How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jul 01, 2022 2:57 pm

Classes are for a specific purpose. They don't sit in contradistinction to self-study in a specific way, tailored to one's needs. A view seems to be taken that classes are supposed to do a certain thing, and then when those things don't happen the classes are deemed to have failed. Leading to the conclusion: classes don't work.

Maybe some classes are bad or not enough; I know after all that there is a big difference between the Spanish courses at the Volksuniversiteit as compared to Instituto Cervantes. Depends who is taking which class. The former will help you work out some holiday Spanish if you're willing to put in some effort at home to fill in the gaps. The latter will help you to speak Spanish properly; partly, though not only, because all the tutors are Spanish and speak Spanish to you all the time and the library staff speak Spanish to you...etc. Also the former tends to be not very intensive, whereas the latter is. In terms of language production you really do need to be put on the spot to get that kick in the rear, and nothing else quite works as well. At least not as rapidly.

I find that the better the student is at working alone (and people here are pretty much invested in their own learning) they are even better in good classes. You also have to be aware of what you're seeking from classes. I deliberately didn't go to low-impact classes for either Dutch or German. I didn't want 2 evenings a week and a bit of homework. It's not enough. It's okay for a relaxed hobby, but if you need to learn the language for practical reasons you need to speed things up and that means more time and more effort. It has to become a passion, at least for a little while. So classes become a tool. As I've said before I chose the government fast-track programme because they turn out speakers pretty fast, to the point where you have the tools to improve on your own.

In other scenarios one might not need that much intensity, or even have time for it. Though this means the results might be somewhat slower and you don't have the luxury of instant correction and instant models of pronunciation and fixed phrases to mimic and acquire. I don't say that self-study is worse or the wrong method. It complements classes and vice-versa. Someone studying well on their own can make leaps with well-focused classes.

Caromarlyse, sorry for knocking your post off the last visible page!!
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:41 pm

On motivation: I spent my twenties and thirties thinking about getting back into languages, and occasionally dabbling in various things. My forties? I’m hellbent on doing French every single day. The difference? Well my career is finally sorted, and so is my romantic life. Things are way more stable. That helps. But also kids and work and the house take up nearly all my bandwidth, and French is the one thing that’s just for *me*. It’s an outlet that I didn’t desperately need when I was younger. I crave it in a way I didn’t when I had way more free time.
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Lawyer&Mom » Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:42 pm

thevagrant88 wrote:
rdearman wrote:If you like that then you'll love https://languagetool.org/


Image


This! 1000x this!
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Le Baron » Fri Jul 01, 2022 3:48 pm

Lawyer&Mom wrote:On motivation: I spent my twenties and thirties thinking about getting back into languages, and occasionally dabbling in various things. My forties? I’m hellbent on doing French every single day. The difference? Well my career is finally sorted, and so is my romantic life. Things are way more stable. That helps. But also kids and work and the house take up nearly all my bandwidth, and French is the one thing that’s just for *me*. It’s an outlet that I didn’t desperately need when I was younger. I crave it in a way I didn’t when I had way more free time.

I recognise this for myself and it's a strange thing to have less time (time taken up by other concerns), but that it causes one to really double down on whatever one has for oneself. When I recovered playing the piano some years ago after letting it slide, I'd already put a fixed work/life routine in place, so it was about slotting things into available space. I got up in the morning and played the piano. Then did so again in the early evening. It's a nice release and builds up over time. In younger days I had focus and time dragged away and so couldn't manage it as well.
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Cavesa » Sat Jul 02, 2022 11:40 am

galaxyrocker wrote:
Cavesa wrote:It's interesting, how people mentioned this kind of motivation. I have never experienced it. Nearly all the language classes I've ever attended were simply too slow paced and easy going to give any "kick-in-the-butt" and the only exception was instead a "wish-for-death" kind of kicking. :-D


For my school classes (so, Irish), it was a combination of two things: (1) I needed to do well for a grade and


Ah, that is an interesting bit. People in general assume, or even have the experience, that efforts correlate with grades.

That's not my experience in the language classes at all (and the element is missing in the classes in private language schools). Either the classes were so hypereasy that there was no effort required from me (and any effort just lead to more boredom in class and even bad reactions from classmates), or the grades weren't affected by my efforts at all.

The one not easy class was not just normally hard, that was a learning tragedy with a psychopath teacher, and no amount of effort could have affected the grades. And from what I observe, this is actually not that rare. Teachers failing to communicate their expectations, or just testing other stuff than their teach, teaching badly, or letting students suffer from the teacher's mental issues. That's extremely common.

That's why it still surprises me, even after twenty years of observing this, that so many people don't do better on their own. As I've always seen it, the teacher is usually the biggest obstacle in learning. So many learners realize the problems, but they somehow fail to fully profit from the opportunity, once they get rid of this main obstacle.

(2) I had teachers willing to go the extra mile. They saw I was interested, and would meet with me outside of class to go quicker than the class.


That's an excellent point! And you were very lucky! I had a teacher, who tried this, but it was still very hard in the normal classroom setting of 15 students, and I couldn't expect to get extra classes.

The main issue: We are talking not just about schools with grades and diplomas. Any tutor in one on one setting is supposed to do exactly this. Individual care, helping you progress efficiently. But in reality, I don't really see that great progress in people relying primarily on tutoring. And I wasn't doing too well, back when I was relying on it too (ages ago).

My last two years at uni, I literally met with my professor multiple times a week outside of class just to speak Irish, and to learn extra stuff she thought I'd be interested in. At one point, she'd basically become like a second mom, and a few of us would even meet up with her and her husband for an Irish-speaking breakfast on the weekends. She offered to let me stay at her house once if I needed to when I was doing an exam. My first teacher was the same way, though less as I was still a beginner. But we'd meet during office hours regularly, and I'd learn stuff we hadn't covered in class yet. Still only got an A- instead of an A 'cause I was too lazy to memorise vocabulary lol.


This is an excellent and exceptional example! I wonder, whether the experience was affected by the fact this was Irish. An endangered language with a special place in the hearts of the Irish people, and with people devoting their lives to teaching it probably having too few opportunities to really share their passion with a student like you.

I sort of struggle imagining the same level of engagement in any more massively popular language.

This sort of teachers should be paid much more. So much extra work, so much energy, so much value!


As for immersion schools, they've been the best precisely because they're fast paced and pretty much all day.

Are they the best? And are they fast paced? Unfortunately, my experience was the opposite. Slow pace the whole day, the whole week.


The ones I've done in Ireland force you to keep up, and it's sink or swim in a lot of ways. I've loved this, and was using the language literally 6-8 hours a day just in structured classes. Same with the one in France, though it was 4 hours a day 2 days and 7 three days a week, with less interaction on the weekend. And then it was slower paced than me as I was in a class that was below my level, but I was still able to get practice and solidify my understanding. In Spain, class was slightly above my level and total immersion, so it forced me, again, to work at it and that's why I enjoyed it so much. It was great, not so much the one I did in Mexico, though I did enjoy it (it was more conversational focused, whereas I was wanting more grammar structure)


You are probably more capable than me of adapting yourself to the situation. My most typical experience was in Berlin, and the slow pace managed to totally discourage me.

I wonder why it is so. And what is missing in the self-study routine of people that find the classes more motivating. I personally find participation in challenges on the forum to be extremely good as motivation. Anything quantifyable is great as well.


For me it's accountability. When I'm paying for an immersion course or a class, I have to put in the effort or it's a waste in my opinion. That helps motivate me a lot, but I also really enjoy the more structured layout of courses and that a teacher provides. It's hard to get that from textbooks alone, which is thus why I've failed even using textbooks for plenty of languages.


That's one of the reasons, why I like the language exams so much. Accountability concerning my results. A rather high level of objectivity. I have to put in the effort, or the investment will have been wasted.

Again, we have a different experience with teachers. I have a sample of like 20 teachers that I was subjected to myself, and another dozen were teaching people around me and I (occassionally or systematically) tutored and tried to fix the mess. Most teachers, from my experience, are incapable of sticking to a clear structure. They try to be creative, and it ends up with a ton of copies from various resources, no clear explanation of the expectations, lots of things left not taught properly, lots of gaps. If they just stuck to a textbook, it would be better.

Perhaps a lot of struggling self teaching learners would do better, if they picked a language exam to hold them accountable too.


As I see the same issue recurring so often, I simply wonder what we can do better as a community to support each other in self teaching. Not sure. We have failed various study groups projects. Logs are working really well for some people, not that much for others. Challenges are awesome. Hard to think of something more, but it would be definitely worth it to come up with some new ideas.


This is where it gets hard because it's so different for everyone. Not everyone excelled in the classes like I did; I saw those who struggled with it both in Spain and in France when I was doing them. And in America, where people cared about the grade but never going above and beyond. And in the immersion courses in Ireland (and even Spain/France) where people just kinda half-assed it and treated it like a holiday. I don't really know how it can be changed, as we're all different.


Well, I think we are already doing quite a lot. The logs seem to be working for a lot of people. It is not a 100% miracle, but it is a wonderful accountability thing. The challenges work, I think 6wc is mostly a success, but perhaps we could hype it up a bit more, and cheer for each other with even more effort, especially in the second half :-D
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby galaxyrocker » Sat Jul 02, 2022 11:56 am

Cavesa wrote:Ah, that is an interesting bit. People in general assume, or even have the experience, that efforts correlate with grades.

That's not my experience in the language classes at all (and the element is missing in the classes in private language schools). Either the classes were so hypereasy that there was no effort required from me (and any effort just lead to more boredom in class and even bad reactions from classmates), or the grades weren't affected by my efforts at all.


I say this probably depends on the school, class and even teacher. My Irish courses were certainly dependent upon effort, and the Spanish one even moreso, with one huge caveat. That caveat being that a lot of people took basic Spanish despite having a decent level. My uni required three semester of it and you did a placement test to see where you started. A lot of people purposefully failed the placement test so they could get into a lower level and therefore get a better grade (usually the pre-X programme students were the worst about this, as so much of their post-graduate admissions depended on GPA; can't blame them really for playing the system). But for the rest of us it made it much more difficult. For Spanish, to get an A you needed a 96 because of this. I did the class Pass/Fail so didn't care that much, but I did see the effort it led others to putting in to it.


The main issue: We are talking not just about schools with grades and diplomas. Any tutor in one on one setting is supposed to do exactly this. Individual care, helping you progress efficiently. But in reality, I don't really see that great progress in people relying primarily on tutoring. And I wasn't doing too well, back when I was relying on it too (ages ago).



This is an excellent and exceptional example! I wonder, whether the experience was affected by the fact this was Irish. An endangered language with a special place in the hearts of the Irish people, and with people devoting their lives to teaching it probably having too few opportunities to really share their passion with a student like you.

I sort of struggle imagining the same level of engagement in any more massively popular language.

This sort of teachers should be paid much more. So much extra work, so much energy, so much value!


My Spanish teacher was willing, but only during office hours. It was mostly because she didn't have as much time, being a PhD student at the same time. I think that's more what allowed the Irish teachers to engage with us like that (though of course having people deeply interested in Irish helped motivate them) -- they were there just to teach, not to do research. I absolutely agree they should be paid more -- this teacher won the university's teaching award (nominated by students) at least twice just while I was there (so 2/4 years, not bad!)





As for immersion schools, they've been the best precisely because they're fast paced and pretty much all day.

Are they the best? And are they fast paced? Unfortunately, my experience was the opposite. Slow pace the whole day, the whole week.



You are probably more capable than me of adapting yourself to the situation. My most typical experience was in Berlin, and the slow pace managed to totally discourage me.


That is unfortunate. As I've said, the ones in Ireland, at least at the advanced levels are sink or swim. The first one I did, I was put in the most advanced level and wasn't able to handle it at all. The second year I went back it was better, but it was still like "Hey, we're going to cover basically the entire C1 diploma (not test, but diploma, which I've been told is a bit easier) in a month". This is a normally two-year part-time programme, and we went through it in a month, 8 hours a day 5 days a week (well, four hours on Wednesday and Saturday).

The one in France was slower for me because of mixed levels of students, but it was still fast enough paced that most of them were struggling with it and remembering everything we covered grammar-wise in a given week. I enjoyed it enough, though. Same with the one in Spain. So maybe I've just lucked out with schools/teachers I've had.



That's one of the reasons, why I like the language exams so much. Accountability concerning my results. A rather high level of objectivity. I have to put in the effort, or the investment will have been wasted.


Same, actually, even though I don't take them often (nor do I really aim for them because I'm so inconsistent on my own). But it is good accountability and, with books like the CLE series and Édito you can create good structure.

Again, we have a different experience with teachers. I have a sample of like 20 teachers that I was subjected to myself, and another dozen were teaching people around me and I (occassionally or systematically) tutored and tried to fix the mess. Most teachers, from my experience, are incapable of sticking to a clear structure. They try to be creative, and it ends up with a ton of copies from various resources, no clear explanation of the expectations, lots of things left not taught properly, lots of gaps. If they just stuck to a textbook, it would be better.

Perhaps a lot of struggling self teaching learners would do better, if they picked a language exam to hold them accountable too.


Yeah, I guess I've quite lucked out with my teachers, especially for Irish. This certainly wasn't the case in high school, where I first started French. She was a good teacher, but it was also high school. Whereas for Irish, I was much more motivated and the teacher was a native Gaeltacht-born and raised speaker.

I do think some self-learners would do better with an exam, but I also think the stress and lack of consistency would make it just anxiety-inducing for others (I'd probably fall somewhere between the two groups).



Well, I think we are already doing quite a lot. The logs seem to be working for a lot of people. It is not a 100% miracle, but it is a wonderful accountability thing. The challenges work, I think 6wc is mostly a success, but perhaps we could hype it up a bit more, and cheer for each other with even more effort, especially in the second half :-D


100% agree the stuff this forum is doing is amazing. Since I've restarted my log regularly, I've found myself doing more and feeling like I should do more, especially with Irish, where I've kinda let it languish since reaching that B2/C1 mark.
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Serpent » Sun Jul 03, 2022 1:25 pm

I reached (and passed) C1 in Finnish without taking a single class. I find Dialang reasonably good for estimating your level (just be realistic - can you produce the examples in the writing section?)
I did visit Finland every year, I had a friend correct my writing (but then she no longer had the time for that, and after doing lots of reading I noticed which parts sounded off).
My Spanish, Polish and Italian are also self-taught (I once attended a lecture on the Italian past tenses and that's it). But again I've been able to travel to the respective countries, and I've had a few opportunities to speak Spanish in Moscow, with Cristina for example. I overheard a Spanish class at my university once and found the strong accent shocking.

Aside from my formal education, my most recent classes were Portuguese and Belarusian, and both times I found myself lacking motivation and doing homework on the way to the class. I didn't see the point in doing the next lesson which we weren't going to start for a week or more. I took the Portuguese class mostly because I was anxious about the pronunciation (and specifically nasal vowels), but I didn't really get any useful explanations.
I had a similar issue with German which I took at the lyceum and university, both times from scratch.

I've obviously taken lots of English classes but many of them were more about exam preparation and/or learning the "fancy vocabulary" we were supposed to know.
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Le Baron » Sun Jul 03, 2022 2:22 pm

Serpent wrote:I took the Portuguese class mostly because I was anxious about the pronunciation (and specifically nasal vowels), but I didn't really get any useful explanations.

Did you specifically address it in the class? In the sense of directly asking the tutor about it?
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby zgriptsuroica » Sat Jul 09, 2022 12:49 pm

Le Baron wrote:Maybe some classes are bad or not enough; I know after all that there is a big difference between the Spanish courses at the Volksuniversiteit as compared to Instituto Cervantes. Depends who is taking which class. The former will help you work out some holiday Spanish if you're willing to put in some effort at home to fill in the gaps. The latter will help you to speak Spanish properly; partly, though not only, because all the tutors are Spanish and speak Spanish to you all the time and the library staff speak Spanish to you...etc. Also the former tends to be not very intensive, whereas the latter is. In terms of language production you really do need to be put on the spot to get that kick in the rear, and nothing else quite works as well. At least not as rapidly.


I would say that perhaps our perception of language courses is skewed by comparison to other classes, at least for learners in the US education system. My experience has been that the expectation just isn't that high compared to other classes. When I did pre-calc and calculus classes way back in my high school days, the expectation was that students ought to be able to jump into a university level course and keep up. In contrast, after 4 years of French courses, the final year of which was offered in partnership with a local college and considered university level course work equivalent to what you may take in your second year of a degree program, the expectations of the students abilities were non-existent. We read a grand total of one play and a single novel, both of which only happened in the final year. For students who opted for the regular senior level French class rather than the advanced version, I'm not sure they ever read a text longer than an excerpt from a newspaper article. Any films we watched still had English subtitles on, as it was assumed they would be too difficult for us to understand. I can't recall ever doing any sort of long form writing or analysis of the rare texts we did read.

Compared to the competency that might be expected in other subjects, I think the courses are often inadequate, yet students' expectations of what they might achieve in them haven't quite caught up. There could be great classes as an option outside of a private tutor setting, but we would collectively need to ramp up the standards we set for them and not treat them as a mere afterthought. I say all this, and my school was the "good" school in the area, which parents moved towns to get their kids inside the school district so they could get a better education. From what I've seen of university level courses here, the quality can vary pretty widely depending on the school, but the introductory courses students take to fulfill their second language requirements tend to have a really low standard aimed more at ticking a box than instilling even a bare minimum of competence in the students who take them.
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Re: How far have you gotten *all* by yourself?

Postby Le Baron » Sat Jul 09, 2022 3:49 pm

zgriptsuroica wrote:In contrast, after 4 years of French courses, the final year of which was offered in partnership with a local college and considered university level course work equivalent to what you may take in your second year of a degree program, the expectations of the students abilities were non-existent. We read a grand total of one play and a single novel, both of which only happened in the final year. For students who opted for the regular senior level French class rather than the advanced version, I'm not sure they ever read a text longer than an excerpt from a newspaper article. Any films we watched still had English subtitles on, as it was assumed they would be too difficult for us to understand. I can't recall ever doing any sort of long form writing or analysis of the rare texts we did read.

It's not a great improvement elsewhere either. What I'll relate was told to me by a friend of mine who grew up entirely in France until he was about 9-10 and then came here to NL (where he was born).

He told me he once plotted to follow a degree course in French, being slightly dishonest and underplaying his ability (though having a French first name was a clue). Note well though that he had a greater passive understanding ability than productive capacity, after having French somewhat displaced when he was thrown into the deep end at a Dutch school and practically converted to speaking Dutch. What you said above about "a grand total of one play and a single novel.." was also what he was told were the "goals". That and watching a film. Now this might have been 'per year' I don't know, but from how he told it this seemed to be the final year goal. Unfortunately he was unable to contain himself and said he'd already seen dozens of films, TV programmes and cartoons and read a lot of material. So that the intake person asked why he wanted to go through the course. The reason being official certification and a degree.

I only relate this because people in the US and UK often tend to lay into their own systems and think that elsewhere (usually western Europe) the official language degrees are somehow much more advanced for some reason. There are likely other factors at work though: not least the relative proximity of TL speakers; the willingness and requirement to fully immerse; a lot of work done outside classes; encouragement to use the language. I've never done a languages degree in my life so I don't know the details, but those I know who have done one or are currently doing one, it seems to be a very large part of their lives. So that whatever the goals of the degree I've seen their own bookshelves with foreign language literature and that we've deliberately been to the cinema to watch either French, German or Spanish or whatever films. So the work and input and interaction outside of the degree is complementary.

It might throw up the question: 'so what is the point of the classes then?' I suppose if you end up doing a degree like that you just do and it is what it is. Classes are good for many reasons: actual learning, motivation, contact, opportunities (for submitting writing etc), challenge. It depends on what the student is like. When I've been to classes I've met people who said the classes were useless, but since they weren't useless to me or some others how could this be true as an objective fact? A polish woman who said this to me also never did homework and said the language was ugly and boring. Which is not an ideal starting point. And there are those who think all they have to do is turn up and be fed 'knowledge' and that if they can't speak etc at the end of 4 months the course is a failure. I disagree with this. Only is everyone failed the course repeatedly would it be suspect.
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