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What Expug is doing in 2015 (TAC n more)

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Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 361 of 364
27 December 2015 at 12:23am | IP Logged 
The year is coming to an end and it's time to think what I did in 2015 (after all, that's what this log is about, it's on its title). I will try first to compare goals and actual achievements by language, as this is betterfor the sake of organization. Then I will write my impressions in a free way. New goals will probably come in my new log.

The goals can be found at the first post of this log at HTLAL.

Many of the goals only make sense within the context of a TAC team, and TAC dismantled with the issues at HTLAL, so I'll respond mostly to what still makes sense. For example, an English Team never happened and I didn't write any English with a focus on getting feedback this year. So, next:

Expugnator wrote:

I want to start using native materials and I hope to practice writing at italki so i can consolidate what I have learned from textbooks.

Native materials: check. I only wrote 2 or 3x and I did at the Unilang Estonian subforum, a better place to get corrections from natives. Yet I have to say that Estonian was a good surprise in 2015. It was the language I used to try and do better what I was doing badly for my other languages. I didn't rush for doing native materials before I could make them comprehensible; I kept doing textbooks and noticing that my understanding of them improved. Overall, I set quality time for Estonian as I made Estonian textbook study my first activity of the day and towards the end of the year I made Estonian parallel reading my final activity with no real pressure as it wasn't in the SC. Estonian is a benchmark for the other languages.

Expugnator wrote:

My main focus is writing. I want to get rid of mistakes that hinder my actual level. I am not promising anything to myself, but I may drop by Alliance Française to do a placement test in loco and check for my needs for an occasional DELF or DALF. I also need more listening on colloquial language, as I have been watching too many films with subtitles.

The quantitative focus of the SC did more harm than good to French this year. I didn't write more than a couple of times. My listening deteriorated a lot, as I watched mostly films with subtitles and I stopped watching native series after I thought I was good enough. I was watching Fais pas ci, fais pas ça and following the plot fine back then, and it all derailed and now I have trouble following a native film. No Alliance Française, no DELF. I'm still not sure it's worth placing money in what is just a hobby, but one if never too sure, maybe if my routine changes and I may have time for giving classes for beginners it might be worth looking for a certificate. So, my French got stuck in 2015 and the listening even got worse.

Expugnator wrote:

Georgian has been my main learning challenge. I can't seem to make significant progress for a long, consistent period. I have to reinvent my methods, as I am also limited in terms of materials. In 2015 I may ressurrect the texbooks I have used, especially those courses with audio. I am still confident, as I am close to being able to read and get the overall picture, but I lack videos with subtitles. My main source for L-R are still news items, and I have to work on them more consistenly this year, even if sometimes even Google Translator fails to give me a good idea of what is going on. To sum it up, I will have to attack Georgian in all fronts, review when needed, contact the native speakers I know again if I want to finally reap all the time invested and start doing enjoyable things in the language.

It was a positive year for Georgian! How did I deal with those issues? By getting back to my old methods. I definitely resumed intensive reading from textbooks, and by doing so I also reviewed and consolidated most of my grammar issues. Towards the end of the year, I even solved the issue of listening by finding dubbed films that I really wanted to watch regardless of language learning, to which I added English subtitles and it's working great so far. I can read and get the overall picture, but I'm approaching basic reading fluency in an asymptotically insane way (same as with German) and this is driving me crazy! I did chat a few times with the help of Speaky and I hope to write more often at lang-8. And yes, I'm doing things I enjoy because reading is much more fun now and so is watching TV, even though I still tend not to pay attention to the native series I watch without subtitles.

Expugnator wrote:

I keep comparing German and Norwegian because both developped in a similar way, but Norwegian is still stronger even if German is easier to listen to, given the slightly less complex phonology, the more regular spelling and the fact I'm mostly listening to a standardized form of the language. I am going to Germany in April and I already know enough to get by as a tourist, so no pressure here. I am more worried about reaching basic reading fluency, and I know I'm close to that, at least contemporary non-fiction. I still do have better and worse days, but I can't let this aspect put me down. I decided to join the Advanced Team only instead of the German Team because my demands and challenges mostly concern this stage from now on.

German was the language of 'almost there' (not geographically, I did go to Germany and I had a great time using the language there, it saved me from taking the wrong train/bus). The reasons I didn't reach the desired basic fluency are a) lack of practice (though this has changed a bit as I'm chatting more often); b) overuse of crutches (subtitles, parallel reading where I read for content and pay little attention to the language in there) and c) lack of appropriate TV series for building up knowledge and comprehension the way I did with French (films are my main source and sometimes they barely have dialogues). German is a case where I have yet to figure out what to do in order to improve. Maybe writing is part of the solution.

Expugnator wrote:

I won't be too optimistic to reach for basic fluency in Mandarin, even if I've been studying it for over 3 years. It is a language to be respected. I am doing good things and I've noticed significant progress in my reading in the previous year, but I still need to keep the multitrack approach which includes using intermediate-level textbooks. As for production, I need to find opportunities to practice the language either live or through Skype. If I notice an improvement in my speaking skills I may finally consider contacting my former teacher for a placement level and some classes. What I know for sure is that this new year of learning Mandarin will be the most enjoyable so far, because in 2014 I finally reached a level at which I have a lot of fun with studying the language - not to mention that the materials available are indeed entertaining. I must confess I would be happier with a Mandarin-only team, but I'm sure there are other interesting logs to follow in Team East Asian apart from the ones I already follow.

"Almost there" here too, but not in the bad sense of not reaching a goal. In fact, I was sure that aiming for basic fluency was too much but in spite of that (or maybe because of that, if I follow iguanamon's philosophy) 2015 was a very good year for Mandarin. I had mostly comprehensible input all the way, I never gave up on textbook learning and only once in a while I noticed I was reading too 'en passant' with Pera-pera and focusing too much on content/subtitles in the TV series. Now i'm only doing 10 minutes of Mandarin instead of 30 in the past years, so keep going is a challenge on its own. Thanks to HelloTalk and Speaky, I write in it very often and I have the feeling I could get around in China pretty much well if I had to go there, so I can proudly present myself as someone who can make himself understood in Mandarin if the urge calls. Mandarin shares an issue with German: still relying too much on crutches. I need to do some extensive reading and listening once in a while to check what my current level actually is.

Expugnator wrote:

Not only will I continue my Norwegian activities this year, I will also be the captain of the Scandinavian TAC Team. I was close to reaching basic fluency last year, and in order not to let it escape in 2015 I will work attentively on writing and on listening. I still don't have many opportunities to speak Norwegian, but I believe I can speak enough to get by and I only lack practice.

Norwegian was the great disappointment of the year. Team Scandinavian colapsed with the DNS outage. I consider I've reached basic fluency but that was a stretch, from a time I was confident about listening. I'm not sure my listening is good enough for this anymore. I did little to no writing (only occasional text chatting) and since I didn't always understand spoken Norwegian without subtitles in the series I'm watching, I would watch it carelessly most of the days. I need to work on specific listening techniques to make the transition into basic fluency and I need to read intensively, because I read mostly extensively for the SC and so my reading didn't move beyond basic fluency. I can still understand Norwegian better than German but if I keep reading more German and reading it in a better way Norwegian will be left behind. This shouldn't happen because Norwegian is a language I truly enjoy learning and using. For the record, I can't follow one of my favorite series, Dag, at its 4th season as it lacks subtitles. This is really frustrating.

Expugnator wrote:

I am more motivated in Russian than I was before, even if I am still disappointed with the low progress observed this year. I need to keep doing intensive reading as the long sessions of extensive reading at my current stage proved ineffective. I have no speaking skills and it is still not a focus, but I believe the team activities this year will involve a lot of writing and voicechatting. Russian has the advantage of having better resources than Georgian, so I expect it to surpass Georgian alongside the year.

Russian was the language of the year in 2015! I consider it the language at which I made most significant progress; 2014 was Norwegian, so I only hope what happened to Norwegian in 2015 won't repeat with Russian in 2016 (nor do I want it to happen with Norwegian or any other language for that matter). My motivation remained high. I managed to resume intensive reading mostly through textbook study, but at the extensive reading front I went from 4-5 to 10 pages a day and with listening-reading! This is not just a number, if I can read 10 pages instead of 4 and not get tired that means I understand
significantly more. It helps to have audio, but even so I did notice some improvement. In the films front, I'm watching Interny with double subtitles and that is always useful, but I am still frustrated I can't follow other series I don't have subtitles for, like Anzhelika. As for Kuxhnya I more or less follow the plot but much of the fun is gone. There wasn't team voicechatting this year, but I chatted quite a bit through Speaky and got feedback. And no, Russian didn't surpass Georgian which is a good thing after all, as it means both are getting back on track.

Non-TAC languages

Being a transparent language, Italian didn't represent much trouble in terms of goal. I (re)started it in January, in April I went to Italy and got by just fine with Italian, then I came back and after Assimil Perfectionnement I decided it was enough to go for native material. I'm reading 3 pages intensively from native novels to make sure Italian will follow the correct path I did with the pre-Super Challenge French. Recently I tried my first film, a dubbed episode from Futurama, and being able to follow it was both rewarding because I could assign a new competence and frustrated because it only confirmed how a close language remains 10x easier than an opaque one.

I also dabbled in Turkish, Turkmen, Uzbek and Kazakh for the Turkic challenge (which also went down the drain after the outage). It was fun but at least in terms of grammatical uniqueness I like Georgian and Estonian better. That means I'm not in a rush to start Turkish, though it's still in my list.


2015 was a year of adjustments. I noticed most of what I was doing wrong. I realized that I lack output and that I need to pay more attention into listening, to perform my tasks more focusedly and from varied sources. I will try not to repeat the mistakes I made in 2014 and 2015 of prioritizing quantity over quality. I still think it's not a matter of not studying each language long enough. It's rather that I'm doing a too large portion of my learning in a careless way, and this should be corrected for 2016.

Thank you everyone who has been following this log in 2015. Thank you for the help, the support and the patience =D Happy 2016!

P.S. I'm happy I finished the year with 4 trophies here at HTLAL! Thank you so much for making me reach this milestone and feel my digressions were useful somehow
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SwedenRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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 Message 362 of 364
27 December 2015 at 10:37am | IP Logged 
And I want to thank you for writing one of the more inspiring logs here.
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Senior Member
Joined 3797 days ago

3335 posts - 4349 votes 
Speaks: Portuguese*, Norwegian, French, English, Italian, Papiamento
Studies: Mandarin, Georgian, Russian

 Message 363 of 364
03 January 2016 at 3:42pm | IP Logged 
jeff_lindqvist wrote:
And I want to thank you for writing one of the more inspiring logs here.

I did have you in mind when I wrote, jeff! Thank you for the support at the final days of this log. Looking forward to meeting at the new forum!


The year is over and so is this log. My learning journey continues at the new forum:

Expug's TAC 2016 - Writing the lines of fluency
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Bilingual Diglot
MadagascarRegistered users can see my Skype Name
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Speaks: Malagasy*, French*

 Message 364 of 364
04 January 2016 at 12:03am | IP Logged 
Expugnator wrote:
(Reposting from the Super Challenge discussion thread, as much of my struggle this year has to do with re-evaluating the role of the SC in my routine. Sorry for the sequence of posts, but they are all specific)

Evaluating the Super Challenge is perhaps one of the most difficult tasks of the difficult year of 2015. I have mixed feelings about the way the SC went along for me, and 2015 was mostly about finding the right way (the quest continues in 2016, even though I'm not continuing the SC).

First, the languages I've signed up:

French full challenge
Norwegian half challenge
Mandarin half challenge
Georgian half challenge
German half challenge
Russian half challenge

Now my stats:

Quantitatively, I've reached all my goals for the SC, and beyond:

- I reached over 10000 pages in French, which would apply for an original challenge, or over 200 books in the 2014-2015 rules
- I reached a full films challenge for Mandarin

My total stats were (not likely to change much from December 26th to 31st):

27185 pages, roughly 543 books
796:06:37 hours, roughly 530 films

So far, so good in the quantitative aspect. Qualitatively, though. 2015 was the year I realized that I was wrong about making the SC my main learning moment. SC is about extensive reading/listening. I not only was listening and reading extensively, I was doing so unfocusedly. As a result, I noticed I progressed very little in my target languages. This is the main reason, the other one being the fact I was a shaky A2 in nearly all of them. Even in the stronger one, like French, I don't think I went that far. I was probably at a C1 level when I started and remained so.

That said, the SC was useful for me to find out what NOT to do. Before the SC, I had been reading mostly intensively and this is what led me to reach fluency in French. I was also combining different listening strategies: subtitles in L2, in L1, no subtitles, dubbed, native video. With the SC the focus was so much in quality, and in the bad, careless way, that I interrupted what I had been doing of good in my studies and replaced it with that careless reading/listening. I thought that, alone, with no conscious effort to pay attention and understand and make it into comprehensible input would lead me into my goals, and I was desperately wrong. I went from what was close to a traditional grammar-translation approach to a native-material one but without graded comprehensible input. A disaster.

As a result, I spent most of 2015 trying to correct what I was doing wrong, but as the pressure for numbers kept on I didn't always have the time or the mood to do the required intensive tools to get back on track with my languages, especially the opaque ones. I dealt with this partially through reviewing textbooks (Georgian) and working on new ones (Mandarin and Russian), but even when doing textbooks I sometimes would 'study' a textbook extensively, moving on without paying much attention to the content of the lesson, especially the vocabulary. Moving on to the next resource when you have hundreds of textbooks is no big deal for Russian or Mandarin, but a main ingredient of failure for Georgian. What's more, not paying enough attention, not studying at least a bit is troubling in either situation.

What I learned from the SC: no kidding about comprehensible input. Keep having it. Don't expect you'll learn massively from massive non-comprehensible input. Volume is important when you have to understand a tricky grammar topic and you remember having read this construction quite often; also when you read a declension rule and the 'right' way already feels natural as you have encountered it so often in the thousands of pages you've rea. But this is too much of a luxury given that there is so much you still have to learn intensively. Especially in my case: I don't use SRS, so if I expect to learn a word just through meeting it often enough, it helps to make sure I understand and reflect upon the context it is being used, especially the most important ones. And this is my mistake: I went for the SC before doing my homework. I don't know about others, but if I could start over I'd do most of my learning intensively (both with textbooks and native materials) and I'd slowly add extensive input, or rather i'd wait until I could take it, which hasn't happened for any of my languages but French and Norwegian, and this situation had much likely happened before the SC, when I still made most of my learning intensively. Actually, this is what I'm doing with Estonian: I added native materials almost intensively while still making good use of textbooks; I'm going to review grammar after having had access to this input; and I'm focusing on quality over quantity: 1 page of native material is probably 4 times a typical textbook lesson and so is enough for me to make my way into extensive readings later.

I should also learn to get rid of my crutches, or at least perform part of my learning without them. Much of my bilingual/L-R reading in German happened without enough attention to language, to vocabulary, grammar, word order, phonology, to associating meaning and sound, as I was reading important stuff in terms of content. So, in order not to lose content, I'd just have a glance at the German and then another one at the English and then reflect upon the content for a while. The material had a much diminished impact on language learning that way. What I should have done: tried to understand the sentence in German first, consciously, and only then resorting to the translation. The same goes for most of my Georgian and Russian reading.

Congratulations to the participants and good luck for all those who are going to try the next one. The Super Challenge taught me a lot about myself as a learner and allowed me to have access to some of the most fun books and videos I've ever enjoyed. I'm sure I have learned a lot from it. Now I need to fine tune my learning process and even though it doesn't match with the SC, I'm still sure it is a valuable source of motivation and team spirit.

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