you're not a seasoned language learner. Your're not going to learn much this way,
trust me. This method is terrible and you're doing yourself a huge disservice if you
continue this way. Extensive TV watching is great, but as a compliment to traditional
learning. You're falling into a common trap. Here's the thinking:

"People studying with traditional methods and not watching movies often can't speak
very well. Therefore I will not use traditional methods and only watch movies."

Here's a parallel example to show why the logic is flawed:

"People who run marathons and don't drink enough water usually don't make it.
Therefore I will only drink water and not run and I'll get to the finish line."

You need to do both. The OP of this thread knows enough about language learning to
know what he's doing, but from what I can gather from your post and profile, you
don't, so I'll be harsh: You're wasting your time. Many people have done what you're
attempting to do and they NEVER succeed. It doesn't work. Period. Full stop. If you
want to learn Korean, get thee to a textbook. Do watch lots of Korean dramas,
especially after you start getting somewhere in your studies, but pick up a Korean
course and study, or you will certainly, definitely fail.

---

EDIT: So here's a reason I'm a bit hesitant towards the OP's experiment and blog. It
risks propagating the myth of the "learn by TV" approach and encouraging learners who
are considering trying it. It's a dangerous myth that should be combatted, because it
does harm to language learners.

Edited by Ari on 09 October 2014 at 11:01am

6 persons have voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2695 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 34 of 170
09 October 2014 at 11:03am | IP Logged 
I have watched almost 600 movies (approx 1000 hours) in my L2 now, mostly without subtitles.

I am now B2+ for comprehension of movies.

Given the FSI estimates Asian languages as taking approximately four times longer than my (easy) L2 German to learn, I guess I would see similar learning effects after approximately 4000 hours of movie watching for Chinese/Korean.

However, over the same time period I also used SRS to memorize about 8000 cards, and have read almost 20000 pages (mostly intensively using an ebook with pop-up dictionary).

The intensive-reading/Anki definitely gave me a big boost. It's impossible to do more than guess, but it must have sped up my learning speed by at least 2x-4x.

So if only pure extensive listening in Chinese/Korean works, I would guess that I would need 8000-16000 hours to reach a good B2 level.

At half-hour per day, this somewhere in the 44-88 year range; At two-hours per day, it would take (only!) 11-22 years.

Of course, I could be a slow learner, but I remain doubtful that you can make meaningful progress only watching videos in a "difficult" language like Mandarin or Korean; especially if you don't do as children do and use the language 24-7, which is exactly what people who have tried this report after abandoning such projects in the 500-2000 hour range.

Interestingly the above estimates drop to only 2-4 years if you assume 12-hours/day movie watching which is perhaps much closer to the time spent by children speaking/listening as they naturally acquire languages. So perhaps the message is that if we want to learn like a child -- if you can equate watching tv to what children do -- we also must also be willing to put in the amount of effort a child spends on language learning as well.

----

As an aside: The "Test your Vocabulary" blog, has interesting data showing that much of the vocabulary that children learn comes from READING rather than talking/watching-films etc. As language learners we are putting ourselves at a serious disadvantage not to take advantage of this: Heavy readers - 4 words/day; Light readers - 1 word/day.




Edited by patrickwilken on 09 October 2014 at 11:30am

3 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3694 days ago

2615 posts - 8805 votes 
Speaks: English*, FrenchB2
Studies: Spanish, Ancient Egyptian
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 35 of 170
09 October 2014 at 1:03pm | IP Logged 
Ari wrote:
You need to do both. The OP of this thread knows enough about language learning to
know what he's doing, but from what I can gather from your post and profile, you
don't, so I'll be harsh: You're wasting your time. Many people have done what you're
attempting to do and they NEVER succeed. It doesn't work. Period. Full stop. If you
want to learn Korean, get thee to a textbook. Do watch lots of Korean dramas,
especially after you start getting somewhere in your studies, but pick up a Korean
course and study, or you will certainly, definitely fail.

---

EDIT: So here's a reason I'm a bit hesitant towards the OP's experiment and blog. It
risks propagating the myth of the "learn by TV" approach and encouraging learners who
are considering trying it. It's a dangerous myth that should be combatted, because it
does harm to language learners.

I very much agree with Ari here. We've seen a good number of people try to learn by doing nothing but watching TV, and every single one of them has failed, often after investing 500+ hours. This is really sad, because 500 hours should be enough to make significant progress in any language.

I suspect there's a way to make TV watching work. But to pull it off, you'd need some way to reliably extract "i+1" input from native TV. But even native toddler TV is designed for people who have already received 5+ million words of semi-comprehensible input from other sources. I actually suspect the OP is an experienced enough language learner to pull this off. And even if he can't make it work, he'll realize when it's failing, and he'll know where he needs to make adjustments.

But if you're a first-time learner, and you really want to learn by watching TV, get yourself:

1. A movie or TV show that you love enough to watch 20 times and quote obsessively.
2. Accurate bilingual subtitles.
3. A DVD ripper (and possibly subtitle OCR software, if needed).
4. Copies of subs2srs and Anki.
5. A handwritten sign on your wall which says, "Deleting is the best kind of Anki rep!"

This has the advantage of actually working, at least for some people. It's basically L/R crossed with SRS, and several people have used it successfully for learning enough Japanese to watch anime.

Alternatively, you should check out AJATT, the current incarnation of which combines total media immersion with bilingual MCD cards. This will also work, and AJATT offers a "fluency or your money back at the end of the course" guarantee to people who've paid a couple thousand bucks for the Neutrino courses.

The sad part about watching TV is that it almost works. It works if you supplement it with various things. It works if you already have ~40% comprehension and you also read fun-but-trashy novels. It may even work if you're a very experienced language learner and know when to tweak things. But if you go in blind, TV supplies very little "i+1" input. Extensive methods work by consolidating things you can already puzzle out, not by magical moments of enlightenment while listening to utterly incomprehensible babble.

Edited by emk on 09 October 2014 at 1:41pm

5 persons have voted this message useful



day1
Groupie
Latvia
Joined 2054 days ago

93 posts - 158 votes 
Speaks: English

 
 Message 36 of 170
09 October 2014 at 6:56pm | IP Logged 
I have tried to learn Spanish by listening to audiobooks (and nothing else really, oh, maybe first few CDs of MT or something) and currently am trying to resurrect my highschool German by this same method. I listen for fun, these two languages have at least SOME similarities to English (quite a few words are guessable), and I always use content I am familiar with (i.e. books I have read like 5 times at least). It helps my insomnia, I do it for like 15-20 minutes every night for, well, a few years now. Have I learnt any of these languages? No. I'm sticking with it because (strangely enough) I enjoy the process and might one day start actively learning these languages, I am guessing at that point my long hours of audio would pay off.

And for Chinese, where guessability is sooooooo much lower than these two languages (I have studied Chinese for a decade, so I feel confident of claiming this point), well... why waste time? If you're having fun with your 30 minutes, sure, just don't expect miracles.
1 person has voted this message useful



robarb
Nonaglot
Senior Member
United States
languagenpluson
Joined 3221 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 37 of 170
09 October 2014 at 7:26pm | IP Logged 
Ari wrote:
So here's a reason I'm a bit hesitant towards the OP's experiment and blog. It
risks propagating the myth of the "learn by TV" approach and encouraging learners who
are considering trying it. It's a dangerous myth that should be combatted, because it
does harm to language learners.


I'm also concerned that the OP is being too optimistic about the method's feasibility as an actual method.
Here's what he has to say about that:

OP's Blog wrote:

If I can learn Mandarin this way, you can learn any language, despite your busy schedule and limited energy. All
you need to do is starting downloading movies in your desired language (with English subtitles is fine to begin)
and find some shows on YouTube (I recommend children’s programming). In short, this is what my experiment
sets out to prove.

No, this is not the fast way to learn a language[1]. The fast and most effective way to learn a language is to
completely immerse yourself in it. Go live in a country where it is spoken, make a lot of native friends, listen to
countless hours of radio and video, devour the literature, speak all you can, and get a private teacher to correct
your structure, pronunciation, and the pages of essays you should write each day.

What? That is not an option for you? You are extremely busy and have a series of professional and personal
commitments that keep you otherwise engaged from sun to sun and well into the night? Even the thought of
scheduling regular class times with a teacher over Skype is daunting? Welcome to my world. I have three jobs, a
family, and I study Law.[2]

Of course, like you, I do need a little time to wind down. I used to do that by playing pointless blitz chess
online[3]. But watching films in Mandarin is my new way to relax at the end of a long day.


OK, so this reasoning is mostly true, but there's a huge false dichotomy between video-only and full
study/immersion. Yet, there's a broad consensus in the independent learning community that a little study goes
a long way, and some supporting activities geared either to systematic study and/or ensuring i+1 input would
drastically cut the time required for progress while adding only a small amount of work (say, 1 hour per week).
Inexperienced learners need to know this. We may explore other ways of language learning, but we should not
mislead novices until or unless something comes along that overturns that wisdom.
5 persons have voted this message useful



victorhart
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
mandarinexperiment.o
Joined 1869 days ago

66 posts - 155 votes 
Speaks: English*, Portuguese*, Spanish, French
Studies: Mandarin

 
 Message 38 of 170
20 October 2014 at 6:10am | IP Logged 
I appreciate all the thoughtful posts from detractors and supporters and everyone in
between. I was really happy to hear about syrichw's similar approach to learning
Korean and bit a surprised by the criticism he received. He has clearly attained an
advanced level of English, which is just as impressive for a speaker of Mandarin as
Mandarin mastery is for Westerners, and also studies German, so he is not a neophyte.

At any rate, I understand Ary's and other's objection to my methodology being one-
sided and my experiment and blog potentially misleading inexperienced language
learners. Therefore, my latest blog post is a warning to "not try this at home," or
more accurately, a recommendation to take a more balanced and complete approach to
language acquisition.

However, while I think many of you are at least partly right in your criticisms of a
listening-only approach, and I believe my understanding of language acquisition will
be enhanced by engaging with your ideas, I'm also surprised by your strong advocacy
for traditional methods. I humbly submit that most students, and perhaps even many of
you experienced learners, would do well to spend a lot less time on formal study, and
a lot more time on immersive or natural approaches, including watching movies and
other authentic video sources from early on.

In that vein, here are a few additional "warnings" from my blog post, but I would
invite you to read the entire post at mandarinexperiment.com

• Millions of language students worldwide obtain mediocre results after employing
traditional language learning methods for years—-namely formal study using textbooks,
grammar rules, memorization, and translations.
• You will never have time when speaking—-or even when writing—-to construct sentences
based entirely on grammatical rules. If you rely heavily on formal grammar study, you
run a serious risk of never speaking with reasonable fluency or even being capable of
employing grammatically sound structures in practice.
• If you learn vocabulary or study texts using translations into your native language,
you may never grasp the semantic richness of the terms you are learning, and you may
acquire a pernicious mental translation habit that you will hobble your fluency and
practical grammar ability. (Students who acquire a mental translation habit first
mentally construct phrases in their native language and then try to translate them
into the second language, futilely attempting to reorganize the translation using
grammar rules.)
• There are at least four serious problems with an approach that emphasizes memorizing
vocabulary. Please note that I am very good at memorization and have aced tests
throughout my academic career by simply memorizing a few dozen or hundred terms or
concepts the day before the exam. However, memorization has not been effective for me
in language acquisition.
1. Long-term retention of vocabulary memorized using word lists, flashcards, or
textbooks tends to be poor. I suspect this has to do with the way our brains work
through neural webs. Rich neural connections are made when terms are acquired in real-
life contexts that are emotionally charged or personally meaningful. This does not
happen using flashcards or word lists.
2. You need to learn many thousands of words (and their variants) to begin to
communicate successfully or even understand a language well. Due to the difficulty of
committing these terms to long-term memory, you need to review your full list dozens
or hundreds of times over a period of many months or years, which presents obvious
practical challenges, including intense boredom.
3. What will you memorize alongside the term? A translation into your first language?
If so, you will be painstakingly committing to memory an extremely limited and
potentially misleading equivalence, not to mention risking developing a mental
translation habit. To begin to appreciate the spectrum of meaning and connotations of
the term, you would need to memorize the full dictionary entry for the word or
multiple sentences in which the word is used.
4. Memorizing a term and its translation or definition is still a far cry from being
able to spontaneously use the term in conversation. It does not even transfer easily
into writing or listening comprehension. Your goal in language acquisition should be
real communication—-whether written or oral, receptive or productive. Real
communication is inherently fast, complex, and highly dynamic. You may be shocked how
difficult bridging the gap is between memorized terms and actual communication.
• The importance of good pronunciation to successful oral communication should never
be underestimated. If you rely too much on the written language; if you take an overly
academic (i.e. abstract) approach to language acquisition; and if you do not make a
conscious effort to internalize the phonemes and cadence of the language you are
learning, you may obtain a vast vocabulary and theoretical mastery of grammar and
still have serious, permanent difficulties in making yourself understood.

4 persons have voted this message useful



s_allard
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
Joined 3592 days ago

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

 
 Message 39 of 170
20 October 2014 at 2:14pm | IP Logged 
I think that victorhart's criticisms of so-called traditional and formal methods of language learning are well taken.
In a simplistic fashion I would say that the fundamental point is that actually immersing oneself in the language
in some form is more productive than lots of formal study. I don't think one can argue against that. And it's a
hell of a lot more fun.

I have personally argued that trying to learn thousands of words before actually attempting to speak is totally
unnecessary when a small number is all one needs to be up and running.

But all that is, in my opinion, a distraction from the debate over the effectiveness of watching incomprehensible
videos for 30 minutes a day for acquiring a passive knowledge of a language. The reason many people, including
myself, believe that this effort - I can't really call it a method - won't work is that it is difficult to see how it can
work.

This is a obviously very enjoyable activity for the family, and it makes a great subject for blogging. But in the 39
weeks at 30 minutes a day since this experiment has started, how much Mandarin has been learned? I know that
we are talking exclusively about receptive knowledge here, but there doesn't seem to be much evidence of any
kind of cumulative progress.

Edited by s_allard on 20 October 2014 at 3:27pm

4 persons have voted this message useful



patrickwilken
Senior Member
Germany
radiant-flux.net
Joined 2695 days ago

1546 posts - 3200 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 40 of 170
20 October 2014 at 2:38pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:

In that vein, here are a few additional "warnings" from my blog post, but I would
invite you to read the entire post at mandarinexperiment.com

• Millions of language students worldwide obtain mediocre results after employing
traditional language learning methods for years—-namely formal study using textbooks,
grammar rules, memorization, and translations.

[lots of stuff deleted]


Is anyone really arguing for this? Or are you rallying against some other language learning community? Or are you really suggesting that the people on HTLAL 'obtain mediocre results'. My personal impression is that the HTLAL community obtains excellent results, and as such it might be worth listening to its more experienced members comments, rather than dismissing them out of hand as merely users "of traditional learning methods". Are you really suggesting that people on HTLAL don't highly value the use of native learning materials (videos/books) as a means of learning?

As far as I can see people have simply pointed out that trying to learn Mandarin using ONLY video-only input for a native-English speaker would take many many hours, if it's possible, and from what I can see you aren't serious about putting in the requisite number of hours. As such this just seems to be like some sort of stunt which you want to blog about. I don't get the impression you are serious about learning Mandarin.

Anyway why don't you report back when you have made some progress and proved me wrong? At the moment this seems to be all theory, and I don't have the impression that anything anyone will say here will have the slightest effect on what you think you know or do, so rather than just another pointless forum exchange back-and-forth, what about reporting back to us when you pass say the B1 exam or some other objective measure of progress?

Edited by patrickwilken on 20 October 2014 at 2:51pm



5 persons have voted this message useful



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