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Time Management

  Tags: Time to learn
 Language Learning Forum : Lessons in Polyglottery Post Reply
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ProfArguelles
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foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 25 of 33
02 December 2007 at 4:41pm | IP Logged 
Picking up from the previous week, what kind of conceptual framework can reduce the number of hours required to learn languages beyond the figures given and discussed above for practical and utilitarian learners, who suddenly find that they need a new tool to communicate, and for humanistic students, who are given languages as keys to culture, and who may even go on to pursue them out of some degree of personal interest?

I would call my own conceptual framework the comparative framework, and I believe that what I have done with my existence can testify to the fact that, for those who can spend long hours studying and especially for those who would spend long hours studying something else if they were not studying languages, it can emphatically and progressively reduce the number of hours required to learn languages.

In the comparative mindset, because you study languages simultaneously, you use them as supports for each other, to illuminate and explain each other, to serve as points of contrast and distinction for each other. Studying one language because it is a tool that you want to use, or because it is a key that you would like to have, is utterly different from studying several languages because you want to understand what they are.

Imagine the framework of a massive dartboard that consists initially of nothing but a number of concentric wire circles. In order to learn a language, you must throw darts at the board and get them to stick. Initially they can only stick to the wires, so most of them will go straight through the empty space. However, once you do hit a wire, the dart will hang down from it, filling the space, and subsequent darts that you throw can stick to it as well, eventually filling in more and more of the space. If you only have one target, or if you use a different target for several different languages, you will always have a hard task. However, if you are able to use the same target all the time, you will find it ever easier to hit.

How can you begin inducing your brain to function according to the comparative framework? You can start by studying two different languages simultaneously and by consciously and deliberately thinking about how they are the same and how they are different. The most useful tools for novices in this regard are Linguaphone and Berlitz Self-Teacher courses from the late 1950’s and the early 1960’s, for the lesson plans and even the content in them is exactly the same for various and sundry languages.

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ChristopherB
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 Message 26 of 33
13 February 2008 at 12:12pm | IP Logged 
Professor,

I have decided to test out this 8pm-2am plan, in order to take full advantage of all the quiet morning hours before my University classes. Everyone so far thinks I am an idiot. I am curious however, that in all your years of having followed this unusual routine, did you not ever occasionally need to stay up past 8pm? If so, how did you manage to "buy back" lost sleeping time without completely wrecking the routine? My current sleeping-habits are just atrocious and I have already been awake now for over 24 hours in order to prepare myself for this change (which, admittedly, is probably not the best way to begin). I also plan to alter my work shifts and move them over to weekend mornings in order to free up the evenings. However, I feel that even having to stay up until 9pm or 10pm for whatever reason - one is bound to come along now and again - would be enough to throw such a sleeping pattern off-kilter, or at least make the following day a groggy misery.

I am seriously prepared to commit to this routine as my weekly timetable is flexible enough and I can see great things coming out of this if I'm able to keep consistent with it, but I must ask: Hasn't it ever caused you any problems?

Thanks again,
Christopher Button

Edited by Fränzi on 17 February 2008 at 2:40am

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ProfArguelles
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foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 27 of 33
17 February 2008 at 8:58pm | IP Logged 
Mr. Button,

I send you my best wishes for success in your quest to regulate your life so as to access those pre-dawn hours, the most propitious of all for serious concentrated study! Consistency is indeed of the essence; once you have established regular habits, you can sustain an occasional break in them, but until they are established, even a seemingly innocuous and minor break can force you to start all over again. Thus, you must beg the indulgence of your friends and family at first. Let them think you are eccentric—if they value learning, they will cease to wonder about you when they see how much progress you make. To answer your question, although I also had to fight the world to get it to let me keep my habit, no, my habit in itself has never caused me any problems.

Please remember that there is nothing inherently best about 8-2; 7-1 or 9-3 would do just as well, both presuming that you do indeed need 6 hours of sleep a night—you may need 5, or 7. The important thing is not to fight that first wave of fatigue in the evening, but rather to flow with it until you awake naturally after midnight. If you are adamant about finding your natural rhythm, it will serve you very well in developing your scholarly instincts and abilities.

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Ruan
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 Message 28 of 33
22 March 2008 at 2:00pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:

In the comparative mindset, because you study languages simultaneously, you use them as supports for each other, to illuminate and explain each other, to serve as points of contrast and distinction for each other.
[...]
You can start by studying two different languages simultaneously and by consciously and deliberately thinking about how they are the same and how they are different.


What if the target languages are not closely related, as Sanskrit and English, or completely unrelated, as Chinese and French? At these situations, I found this approach to be not so effective. However, as I already expected, it works incredibly well while studying dead languages together with their daughters, or languages belonging to the same etymological family.

Edited by Ruan on 24 March 2008 at 3:56am

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ProfArguelles
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foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 29 of 33
23 March 2008 at 8:02pm | IP Logged 
Certainly studying dead languages with their daughters or at least languages belonging to the same family is most effective for proven polyglots, though precisely the feedback and reinforcement that they find from this study can cause confusion between them in those with less experience. In any case, simultaneously studying languages that are completely unrelated, or at least not closely related, is still more effective in my experience than studying them in sequence. Although one does not get the reinforcement from contextualization (or the danger of “contamination,” as the case may be), still, I have always found that dividing time into smaller, regular chunks over the long term is more effective than studying in intensive or even exclusive batches for the short term.

On another front, Mr. Button, have you had success in accessing the pre-dawn hours of consciousness for your studies?

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ChristopherB
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 Message 30 of 33
28 March 2008 at 10:48pm | IP Logged 
ProfArguelles wrote:
On another front, Mr. Button, have you had success in accessing the pre-dawn hours of consciousness for your studies?


Professor,

As ashamed as I am to say it, it has been more of a struggle than I anticipated. I had changed my plan to 9pm-3am, yet it seems I still cannot feel tired until around 12pm, during which time I awake at around 6am in the morning, too fatigued to even consider hauling myself out of bed on three hours sleep. Forcing myself to stay awake through the night and following day did more damage than good (as I really should have known...) and I would find myself sleeping not only through the alarm clock, but also sleeping for around thirteen hours to compensate for the unusual deprivation.

During a recent visit to the doctor, who found out about my plan, he strongly suggested against it, saying one ought to arrange their life around their sleep, not the other way around; advice that in any normal case would be wise. My sleeping pattern is currently relatively normal (12am-6am) and really, now, it is just a matter of forcing myself through the day with three hours of sleep at most and then hoping all goes well from there. Perhaps I should move my alarm clock to the other side of room or have someone hide it and turn it on full volume...

I am still confident this can be done eventually, and once it is in place and I am able to maintain it I will benefit a lot from it. After all, as I believe Benjamin Franklin said: "Early to bed and early to rise makes one healthy, wealthy and wise."
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ProfArguelles
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United States
foreignlanguageexper
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 Message 31 of 33
30 March 2008 at 10:17pm | IP Logged 
Mr. Button,

I am very sorry to hear of your difficulties. Indeed, if you were just emulating me, I would advise you to abort, but since you are following the pattern not only of Benjamin Franklin but of countless numbers of other individuals who have sought and found productivity in the relative solitude of the early hours, I can only encourage your seek change slowly and to support yourself with systematic regularity. Perhaps you ought to wait until you have a break period to establish a new routine? If you use stimulants or intoxicants (e.g., coffee or alcohol) of any kind, either habitually or recreationally, then it would be advisable to reduce or eliminate them, not on moral grounds, but on purely physiological ones, at least until you are established in your new habits. Best of luck to you and do keep me posted!

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ChristopherB
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 Message 32 of 33
23 July 2008 at 6:10pm | IP Logged 
My apologies, Professor, for such a late update:

Unfortunately, my early morning plan has completely failed. I can think of several reasons why, namely frequent evening inconveniences which require me to stay up until later hours of the night. This was not unexpected, though it has in the end proved to be too much and I have thus had to abort the endeavor. One other problem, especially as it concerns my sleeping patterns, is my rather embarrassing lack of discipline. It has been all to easy to make excuses for myself while lying half-awake in bed at 3am, and to then fall asleep again while deciding whether or not to get up! Of the few times I did manage to haul myself out in the early morning darkness, I did feel noticeably groggy and poorly rested, and my studies suffered as a result. So, in balancing my university studies with my languages, I have found relative comfort in the evening hours and have been making progress, though what I now really must work on is acquiring some discipline and systematic regularity. And this applies to most things, not just my language studies. Perhaps in a few months time I could provide you with a detailed study plan of sorts to make sure I remain on track.

Christopher Button


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