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YnEoS
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2440 days ago

472 posts - 893 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Russian, Cantonese, Japanese, French, Hungarian, Czech, Swedish, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish

 
 Message 41 of 170
20 October 2014 at 3:34pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:

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.


Most members here advocate incorporating native materials into study early on, and the importance of moving away from textbooks. They're just raising concern over using no methods other than listening to native materials from the beginning.

victorhart wrote:

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.


Old flashcards maybe, but with electronic flashcards you can find interesting images for the word and you create a memory of selecting the image that will boost retention. You can even use Subs2SRS to make flashcards out of movie subtitles complete with audio and a screenshot.

I will agree this isn't effective as using the word to communicate with a real human being, but neither is watching TV, it's just the best we can re-create in our own home.

--------------

So again, I don't think you'll find many people here who disagree with most of your points, it's just that they're also advocating for a balanced learning style when you're a complete beginner using many different methods. A lot of the beginner methods used here on this forum are not the same as "traditional" methods taught elsewhere, even though they're not jumping straight into watching television.

One of the most popular formats for learning here is with parallel texts of the target language and an L1 translation along with target language audio. This is sometimes done via a beginner course like Assimil with graded texts, and amusing jokes and sometimes songs to help make the dialogs more memorable, or sometimes done straight with native books/audiobooks referred to here as L-R or Listening-Reading

Personally I would love it if every language had a method like French in Action aimed at allowing learners to start listening for native speech from the beginning. But most languages don't and many learners here and proven over and over the effectiveness of methods like Assimil, FSI, L-R, and smart flashcards with media to help speed up the transition to pure native resources.

Edited by YnEoS on 20 October 2014 at 3:37pm

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victorhart
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
mandarinexperiment.o
Joined 1893 days ago

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

 
 Message 42 of 170
20 October 2014 at 3:49pm | IP Logged 
s_allard and patrickwilken, it's true that I don't have much objective evidence of
progress yet. I do understand more and more of what I watch, but that is still
generally limited to isolated words or occasionally 3 or 4 word combinations. I
attempted to assess my progress against my hypotheses in my Week 28 post.

I think at 150 hours it's far too early to declare any kind of success or failure,
considering that for a Westerner attaining mastery of Mandarin takes many thousands of
hours.

patrickwilken, many members here do argue for formal language study and lots of
it, and my post is both an acknowledgement of the limitations of my approach and a
counterpoint on the limitations of formal study. Yes, my comments are largely
theoretical, although I have extensive practical experience as a language learner ,
teacher, and curriculum developer.

Contrary to what you say, I feel that I have in a very short time I have already
benefited a lot from the discussion here (and in other threads). Although I understand
your frustration and I very much hope to be able to show very concrete evidence of
progress a few years hence, I do hope that I can continue to engage in theoretical
discussions with members in this and other threads and not have to wait 6 years for my
experiment to finish.

To one of your questions, I have no way of knowing what results HTLAL members obtain,
but I assume they are very good, considering the intellectual level and dedication
that is reflected in their comments throughout this forum. But I also hope my respect
does not preclude my sharing contrasting ideas and points of view as well.
2 persons have voted this message useful



victorhart
Bilingual Tetraglot
Groupie
United States
mandarinexperiment.o
Joined 1893 days ago

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

 
 Message 43 of 170
20 October 2014 at 4:17pm | IP Logged 
YnEoS, based on my experience thus far watching pure video in a very difficult
language like Mandarin, I think "methods like Assimil, FSI, L-R, and smart flashcards
with media to help speed up the transition to pure native resources" are a fantastic
idea and would probably speed up my progress without compromising long term results.
The only reason I won't incorporate them in my case is because I really want to
continue the experimental nature of my project, which means it's important to continue
isolating variables. But I would encourage normal learners to use such strategies.

As a side note and to my general point in my post from yesterday, I'm very happy to
hear that "[m]ost members here advocate incorporating native materials into study
early on, and the importance of moving away from textbooks," but there are other
members (a minority, I presume) whose comments clearly indicate that they believe in
the importance of using textbooks and of delaying contact with native audio until one
has made significant progress.

Edited by victorhart on 20 October 2014 at 4:18pm

1 person has voted this message useful



YnEoS
Senior Member
United States
Joined 2440 days ago

472 posts - 893 votes 
Speaks: English*
Studies: German, Russian, Cantonese, Japanese, French, Hungarian, Czech, Swedish, Mandarin, Italian, Spanish

 
 Message 44 of 170
20 October 2014 at 5:01pm | IP Logged 
Just to clarify, I wasn't trying to make a specific critique on what you're doing, I think I've posted previously that I find it an admirable experiment, and I've certainly spent short times knowingly sacrificing efficiency for the sake of testing a method in isolation.

I just wanted to provide the context that for a lot of people who've been posting here for a long time and have participated in the big discussions over the years, the default assumption is that at some point in the learning process you switch over to massive use of native materials and it's often not felt necessary to constantly re-state this in every new topic. Of course there are hundreds of different theories of how and when is the most efficient time to make this transition, and many people will passionately argue about these nuances, but I can't think of any active members on this forum who campaigns for pure use of traditional methods without any use of native materials or native conversation.

Of course I can't speak for every individual post in this thread, but I think a lot of times when new members come posting here about their new methods/experiments it's sometimes forgotten by both parties that they're coming from a different context and may not be familiar with long exhausted forum topics like Listening from the beginning, The multi-track approach, or The Cheating & Consolidating Method. So some of the posts that come across of highly critical of your experiment might be aimed at certain nuances of the experiment specifically at the beginner level, and they might not necessarily clarify that their thoughts on intermediate/advanced stages are quite different under the assumption that practically everyone on this forum who actively participates in popular topics knows this already.

Edited by YnEoS on 20 October 2014 at 5:02pm

7 persons have voted this message useful



Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
Joined 4783 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 45 of 170
20 October 2014 at 5:41pm | IP Logged 
And off the top of my head I can only think of one important thread that can be interpreted as not advocating listening before you've made significant progress. Also, many of us find most stuff for children as boring as the typical textbooks, if not worse (especially if you compare it to the Assimil humour).

More importantly, many members just don't have access to comprehensible audiovisual input, at least in some of their (our) languages. Or reading is simply a higher priority, especially outside of an immersion situation/travel.

As for the translations/video false dichotomy, be sure to check the replies you got in this thread. As you can see I tend to disagree with Ari much more than with you :) although I do have a lot of respect for him. Here I'm really only against lumping together translation exercises (can be harmful, imo) and using bilingual dictionaries or pre-made translations (not harmful*, imo, but I prefer using L2 or L3 for that instead of L1)
*especially as most learners will try to think of an L1 equivalent even if they use a monolingual dictionary.

Edited by Serpent on 20 October 2014 at 7:05pm

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garyb
Triglot
Senior Member
ScotlandRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3393 days ago

1468 posts - 2411 votes 
Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 46 of 170
20 October 2014 at 5:52pm | IP Logged 
As far as I've seen, pretty much everybody here advocates a combination of traditional study and lots of listening. The differences are just on details like how much of each, when to introduce native materials, etc. Traditional study having failed for a lot of people doesn't necessarily mean that traditional study is bad and those people should have done other things instead; more likely they should have done other things as well.
4 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3718 days ago

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

 
 Message 47 of 170
20 October 2014 at 6:14pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:
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.

Thank you for your response! This is a very interesting discussion.

I don't think HTLAL is especially in love with traditional grammar study. Sure, some people here do enjoy studying grammar, and they get good results. (I am continually impressed by Iversen's command of English and French, not to mention the long list of other languages he knows, and his methods involve a fair bit of formal study early on.) But on the whole, a large fraction of the people at HTLAL like to get lots of input.

For example, I lean very far towards the input side:

- I like Assimil and other variations of graded Listening/Reading early on.
- I half-jokingly claim that language learning begins for real when you can understand native TV.
- I prefer using Anki to review sentences with context, not standalone words.
- I'm a huge fan of the Super Challenge. 10,000 pages and 100s of hours of TV make an enormous difference.

But at the same time, I do occasionally look up interesting points of grammar. When I was preparing for my B2 exam, I spent an extremely productive afternoon reading Essential French Grammar from cover to cover, and I enjoy Googling strange grammatical constructions I don't recognize. This sort of study occupies maybe 10% of my learning time, but it's an important 10%. If I completely eliminated that remaining 10% of actual, half-assed study, it would take me a lot longer to puzzle things out. The massive input and the modest study work together, the combination helping me far more than either would on its own.

Now, this may not be true for everyone. But I'm certainly not the only person with these experiences. And there's also recent theoretical evidence that it's possible to learn much faster from examples-plus-clarification than just from examples alone. (Patrick, that link's for you. It's from an eccentric—but extremely creditable—researcher in machine learning, who studies how to learn patterns from small training sets.)

victorhart wrote:
• 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.)

Personally, I think it's extremely counterproductive to tell beginners that they shouldn't use translations of texts. They're not going to have any "semantic richness" or "fluency" in any case, because both of those things come from substantial experience. If you deny them translations, vocabulary and grammar study, all that's left is incomprehensible input, most of it aimed at highly proficient native speakers. (Including native 3-year-olds. Your typical Sesame Street viewer may not be entirely potty-trained, but they've had millions of words of specialized, semi-comprehensible input from caregivers.)

Champollion, Middle Egyptian, and parallel texts

One of my examples of this is Middle Egyptian. We actually have quite a bit of native text, much of it repetitive, and some of it illustrated. Various attempts were made to decipher the language, starting in late Roman times and continuing up until 1821.

The man who finally deciphered Egyptian, Jean-François Champollion, was born in 1790. During his childhood, he studied Latin and ancient Greek. During his early teenage years, he started on Hebrew, Arabic, Syriac and Chaldean. When he was around 16, he learned that Coptic was probably descended from Egyptian. Shortly afterwards, he started his studies of Coptic and Aramaic. When he was around 18, he was a corresponding member of the Académie des Sciences et des Arts de Grenoble, and by 19, he was writing a grammar and a dictionary for a dialect of Coptic. In other words, Champollion was a first-rate polyglot.

But despite being able to read Coptic, and despite his obsession with ancient Egyptian, Champollion needed until his early 30s to finally get a handle on hieroglyphs. He absolutely needed parallel texts—most famously the Rosetta Stone, but also the names of pharaohs, which were preserved in Greek.

Tackling Middle Egyptian today

Meanwhile, I'm just a dilettante, an amateur language learner who speaks two languages, one of them badly. And yet, after about 150 hours of study with Assimil, I can slowly decipher an increasing number of native hieroglyphic texts with help from a dictionary, and I can get a fair bit out of interlinear texts aligned at the sentence level.

So if it took a genius like Champollion a decade to start deciphering Egyptian, how can a modern amateur make useful progress after 150 hours of study? It's actually pretty obvious, if we put it that way: I have an Assimil course with easy parallel texts and a decent bilingual dictionary.

Now, sure, all these things are crutches. You obviously want to get rid of them at some point. I certainly don't use parallel texts with French. But when you're just starting out, parallel texts are a very effective way to get a toehold. I'm emphasizing this point heavily because I've personally wasted a fair bit of time with incomprehensible media, and I've seen other people waste a lot. When language acquisition is working, it should feel like it's working—sure, 90% of your learning may be subconscious, but there should be a steady stream of "ah-ha" moments, as you figure things out. If you're just sitting there, frustrated, you're not going to get anywhere quickly.

My advice for first-time language learners: Cheat. Use translations. Review sentences using bilingual Anki cards. Make green sheets of the regular verb endings. Do whatever works. Just plow through that beginner stage quickly, and reach the point where things like native television start giving you dramatic results, quickly. Native materials are absolutely amazing, but don't try to beat yourself up for not being able to pull a Champollion—he was a genius starting from a related language, and it took him over a decade to sort things out the hard way. And he used every tool he could find.

Anyway, I'm enjoying this discussion. And my only objection to your theories is that I would never try to rely exclusively on passive absorption through television before reaching CEFR B1 or so. Television is an amazing learning tool, and I've spent many enjoyable and effective hours watching French TV with my wife. But it just seems so inefficient early on.

Edited by emk on 20 October 2014 at 7:54pm

7 persons have voted this message useful





emk
Diglot
Moderator
United States
Joined 3718 days ago

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

 
 Message 48 of 170
20 October 2014 at 6:47pm | IP Logged 
victorhart wrote:
s_allard and patrickwilken, it's true that I don't have much objective evidence of
progress yet. I do understand more and more of what I watch, but that is still
generally limited to isolated words or occasionally 3 or 4 word combinations. I
attempted to assess my progress against my hypotheses in my Week 28 post.

I think at 150 hours it's far too early to declare any kind of success or failure,
considering that for a Westerner attaining mastery of Mandarin takes many thousands of
hours.

Well, mastery certainly requires a huge effort, even in a closely related language like French. And 150 hours won't make you fluent in anything, of course. But still, 150 hours should be enough to see lots of progress, even in a hard language.

I've spent maybe 150 hours on Middle Egyptian, more than half of that with Assimil. Now, my task is easier than yours: I only need to learn to read, not to listen, and I only need to be familiar with a couple hundred hieroglyphs, not a few thousand Chinese characters. But after roughly the same amount of study as you've put into Chinese, I can already more-or-less decipher Egyptian with a dictionary and a parallel text. Here's what I can do with the hieroglyphic edition of Peter Rabbit:



I had to look up the names of the verb tenses to write this all out; normally I just understand roughly how they're used. :-) Now, there are errors here, and misunderstandings (I now know perfectly well why there are two n's), but it's definitely more than a few scattered words. And if there were actually such things as Egyptian TV shows with accurate parallel subtitles, I imagine that I could use a tool like subs2srs to make rapid listening progress from this point onwards.

Now, it's entirely possible that you'll make it over this initial hump just watching TV. You're already an experienced language learner, and there might be enough "i+1" input to get you there eventually, and you might wind up tweaking your methods just enough to get through efficiently. And in any case, my caveats only apply to the very early phases—I'm a huge fan on massive input once it becomes more-or-less comprehensible.


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