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Time Management

  Tags: Time to learn
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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Serpent
Octoglot
Senior Member
Russian Federation
serpent-849.livejour
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Speaks: Russian*, English, FinnishC1, Latin, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese
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 Message 17 of 33
07 November 2007 at 12:07pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
I have taken the liberty of adding French because you simply cannot succeed as a polyglot without it
Dear Prof. Arguelles,
Unfortunately my case with French is practically the same as yours with Mandarin - I purely subjectively dislike the sound of it (that's not quite typical, I know). Should I try to overcome this feeling, since it's such an important language?
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apparition
Octoglot
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United States
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Speaks: English*, Arabic (Written), French, Arabic (Iraqi), Portuguese, German, Italian, Spanish
Studies: Pashto

 
 Message 18 of 33
07 November 2007 at 1:21pm | IP Logged 
quendidil wrote:
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.


If you want to learn 13 foreign languages, I'm pretty sure you're already prepared to have a life centered around linguistic pursuits!
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quendidil
Diglot
Senior Member
Singapore
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126 posts - 142 votes 
Speaks: Mandarin, English*
Studies: Japanese

 
 Message 19 of 33
08 November 2007 at 5:56am | IP Logged 
apparition wrote:
quendidil wrote:
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.


If you want to learn 13 foreign languages, I'm pretty sure you're already prepared to have a life centered around linguistic pursuits!


Certainly in the future at university of course, but my current educational status does not allow a great deal of freedom to pursue linguistic pursuits.
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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
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609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 20 of 33
11 November 2007 at 5:41pm | IP Logged 
Mr. John Farley, I am afraid it is still not quite clear to me exactly what you want me to address. It seems as if you are asking for motivational tips, and if so in this regard I can say that keeping accurate numeric records of study timings can indeed be a major motivator. Are you competitive with yourself? If so, then this may work well for you, as it enables you to set goals and mark your progress towards them with great ease. Getting excited about closing in on your mark can induce you to study more, and as a result you will become a more passionate lover of languages.

Mr. Alvin L., I have already reduced all of the languages on your list to the easiest possible learning category (Category I) for you so as to obtain the absolute minimum number of hours – by this kind of scale – that you would need to work in order to obtain your goals. Some of these languages would probably be the equivalent of Category II, III, or perhaps even IV languages for you, which would all entail far more hours. Just what is your background in English, Mandarin, and Japanese? In any case, 9 hours a day every day for the next 5 years would certainly be easier for you if this pursuit were an integral part of your education. Indeed, in many other ages, languages have been valued as the core of the whole educational process, though in our current age, they have been all but exterminated. In all events, you will live 24 hours for every day of the rest of your life, and how will you choose to spend them? Will you waste many of them, as is so sadly common, or will you be frugal? Subtract what you must for necessities, budget what you can, and make your calculations. If you could possibly manage 9 hours, then that is a rather normal work day, and if you enjoy what you do, then where is the burden? Studying is now simply my instinctive mode of being, and I do not manage my own time so as to force myself to study, but rather only to attempt to keep my balance.

Yes, Ms. Evdokimova, someone in your field and with your goals must know French, German, and English as essential linguistic reference tools. I imagine you will rather easily overcome your initial repugnance when you get to know French – and if it helps you, please do know that I have eventually managed to overcome some of my own for spoken Mandarin.

Now to return to the subject of time management:
Thank you to the gentleman for pointing out that it is really 1 hour a day for an entire adult lifespan that would be necessary in order to attain these goals. I would hope that that would be a minimum that could be afforded to maintaining a conscious and independent mental life over 43 years, and it would be nice to live in a world where it was common to attain such achievements in this or any other field of intellectual endeavor. For now, let us use the numbers from last week for the initial examples of how to attempt to apportion one’s hours when pursuing the path of the polyglot. There are two aspects to the problem:

1)     degree of intensity
The calculation of 1080 hours to get to a firm foundation in a language was calculated again at a rate of 6 hours a day of classroom study for 5 days in a row with 2 days off (30 hours/week) plus another 15 hours/week of independent study or 45 hours a week, which is judged to be the most taxing schedule enthusiastic adults can sustain in intensive training for any length of time. This degree of intensity may be required of government agents training for their next assignment, but though it is appropriate under these circumstances, this does not mean that it is the most effective means of study overall. If you can plan your learning long-term, it is actually much more effective to study in small doses with systematic regularity than it is to study in burst of concentrated intensity. If you are in a hurry to get to the practical use of your language, then this is the kind of price (1080 hours) you will have to pay to get to it; however, if you can apportion these hours out over a slower but steadier pace – and if you can study overall with a different mindset – you may well find that you do not actually need all of them. A good number of the hours required in intensive training are in effect consumed by the intensity of the training itself and not by the actual learning process. If you can more effectively concentrate your energy on the actual learning, you should not require quite so many hours as you have in your budget, which will leave you with a surplus for beginning the next stage. Thus, although it will take you exactly 3.0 mechanical years to get to 1080 hours at 1 hour/day, if you can really and truly get into the habit of studying your language intently and intelligently for 60 minutes each and every single day – at least initially, at the same hour of the clock each day until this studying becomes a fixed and set habit – you will almost surely find that you can attain a firm foundation in a relatively easy language at a considerably lower exchange rate for your hours. If your study habits are desultory, however, your 1080 hours can be wasted without results. There are times when intensity of study is called for, but in general regularity is far more important.

2)     balancing time over multiple languages
Again, we presume that it takes 1080 hours to get a firm foundation in one language and that you can mechanically multiply this number by the number of languages you wish to learn in order to plan for the time needed to do this. At a rate of 1 hour/day you could learn 1 language in 3 years, so mechanically you could learn, e.g., 4 languages in 12 years at this sustained rate. However, it would simply not work out this way if you attempted to pursue them one after the other, for while you could attain the first in 3 years, after that you would have to utterly neglect the one you had just learned in order to use the necessary 60 minutes for the next, which would utterly defeat the purpose of learning it in the first place, and would also eventually negate the effects of having done so. It is clear that if you attempt to learn languages in sequence, as you go along you will have to invest increasingly more time in your language learning habit in order to sustain it. Assuming 15 minutes/day as a minimum for maintenance, you would need 60 minutes/day for the first 3 years, 75 minutes/day for the next 3, 90 minutes/day for the next, and 105 minutes/day for the last three. If, however, you can embark upon the simultaneous study of 4 languages at the learning rate of 15 minutes/day each, you can sustain that throughout the term of investment and get the results as originally planned. Thus, in order to systematically develop polyglot abilities, you must develop the ability to study multiple languages simultaneously.


Edited by ProfArguelles on 11 November 2007 at 6:54pm

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Farley
Triglot
Senior Member
United States
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Speaks: English*, GermanB1, French
Studies: Spanish

 
 Message 21 of 33
11 November 2007 at 9:12pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
Mr. John Farley, I am afraid it is still not quite clear to me exactly what you want me to address.   


Actually nothing because you have already addressed them. I had already sorted the answer out for myself, comparing your advice with others. I was just trying to say thanks and pass along a few details of what I did to apply your advice (my post on Nov 4th).

To me time management is more of a general skill. You can have time management down and still fail at language learning. What’s more important is what you do with your time.

If I had to condense my previous post on Nov. 4th it would be the following:

“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
….
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.”

Thanks much!

John

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quendidil
Diglot
Senior Member
Singapore
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Speaks: Mandarin, English*
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 Message 22 of 33
12 November 2007 at 5:04am | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
Mr. Alvin L., I have already reduced all of the languages on your list to the easiest possible learning category (Category I) for you so as to obtain the absolute minimum number of hours – by this kind of scale – that you would need to work in order to obtain your goals. Some of these languages would probably be the equivalent of Category II, III, or perhaps even IV languages for you, which would all entail far more hours. Just what is your background in English, Mandarin, and Japanese? In any case, 9 hours a day every day for the next 5 years would certainly be easier for you if this pursuit were an integral part of your education. Indeed, in many other ages, languages have been valued as the core of the whole educational process, though in our current age, they have been all but exterminated. In all events, you will live 24 hours for every day of the rest of your life, and how will you choose to spend them? Will you waste many of them, as is so sadly common, or will you be frugal? Subtract what you must for necessities, budget what you can, and make your calculations. If you could possibly manage 9 hours, then that is a rather normal work day, and if you enjoy what you do, then where is the burden? Studying is now simply my instinctive mode of being, and I do not manage my own time so as to force myself to study, but rather only to attempt to keep my balance.

My English is natively fluent, while I am essentially fluent in Mandarin though my active vocabulary is more limited than in English. My Japanese is at level two of the Japanese Government's Japanese Language Proficiency Test (out of a scale of four with one being the highest level) but I understand far more than what I can produce imperfectly. I have neglected to mention that I have taught myself a little Latin as well; I have completed Lingua Latina Pars I and can read Caesar's Civil Wars with some difficulty.

My main problem, Professor, is the task of fitting nine hours of self-directed language study into the course of a day filled with school activities. Our school system here in Singapore operates seven to eight hours on average. There would also be additional activities after a brief lunch break for up to three or four hours. I actually usually return home later than my parents. I would also prefer not to pursue the study of languages at the expense of my school grades, ergo at least 4 hours of revision and homework at home would be essential on school days. All in all. this adds up to around 16 hours, leaving eight hours for other activities, of which at least 6-7 are required for sleeping. It would thus be difficult to put in 9 hours of language study, from what I can see.

I do in fact, enjoy studying. I like most of my subjects at school, although I do prefer my maths and sciences to most of what passes for humanities here. I highly regret the government's decision not to classify language studies as humanities here for I feel it is much more beneficial for one to study a new language than to learn propagandic nonsense. Having said that, I find it quite difficult to find the time to manage 9 hours of language study in the midst of an academic semester.

The current school year is ending tomorrow with my last exam and I am thinking of mastering at least part of my new curriculum before the next school year goes into full swing. This way I could probably afford to shave off more time from school classes. I'll also have much more time for linguistic pursuits during this period. I also hope that I shall be able to enter a better school next year that does not schedule useless activities after school which are of no benefit for its students.

The above was probably a great diversion from the topic at hand, but perhaps you will understand my situation better now? I now think my goal of 13 languages in 5 years is a little too ambitious, perhaps it would be better to concentrate on 5-6 languages that would serve the most benefit for further studies, one or two each year?

Edited by quendidil on 12 November 2007 at 5:38am

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5796 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 23 of 33
18 November 2007 at 5:53pm | IP Logged 
Alvin L., what I need to know from you is not just what languages you know and how well you know them, but also how you came to know them. Is the school system in Singapore now in English while Chinese is still your heritage language, and were you taught Japanese well in school while you worked through Lingua Latina on your own?

You lost me in your calculations. Figure out how many reliably regular hours you have for studying foreign languages on your own and give me a clear figure if you want me to make specific recommendations for various numbers and various combinations. If you do not have enough time to get a base in 12 core languages within 5 years, it would make more sense to give yourself 10 years than to cut yourself down to 6 languages.

Let us return now to a more general discussion of issues in time management. Last week we discussed:
1)     degree of intensity; and
2)     balancing time over multiple languages.
There have been no particular objections to any of the points I made, nor any questions about them, so I assume I may safely conclude that I have clearly proven them all and simply move on. The main point was simply that studying large numbers of languages simultaneously in systematically regular low doses over the long term is the most systematic and effective way to turn yourself into a polyglot, while studying languages in sequence but with greater degrees of intensity is inherently more time consuming.

Today I would like to consider some ways to reduce the number of absolute hours required for language learning by:

1)     Changing conceptual framework

The numbers of hours reported by the FSI reflect a conceptual framework in which language learning is the task of drilling the skills required to communicate. The learning takes places under conditions determined by immediate practical necessity as the driving motivation. The learner is learning due to these circumstances, and would not be learning if they were different. The numbers generated by the FSI are indubitably valid for individuals who share the mindset of this conceptual framework, and I would estimate that that is something like 90+% of the population in any given society. Thus, the figure of 1080 hours for the acquisition of a Class I language is generally applicable, and these hours must be acquired under circumstances that somehow approximate the intensity of a training program.

However, it is possible to approach the subject of foreign language learning from many different conceptual frameworks. When languages are the core of a certain kind of educational curriculum, seen and used as keys to the heritage of the past, they are not nearly so expensive. When they are pursued out of personal interest on the part of the learner, they can become cheaper still. It is easy to provide figures for alternate learning schemes of this nature:

When Class I languages are taught well as part of a relatively “classical” higher education in the humanities, four semesters are sufficient to get to approximately the same results as the FSI 1080. A semester comprises 45 contact hours (the maximum intensity of weekly hours at the FSI) with perhaps an equal number hours for homework, language laboratory, daily preparation, and studying for tests, or a total of 90 hours per semester X 4 = 360 hours. These 360 hours are distributed in clusters of 3 or 4 months, followed by 1 or 2 month pauses, over a 2 year period, and thus, one studies an irregular average of 25-30 minutes a day for 720 days. This is not ideal, but still it works well enough that by their 5th semester students can be prepared to read literature in such a target language, and to discuss it and write about it in that same language.

Another conceptual framework also provides the exact same figure of 360 hours for these or even greater results, namely the auto-didactic framework in which individuals pursue languages out of personal interest in them. An Assimil manual can be worked through in 6 months at 30 minutes a day. After that, it is profitable to revise it thoroughly at the same rate. Doing this for 2 years with both beginning and advanced manuals will certainly bring you to the same abilities as college study even if you have no particular talent, and possibly much further, much faster if you do.

Thus, by changing the conceptual framework in which you study languages, you can dramatically reduce the number of absolute hours required to learn them. This is not an easy task in itself, but it is certainly possible. The two examples given above show how the time required in one instance could be reduced dramatically from 1080 to 360 hours. Learning 3x faster means at very least that you can learn 3x as much, or 3x as many languages. I chose these examples as the most obviously convincing and verifiable, but there are other conceptual frameworks that, combined, can create even more effective learning conditions.

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ProfArguelles
Moderator
United States
foreignlanguageexper
Joined 5796 days ago

609 posts - 2100 votes 

 
 Message 24 of 33
25 November 2007 at 5:53pm | IP Logged 
Last week I began discussing how changing the conceptual framework in which you learn and study can affect the amount of time and energy, measured in hours, that you need to expend in order to achieve language learning goals. While studying languages intensively and exclusively is generally considered to be the most effective way of coming to know them, it may be said to be rapid but not cost efficient (1080 hours as a baseline figure). Teaching languages well as an integral part of a humanistic education can impart the same abilities with only 1/3 of the expenditure (360 hours). Using a good autodidactic method properly and systematically, one can attain comparable competence in well under 360 hours.

The most compelling underlying reason for the difference between these figures probably lies in the relationship of the learners to that which they are learning. The practical and utilitarian learners of the first category are working hard against deadlines, but they have no real interest in the object of their study, seeing it merely as a tool necessary for communication. Humanistic students and individual enthusiasts generally have more personal interest in their languages. It stands to reason, then, that further improving the relationship between learner and learned can be expected to further reduce the amount of time required to learn.

And on that enigmatic note, I am out of time, so what I wanted to discuss this week will have to wait until next week.



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