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Time Management

  Tags: Time to learn
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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quendidil
Diglot
Senior Member
Singapore
Joined 4855 days ago

126 posts - 142 votes 
Speaks: Mandarin, English*
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 9 of 33
29 October 2007 at 6:01am | IP Logged 
I think Nephilim deleted his post as he thought that Professor Arguelles wasn't interested in answering it. If you are reading this, Nephilim, please re-post your original queries. Remember that the professor only comes here on Sundays for 4 hours each week, the last time we bumped you post up together was about a week ago, the professor didn't come online between then and when you deleted the post, not due to lack of interest, I'm sure but because of the constraints of time.
1 person has voted this message useful



Nephilim
Diglot
Senior Member
Poland
Joined 5688 days ago

363 posts - 368 votes 
Speaks: English*, Polish

 
 Message 10 of 33
29 October 2007 at 7:41am | IP Logged 
Hello Room,

I'm very sorry for deleting the original post. I spent a fair bit of time writing it as it is something I think is very important. I deleted it because I got tired of travelling to an internet cafe, logging on, and then discovering nobody was interested in it. I must say this is in no way a criticism of Professor Arguelles of course for not responding - as quendidil rightly points out, we all know how limited his free time is and are always grateful for any input he may give.

Ironically, my post has generated more interest by not being there than when it originally was. I will search my computer for the original post and then re-submit it. Hopefully in a day or so.

Once again, room, sorry for the inconvenience.

Edited by Nephilim on 29 October 2007 at 7:46am

1 person has voted this message useful



Nephilim
Diglot
Senior Member
Poland
Joined 5688 days ago

363 posts - 368 votes 
Speaks: English*, Polish

 
 Message 11 of 33
29 October 2007 at 11:45am | IP Logged 
Here as promised is the re-post

I think a thread on time management and possibly also one on how to effectively write a language learning log would be very useful. It seems to me that even some one with very little natural talent, scant resources, and limited time could still make good progress with a language if he/she could make effective use of his/her time, set realistic achievable goals and learn to reflect on their own personal learning style to discover what is working and what is not.

I myself am not a polyglot yet as I prefer to concentrate on getting my one foreign language (Polish) up to a high level first. I am, however, an experienced EFL (English as a Foreign Language) teacher and have noticed over the years that the students who make the most satisfactory progress in the most reasonable time are the ones who are able to take charge of their learning. One pattern I see repeated time and time again is where students start to learn English, make steady progress for few months, take time off due to work/family commitments or lack of interest and then resume their studies at the level they were when they first started. They get all fired up to study; make some progress and then the same thing over and over again. It’s not unusual for me to have low intermediate students who tell me they have been studying for 5 or 6 years.

Motivational issues aside, I think one of the reasons, if not the main reason for this lack of success with some students is that they rely far too much on teachers and classes and are not able, or not willing to take control of their own learning in any meaningful way. As I am sure most people on this site will testify, attending a language course twice a week for ninety minutes each time and sitting their passively is simply not enough to make real progress in a language. I think this is why some learners give up: they simply get disheartened. This is a shame. If only they could be taught about time management, journaling, setting goals and planning revision periods into their studies as a matter of course they would be, in my opinion at least, more successful. With EFL language courses (and I suspect many others), the classes are normally split up into levels from beginner, to elementary; to pre-intermediate etc. all the way up to advanced level. One of the good things about being a teacher is that you have the whole picture and can see where the student has come from, where he is, and where he is going and can advise him accordingly. The student, of course, can only see the level he is at and has perhaps a distant memory of levels he has passed through. He certainly can’t see two or three levels ahead of his present one and if he could, he might be surprised to discover that with some sensible self-study methods and a bit of systematic work the time to reach those levels would decrease dramatically.

Recently, I read in the Russian Learners Dictionary (by Nicholas Brown) that ‘a vocabulary of the commonest 8,000 words guarantees recognition of well over 90% of the words in any Russian text’ (page 2) I don’t speak Russian, but it seems to me that with a productive knowledge of 8,000 Russian words and a sound knowledge of the grammar ‘which can adequately be mastered in a year’ (page 1) a learner could safely call him/herself fluent. I don’t think anyone would disagree with this. The interesting thing is that 8,000 words, if learned conscientiously over year (from context) amounts to something like 22 words a day: over 18 months the number drops to about 15 words a day. I think for the committed learner this would be a realistic target to aim for. Even if a learner learned 5 words a day it would only take about four years to reach fluency. Obviously, there are other things to take into consideration, like the time available for study, holidays, work commitments etc. but even so such a goal would be an achievable one provided the learner was able to develop discipline and good time management skills.

As an example of someone with not terribly good language skills, here is an anecdote from one of those old hard cover Teach Yourself Books from the early seventies called “Learn a Language” by PJT Glendening (p90)


“This puts me in mind of the English school master in Buenos Aires who told me that he was word perfect in every form of radical-changing verb in Spanish and that he knew every word in the Spanish dictionary beginning with the letter c. My superficial questioning led me to believe that he was indeed telling the truth – but after 17 years in the country this was little enough result, when he could hardly make a sentence correctly, and would be served with tea and cakes in a café when he thought he had ordered a chicken sandwich and a beer! I think he must have had a very slow linguistic mind, but the main factor in his lack of success was his erroneous method of learning unselected lists of words and copying out paradigm after paradigm, in the hope that one fin day the language would suddenly fall into place. Hey presto! Well, it did not just fall into place.”


So Professor Arguelles, I would like to hear your thoughts on making the best use of time for language learning and on how to create and maintain a decent study journal. The danger with study journals for most people I suspect is that they find they end up spending more time writing in their journal than they spend on learning their languages and simply give up. You mentioned in an earlier post that you use some quite detailed charts to keep track of your numerous languages. It might be useful for learners on the forum to see an example of one so that they could take the idea and adapt it to their own learning situation. It’s far easier to adapt something that exists to your needs that it is to create it from scratch, right? What do other people on the forum think?




Edited by Nephilim on 29 October 2007 at 11:46am

2 persons have voted this message useful



Farley
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5635 days ago

681 posts - 738 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: English*, GermanB1, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 12 of 33
04 November 2007 at 2:01pm | IP Logged 
Nephilim wrote:
Isn't it wonderfully ironic that the professor never has time to get to the post on time management.


I suspect that means he is managing his time wisely!

I hope I'm not crashing this topic, this is feed back to ProfArguelles more than anything else.

Time management is part of the issue for 1+ aimers stuck in the advanced beginner rut. The problem is that if you are on time then language learning will not be a priority. I think the best advice is what to do and let the language learner decide when and how.

If there have been two things close to a "silver bullet" from ProfArguelles posts it has been:

1) Notes on shadowing and
2) Notes on dual text reading

Between those two topics, plus ProfArguelles advice to experiment and find what works, all the keys are to find a good time management schedule.

It took me a while to figure out "shadowing", actually about 2 years of trying this and that, until I found a tactic and schedule that worked. I forget where but ProfArguelles wrote somewhere that when you are studying alone shadowing was the best method to learn the sound of the language. If you shadow your ear will sync your voice to the sound given time. That was a tough lesson to learn. Through trial and error I found that shadowing audio with practice sentances and pauses combined with repeat listening of select sources produces the best results for getting the sound between my ears in the least amount of time. Audio-Lingual material also works well and in many cases is easier, but shadowing offers more bang for minute. I got a boost not only in pronunciation but also listening and reading comprehension through a continued use of shadowing individual sentances (whole dialogs proved to be too difficult for my ear but sentances with pauses worked just fine).

The other time saving tactic is dual text reading. ProfArguelles has a good topic on how to read (I'll see if I can find it) starting with graded/easy readers and then progress to more difficult works, paragraph to paragraph, chapter to chapter and then book to book. The key is to use context to learn new vocabulary and continuous reading to keep it in memory. The other option is to read with a dictionary and/or use note cards. I tried both and found the dual text reading builds vocabulary faster. Not everyone will like it but it is an option.

My schedule, if there is one looks something like this:

* 15-30 minutes, 3-4 times a week of sound practice. I've done a mix of shadowing and echoing of audio to get the contrast.

* A book per month, the same one English and target language or target language with 80% of the vocabulary known. If I have time maybe two.

Reading as I find the time:
* Reading grammar books and dictionaries. I just like reading them :)

* Reading out loud and "shadowing" with my eye, or visualizing phrases in a series of pictures.

* Eye only minutes -- carrying a phrase book or pocket sized language book around. Maybe I read them maybe I don't.

* Ear only minutes -- MP3 player with various dialogs and podcasts. Maybe I listen maybe I don't.

* And the one weekend every month get serious and do the exercises from a book type of study.

That is hardly a schedule. No day to day listening. No note cards. No journal. And believe it or not up until this point no audio books.

What I did do was to try and deliberately build sound and vocabulary with the two subjects I mentioned above using the same sources over and over. This year, after studying French for over two years off and on, I was able to start reading deTocqueville and understand the Sarkozy-Royal debates (all most word for word) on web TV. Not bad given my schedule.

John



Edited by Farley on 11 November 2007 at 9:07pm

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frenkeld
Diglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5486 days ago

2042 posts - 2719 votes 
Speaks: Russian*, English
Studies: German

 
 Message 13 of 33
04 November 2007 at 3:46pm | IP Logged 
Farley wrote:
The question for 1-3 aimers is what can I do in 30 minutes a day intermittent schedule that will make the rubber hit road?


Farley wrote:
I hope I'm not crashing this topic


John,

I don't think you are crashing the topic - the needs of those on 30 minutes a day are just as legitimate as those who have several hours a day and entertain serious plans for world domination.

I do, however, wonder if 30 minutes a day is a realistic number in the long run. I once ran into a statement in Kato Lomb's book that if you don't have an hour a day to spend on a language, you may as well spare yourself the misery and seek another hobby. Sounds harsh, but could it be actually true?

I like to fancy myself a 30 minutes/day learner, but often end up putting in several hours more on the weekend, so while there are days when even 30 minutes may not happen, the average time may be more like an hour a day. Was it really just 30 minutes a day for you on average over the last two years?

Finally, regarding efficiency:

Firstly, Prof. Arguelles mentions somewhere, but then seems to dismiss reading an electronic document with an electronic dictionary. I have generally found that if one has a good pop-up dictionary installed on one's computer, it can speed up the word lookup a lot compared to reading a paper copy of a book with a paper dictionary. Isn't it a possible alternative to dual-language reading that is similarly efficient?

Secondly, I wonder if those on a tight time budget are not better off focusing on one activity for a period of time instead of pursuing multiple ones, i.e., you spend a few months just reading and building vocabulary, a few months just listening to podcasts, a few months participating in some online forum or newsgroup, etc.


Edited by frenkeld on 04 November 2007 at 6:14pm

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5799 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 14 of 33
04 November 2007 at 8:11pm | IP Logged 
Mr. Nephilim, thank you very much for reposting your substantive inquiry. This is not only the kind of contextualization that helps me understand what you are asking, it is also the kind of contextualization that these discussions need in order to be of lasting value as a reputable resource for aspiring polyglots who may come along long after our dialogue is over. What you are asking is for me to distill the discipline acquired in thirty continuous years of high-quality formal schooling plus all that added in my subsequent and ongoing auto-didactic quest for greatest possible linguistic breath. I can adumbrate some general principles, but in order to attempt to provide some initial substance to our discussion, let us begin with the specific requests so that we will have some concrete examples as a basis for future comparative considerations.

Mr. John Farley wants to know what can be attained by those whose lives will only permit them a minimum amount of time for the study of languages, while Mr. Alvin L. wants me to recommend a scheme of study for someone who wants to get grounded in, or maintain and develop, 13 different languages within a 5-year period.

We need some numbers so that we can begin measuring. Those provided by the United States Foreign Service Institute are a well-documented and readily available basis for calculations that can serve as a valuable initial yardstick before being subjected to critique for further refinement.

Using the methodology of the intensive programs offered by this reputable institute, a native English speaker can attain between a “limited working proficiency” and a “minimum professional proficiency” in a category I language (primarily West European tongues) by means of 24-week program of the “theoretical maximum number” of 30 hours a week given on 5 days of 6 hours a day actual instruction. Thus, 720 hours of actual instruction plus another 50% of that for review, homework, preparation, individual study, etc., or rather the sum total of 1080 hours of study at a rate of 9 hours a day for the equivalent of 120 calendar days, is necessary to get a firm foundation under these circumstances. Leaving aside the question for the moment of how to translate or convert the energy and results attainable by short-term intensity to those of regular and steady application applied at a constant and consistent low rate, let us look first at the purely numeric or mechanical aspect of the problem. At a rate of 15 minutes a day, it would take 4,320 days or 617 weeks or 144 months or 12 years to attain the same goal. So, if you can think long-term, this is a perfectly respectable and attainable goal. It may take a long time, but you can work steadily towards learning a foreign language passably well, even under such constraints. I know that it is common for people to complain of feeling stuck in their progress, but this is part and parcel of the endurance, and unless you stick it out, you cannot see it through. How many complainers have really put in the true equivalent of that much time? I think not most of them, and even those that do generally do so under conditions of irregularity, which prevents the effects from accumulating. Good time management skills are indeed the key. Here, in actual practice 15 minutes a day in isolation is probably too little to sustain a long-term quest. In answer to the point raised by Mr. Frenkfeld, I concur that even 30 minutes of one language is unlikely to sustain the momentum required to get firmly grounded in it over a 6-year period. For that, yes, I completely concur again that at least 1 hour a day is necessary—at that pace, you can attain your numeric goal of 1080 hours within exactly 3 years, which time span is more easily accommodated under the foreseeable event horizon that most people need to maintain in order to stay oriented.

Alvin L., given your aspirations and your obvious talent, and considering your young age and the fact that you already have advanced Japanese as well as both English and Mandarin, I have grouped the languages you want to know in terms what seems to me to be the wisest focus of your concentration over the next five years thus:

Mandarin, Japanese, Classical Chinese, Korean
Latin, Italian, (French), [English]
Diachronic Greek
Sanskrit, (Hindi)
German, Old Norse/Icelandic, [English]

I have taken the liberty of adding French because you simply cannot succeed as a polyglot without it, as well as Hindi, though here another living Indic language could substitute, and I have put English in both possible permutations lest you should neglect it in your enthusiasm for exotica. If you pursue them in a logical fashion, I think we can, for an initial time estimate, reduce the cumulative beneficial effect of simultaneously studying all of these 13 different languages to 13 different level I tasks, or 13 x 1080 mechanical hours of study = the approximate equivalent of 14,040 mathematical hours of concentration. If you want to cover this in 5 years, you will have to study the approximate equivalent of 9 hours a day every day for 5 years to attain this. This is feasible. At a mechanical 1 hour a day, the task could still be achieved in 40 years and so it is certainly a respectable lifetime goal even within these limitations.

These calculations are of course all reckoned in theoretical, indeed hypothetical time. Returning to real time, I find that mine has expired for this week, but I promise that entries to this topic will be regular and ongoing, as befits a long-term project. As a foretaste to my approach to polyglottery, I would encourage people to attempt to conceive of the task not as one of learning X number of languages, but rather more simply and holistically as one of coming to understand as much as you can of the wide world of languages. As for the ideal setting in which to learn the kind of discipline required for sustaining this kind of endeavor, I think it would indeed be some sort of a secular monastery devoted primarily to scholarly, and only incidentally to spiritual, pursuits. For a polyglot academy, I do like the model of South East Asian Buddhism, where it is the educational norm for youths to spend a period of time as monks. As I wrote earlier today in the shadowing thread, in order to be most effectively learned, the practice of polyglottery probably needs to actually be demonstrated and lived rather than merely explained.


Edited by ProfArguelles on 11 November 2007 at 5:45pm

10 persons have voted this message useful



Farley
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
Joined 5635 days ago

681 posts - 738 votes 
1 sounds
Speaks: English*, GermanB1, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 15 of 33
04 November 2007 at 10:23pm | IP Logged 
frenkeld wrote:
Was it really just 30 minutes a day for you on average over the last two years?


No David it was more like 2+ hours a day. Recently the study has been more sporadic after coping with things like staying one step ahead of the pink slip.


ProfArguelles wrote:
Mr. John Farley wants to know what can be attained by those whose lives will only permit them a minimum amount of time for the study of languages


I might not have made clear that I already know the answer to my own question. 720 hours is 720, but not all study habits are equal.   At 30 minutes a day it would take 4 years to learn French. 30 minutes a day is just enough to get trapped in a SRS note card program or an audio course without momentum. But 30 minutes of really study backed by 90 minutes of -- for lack of a better work -- "faking it" will produce results. By faking it I mean listening to audio when your mind is half way somewhere else, or skimming dictionaries etc. What I'm getting at is when you know what to study there are little ways to keep the momentum provide you have the patience and fortitude to stick it out.

John

Edited by Farley on 04 November 2007 at 10:41pm

1 person has voted this message useful



quendidil
Diglot
Senior Member
Singapore
Joined 4855 days ago

126 posts - 142 votes 
Speaks: Mandarin, English*
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 16 of 33
06 November 2007 at 2:14am | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:

We need some numbers so that we can begin measuring. Those provided by the United States Foreign Service Institute are a well-documented and readily available basis for calculations that can serve as a valuable initial yardstick before being subjected to critique for further refinement.

Using the methodology of the intensive programs offered by this reputable institute, a native English speaker can attain between a “limited working proficiency” and a “minimum professional proficiency” in a category I language (primarily West European tongues) by means of 24-week program of the “theoretical maximum number” of 30 hours a week given on 5 days of 6 hours a day actual instruction. Thus, 720 hours of actual instruction plus another 50% of that for review, homework, preparation, individual study, etc., or rather the sum total of 1080 hours of study at a rate of 9 hours a day for the equivalent of 120 calendar days, is necessary to get a firm foundation under these circumstances. Leaving aside the question for the moment of how to translate or convert the energy and results attainable by short-term intensity to those of regular and steady application applied at a constant and consistent low rate, let us look first at the purely numeric or mechanical aspect of the problem. At a rate of 15 minutes a day, it would take 4,320 days or 617 weeks or 144 months or 12 years to attain the same goal. So, if you can think long-term, this is a perfectly respectable and attainable goal. It may take a long time, but you can work steadily towards learning a foreign language passably well, even under such constraints. I know that it is common for people to complain of feeling stuck in their progress, but this is part and parcel of the endurance, and unless you stick it out, you cannot see it through. How many complainers have really put in the true equivalent of that much time? I think not most of them, and even those that do generally do so under conditions of irregularity, which prevents the effects from accumulating. Good time management skills are indeed the key. Here, in actual practice 15 minutes a day in isolation is probably too little to sustain a long-term quest. In answer to the point raised by Mr. Frenkfeld, I concur that even 30 minutes of one language is unlikely to sustain the momentum required to get firmly grounded in it over a 6-year period. For that, yes, I completely concur again that at least 1 hour a day is necessary—at that pace, you can attain your numeric goal of 1080 hours within exactly 3 years, which time span is more easily accommodated under the foreseeable event horizon that most people need to maintain in order to stay oriented.

Alvin L., given your aspirations and your obvious talent, and considering your young age and the fact that you already have advanced Japanese as well as both English and Mandarin, I have grouped the languages you want to know in terms what seems to me to be the wisest focus of your concentration over the next five years thus:

Mandarin, Japanese, Classical Chinese, Korean
Latin, Italian, (French), [English]
Diachronic Greek
Sanskrit, (Hindi)
German, Old Norse/Icelandic, [English]

I have taken the liberty of adding French because you simply cannot succeed as a polyglot without it, as well as Hindi, though here another living Indic language could substitute, and I have put English in both possible permutations lest you should neglect it in your enthusiasm for exotica. If you pursue them in a logical fashion, I think we can, for an initial time estimate, reduce the cumulative beneficial effect of simultaneously studying all of these 13 different languages to 13 different level I tasks, or 13 x 1080 mechanical hours of study = the approximate equivalent of 14,040 mathematical hours of concentration. If you want to cover this in 5 years, you will have to study the approximate equivalent of 9 hours a day every day for 5 years to attain this. This is feasible. At a mechanical 1 hour a day, the task could be achieved in about 12 years, and even at a slow but steady 15 minutes at day as a life-long practice, it would be achieved within 43 years, and so it might certainly be a respectable lifetime goal even within these limitations.

These calculations are of course all reckoned in theoretical, indeed hypothetical time. Returning to real time, I find that mine has expired for this week, but I promise that entries to this topic will be regular and ongoing, as befits a long-term project. As a foretaste to my approach to polyglottery, I would encourage people to attempt to conceive of the task not as one of learning X number of languages, but rather more simply and holistically as one of coming to understand as much as you can of the wide world of languages. As for the ideal setting in which to learn the kind of discipline required for sustaining this kind of endeavor, I think it would indeed be some sort of a secular monastery devoted primarily to scholarly, and only incidentally to spiritual, pursuits. For a polyglot academy, I do like the model of South East Asian Buddhism, where it is the educational norm for youths to spend a period of time as monks. As I wrote earlier today in the shadowing thread, in order to be most effectively learned, the practice of polyglottery probably needs to actually be demonstrated and lived rather than merely explained.


9 hours a day for 5 years sounds rather taxing Professor, I don't know if it would be possible for someone whose lifestyle is not centered around purely linguistic pursuits. With the number of hours required that you have calculated, would it be more practical to stretch it out over 7 to 10 years? Considering that 9 hours is more than 1/3 of a day and that school commitments such as homework and revision could take up 8 to 10 hours of the rest, I find it quite difficult to conceive of going through years of such a routine. Perhaps in your next post you could show us how we could apportion these 9 hours throughout the day? You have said that this is all hypothetical time, I assume "real time" would work slightly differently? Also, many of these languages would share a common grammatical or lexiconical base, would this somehow affect the amount of time required to learn each tongue?

Thank you again for the comprehensive and insightful post, Professor. I look forward to your next round posting on the forum.

Edited by quendidil on 06 November 2007 at 2:33am



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