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Gary’s 2015 TACtivation: FR, IT

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garyb
Triglot
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Speaks: English*, Italian, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 49 of 187
20 February 2015 at 10:53am | IP Logged 
Following up the last post, here's Cavesa's reply, which I'm quoting here rather than on the original thread since I don't want to make it all about me and my own learning:

Cavesa wrote:
Garyb, I'd say the main difference is the second point you mentioned. You speak French
with learners, many of which are probably worse than you are, while you use Italian
with natives.

I noticed a similar effect on my English. I tend to get closer to the level of the
person I am speaking with after a while, and certainly faster than I'd expect. So, it
appears fairly logical that regular contact with native Italians and French learners
might lead to varying level in each of the languages.


Excellent points; you're probably right. I think it's time to start replacing some of my French meetups with conversations with native speakers. Even an hour with a cheaper informal tutor would surely be more productive and wouldn't cost much more than the pint of beer or glass of wine that I usually drink at a meetup. I've been of the opinion that any speaking is better than nothing, but perhaps at my level, conversing with other learners is doing more harm than good. I like to think that I balance it out with input, but I said in the last post that "I find that things stick better when I'm involved in an interaction rather than watching one"... and this applies to incorrect language as well!

By this logic, even staying home and watching a nice film or a few TV episodes might be better than going to a meetup. As one of the "output advocates" around here, I never thought I'd say that!

Even in my native English, I've found that after spending a few hours speaking with non-native friends I sometimes temporarily pick up their mistakes and phrasing. So I suppose the effect on a foreign language that is obviously a lot weaker than my native language could be even more significant. I'm not saying to be a snob about it and never interact with other learners, but natives should probably be the majority.

In fact, I see a similar situation with English learners where I live, who often have their version of the infamous "expat bubble": they speak English, but with all or mostly other non-native speakers, typically from Spain, Italy, and Poland. They often say they feel it's limiting their progress, and the ones who learn it well tend to be the ones who've interacted more with locals through work, studies, or more effort/luck in meeting them socially.

I do like the social aspects of meetups: French learners tend to be interesting people, and it's nice when you do have a good chat with a native speaker there. But if I'm serious about improving my French then I don't think it's the most efficient way to spend my time, and besides, I already have a social life. I'll let the other learners hear each others' mistakes and have one less person to battle it out with for a chance to speak to the one or two real French people.

So thanks for helping me realise this... sometimes I need to have the obvious stated to me.
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Cavesa
Triglot
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Czech Republic
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 Message 50 of 187
21 February 2015 at 11:55pm | IP Logged 
Yes, your exemple is something I've noticed as well. The English intermediate learners
who use English a lot but mostly with other intermediates (that is vast majority of
people in non-anglophone countries who have a job that requires knowledge of English,
be it in business or tourist industry or quite wherever else) usually understand each
other much better than a native. And the phenomenon shows in more ways (such as an
advanced learner having to dumb things down for others they need to communicate with
or two really bad English learners with totally different native languages
understanding each other perfectly thanks to making the same mistakes).

I noticed a similar processus a few years ago in Berlin. I had been learning on my own
with lots of listening and came to a group that had been learning for two weeks, six
hours a day or so, with native teachers and in Berlin. I was a bit disappointed
because, even though I totally belonged there when it came to grammar and vocabulary,
my pronunciation was the best or the second best. The others had not only keept the
mistakes typical of their native languages, they had basically shared them. (Except
for the Japanese guy, he had his own set and was quite resistent)

So, I think your idea to get some French natives for practice is a great one.

By the way, I've wondered how you got to know so many Italian friends? Could you tell
me your secret, please? :-)
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garyb
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 Message 51 of 187
23 February 2015 at 1:16pm | IP Logged 
I've seen that effect too, of learners understanding each other better than they understand natives, both with French learners and the English learners from my example. I'm sure there have been times when one didn't understand my question and another had to rephrase it into "intermediary" language... something like "how long have you been here?" becoming "since how long are you here?". And I've probably already told the story of the French girl I once met who speaks English with a Spanish accent, and typical Spanish mistakes.

Cavesa wrote:
By the way, I've wondered how you got to know so many Italian friends? Could you tell me your secret, please? :-)


I just seem to often get on well with Italians; even before starting to learn the language I had a few Italian friends, and that was a big part of my motivation to learn it first place. My city has quite a big Italian community, especially in the last few years with more and more people leaving Italy to learn English and look for work. These tend to be young and educated people with similar interests to mine. Maybe a lot of my "secret" is just being in the right place at the right time.

Of course, since starting to learn it I've made an effort to meet more, and for a lot of them it's interesting to meet a local, not to mention one who knows their language. I've made a few friends from language exchanges (either at meetup-type events at the University etc. or online) and then ended up meeting more of their friends. Italians do tend to stick to each other, but if you make friends with one then you can end up meeting a lot of others.
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garyb
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 Message 52 of 187
23 February 2015 at 4:29pm | IP Logged 
My usual weekly update, but I don't have loads say after last week's excess of posts. That B2 to C2 thread has made me think about a lot of things.

- Spoke a reasonable bit of both languages at the weekend, both rather badly. I'm getting a bit run-down and tired yet again so I'll put it down to that.

- Watched about 20 minutes of TV in each language over the weekend. I'm not sure what exactly people mean when they talk about "massive" input, but it's not that. The conversations also count towards input of course.

- I just signed up for the Output Challenge. It would probably be hugely beneficial for either language, but I chose Italian because I'm still not clear about my longer-term goals for French. And of course it's easier to find people to write and speak Italian with.

- I've been slacking a lot on the self-talk and accent stuff. Partly because I've been doing plenty "real" speaking, but also partly laziness and lack of time. The output challenge should help me get back into the habit: these 100 hours have to come from somewhere! Hours of me repeating phrases, reading aloud, and doing self-talk will make for some exciting recordings. Recording Skype conversations/lessons is probably also worthwhile, to hear my spontaneous speech. I recorded a French chat a few years ago and the result was painful to listen to, but I suppose it's tough love.

Less than 2 months before I go to France, so I need to up the French effort a bit. After the trip, I doubt I'll have much other use for it so I'll probably be putting most of my effort for the rest of the year into Italian. I'm still finding studying multiple languages to be a bit unmanageable really and I can't help but think I'd progress much faster if I just did one. A lot of people here seem to do short "bursts" of focusing on one and having the other(s) in the background, which is maybe a more realistic approach than attempting to do 50/50 over the long term.
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Cavesa
Triglot
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Czech Republic
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Speaks: Czech*, FrenchC2, EnglishC1
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 Message 53 of 187
23 February 2015 at 11:36pm | IP Logged 
I'm looking forward to hearing of your French trip, I hope you'll enjoy it enormously.

I considered the output challenge and I won't be joining this time as I've got lots of
other things to do and I'm not sure I could get to recording my speech. I am so bad at
monologues, even in my native language. But I'm looking forward to hearing of others',
perhaps I'll join next time. I would be really interested in hearing your French,
Garyb. Are you going to share your recordings somewhere?

20 minutes per day is not massive. When I strive for massive input, I watch a few
episodes in a row, or when I've got time and need to procrastinate heavily, I can
spend basically whole day watching. But I haven't in months as it is not too practical
and compatible with other things :-D

But I think a few larger doses of listening are much more needed when you are just
making the jump from courses and such resources to the tv series and movies. I think
it is not such an advantage when you are so advanced, so why aim for massive at all.

By the way, is the Italian part of our wikia active? I would love to see all those
movie and book recommendations of yours on one place. Would you happen to have a list?
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iguanamon
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Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
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2224 posts - 6708 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole, Creole (French)

 
 Message 54 of 187
24 February 2015 at 2:31am | IP Logged 
Gary, I've been following your progress for a long time. I find your profile is quite similar to my own in learning closely related Romance languages. I know your frustration. It will get better. When it does, it gets even more fun too.

I do believe you'd probably be better off focusing more on one language for a longer stretch of time in order to build critical mass. That doesn't mean you forget the other one, just keep it maintained as best you can. The good thing about all this technology we have is that it's not that hard to do. I love my twitter feed for this. I get a constant stream of Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian Creole and from time to time even Ladino. If you have the app for your phone it's something you can use during down time throughout the day. Just make sure to follow a good mix between the two languages. It may sound silly because a tweet is only 140 characters, but the links, videos, instagrams, etc., can really give you a lot of exposure to a language without really trying.

The good thing about getting a language to a high level, especially in related languages (in my experience) is that it shortens your time when you can devote more study to the weaker one. If you feel that your Italian is the better candidate to benefit from more intense study, do that. Get it high and then getting French stronger will be easier.

Massive input is just that, massive. It's hard to do in two languages and get really massive. Something has to give. For me it's English that gets the short end of the stick. I probably read just one or two books in English in a year. I get my US news mostly in Spanish and my world news mostly in Portuguese. Haitian Creole gets much less attention, but I do speak it with people and read a bit here and there most days. Ladino is a fun diversion.

For you, if you could bring Italian more into your life on a daily basis by picking some things to do regularly. Perhaps the euronews Italian broadcast every day (10 minutes), a 22-30 minute Italian television series most days, reading a book for half an hour before bed or early in the morning, regular conversation (in person or on the web), cultivating some Italians (or French) on lang8 by correcting their English on a regular basis (not on a "drive-by" basis), listening to 10-20 minutes of French every day- all this is doable and if done regularly will be a huge boost. The key is regular. If you can make it a habit to the point where you'll feel bad if you miss out something, that's the key in my experience.

I don't keep track of time spent on reading, TV, movies, listening, speaking in my languages. I just do it. Every morning I have a 45 minute walk. I listen to a Portuguese news/interview program for most of that time. Later in the day, I listen to Spanish. I watch "The Walking Dead" in Portuguese dub. I have a Brazilian series on the go right now too. I watch at least two episodes a week. I speak Portuguese for a couple of hours a week. It's a habit now, a part of my life, like Spanish (which is a second language here). I don't have to make an effort to speak/listen in Spanish.

At present, I am reading a book in Spanish and another one in Haitian Creole. After I finish the Spanish book I'll read one in Portuguese. When I was learning Portuguese, my Spanish was at a high level. Portuguese did indeed push it to one side for a while but I still had my Spanish by maintaining it. Now that my Portuguese is at a high level, I have more time to devote to Spanish, Haitian Creole and Ladino. I am even exploring some Catalan and the Cyrillic alphabet (obrigado Serpent, keep those Russian tweets coming) via twitter. I am not trying to be a polyglot, but I'm just having so much fun I may accidentally back into it some day.

Looking forward to reading about your trip to France!
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mrwarper
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 Message 55 of 187
24 February 2015 at 11:47am | IP Logged 
Cavesa wrote:
[...] The English intermediate learners who use English a lot but mostly with other intermediates [...] usually understand each other much better than a native. And the phenomenon shows in more ways (such as [...] or two really bad English learners with totally different native languages understanding each other perfectly thanks to making the same mistakes).

Not really. Two learners will understand each other better than they will understand a native or the native will understand them if their target language is broken the same way, be it in pronunciation, vocabulary choice, or grammar structures. The further apart their native languages are, the less likely it is they make the same mistakes, except by chance.

garyb wrote:
[...]I'm sure there have been times when one didn't understand my question and another had to rephrase it into "intermediary" language... something like "how long have you been here?" becoming "since how long are you here?". And I've probably already told the story of the French girl I once met who speaks English with a Spanish accent, and typical Spanish mistakes.

While most of the time it is bad that intermediates pick up each others' mistakes, in international classes it might be beneficial that the target language is the only common one, as imperfect practice is still practice. When learners share a language stronger than their target, it is likely to be adopted as default and thus prevent practice. (Which is better for communication might be bad for learning, and then it all becomes a matter of priorities.) Remember: broken <language> is better than none.

garyb wrote:
Cavesa wrote:
By the way, I've wondered how you got to know so many Italian friends? Could you tell me your secret, please? :-)

I just seem to often get on well with Italians; [...] I've made a few friends from language exchanges (either at meetup-type events at the University etc. or online) and then ended up meeting more of their friends. Italians do tend to stick to each other, but if you make friends with one then you can end up meeting a lot of others

Same here. You need to start somewhere, but language exchanges are often hit and miss, when I hanged out with friends I actually made more friends *without* trying all that much. Be ready for some surprises, though: sometimes circles get so close that they become closed and lock you out. If/when that happens just keep moving :)

Edit: sorry, this was sitting around and you just kept posting, so...


Edited by mrwarper on 24 February 2015 at 11:56am

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garyb
Triglot
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Speaks: English*, Italian, French
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 Message 56 of 187
24 February 2015 at 12:18pm | IP Logged 
Thanks for the replies, I always appreciate them!

To be honest, my main frustration is time. I have great intentions to watch more, listen more, write more, speak more, work more on pronunciation, all the rest, but then it never gets done. I think I'm simply trying to do too much, especially trying to fit in languages alongside everything else: work, music, social life, exercise. As well as focusing on one language at a time, it might also be beneficial to focus one aspect, or fewer aspects, at a time: listening, conversation, pronunciation, whatever. That seems to work better for me than trying a "balanced" approach and ending up either struggling to fitting it all in or having too little time for each part.

The 20 minutes massive input thing was a joke, about the fact that it's all I managed to do over a whole weekend. As you both say, massive input isn't really sustainable and seems better suited to short bursts. To best prepare for my France trip, I'm not sure whether I should focus on input or on production, especially with all the recent input/output debates on here, so I'm going for a bit of both rather than one extreme.

I've probably been spending too much time on this forum lately. It's useful, but it's also time that I could spend reading or writing my languages, and it's easy to fall into the trap of talking about learning languages instead of learning languages. I'm not sure I have any right to complain about lack of time if I'm writing long posts like this one.

For Italian I have no shortage of resources: I have a massive list of films and TV to watch and books to read; recently I've found a few consistent Skype and email exchange partners and I still have a few lessons to take from an iTalki package; and of course I know Italians here. Again the problem is just finding the time. I usually manage a bit of listening or study in the morning before work, a little online reading and/or radio during the day, a chapter or two of a book at lunchtime, then in the evening I have a few hours where languages and the aforementioned "everything else" fight it out for my attention.

The other related problem is the tiredness that I'm always mentioning: it makes me less productive, less sociable, more negative, and worse at speaking my languages. That can become a vicious circle if I stressed out about it, tiring me out further. I'm trying to fix all that, doing some meditation and relaxation and trying to figure out the root causes, which is another time investment but hopefully one that will pay off in the long term.

Despite all that I believe I am making slow but sure progress, at least in Italian. I'm probably just getting impatient and need to accept that, in my situation, any progress is great.

If people really want to hear my bad French pronunciation then I'm sure that uploading recordings could be done!

I posted a list of Italian books and films to the Super challenge recommendations wiki thread, although I don't think they ever made it to the wiki. That was almost a year ago, and I've read and watched a lot more since. I also made a few posts to the Book Club and Film Club threads at the start of the year. And I was planning on starting an "Italian films with accurate subtitles" page similar to the French one, but then I dropped my external hard disk and lost all the video and subtitle files I had. I agree that it would be nice to have it all in one place, since I'm one of the main Italian media consumers around here (and I'm sure Kanewai could contribute for literature and Rdearman for TV series). Another thing I'll do if/when I find the time.

Possibly related: I just saw that there's a recent thread about short intensive periods.

EDIT: Just saw your reply mrwarper, I'm another slow replier! I agree that bad communication is better than none, and moreover, a lot of the examples I gave here and in the B2-C2 thread of people who learn mistakes from each other etc. are people whose first priority is to communicate, not to master the language! In these HTLAL discussions it can be easy to forget that many people just want to be "good enough", whatever that means for them. I still think that speaking with other learners is useful at the earlier stages; it's mainly at the advanced level that I'm beginning to think it's detrimental.

Edited by garyb on 24 February 2015 at 1:05pm



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