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Language and memory?

  Tags: Memory
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18 messages over 3 pages: 13  Next >>
tracy18
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United States
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1 posts - 2 votes

 
 Message 9 of 18
15 December 2016 at 8:56am | IP Logged 
It depends on the amount of practice that was put in to learn the language. The more time
and effort spent on learning a language, greater are the chances of your brain retaining
it.

Edited by tracy18 on 15 December 2016 at 8:57am

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Rhian
Moderator
France
Joined 4659 days ago

264 posts - 284 votes 
Speaks: English*
Personal Language Map

 
 Message 10 of 18
21 December 2016 at 12:34am | IP Logged 
Just a reminder that the majority of
members have moved to www.forum.language-
learners.org after software problems here. You are
welcome to post here or there or on both but note
that you need to register on the new site (ie your
HTLAL name and password won't work there). Don't
worry - sign up is much simpler over on LLOrg!
1 person has voted this message useful



shk00design
Triglot
Senior Member
Canada
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747 posts - 1122 votes 
Speaks: Cantonese*, English, Mandarin
Studies: French

 
 Message 11 of 18
30 December 2016 at 4:53am | IP Logged 
tracy18 wrote:
It depends on the amount of practice that was put in to learn the language. The more time and effort spent on learning a language, greater are the chances of your brain retaining it.


Makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, practicing as an academic exercise can be repetitive and boring. Exactly how you can practice (repeating words & phrases over) without getting frustrated? You need to find interesting books to read, listen to programs on TV or the radio. You often absorb the same words & phrases naturally without having to think about subject-verb conjugations, noun, pronouns, etc. The other day I listened to a Chinese radio program on hypnosis and how it can be used as a type of therapy for people suffering from mental illness. You pick up the main ideas with little regard for sentence structure, subject, verb, etc.

When it comes to language learning, your goal is to be able to communicate with native speakers and be understood. You can finish a language course with a certificate of completion but the real test is not in the classroom but in a social setting.

Likewise a week ago, I went to a Christmas party. There was a piano in the room. A week before I practiced a few Christmas songs to be played at the party. My objective is to be able get through the songs in a way the people at the party would be able to recognize the melodies. I know people who claimed they took piano lessons for a few years, learned to read music and obtained their conservatory certificates up to a certain grade level. When you ask them to sit in front of a piano and play something, there would be silence in the room.

You can practice a language as much as you like but if you don't use it, your efforts are just waste of time. Getting through classroom instructions is 1 thing, but in the real world the important thing is how well you can apply your knowledge.
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mrwarper
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 Message 12 of 18
06 January 2017 at 5:31pm | IP Logged 
shk00design wrote:
tracy18 wrote:
It depends on the amount of practice that was put in to learn the language. The more time and effort spent on learning a language, greater are the chances of your brain retaining it.

Makes a lot of sense. On the other hand, practicing as an academic exercise can be repetitive and boring. Exactly how you can practice (repeating words & phrases over) without getting frustrated? You need to find interesting books to read, listen to programs on TV or the radio.

This is it. Because there are both physical and psychological fatigue, it's not just spending the most time doing stuff, it's about spending the minimum possible time doing the most productive activities. Anything beyond that will be at best wasted effort, by definition. And this is true for memorization as well as all of the other bits language learning is made of.

Now, we have the problem that there's no such thing as a single 'most productive activity' that will work for everyone. However, there's a way to adapt anyone's efforts and activities to reach maximum productivity: double progression check. But I'll get to that after I address two other points.

Quote:
You often absorb the same words & phrases naturally without having to think about subject-verb conjugations, noun, pronouns, etc. [...] radio [...] You pick up the main ideas with little regard for sentence structure, subject, verb, etc.

Congratulations if it works like that (or rather, if you got it to work like that ;) for you, but it doesn't -- for the vast majority of learners I've met or tried to teach that's the culprit of a process:

We all learn one or a few languages 'naturally' as infants, and with little exceptions we're told many times to say X instead of Y. At the beginning, grammar is always taught albeit not always systematically and explicitly, and the better you get at it the more stuff you absorb 'naturally' on your own -- to the point that you often forget how you do what you do (we all keep 'effortlessly' picking up vocabulary, expressions, etc. in our native language).

But then one tries to do the same in a new foreign language and fail miserably, because the rules are different now and the automated mechanism for parsing language can't cope with them. As far as I have observed, little progress is made picking up stuff from a new language until one makes a conscious effort to understand why stuff is formulated in the specific way it is, instead of how one, as a learner, would put it. Of course, the very moment this process starts, it is just a matter of time to replicate what one did with their first language(s), and eventually get again to the point of automated acquisition.

Quote:
When it comes to language learning, your goal is to be able to communicate with native speakers and be understood. You can finish a language course with a certificate of completion but the real test is not in the classroom but in a social setting. [...] You can practice a language as much as you like but if you don't use it, your efforts are just waste of time. Getting through classroom instructions is 1 thing, but in the real world the important thing is how well you can apply your knowledge.

This sounds exactly like the 'communicative approach', which is mostly right in spirit, and terribly wrong in practice.

First, language goals vary from learner to learner, or over time, and I could use myself as an example, but that's besides my point. Second, I wouldn't separate 'practice' and 'use' of the language to imply language use in courses is repetitive and boring -- so it is in real life too ;)

That said, most of the modern 'communicative' instruction I've witnessed, or I've been sadly forced to impart, is worthless because it is all about practice... with typically little to no theory to put to use. The result? People going helplessly in circles. But this 'communicative approach' appeared to address the very real problem you described: people 'complete' language instruction yet they're incapable of using the language -- I heard in the news as recent as of yesterday that the single most important problem with language instruction in my country, i.e. the main reason why they don't learn more, is too much grammar.

But there's no such thing -- the real problem is passiveness when taking a language course, i.e. learners expecting to undergo a course and simply be able to use the language proficiently at their level as they finish. Of course this is not going to happen with a 'grammar-only' course -- grammar needs practice to sink in. Is it then possible to have such a 'well rounded', successful course? What amount of practice should be included in it? I'll cite the local official languages school as a real life example. Assuming they really get the results they claim, their communicative courses take people from zero to B2 level, or C1-ish as some claim, over the course of five years (nine months per year, 4.5 hours per week, some 180 hours per year, plus some writing homework I guess?). Way beyond reasonable for me.

I, OTOH, advocate for the rational use of time, both as a student and a teacher. By this I mean splitting time between stuff that either needs or benefits from an instructor, and what students can safely do on their own. Then classroom is devoted to the former, i.e. explaining stuff and giving feedback on how/why language production can be further improved/corrected, and the latter (listening, reading) is left for students.

Now, both instructors and students (whether independent or some instructor's) should check that anything that is done, language learning-wise, results in an improvement of some kind, and this is where the double progression check comes in: a) for any language learning session something new must be learned (vocabulary acquisition, grammar bits, and whatnot), which is progression by definition, or b) if nothing new comes up or is done, at least what is done should reinforce some of one's skills, whether it is automation of acquired grammar, recollection of acquired vocabulary, etc. If none of these conditions is met, any such session is a waste.

So, familiar with SRS systems as we are here at HTLAL, the only three things we really know about memory are 1) one can only memorize that [s]he is exposed to, not by osmosis, 2) repetition helps, and 3) repetition needs not be constant, and these are pretty solid bases. This means learners can only decide to try and memorize stuff they bump into, whether it is in a basic vocabulary building session, or while reading or listening to some materials, and then adapt repetition routines to their individual abilities and needs, by paying attention to how other modifying factors may affect them negatively:

-Learners need to have or acquire some discipline to try and memorize stuff. (Either that, or truly exceptional, eidetic memory!)
-Their work load must be balanced (either on their own or with help from an instructor) so as to keep working regularly.

Other than that, individual items will be different in how easily they are memorized, so to me the most practical approach is 'memory-reinforced language mining': to have a memorization routine in which items are left out when definitely memorized, and on the other side incorporated from regular native materials as I wade through them, which as shk00design said above, is the ultimate goal in language learning.

But this is yet another case where double progression checks are your friends: if, as a somewhat disciplined learner, one day I just don't feel like reviewing vocabulary, watching some show or reading just for the sake of it still might help me improve if I'm still willing to write down new vocabulary. And all other things being equal, I'll be more willing to do it when reading/watching something I am really interested in. OTOH if some other day I don't crave being told some story so some proper review feels OK, and all other things being equal (time devoted in this case), exposition to vocabulary in need of some review alone will beat, hands down, having it interspersed with other stuff that would just get in the way.

Mmm, seems like text walls are back for 2017 ;)
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reineke
Senior Member
United States
https://learnalangua
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851 posts - 1007 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 13 of 18
10 February 2017 at 7:41pm | IP Logged 
Unfamiliar sounds and sound combinations are harder
to commit to long term memory than more familiar
sound combinations. Cognates help. I think most
learners dwell too much on how to stuff their long-
term memory with words (like the French do with
their geese) while they're likely not even aware of
the tricks played on them by the short-term memory.
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mrwarper
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 Message 14 of 18
11 February 2017 at 1:03am | IP Logged 
reineke wrote:
Unfamiliar sounds and sound combinations are harder to commit to long term memory than more familiar sound combinations. Cognates help.

Sure, that connections to previous pieces of data help new stuff to stick in memory is common knowledge, but always good to remember...

Quote:
I think most learners dwell too much on how to stuff their long-term memory with words (like the French do with their geese) while they're likely not even aware of the tricks played on them by the short-term memory.


...however, if I read you correctly, you're implying here that the effort of committing stuff to long-term memory could somehow be leveraged by at least avoiding some common pitfalls, aren't you? If you are, I wouldn't mind to hear more about that :)
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reineke
Senior Member
United States
https://learnalangua
Joined 4609 days ago

851 posts - 1007 votes 
Studies: German

 
 Message 15 of 18
11 February 2017 at 7:41pm | IP Logged 
I don't like memorizing words out of context. I
don't think you can "hack" your WM but if you
understand the process you can better organize
your language studies. Gianfranco Conti's website
is a great resource. You'll have to figure out how
to make these links work:

https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com/2016/01/23/ni
ne-research-facts-about-l2-phonology-that-every-
teacher-should-know/

https://gianfrancoconti.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/ei
ght-important-facts-about-working-memory-and-their-
implication-of-mfl-teaching-and-learning/


1 person has voted this message useful



mrwarper
Diglot
Winner TAC 2012
Senior Member
Spain
forum_posts.asp?TID=Registered users can see my Skype Name
Joined 3388 days ago

1490 posts - 2500 votes 
Speaks: Spanish*, EnglishC2
Studies: German, Russian, Japanese

 
 Message 16 of 18
11 February 2017 at 8:35pm | IP Logged 
reineke wrote:
Gianfranco Conti's website is a great resource.


Oh, I remember him -- a Dr. in linguistics who actually has something interesting to say. I had it bookmarked, then the bookmark got lost and I just forgot. I will definitely have a look at it again, thank you :)

Quote:
You'll have to figure out how to make these links work


There we go:

Nine research facts about L2 phonology teaching and learning that every teacher should know

Eight important facts about Working Memory and their implications for foreign language teaching and learning



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