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Long-term learning plans

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
19 messages over 3 pages: 1 2 3  Next >>
Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 6308 days ago

1001 posts - 1169 votes 
Speaks: German*, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Persian, Tamil

 
 Message 1 of 19
24 September 2007 at 5:01pm | IP Logged 
Dear Prof. Arguelles,
first of all, I would like to thank you for the valuable advice you give in your posts on this forum, they have been extremely helpful in my language study.
I have some questions that I would like to ask you.
As many people here, I would love to speak many languages, but as I my (entirely non-linguistic) work doesn't allow to me to spend as much time on learning as you have and I don't want to waste my time, I'm trying to devise a long-term learning plan which is realistic and adaptable to change. I usually spend an hour a day studying actively on languages I don't know that well yet (at the moment Turkish, Spanish, and a little Esperanto) and up to two hours on languages I know already well enough to build up my knowledge by reading, listening to music and watching movies.

As for me, I hope to be very fluent in six languages two or three years from now and those are Italian, Spanish, Turkish (+ English, French, German where I'm already where I want to be). I'm very confident that I will succeed and I am highly motivated to learn those languages, but I'd appreciate some advice on how to go on from there, as I don't know in which order to learn the other languages I'm interested in and, maybe more importantly, which number of languages is realistic for someone with a limited time frame.

There are basically four groups of languages I'm interested in (in each group in descending order of how important they are to me):

-Romance languages (French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese)

-Classical languages (Latin, Greek)

-Germanic languages (German, English, Swedish, Dutch) -by the way I already have an intermediate knowledge of Swedish which is not listed in my profile

-Middle Eastern and Indian languages (Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Hindi/Urdu)

-and one outsider: Russian


If this turns out to be too much, I would remove Swedish, Dutch, Arabic, Russian and Hindi/Urdu from the list. Now my first question is: Do you think this is a reasonable goal to accomplish in 7-10 years with the study time I mentioned above and is it reasonable to assume that I can maintain them afterwards with the same or slightly reduced time frame? If not, what would be?

The second question is a bit more specific: While I know enough about Romance and Germanic languages by now to be able to study them in any order and at a leisurely pace, the other two groups are a way more difficult task and I don't know in which order learning them would be least painful and/or most efficient. I will learn Turkish first, because it's very important to me to know it as fast as I can, but for Latin, Greek, Persian, Arabic, Russian and Hindi, I have no clue what the best order is (nor do I have a real desire to learn one before the other). Maybe one should start with the easiest and then learn them in order of increasing difficulty to gather a maximum of learning experience before attacking the harder ones (e.g. Persian and Latin before Arabic and Greek)? Or maybe one could start with those who are the biggest sources of loanwords for the others (Arabic, Greek) in order to facilitate vocabulary acquisition? Or maybe one could progress geographically (e.g. Turkish -> Persian -> Urdu -> Hindi) and minimize the 'cultural gap' between the languages? Another idea would be to learn them 'chronologically' (Greek -> Latin -> Arabic etc.), but somehow this doesn't appeal to me.

I would love to hear your opinion on my personal schedule, but I think the essential questions are the same for any aspiring polyglot: What is a reasonable limit to the number of languages one can realistically maintain with a given time frame? What is the
most efficient/least painful order to learn a given set of languages?

Edited by Marc Frisch on 25 September 2007 at 6:40am

2 persons have voted this message useful



Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 6308 days ago

1001 posts - 1169 votes 
Speaks: German*, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Persian, Tamil

 
 Message 2 of 19
25 September 2007 at 6:57am | IP Logged 
Maybe I should add that in most of the languages I don't strive for perfect proficiency. In most of the languages, I'd be satisfied with being able to read literature in that language with the occasional help of a dictionary (or in your own words, being able to pass the 'airplane test').

I've got another question to add: How does the relatedness of the languages affect the time needed to maintain them? We've had lots of discussion how knowledge of related languages accelerates the time of acquisition, but never on how it affects maintenance.

Imagine an English speaker who has learnt Russian, Korean, and Arabic to an advanced degree and another one who has the very same level in Spanish, French, and Italian. I'd expect the first learner to need to spend much more time on maintaining his languages than the second one, because there are synergy effects (reading an Italian text will remind him of many words in French, Spanish, and English and therefore reinforce his knowledge of those languages). Do you agree with this? And if yes, from your own experience, how would you quantify those synergy effects (for example: maintaining 3 related languages = maintaining 2 unrelated ones ?)?


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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 6899 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 3 of 19
30 September 2007 at 3:35pm | IP Logged 
Everyone needs to find his own style of learning, and for you in particular the recreational value of listening to music and watching movies may make these effective means of study. In general, however, if you want true efficiency, you would probably be better off simply reading more, or adding listening to narratives and, especially, transcribing quality texts.

When learning a language: fifteen minutes a day, every day, over a period of years will certainly bring results if you have the requisite patience. You need to put in at least half an hour a day in order to feel your progress, however, and an hour a day would probably even be preferable. After you have gotten to an “intermediate” level, if you can add the intensity of even more time for a given period, this can only help the overall learning process, though this is not necessary if you can maintain systematically regular study habits.

Likewise when maintaining languages: With one hour a day, you can maintain four languages, but you will probably feel frustrated how rarely you are able to cycle though and tend to them. Juggling three is more comfortable, but still sometimes frustratingly little. Half an hour a day or an hour every other day is a more satisfying ration for the satisfying enjoyment of languages you have learned consciously.   Therefore, if you have three hours a day, then you should certainly be able to handle six languages, and possibly up to nine or even twelve, though you may not feel satisfied with the amount of time you are giving to these larger numbers or the frequency with which you get to them.

There are indeed a handful of rational approaches to learning a given set of languages, and you have done a good job of expressing the logic behind most of these. Another approach might actually be to learn the hardest one first, as after you have done so the others will all appear that much easier. It is helpful to give the matter some good theoretical consideration, but ultimately you will stand the best chance of correctly choosing the order in which you will pursue them by taking careful inventory of the learning resources available to you. Ideally, if you had access to a language collection center, you could spend as much time as necessary simply listening to and otherwise sampling everything that interests you so that you could then select the one for which you feel the greatest affinity, as this will lead to the most enthusiastic study. In other words, expose yourself to them all and try to let your next language choose you.
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luke
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 6848 days ago

3133 posts - 4351 votes 
Speaks: English*, Spanish
Studies: Esperanto, French

 
 Message 4 of 19
03 October 2007 at 7:33pm | IP Logged 
Alexander Arguelles wrote:
When learning a language: fifteen minutes a day, every day, over a period of years will certainly bring results if you have the requisite patience. You need to put in at least half an hour a day in order to feel your progress, however, and an hour a day would probably even be preferable.


If one is learning three languages and has an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening for study; would you be inclined studying all three in the morning and all three again at night, or would you recommend only one block of time per language per day? Assume that the lessons themselves tend to be short, such as they are in Assimil.

Edited by luke on 03 October 2007 at 9:06pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 6899 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 5 of 19
08 October 2007 at 8:17am | IP Logged 
In regards to the first author’s request for my opinion on his personal schedule for a learning sequence for the languages listed (Greek, Latin, Arabic, Persian, Hindustani, and Russian), I again encourage him and anyone with a similar quandary to carefully examine the learning resources available, for in so doing, one of them may leap forward as the first requiring your attention. If all else remains equal, however, commence with Latin. Etymologically speaking it is both the most accessible and the most enlightening, and as you are a cultivated European it is your life’s blood anyway. This greater familiarity will help you become more comfortable with complex grammatical inflections, so you can then turn to Greek for similar reasons. Russian logically follows next. After that, you will be branching into a different lexicon. Start with Persian as you will have some Indo-European toe-holes. In learning Persian, you learn so much Arabic that studying it next becomes a less formidable task, and after you have done that, Hindustani should be easy enough if you can manage the time.

In regards to the “synergy effect” of maintaining related languages versus different ones: given the common core vocabulary of languages within a given cultural circle, certainly it is true that maintaining one will to a certain degree help maintain the others. However, to keep anything truly active, it requires its own maintenance. Thus, I am not sure how to quantify the degree to which the relatedness of languages known affects the time needed for their care. Indeed, from the perspective of time management, to a certain extent it is easier to maintain unrelated languages, as when you become advanced enough, you can perform different tasks in them simultaneously. For example, you can passively listen to an exotic tongue at the same time you actively write a Romance language, but attempting to listen to one daughter of Latin while transcribing another is maddeningly impossible.

In response to the three languages a day, hour in the morning, hour in the evening question: You should keep an active and detailed study log, try all possible permutations, and study however you personally learn most effectively. If you do this, you will most probably find that twenty minutes twice a day is better than forty minutes all at once.

4 persons have voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 6899 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 7 of 19
29 March 2008 at 10:50am | IP Logged 
Mr. Frisch, how are your language studies coming along? Well, I do hope, but I wonder if I can offer you any further assistance? In any case, I am curious, and I would simply be appreciative of periodic progress reports from those who have sought my counsel in this regard.
1 person has voted this message useful



Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 6308 days ago

1001 posts - 1169 votes 
Speaks: German*, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish, Italian
Studies: Persian, Tamil

 
 Message 8 of 19
29 March 2008 at 3:19pm | IP Logged 
I'm rather satisfied with the progress I have made in the romance languages, especially Spanish and Italian, in which I am fluent now. I live with Italian roommates, so I am exposed to the language on a daily basis and I spent a month in Argentina. But maybe more importantly I read a lot in those languages (simultaneously listening to recordings of the book), mainly novels and magazines.

Following your recommendations I also started to study Latin on a regular basis, which has greatly helped my understanding of the Romance languages but also English and German. I haven't gotten very far with it yet but I really like the language and will continue to study it. I have also read several books on the history of the Romance languages, which I found very helpful. When I have a little more time (at the moment I am very busy as I am about to finish my PhD thesis), I will certainly begin to study Portuguese as well, which I can already understand surprisingly well, although I have never studied it.

The only other languages I studied since my last post in this thread are Swedish, Persian and Turkish and only the last one seriously. I'm not very happy with my progress in Turkish and had difficulty finding interesting reading materials with recordings. At the moment, I read easy bilingual texts (Turkish - German) but it still takes me too much time to be really enjoyable. Maybe I will spend one or two months in Turkey after my PhD in order to focus exclusively on it for some time.

Thank you again for your advice, and especially for advocating the study of Latin, which I have found invaluably useful.


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