LIE to a Polyglot

General discussion about learning languages
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leosmith
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby leosmith » Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:22 pm

Seneca wrote:It seems a bit circular, so that is why I was thinking maybe a concrete example of what you had in mind would be useful for me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Sorry for the late response. You're absolutely right, it is circular. I'm now using LIE as more of guiding principal that a method. I hope to get a chance to post more on this later, but wanted to partially answer this as you've waited so long.

emk wrote:I had maybe 40% comprehension of previously unwatched episodes within 100 hours of study since beginning the language.

Very interesting - thanks for sharing this. I'll probably come back to ask you more about this later, but it sounds promising.

reineke wrote:The 1500-2000 hours of listening you mention is not a conclusion of any particular study but one person's personal experience.

Good point.
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby cpnlsn88 » Sun Feb 11, 2018 10:34 am

Having got to this by a round about route I was quite inspired by the thread and it really made me think a bit.

My own approach is very reading centric though have always tended to listen a lot without realising its value and I think there can be some value to that; except that there are a number of areas where - provided you can find listening that is comprehensible to you (or can be made so) listening may have a few key advantages:

- reading requires a lot of work and is quite demanding and is a skill added much, much later in human evolution. Very difficult to read unless sat down somewhere!
- the speed of language in listening is usually very fast compared to reading (I am not a speed reader), meaning - provided you are in some way attuned to what is being said your brain is working out the content more dynamically (being hit by language faster and probably more unpredictably)
- speech is a different type of register in that a lot of words and constructions exist in the written realm that may not be utilised in speech - the spoken language may have a smaller actively used vocabulary and sentence structure (grammatical rules for spoken and written language usually differ)
- most of language in the world is spoken even in languages that make use of writing
- because reading is tiring it is easier to have auditory input for longer periods, therefore more of it
- due to the Internet we now have what we didn't used to have which is unlimited access to a lot of spoken language through radio, youtube and also DVD technology which previous generations didn't have
- listening clearly is going to help with recognising accents and hopefully improves work with different sound formations in the spoken language
- I am interested to learn if different parts of the brain are involved in say reading and listening
- purely speculatively I wonder if lack of comprehension is actually a bigger block to conversation ability at a certain level (needs more study) - I could reply with a very limited sentence with stumbles and shrugs and things like 'I'm not sure, let me think about it' and so on and the conversation can go on but if I fundamentally can't follow the speaker dialogue of any kind is going to be hard!

The advantages of reading are of able to reread and take it at your own pace, so likely to be helpful at different points

I would probably want two tracks of input so reading wasn't neglected but if there is something to the LIE (Listening is Everything) approach then making sure you listen to as much as possible is likely to be the cornerstone of gaining proficiency.

I think it would be interesting to see if extensive listening has a direct effect on different areas of language learning that language learners are interested in (listening comprehension, accent, speech fluency, vocab, grammar, reading and writing skills), which would of course need to be tested.

To be clear I don't think that having input without attention (e.g. while sleeping) or without comprehension (with a new language unless to be able to just gauge the sounds used) or when not ready is likely to be fruitful at all. I don't think language just washes over you passively (however I don't know if this has been researched. One may speculate that being surrounded by a language does mean you're readier to learn it as soon as some sort of structure is in place). It may be some structure might need to be there in order for listening to do any good and some reading might be necessary to break open to a certain level.

Of course there are probably examples of people who have learnt to a high level using only or mainly reading; there may be examples of people learning using only or mainly listening. I guess one could focus where either one's deficits or centres of interest lay and one method is probably as good as an another in the end provided you enjoy it.

The next question is how a mainly listening approach might function in reality. In the Internet age there is a huge availability. Provided it is comprehensible I think that any listening will probably be good provided you enjoy it. It might be a good low energy method of maintaining a language one has learned it.

Here, then, are some of my ideas:

- make sure that the listening is comprehensible and not tedious; also you need to attend to it, not merely have it in the background
- material can be made comprehensible by re-listening and reading summaries or transcripts. If the news, then you can read articles about the same thing
- podcasts are great, as are plays, interviews and films you are familiar with
- you can also read for speech by reading novels with a lot of dialogue. There's usually a tonne of stuff on Youtube (dependent on our language of course)
- do 'the film' and 'book' together
- if listening has primacy then, provided you have comprehensible input, you can listen a heck of a lot!
- sporting fixtures, parliamentary debates, speeches, running news (e.g election results), church services give a lot of running speech but not for everyone and dependent on interests
- instructional/motivational videos e.g. exercise
- listening to different accents (e.g. Swiss, Bavarian and Austrian radio for German)
- songs (!)
- naturally, stays in a country can be rich in listening opportunities provided you seek them out - just being in the country might not expose you to much (especially in people talk to you in English!)
- finally the most potent exposure method is one of talking with people. Here a lot of the focus is on our talking but perhaps a more important skill is to keep the conversation going by listening and using one's speech to keep the other person speaking (threatened with a premature end of conversation or reversion to English), hence keeping the listening in the target language

Overall I am very much influenced by Krashen's ideas - he seems more focused on reading but his ideas seem equally applicable to spoken language. I think it's worth experimenting, perhaps alternating between methods, doing the opposite of what you've been doing up to now.

A final question is difficult to resolve which is the extent to which reading is a kind of aided listening. This probably depends on whether we read 'as speech' in a flow pattern with or without subvocalisation. If in a flow then writing is probably a remnant of speech - if the brain's main model of language is auditory this would explain why comprehensible listening might be particularly potent in foreign language acquisition and maintenance.
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby MorkTheFiddle » Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:20 pm

iguanamon wrote:Catchy acronym L I E, :). Leosmith is right. Some learners who say they want to have all the skills of a language often place a low priority on training listening. Some think their course audio is sufficient to cover listening training. It isn't. Each skill does indeed reinforce the other. Listening is a skill that can be trained with effort and dedication. It's not a skill which is as easy to train as reading and takes a long time... longer than some learners may think and may be willing to devote.

Nice post, leosmith. Leosmith wrote one of the most highly voted posts ever on the old forum- listening from the beginning. I would love to see him update it and put on the static site for language-learners.org. Hopefully, this thread will be the genesis of that.
Do you have any go-to method of practicing writing? I ask because some of your languages are off the beaten path. For example, I've never seen a Youtube video titled "How to learn Ladino in 3 days" ;) , and there probably aren't any workbooks. Though I'm curious about your other languages, too. I myself often want to practice writing French and Spanish, starting with baby steps, but I don't know what format to try: diary, mock letters to Clemenceau or Isabel Allende, translating something simple. I am not interested so much in corrections, that can come later. Any hints will be much appreciated.
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iguanamon
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby iguanamon » Mon Dec 02, 2019 11:42 pm

I don't want to derail this wonderful thread about listening by talking about writing, so I'll answer you in my log, Mork.
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sporedandroid
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby sporedandroid » Tue Dec 03, 2019 4:06 am

emk wrote:
leosmith wrote:1) First, listen a lot. It takes 1500-2000 hours of listening for your brain to acquire the ability to parse a foreign language at normal speeds (source). You can understand a language to varying degrees with less listening, but the time on task listed above is required to become a good listener.

There's actually a trick to learning how to process (limited!) full speed input in several dozen hours instead of a couple thousand. I first heard about this in the context of the Koch method for teaching Morse code:

Traditionally, Morse code has been taught by struggling through all the codes at a slow speed and then (slowly) progressing towards higher speeds.

Koch's method, on the other hand, dictates that you should start learning at the desired speed - but you start with only two characters. Each session is five minutes long, and whenever you get 90% or more correct, you add another character.

The basic idea is that if you start with very slow audio, you'll train yourself to laboriously "look things up" in your head and translate them, and—in the case of Morse code—you'll have an extraordinarily difficult time breaking the 15wpm barrier. So instead, you start with full-speed input from the very beginning, but you start with extremely limited input. So instead of starting slow and getting faster, you start fast-but-narrow input and then widen the subject areas you cover. In practice, this seems to produce people who can understand 25 wpm to 30 wpm input in several months, which compares extremely favorably to traditional methods.

That was one of my goals with all that subs2srs/substudy experiment I did: I wanted to find a way to work with full-speed audio very early. And the result was that my Spanish was ridiculously narrow, but as long as I stuck with one TV series, I had maybe 40% comprehension of previously unwatched episodes within 100 hours of study since beginning the language.

And then life happened, and I had to put my Spanish down. On the bright side, full-speed listening seems to decay much more slowly than formal grammar study and vocab lists.

That’s what I did with Hebrew. I think I could understand a lot of full speed audio within a month. When I first started out one line of dialogue I would struggle to understand would be clear within a a few minutes or a day. Some speech that was undecipherable would be understandable a few months later. One thing that frustrated me was that despite Hebrew sounding clear and knowing most of the words I couldn’t get the meaning. Using clozemaster for two months straight quickly improved my ability to get the meaning of things. Right now I’m trying to expand my vocabulary and attention span by watching captioned YouTube videos. Depending on my mood I’ll either watch the video and try to get a general idea or use languagetools.io and go through the transcript and look up unknown words and phrases.
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Re: LIE to a Polyglot

Postby Iversen » Tue Dec 03, 2019 12:27 pm

This is an old thread, but still relevant. I'll mostly refer to page one, but there are also some goodies on page 2-4.

RDearman writes on page 1 that you have to distinguish listening from just hearing. Definitely yes - having a TV set or radio running in the background while you do other things is not irrelevant, but if you do count hours then only the number of hours of attentive listening really matters - not the hours where you just had some kind of background noise running. OK, even background babble is relevant, but its main purpose is to keep you from hearing your native language spoken.

And here the question is what the purpose of those 5000 hours of listening is - and my claim is that you can learn to parse speech faster IF you already have spent an equal amount of time poring over the written language. I have travelled in many countries where they speak Slavic languages, but the number of hours where I actually have listened attentively to for instance Bulgarian or Polish must be very low - maybe 5-10 hours in all in the case of Bulgarian where I don't have a TV channel. I mention Bulgarian here because I searched for suitable stuff on Youtube a few days ago and found some videos about science. So I listened for maybe three hours in a row without doing anything else, and at the end of that I could see the Bulgarian speech being spelled out in my mind as words and sentences in Cyrillic letters - and that would of course have been impossible if I hadn't spent lots of time with the written language.

But I didn't understand everything, and with weak languages I practice 'listening like a bloodhund' where I dont' even try to understand anything, but just keep my nose close to the trail in the ground - or in this case: keep listening to the sounds, trying to parse them and only that. My experience is that the meaning will pop up by itself if I know enough words - but if you try too hard to understand anything you loose the continuity in your listening. This reminds me of the comments about musicians: when I listen attentively I tend to see strand of music written on my inner screen - mostly one system (with or without chords), sometimes on two or even three strands - and mostly in the correct tonality because I for some reason happen to have perfect pitch. And inversely, when I read musical sheets I hear the music, so there is a close parallel here to what happens inside my head when I listen attentively resp. read slowly - if I read faster the inner voice will of course be sabotaged.

So your ability to follow speech in a target language can definitely profit from your activities with the written language. The real advantage of listening is on another level: listening is much more efficient in making your head buzz than reading is. Reading is mainly pull, but listening is push (at least with good and clear sources where you don't have to fight to even hear the sounds). And there are probably more people who subvocalise when reading than people who see texts flashing by when they listen attentively.
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