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iguanamon
Pentaglot
Senior Member
Virgin Islands
Speaks: Ladino
Joined 3858 days ago

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

 
 Message 25 of 49
06 February 2015 at 12:04am | IP Logged 
agta wrote:
January Challange
I've been learning English for about 20 years right now. I started at school, then I
also participated in some C1 English courses. I've never tried to take a CAE exam but passed the mock test organised in my English school.
That's how it started but for the last 4 years I haven't been attending any classes.
My job enables me to practice my English almost every day. Not only do I get most
emails in English, but also I need to participate in various meetings where people
speak English only. What's more, I like reading and try to read a lot in English.
In these circumstances I assumed that my skills may get only better and better. But is
that true? Imagine my surprise when I realized that I started making simple grammar
mistakes. It seems that a lot of input and output is not enough for me to maintain my
level. Having finished my last English course, I stopped reviewing grammar rules and
most probably that's the reason. If I wanted my English to become as flawless as
possible, I need to grab a grammar book from time to time.
That's why I decided that English needs to play a bigger part in my life and joined
TAC.


I just noticed a couple of small errors due to Slavic influence. This is an example of little mistakes that would almost never be corrected because the meaning is 100% clear.

I probably wouldn't have said "I've been learning English for about 20 years right now." I think it sounds better dropping "right" and reading the sentence as "I've been learning English for about 20 years now." The term "right now" implies immediacy- "at this very moment". When my mother would tell me to "get out of bed 'right now'" to get ready for school, she meant immediately, at that very moment. Of course "now" can have that sense too, if you scream it (or bold/italicize it in writing). Your phrasing in this sentence isn't incorrect, it just doesn't sound as natural to me as dropping "right now" and just using "now". It's a very small point.

"In these circumstances I assumed that my skills may get only better and better." The meaning is perfectly clear in this sentence as well. I would change it to "In these circumstances I assumed that my skills would/could/should only get better and better. The sentence would sound better to me like this "Given ("Given" is just a stylistic preference) these circumstances, I assumed that my skills would only get better and better." The tenses need to go together when you use a conditional sentence with a past tense- "I assumed"- then you need to use the conditional tense to express what you assumed.

The meaning is very clear in this sentence too: "If I wanted my English to become as flawless as possible, I need to grab a grammar book from time to time." I would change it to "If I want my English to become as flawless as possible, (then) I need to grab a grammar book from time to time." If you keep "wanted" then you would need to change the sentence to read "If I wanted my English to become as flawless as possible, (then) I would need to (or just "I should") grab a grammar book from time to time."

Agta, your English is brilliant, as is that of all of the posters here. I hope this helps with some of the little things that almost never get pointed out unless one asks. I wish that ANY of my second languages were as good as your English is, :). It just goes to show me how much work I still have left to do on my Spanish and Portuguese!

I'll try to drop by from time to time to help. I am not an English teacher nor a grammar expert. I'm just a native American English speaker who is also familiar with British English due to having lived there for a decade and having English children. That's why I left "organised" alone when every fiber of my being wanted to change it to "organized", :). My grammar language (jargon) may be inadequate to properly explain my corrections, but I will try.

Edited by iguanamon on 06 February 2015 at 12:15pm

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mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
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Joined 3822 days ago

1493 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 26 of 49
07 February 2015 at 7:56pm | IP Logged 
iguanamon wrote:
I am not an English teacher nor a grammar expert. I'm just a native American English speaker who is also familiar with British

Who cares you're not a teacher or a "grammar expert"? You're also not "just a native speaker", but a native who studies other languages, and that's the most valuable asset we can have. I am both an English teacher and (arguably) a grammar expert and I wouldn't dare to compare my English or knowledge about it to what yours must be now.

I think it's impossible to be serious about language studies and not eventually become an expert on your own one, if only because of the lots of exposure you've had as a native and the myriad patterns you have become used to pay attention to as a learner. At some point it's inevitable that you start analyzing your own language, and you have much more data to work with there, so you unavoidably end up knowing it much more deeply than most.

Of course that doesn't mean you're never wrong. We all are sometimes, I just trust you'll be wrong quite seldom.

Quote:
[..]My grammar language (jargon) may be inadequate to properly explain my corrections, but I will try.


As a grammar expert again, I think most fields indulge too much in creating fancy terms for everything, even (or especially) for those things that don't really need them. Sure, having shorthand terms for stuff that is mostly absent from common language but common in specialized discussions is only common sense because it saves time, but I always thought taking it beyond some limits is only a sign of pedantry. I'll personally be happy if you can name the parts of speech when explaining something. I'll be even happier if you needn't go beyond to do so ;)

Anyway, since nobody said anything, I've just started a thread about English sibilant pronunciation patterns which I thought would be of interest for people in this group. Let's see if we get some help with it.


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Via Diva
Diglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
last.fm/user/viadivaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2830 days ago

1109 posts - 1427 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German, Italian, French, Swedish, Esperanto, Czech, Greek

 
 Message 27 of 49
08 February 2015 at 10:05am | IP Logged 
Jan'challenge's results. It was completed by:
Expugnator, Via Diva, Mareike, agta, suzukaze, mrwarper and Gemuse.
Since the majority have completed the challenge I offer you to take the February challenge. Feel free to suggest your ideas, but I think it would be useful to write about one of the greatest pains of all the language-learners -

Oh yeah.
So, what have you done in order to get past the intermediate plateau? Were you lucky enough to turn it into a dot or did you walk there for years? Go ahead and share your experience!
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mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
forum_posts.asp?TID=Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3822 days ago

1493 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 28 of 49
11 February 2015 at 9:13pm | IP Logged 
Heigh-ho, lets' go!

February challenge -- The feared learning plateaus

I've rewritten this three times to keep it reasonably short and to the point. Therefore I assume hereby that by 'intermediate plateau' we mean an amount of time during which people keep trying to hone their skills but perceive no improvement, for not making progress when not working is only natural and to be expected (although not an uncommon source of grief outside this forum), and I frankly expect my fellow HTLALers not to make me waste my time reflecting on 'trivial' matters. I have enough of that in real life.

OK, to be fair, I have no direct experience of the famous plateau(s) -- as with many other areas of life you wouldn't even suspect (yeah you'd be amazed to know), I've just heard about it so I skimmed through this thread and this one -- but I'll be brave and try to make some sense of all the buzz ;)

It's simply not in my nature to keep working to reach a goal and not get any sense of progress. If that ever happens, the only logical conclusions to me are either I've reached my own limit so I might as well stop there, or I'm doing the wrong thing. I'll experiment, I'll analyze, and at the very least I'll find new ways not to make progress. Simple as that, that's exactly why I have dropped out of classes several times (unlike people whose mindsets we can analyze some other time) -- why should I keep doing something that is not possible to change to make it work for me? Why waste my time if I become convinced there will be no progress?

I think the problem with most people who feel they've hit a plateau is they need an enhanced awareness or understanding of their own learning process(es). There are a number of factors I can think of that may greatly delay or impede progress, or give the illusion of its absence:
-You don't really understand what you're doing, so you haven't noticed you're actually doing it wrong. There have been a couple occasions in my life when I've gone through the motions (quite literally, I'm talking martial arts and fencing here) in the hopes that it'd all click at some point. Fortunately my teachers promptly rescued me -- they noticed I was doing my exercises wrong and proceeded to explain the mechanics behind them (which were falsely assumed to be transparent). After I understood the purpose of each move, it was rather obvious what I was doing wrong and how to do it right. I also learned to always inquire about the mechanics of exercises when in doubt.
-You haven't really learned something until it comes to you when needed. A trivial example - Do you know that 4 x3 = 12? You may think you do because you know 4 x3 = 4 +4 +4 and of course you can deal with that, but if you need to compute 4 +4 +4 every time I ask, you don't know it. There's stuff (loads) you simply need to know like that, and every time you learn *about* something, it still needs to be learned, i.e. automated, which in turn takes time, repetitions, etc. These have to be played with, too, so at the very least a drop in the effort involved starts to be felt over time.
-Everything is being kept in a single queue. Our subconscious mind is at work all the time. It is what will give us 'lucky ideas' out of the blue and interrupt conscious processes to attack old problems. Languages are no different for the subconscious: there's a point beyond which repetitions will only saturate you -- once such a point is reached, switch to something else, there's no need to wait and work exclusively on one single thing at a time (even worse, working that way sure will take forever!) -- your subconscious will bring it up again eventually.
-Too much is being tackled at once. Just like focusing excessively on a particularly recalcitrant point may distract brain time from attacking other stuff, so can spreading your attention too thin between too many topics or angles. Just like you can likely work on more than one language feature at a time, it's unlikely you can work on a hundred. Choose wisely.
-The blind following the blind. Sometimes we get a road map that simply won't work for us (or at all!). It's important to do sanity checks from time to time and snap out of it when necessary. I once taught basic German to a friend that had bought some course that expected him to read dialogues and stuff from the book while listening to audio from the beginning. The idea seemed a little less wonderful when he realized that he couldn't read, well, because he hadn't been given the slightest clue about how German is read. Guess where I started -- the alphabet, sounds of letters in isolation and combinations... in short: make sure those who guide you really know their way.

I could think of more things that can go wrong, but I think you get the idea -- in the end I think it all boils down to carefully examining what works for you, what doesn't, why, and changing paths accordingly. We've been recently discussing related points in a personal log (Expugnator's, as he confirms below ;). As to why such a need may arise 'all of a sudden' at intermediate skill levels, I can only guess it is because, up to that point, all what needs studying is blatantly obvious, and so are any signs of how you're doing with it. By the time learners start to stumble around in the previously unknown territory of subtlety without a guide most of them will likely have not developed this habit yet. I doubt anybody hitting such a plateau does it more than once, at least in related subjects.

So, I wanted to finish by remarking that these 'stuckocity' factors may seem completely stupid to you, and you possibly think anybody who is the slightest bit advanced won't get stuck there, so in turn I have a few remarks of my own:
-All of the above were 'true stories'.
-Humans are notorious for their ability to abstract information (i.e. extract specific details from information about situations, and apply the rest to others) but also to dissociate themselves from reality (f.e. not acknowledging that vital information learned in one situation can apply to others).
-Denial and blaming of others are all too easy. I've taught college professors who would complain to me in private about some other students we had in common -- and they were spot on, but they --the professors-- were also doing exactly the same stuff in *my* class. Don't.
-We've been bombarded with "ultimate methods", "without toil", "with ease", and even "without studying", for at least 40 years. Sometimes it's just difficult to shake off big lies that have been repeated enough times.
-Languages do look easier than many other subjects because they are, especially at the early stages, which will reinforce that impression. This and the above make languages quite easy to underestimate. You will. You shouldn't.

Am I immune to the intermediate plateau? Having helped others with problems that sound like it, and having being helped myself with close enough stuff, I certainly like to think so. If you think I'm bragging, look out for 'Stuck with intermediate Russian' posts from me in a few months -- time will tell ;)


Edited by mrwarper on 24 February 2015 at 9:38pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3762 days ago

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

 
 Message 29 of 49
12 February 2015 at 7:15pm | IP Logged 
I will limit my answer to my own trajectory of learning English, or else I would write too much while basically repeating what I wrote in my log late in December. I am far from having a C2ish level so I really appreciate corrections from native speakers, and thus I would like to keep this short.

I cannot say I noticed an intermediate plateau for English. The timespan of my learning spread through several years of language classes when I thought I was doing well because I was the best student in class. Needless to say I overlooked my complete lack of listening skills and my lack of practice in reading overall. I had not read a single novel in English after six years of classes.

The end of my English course coincided with the beginning of my journeys into polyglottery. I needed to discuss other languages in English and so I ended up improving my writing. I learned mostly through IRC chats. In the beginning, I could not follow complex conversations in English. I did not have that ability of instanly recognizing what a text was about in English, the same way I lack it for weaker passive languages, such as Spanish (this is part of what we were discussing in my log, mrwarper).

After two years I noticed my writing skills had improved considerably, so this is when I say I had overcome a plateau, even if I did not work consciously on it. The excessive exposure we have for English was determinant, but in other languages we cannot grant ourselves the luxury of not attacking our main problems directly. I agreee with mrwarper at this point. Moreover, i did attack my listening problems in English, and that happened ten years later, in 2012. Two things pushed me into dealing with this issue: a textbook I found, called Como entender o inglês falado, which shed light on my main difficult of not being able to associate text and speech in real-time; and my experience with French, when I finally realized that one does not learn how to listen to a language just by learning to read it fluently. With French I learned the importance of starting with doubled TV series with subtitles, then remove them, then try natively produced series and then maybe native films. I am still at a stage where watching native films in French is challenging enough. I could not, for example, transcribe more than 50% of what is going on in a French movie. I can more or less follow the plotm though. I find it much easier to understand spoken English than French, and after one year of consistent TV watching I reached a comfortable level, though I am still subject to better and worse days.
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Via Diva
Diglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
last.fm/user/viadivaRegistered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 2830 days ago

1109 posts - 1427 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German, Italian, French, Swedish, Esperanto, Czech, Greek

 
 Message 30 of 49
13 February 2015 at 1:07am | IP Logged 
I clearly had an intermediate plateau, although I had no idea of its name. There were several reasons for that.
Since I started to learn the language relatively early (for that time, when computer wasn't yet a part of everyone's life) I'd reached some sort of a maximum in school and I had had no idea why was I even learning English at all. Alright, I had some idea, but I wasn't bothered enough by it. Plus there was teacher's replacement, and after that I was generally bored, lessons were like repeating things we've already heard about.
This plateau, however, did start to bother me when I began to listen to music in English. The last artist whose lyrics I was able to ignore was Shakira, but when in 2009/2010 I was hit by alternative/ post-grunge wave I just needed to know what is going on. And yet I can't say I was learning English more actively because of that. All these songs were translated in Russian, whereas my reading skills were sufficient enough to sing along already.
By that time I knew my level clearly. I could read, I could translate, but my grammar was not good enough (for me) to speak or write. My vocabulary was standard to that of a good pupil who just managed to assemble the words given on lessons (can't say I worked hard for that), and even though I could read I was stuck with lyrics and didn't think about actual books (I had had enough Russian on my shoulders).
Then a boost came with teachers shifting back, lyrics getting more complex and not always available in Russian, but this boost did nothing for my level. I clearly remember that I was told that I can write a letter in English if I want, but I just laughed at that.
I didn't have to worry much about getting to a university, so I spent the summer staring at the screen. And this is how that plateau was gone. Not by drilling (heck, I have never volunteered to do such stuff in English), not by advancing the grammar (mistakes just come to fix. For example, I did not realize that English conjugates verbs for he/she/it until I was in my first university grade. I kid you not), but by watching series and movies and listening to music while being extremely interested in lyrics.
A summer or two of such activities and I stepped off that plateau. Things just happened naturally: I felt need to write so I started doing it (see my log to find out when that has happened), I wanted to speak so I talked to myself to the point of wtf (still do since I don't really have people to blab with in Skype) etc.
However, once I was outside intermediate plateau it didn't take me long to realize that I am now walking upon yet another one, called advanced plateau.
That is, however, a whole different story...

P.S. Corrections?
That would be great!
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mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
forum_posts.asp?TID=Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3822 days ago

1493 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 31 of 49
24 February 2015 at 9:29pm | IP Logged 
It's so quiet here...

Surfing the darkest depths of the Internet I was reminded of the good ol' days of newsgroups, and how this could have been a great asset for me as learner back then (I was into other "alt" groups :). It's still good for chuckles now, though, and maybe some of you may want to have a look at the The alt.usage.english Home Page (and FAQ). Who knows, maybe it will be even of some use to some.

BTW, yes, it would be great to get corrections, suggestions about style, or any kind of feedback, really.
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Expugnator
Hexaglot
Senior Member
Brazil
Joined 3762 days ago

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

 
 Message 32 of 49
24 February 2015 at 10:00pm | IP Logged 
People mentioned some online writing clubs (was it th eepression) at the long 'Moving from B2 to C2' thread, I wonder if they aren't the way to go...and I wonder which ones they have found for other languages so far.


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