Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

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eido
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Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby eido » Mon Jun 01, 2020 2:40 pm

Something I experience a lot with my languages is that I can understand grammar and words as concepts before I can understand them as separate word blocks.

For instance, I recently noticed that with Japanese (a language I've been trying to learn since I was 13), I can get the main idea of the sentence and even details without knowing exactly what word could mean what on first shot. But if you gave me a multiple choice test with word meanings, I could probably pick out the correct definition of a given word. And here's the thing: I've never studied Japanese formally at all. I just watched one too many seasons of supernatural-themed anime. Let's be kind and generous to myself and say two years worth.

I haven't reached the age where my brain is fully matured, so
1) the neurons aren't fully inflexible
2) I can still learn at a fairly rapid pace

This happens with other languages I'm studying, too. Pretty much any language I try to study through an audio-based (ex. audiolingual) method, I can understand relatively easily.

  • Does any current forum member experience this type of learning?
  • If you don't now, did you as a younger you?
  • What are the pros and cons to this type of language acquisition? Please detail them as much as you wish.
  • Even if you had this ability, would you choose another way to pick up a foreign tongue?
And the other topic for this discussion is somewhat related.

As I can understand languages relatively easily and comprehend grammar quite well just by reading about it and practicing the concepts through writing (among other means), there are naturally some areas I'm weak at.

One of those, and it's a fundamental (if not the most important one) area is natural expression. I think I'm awful at this because my skills are passive in my noodle.

I went through an awkward phase (ironically while I was going through puberty), where I would literally translate everything I desired to say into robotic, machine-translated-seeming-ish Spanish. I was actually translating it myself, but it seemed like I was cheating or just not understanding how actual conversation works. But I was trying to get a feel for the hispanophone skeleton that underlied Spanish as a tongue. And it seems to have worked, as I'm often the best student in my class.

Despite that, though, I still express myself as a robot might. In English, I'm free to write as I will without any repercussions; and I know how Spanish works enough to write independent sentences with a good deal of grammatical accuracy.

However, I still remain at age 12 when it comes to making beautiful Spanish in its written form.

  • Does anyone experience "puberty of the skills"? This is where you can do a few skills well, but others... nah.
  • Might the solution be to just practice and practice until you get it? Or how far down does the iceberg go into the water with this idea?
  • Are you fine with not being a completely well-rounded knower of a certain language? Why might that be? I'm not judging, I'm just ever the curious pup.
  • If you overcame my problem, what did you do to beat it down? How did you realize you didn't write fluidly?
Those are just some questions to get y'all started. I might come up with more. This wasn't meant to be an inflammatory post. Rather, it's merely for discussion and thought-provoking analysis on the acquisition of languages.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby 白田龍 » Mon Jun 01, 2020 3:48 pm

Maybe you are just lucky and have a brain good for tongues. Most other teenagers would probably not be have been able to do it.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby Ser » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:24 am

Maybe it's because you were paying attention and intending to learn? I don't find it all that surprising. And I believe one can also do this as an adult. I doubt it's a pre-puberty thing.

Personally I've watched my good share of anime over the years, but I've never learned any Japanese because I just don't pay attention. I listen to the voice acting for the emotion portrayed, not for the specific words.

Just as a random experiment, I tried watching this clip from good ol' Hunter x Hunter on YouTube, and tried to pay attention... I know next to nothing of Japanese except for, vaguely, some basic suffixes (-ru non-past informal or infinitive or something, -te some kind of adverbial, -masu non-past formal, -tachi 'and friends/company', others) and little function words (ni 'to, in', to 'and', dakara 'because'--which I think might be just kara?, others), besides classic stereotypical words like watashi, sugoi, kokoro, arimasen, hai, iie, kono, asoko, desu, da, danai (or was it yanai?).

Just listening to the very first minute while actually paying attention I start noticing things and making guesses like:

- kigattsuru (kigatsu suru?). Translated as 'You're distracting me', I'm guessing this is actually "to make/create boredom".
- danoru (danaru?). 'Be silent'. Probably a bare 'to be silent'.
- korosu. 'Or I'll kill you.' Probably a bare 'to kill'.
- yaruzo (yaruzou?). 'Let's begin'. Probably 'to begin' in the impolite imperative with that -o (or was it -ou? the same one in shi(y)o(u?) 'do it!')
- yoi yoi (yon yon?) ichi. '4 4 1'. Weird, because ichi is obviously Chinese (Cantonese yat1, Mandarin yī), but those 4's look like native Japanese.
- shou. 'pawn'. Likely a Chinese word the way Japanese tends to use Chinese words for this kind of meanings, but I can't immediately guess it.
- hachi hachi ichi. '8 8 1'. Hmm, okay, maybe she does use native numbers for the first two positions for some weird reason.
- kiba. 'knight'. Okay, maaaybe not a Chinese word.
- sumidona (sumi( )da( )na?). 'I guess that's checkmate'. Maybe a humble sort of -na adjective meaning 'lost'. Maybe sumi is a noun-like word ('loss'? 'checkmate'?), and then there's da 'be' and a sentential "na" I don't know about that expresses embarrassment or something, so it's, like, 'be loss, huh?' ('That was my loss, huh?').
- bakuna (baka( )na?). 'Impossible'. Maybe it's baka 'idiot' + the sentential "na" above, as if Meruem is saying to himself 'I'm an idiot, huh?'.
- sugi da. 'On to the next game'. I'm guessing this is literally 'be next (one)', or 'the following one', or 'the below one' or the like.
- ichi kiyu san. '1 9 3'. Wait what- These are all Chinese numbers now, cf. 9 = Mandarin jiǔ, Cantonese gau2, 3 = Mandarin sān, Cantonese saam1.
- yumi(i?) anrata (annata? agata?). 'new archer'. Likely literally 'new archer', whatever the words actually are.
- koko de (koku da?). 'Here it is'. I'm guessing this is a version of kono 'this'?
- gou gou ichi. '5 5 1'. I believe '5' is a Chinese number again, cf. 5 = Mandarin wú, Cantonese m5 (older ng5), which I vaguely remember is ngu平 or ngu上 in Middle Chinese. What the heck is going on with numbers in Japanese? This makes absolutely no sense.
- jiu jou (jiyu shou?). 'Lieutenant general'. Hmm, that second word there is probably Chinese 將 'general' (Mandarin jiàng, Cantonese jeung3). It's weird that it kinda sounds like "shou", wasn't "shou" the word for 'pawn' above???


...And that's the end of the first minute. As you can see I can't make out a word whenever a character says something longer than two words. At any rate, even if you omit the things I'm half-figuring out with Chinese, that's still some useful basis for later learning. At the very least I (could) have confidently learned korosu 'kill' and shou 'pawn', and leave things like the exact pronunciation of yoi~yon '4/four' or danaru~danoru 'be silent' for later.

Multiply the above with hours upon hours of anime while paying some degree of attention, and you could acquire some good basis for actual proper learning and gap filling later on. Yes, in practice I'd immediately forget more than half of the things in the list above, but again, with hours and hours of this the process reinforces itself a fair bit.
Last edited by Ser on Tue Jun 02, 2020 2:57 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby tarvos » Tue Jun 02, 2020 12:33 pm

4 is yon and pronounced as such to avoid the connotations of death.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby tungemål » Tue Jun 02, 2020 1:47 pm

eido wrote:...
I haven't reached the age where my brain is fully matured, so
1) the neurons aren't fully inflexible
2) I can still learn at a fairly rapid pace


Are you still a teenager? I don't think brains of older people necessarily are inflexible. It varies a lot from person to person.

Here is an interesting overview (I just searched for brain+mature): article

Seems that the brain is not fully mature before 25, but that doesn't mean that you can't learn new things after that age. In fact, they list the peak of "concentrating" at 43 years, and peak of "learning new information" at 50. On the other hand, the brain is fully developed for problem-solving at 15.

...
  • Does any current forum member experience this type of learning?
  • If you don't now, did you as a younger you?
  • What are the pros and cons to this type of language acquisition? Please detail them as much as you wish.
  • Even if you had this ability, would you choose another way to pick up a foreign tongue?


I never tried to learn another language intuitively or through audio only. But it is an interesting idea. I think you will understand and store language learned through audio differently from learning through text.

...
Despite that, though, I still express myself as a robot might. In English, I'm free to write as I will without any repercussions; and I know how Spanish works enough to write independent sentences with a good deal of grammatical accuracy.

However, I still remain at age 12 when it comes to making beautiful Spanish in its written form.

Does anyone experience "puberty of the skills"? This is where you can do a few skills well, but others... nah.


Yes I experience that. It is harder to do output than input. To be able to write well, you need to practice that a lot. After having done a lot of listening in German, I feel quite comfortable listening to German radio, but I still struggle with writing. Even in our native language we practice writing for many years in school, with all those essays we get as homework.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby devilyoudont » Tue Jun 02, 2020 5:32 pm

Ser wrote:- hachi hachi ichi. '8 8 1'. Hmm, okay, maybe she does use native numbers for the first two positions for some weird reason.

P-like sound -> F-like sound -> H-like sound is a pretty common sound shift, and is exactly what happened here... in other words, hachi is from Middle Chinese pæt which became bā in Mandarin. (this is why there's an f syllable in the h row, and why voice marks on letters in the h row result in a b sound etc etc sound shifts will mess up your previously rational syllabary)
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby Ser » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:00 pm

devilyoudont wrote:
Ser wrote:- hachi hachi ichi. '8 8 1'. Hmm, okay, maybe she does use native numbers for the first two positions for some weird reason.

P-like sound -> F-like sound -> H-like sound is a pretty common sound shift, and is exactly what happened here... in other words, hachi is from Middle Chinese pæt which became bā in Mandarin. (this is why there's an f syllable in the h row, and why voice marks on letters in the h row result in a b sound etc etc sound shifts will mess up your previously rational syllabary)

Oh!!! Like, how 日本 'Japan' (Middle Chinese nyit入puon上) ended up as Nihon in Japanese (or Nippon). So hachi was a Chinese number after all. What tarvos said above makes sense now; it's just the number 4 that's different.
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Re: Intuitive Grasp of Grammar / Puberty of the Tongue

Postby aaleks » Tue Jun 02, 2020 6:26 pm

eido wrote:However, I still remain at age 12 when it comes to making beautiful Spanish in its written form.

  • Does anyone experience "puberty of the skills"? This is where you can do a few skills well, but others... nah.
  • Might the solution be to just practice and practice until you get it? Or how far down does the iceberg go into the water with this idea?
  • Are you fine with not being a completely well-rounded knower of a certain language? Why might that be? I'm not judging, I'm just ever the curious pup.
  • If you overcame my problem, what did you do to beat it down? How did you realize you didn't write fluidly?


My passive skills are way above my active ones. When I just started "working" on my writing the gap was even bigger. I put the word "working" in the quotation marks because everything I did back then was posting on a forum for English learners/teachers and then on this one.

I think practicing more might be the solution but I'd say that reading might help too. When I was a teen reading helped me improve my writing skills in my native language. Now reading books in English has a positive effect on my English writing as well.

I'm not fine with my level of my strongest foreign langauge - English, but sometime I think that I just need to get used to the thought that my English, or any other of my three TLs, wil never be perfect and be fine with it.

I don't know if I've overcome your problem - I don't speak Spanich so I can't judge your command of the language. What I'm doing so far to overcome a similar problem is noticing what expressions native speakers of my TL use when they speak about this or that topic.
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