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Long-term learning plans

 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
19 messages over 3 pages: 1 2
Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 6398 days ago

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

 
 Message 17 of 19
05 January 2009 at 3:27pm | IP Logged 
Dear Professor Arguelles,
as a new year begins, I would like to give a quick update on my progresses, not only to give you some feedback, but also to fix my language goals for the near future. My life has changed significantly in the last months. After having completely abandoned my academic career, I moved back to Germany and accepted a position as a software developer. In my new job, I have fixed working hours, which I have found very beneficial in terms of developing more regular study habits. Furthermore, starting a new life in another country was also a good opportunity to eliminate some time-consuming habits and set aside more time for language study (I have overcome the temptation to buy a television set, for example). Moreover, I have to spend a lot of time in public transportation, which I use exclusively for language study. Following your advice, I have decided to be more systematic and keep track of the time spent studying by following a stricter schedule. I have finally decided on a long-term study plan and divided my target languages into two categories:

Category 1: These are languages I am already fluent in, i.e. German, French, English, Spanish, and Italian. I do not use any language learning methods for those languages any more, but try to improve them by reading, writing, and speaking them whenever possible.

Category 2: Languages I still have to work at consciously (Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Latin, Portuguese)

At the moment I have set aside 8 hours/week for the first category, which I mainly use to read literature or magazines. In the second time I have divided a total of 12 hours/week between the languages:
Turkish: 3 hours
Portuguese: 3 hours
Persian: 3 hours
Latin: 1:30 hours
Arabic: 1:30 hours

By the way, I have added Portuguese after having made some Brazilian friends, and have been astonished by the speed at which I have been progressing. I expect Portuguese to make it to the first category before summer. Similarly, my Turkish has improved a great deal, and I'm in fact only consolidating my grammar by shadowing dialogues and revising. Afterwards, I will also put it in the first category, and set aside 10 hours/week for the remaining languages in Category 2 (Persian, Latin, Arabic), which translates roughly to 30 minutes a day for each, while increasing the reading time for Category 1 to 10 hours/week or more if possible.

My plan for the next years is then to get Persian, Arabic, and Latin to the point where I can also put them in the first category, which will probably take quite a long time. Should I ever reach this point, I would start thinking about adding Ancient Greek, Hindi, Russian or Japanese, but for now I make a conscious effort not to let myself be distracted by other languages.

I would greatly appreciate any advice you could give me on my study plan. It would probably be wiser to focus on Persian first and add Arabic at a later time. I have tried this unsuccessfully: Arabic always comes back to haunt me and each time I hear it on the street I feel the urge to study it.

Yours sincerely,
Marc Frisch


PS: Maybe I should add one detail: I have found it impossible to study all of my languages on a daily basis. Although it is probably more efficient to study 20 minutes every day, I'm far more comfortable with studying 30-40 minutes three or four times a week. I cannot seem to enjoy studying a given language for less than 30 minutes at a time (or for more than 1 hour) and on some days I simply don't feel like studying a certain language.



Edited by Marc Frisch on 05 January 2009 at 3:50pm

2 persons have voted this message useful



ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 6989 days ago

609 posts - 2102 votes 

 
 Message 18 of 19
12 January 2009 at 4:47pm | IP Logged 
Dear Mr. Frisch,

Thank you for the update. It is most fulfilling for me to have people who have sought my advice stay in touch to let me know how their studies are working out. Verily, it is precisely this degree of continuity that makes me feel that my participation in this forum is valuable and worthwhile.

So, what induced you to abandon pure mathematics for software development? I am no stranger to disgruntlement in and with graduate school, and so while I understand that you have abandoned your aspirations for an academic career, I still wonder whether or not you actually completed your doctorate. If not, I certainly hope it was not excessive language study that sidetracked you!

At any rate, given the tone of your letter, my immediate reaction is to say: welcome to the balancing stage of polyglottery and congratulations on having become such an experienced language learner that the most pressing “problem” you now face is how to keep up with and continue to progress in all that you have learned!

Well, the most constructive advice I can give you at this point is very much in line with what you yourself wrote in your PS, namely: once you have gotten advanced enough in particular languages, and in general as a learner of a large number of different languages, then it is probably a good tactic to put your languages into two different cycles or tracks of study and to work on them systematically on alternate days rather than trying to work on them all every single day, precisely so that you can spend longer chunks of time with them when you do work on them. In this fashion, you would probably do best to interact with half of your Category I languages (learned well enough to now enjoy their fruits) and half of your Category II languages (still learning) on cycle “A,” and the other half of each on cycle “B.”

Indeed, you seem as if you now have such a broad base established in Romance languages in general that Portuguese should soon enough and naturally enough join Spanish and Italian. Incidentally, I wonder if these last two are really roughly at the same level as your German (native), French (long-residence), and English (evidently really and truly mastered as the global language)? If not, it would seem to me that you might want to be sure to get religiously to one or the other of them every single day until they truly are; if they already are, then you might even be more flexible in your Category I “maintenance” and work comfortably enough at them, e.g., by reading a full novel in turn in each rather than on a strict alternate day schedule. Once you are truly advanced enough in these mainly closely related languages, I think you will probably find that when you “work” on one, you are, in a very real sense, also “working” at the others.

As Latin is the backbone of them all, it should certainly come along a lot faster than Persian and Arabic, but given both that is indeed more convoluted and complex and also that you will be much harder pressed to find any speaking opportunities to bring it alive, you cannot expect it to progress with the speed of Portuguese.

I am curious to know how you have gotten your Turkish so far so fast given its exotic nature – if you can do this here, then you may be able to do it with Persian and Arabic as well, but I concur with you that it will more likely be a question of many years before these join your category I. My own experience with the learning curve of exotica is that, although you can measure your progress concretely enough, still the object of your study always retreats before you even as you do. I am not sure how mathematically precise my analogy is, but it is certainly several fold geometrically more time consuming to get anywhere worth getting with them.

So yes, while I understand just how you feel attempting to put the one (Arabic) on a back burner while you concentrate on the other (Persian) but then getting tempted to turn the heat back up every time you hear or see it, I do think it might be best if you could exercise discipline here, for the common vocabulary gain is substantial enough that the better you know one, the easier it will be to make progress in the other. Indeed, I might think that the same would still be largely true of Turkish, and that it would be a good strategic move to turn the heat down to low for Persian as well until your Turkish really got boiling.

I do not know what other commitments you have, but if your goals are to seriously make measurable progress in your category II languages (again, Portuguese excepted and Latin half-way), then I would suggest that you somehow, someway, make a bit more time for their study. With the time plan you provide, I believe you will feel as if you are treading water forever. Exotic and hard languages simply require more than 90 minutes or even 3 hours a week in order to advance.

As for specific techniques, unless you are happy working with something like flashcards and/or you have such powers of concentration that you can actually do grammatical exercises while seated on a train, then I would suggest that you use your commute time for reading your Category I languages and your home study time for working on your category II in a more focused fashion.

If you are really looking to get in a small but absolutely regular “daily dose” of a large number of languages, then I heartily recommend the Scriptorium technique. Apart from all the other reasons for practicing this form of calligraphy, I have found that it lends itself particularly well to habit formation in this regard, and thus to regular and fixed systematic study habits.

I do hope this has been helpful? As you ask for my continued opinion and advice, I am happy enough to respond, but I think that you will find that the more you progress, the more you have to make your own way.

Yours with best wishes,

Alexander Arguelles


Edited by ProfArguelles on 12 January 2009 at 6:12pm

3 persons have voted this message useful



Marc Frisch
Heptaglot
Senior Member
Germany
Joined 6398 days ago

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

 
 Message 19 of 19
20 January 2009 at 1:23pm | IP Logged 
Dear Professor Arguelles,
thank you very much for your advice. As a matter of fact, I'm still in a "testing" phase and have not yet achieved the regularity I'm striving for. The learning plan I described certainly leaves some room for improvements and I will gladly experiment with some of your suggestions to see if they work for me. For the time being, I will eliminate Arabic from my list and increase the allocated time for Turkish and Persian (while allowing for an occasional lesson only under the condition that I have completed my daily chores in the other languages). In the long run, I hope to be able to make more time for study, but I feel that this requires some changes in my overall lifestyle which are best made gradually (such as changing sleeping habits). I will certainly post updates on my progress once in a while.

ProfArguelles wrote:
So, what induced you to abandon pure mathematics for software development? I am no stranger to disgruntlement in and with graduate school, and so while I understand that you have abandoned your aspirations for an academic career, I still wonder whether or not you actually completed your doctorate. If not, I certainly hope it was not excessive language study that sidetracked you!


Yes, I successfully completed my doctorate, but deliberately chose to leave academia (and I have not regretted it since).


ProfArguelles wrote:
Incidentally, I wonder if these last two are really roughly at the same level as your German (native), French (long-residence), and English (evidently really and truly mastered as the global language)?


Of course not, how could they be? Spanish is starting to come closer and closer, as I use it more frequently and because I have spent two months in Argentina. I can read and understand almost anything and speak very fluently, but at a more basic level than French or English, especially when it comes to idiomatic expressions or syntactically complex phrases. My Italian certainly is weaker than my Spanish. My passive skills are very good and I read it almost as easily as French or English, but I speak it much more hesitantly.


ProfArguelles wrote:
I am curious to know how you have gotten your Turkish so far so fast given its exotic nature – if you can do this here, then you may be able to do it with Persian and Arabic as well.


I would not call my progresses fast, considering that I have studied it for at least four years now. Moreover, my vocabulary is still lacking. It seems that I am very good at internalising grammar and I can parse Turkish phrases with ease - provided that I know the words. By my own definition, the first category is for languages where I am too advanced to use textbooks or grammars. This does not necessarily mean that I'm completely fluent, just that I only study them by reading, writing, and speaking.





Edited by Marc Frisch on 21 January 2009 at 3:36am



1 person has voted this message useful



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