You're doing it wrong

General discussion about learning languages
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aokoye
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby aokoye » Fri Mar 08, 2019 3:05 am

MacGyver wrote:Does it matter though? If someone thinks they are C1, but in reality they are B1, its not a big deal. I mean if they try to get a job that expects C1 level skills, they might be in for a shock, or they might come across as overly confident/arrogant compared to their actual language skills... but meh.

Or they might just not get the job, might not be able to obtain permanent residence to a country, might not be able to gain naturalized citizenship to a country, might not be able to matriculate into a college degree program - I could go on.

Yeah there are plenty of low stakes situations where thinking your language proficiency is higher than it is just isn't a big deal or has little to no consequences. There are also loads of high stakes situations where the consequences are major.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby StringerBell » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:27 am

David1917 wrote:It goes with the other things - thinking x number of hours = y level. We're not at the FSI, so their charts are irrelevant. Not all hours are created equal. If you want to count hours for the sake of counting hours, that's great. I'm doing it myself with the current 6WC.


Thanks for the explanation. It seems that you are equating two completely different things: (1) counting hours, and (2) expecting to be at a specific level after x hours.

David1917 wrote:Again, in the long term, I prefer task-based or achievement-based goals, and I think others will experience less discouragement to do the same.


I'm glad this works for you, but this has not worked for me. When I've set achievement-based goals, they have backfired spectacularly. When I set goals like this, I end up creating expectations about what I should be able to do at a certain point. When I start focusing on achieving skill-related goals in language learning I start putting pressure on myself, I get performance anxiety, and then I start hating the language. I have a lifetime of failure at language learning, so I have to tread lightly. I'm sure your advice works well for a lot of people, but it's a recipe for failure for me.

I do agree that expecting to be at x level after y hours is a good way to get disappointed. I just don't see what this has to do with counting hours.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby DaraghM » Fri Mar 08, 2019 11:26 am

After more than ten years learning languages independently, I think that I may have been doing it sub optimally. While my exact methods have changed over the years, the general theme has been working through various courses, before tackling native material. Over the years the courses have changed from all audio courses, such as Michel Thomas, Pentons, and Pimsleur, to courses like Teach Yourself and Assimil. Most of these courses don’t always use natural language structures and some contain mistakes. This lead me to use CEFR aligned courses as in MagyarOK, Édito, El Ventilador, Окно в Россию, and Hurra Po Polsku, as they’re entirely in the target language and used in classes.


The problem with most courses is they weigh production and practice, over listening and understanding. However, 50% of all communication is listening, with reading a mere 15%, and writing even lower. The situation is even worse is most language classes which are geared towards writing. If listening to natural native speech is so important, why have I practised it less than course listening, reading, learning vocabulary or grammar practice.

In the past couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with extensive listening to audio in languages I don’t know, such as German and Romanian via radio stations and podcasts. What I’ve discovered is that after a period of time you start decoding word boundaries and phrases, as well as parts of the orthography. Due to the international nature of news stories, you also have a lot of context cues. I thought I was original, but Kato Lomb used a similar technique using short wave radio back in the mid-20th century. The method seems less effective watching video, even though there is more context.

It’s made me wonder if child directed speech (CDS) is necessary for some aspects of first language acquisition. Some cultures don’t use CDS, and speak to children as they do adults. If this is the case, then the general concept of acquisition only occurring using graded input is probably wrong. We can learn from full native materials from the outset.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Cavesa » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:20 pm

My main language learning mistakes:

1.going to medschool. The inconsistency created by this nightmare has destroyed a lot in my life and damaged my langauges too. You cannot imagine how much I hate this. When I get the damn MD, I will rebuild my life, build a well paying career with languages, get my youth back, and never sacrifice myself for something not worth it again. I'll try to catch up on all those wasted years.

2.trusting teachers too much. Looking back at all those years of langauge learning, the times under the direct "guidance" of teachers have always been the slowest and least efficient ones. A group class is the worst way to learn the langugage. And one on one learning is not always that much better, too many teachers are simply not good at their jobs and blame the student for any unhappiness with the progress. No, even a teacher must accept being just one tool on the list and that their purpose is helping me achieve my goal. Not force me to fit in their usual schedule. Yes, I have profited from having some teachers, true. But even the good ones tend to have some huge weakness in their learning method, and the problem is not noticing it in time to compensate.

3.Too few CEFR tests. A few good opportunities in my life were missed, because I found them out too late to prepare, sit, and wait for the results of the appropriate exams. I should have been taking them just in case. Also not avoiding this challenge and taking even the lower level tests could have helped me with motivation to progress faster and to leave my comfort zone.

4.Switching the coursebooks and similar materials too much. Yes, I am a firm believer in using more than one. But using too many at once is a problem. And switching from a series to another series is a problem too, even though a smaller one. Consistency is important. I'd say three such resources at once ar the maximum, and at least one should be part of a series going through A1 to C1 (if such a series is available for the given language)
.............
My two cents to what was already said:
David1917 wrote:It's the most prevalent issue I see here, but the list was certainly not "in order of importance."

The issue I have is that it means nothing for practical goal-setting, it says nothing about your actual strengths/weaknesses, purpose for learning, or capabilities. The CEFR guidelines are vague enough in themselves such that the test varies across languages. Add in personal interpretation of the guidelines and the inherent lack of objectivity when it comes to self-assessment, and all of a sudden the code is totally meaningless.

...If you say "I'd like to be around B2 in French by the end of the year," well, you've told me nothing.


This is only true, if you've read just the vague generic level descriptions. Yes, having never seen any CEFR labeled resource and just reading the definitions on wikipedia (or as often quoted on this forum, no offence meant), of course you are gonna make mistakes and act on them.

But if you use https://www.laits.utexas.edu/fi/sites/l ... ropean.pdf which is a tool meant to be used for self assessment (a long list of things you can do at each level) and worked with CEFR labeled coursebooks, you are actually likely to assess yourself quite well. If you use an exhaustive resource like the Cervantes curriculum by level, available on their website for free, you can be even more precise and use it to fill some gaps, for example.

As I have experience with several language exams, have been using the resources using the scale, have been using the self-assessment checklist, and have heard people officially at various levels, I know almost perfeclty what people mean by "I'd like to be around B2 in French by the end of the year,". The problem here is your lack of knowledge, not the statement.

We could say that not enough knowledge about the scale is the problem, not the scale itself. Yes, it is not perfect, it doesn't cover everything. But it is much better than the alternatives.

David1917 wrote:I think the shortcut can be generally useful, especially when asking like "I'm maybe B1 is there a good book to get next?" But I think "I'm intermediate and completed XYZ course, is there a good book?" works just as well. For some reason I'm insanely pedantic about using these test scores, and find that they refer to specific achievements set by specific institutions under (less specific) guidelines, and while I'm not about to outright accuse anyone of being fraudulent by putting an un-tested CEFR level in their profile, I'm also like, why not just say intermediate....?

And like you said, it also doesn't account for different modalities to give an untested CEFR level. If you take a B2 test, it means you have all four modalities covered at least at that level. If you've read and understood Voltaire in the original but never spoken to a French person, then while you've accomplished a great intellectual feat commensurate with a C2 level, you'd probably be lucky to pass an A1.


Now you've said it yourself! You've written good reasons to use the CEFR, while trying to do the opposite.

The "I'm intermediate and completed XYZ course, is there a good book?" problem is one of the biggest reasons to have the CEFR level written on them! Yes, the switch will still not be entirely seamless, each book will be better at something and worse at something else. But choosing from several books with a label B2 is a huge improvement. Before, it used to be a huge challenge: "but this intermediate book is almost the same, and the advanced one too advanced" or "This course series ends with volume 3. With which volume of an entirely different series should I continue?"

If you are "insanely pedantic", welcome the fact many people are taking the tests and telling you exactly the minimum level of each of their skills. How could someone pedantic prefer the stupid term "intermediate", which can mean anything from A2 to B2, with tons of variables?

It is not fraudulent, that is highly offensive to say without having a good reason to believe someone has been lying on purpose (yes, there are such people, but it is not normal around here). Yes, people can be mistaken (just like they can falsely believe to be "intermediate", "fluent", "basic", "conversational" or any other term). But they are usually not frauds. The CEFR is meant for self assessment too!

David1917 wrote:People say that, but every CEFR rating means something different to someone else. That's my point. The guidelines are vague. The test for each language is different because of that problem.

The test for each language is different, because it is a different langauge :-D It's that simple.
If you look at the long self assessment list I've posted a link to, you will see there are common definitions to a lot of stuff. If you have a look in a resource like that hyper detailed list by Cervantes, you'll notice that the curriculum for each language is actually well thought out.

Yes, CEFR cannot cover some types of skills and there are some problems with the exam. But what you say is simply not true.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Cainntear » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:58 pm

DaraghM wrote:This lead me to use CEFR aligned courses as in MagyarOK, Édito, El Ventilador, Окно в Россию, and Hurra Po Polsku, as they’re entirely in the target language and used in classes.

Minor nitpick, but target-language-only and CEFR-aligned are independent. You mentioned Assimil and TY, and both of those sell themselves as aligned to CEFR levels.

The problem with most courses is they weigh production and practice, over listening and understanding. However, 50% of all communication is listening, with reading a mere 15%, and writing even lower. The situation is even worse is most language classes which are geared towards writing. If listening to natural native speech is so important, why have I practised it less than course listening, reading, learning vocabulary or grammar practice.

Do you drive? I'm sure there's plenty of stuff you did while you were learning that you don't do now -- vocalising instructions, for example. Plenty of instructors will turn "mirror... signal... manoeuvre" into a spoken mantra during lessons, but you're not expected to say it every single time you drive as a competent driver.

My point is that there's no reason to assume that what you do as a learner has to match what you do as an expert user.

The philosophy behind a production-heavy teaching/learning methodology is that the process of producing the language helps the learner reorganise the information and construct knowledge and skills.

I'm in that camp, because complete comprehension of a message does not require processing of all language variables -- notice how many learners of English drop third-person-singular-present S from verbs. They hear it all the time, but they don't do it.

Note that I am not saying your conclusion is wrong, I'm saying I think it's wrong, and I'm saying that your argument is built on an unsafe assumption (that you should do as a learner what an expert user does).
It’s made me wonder if child directed speech (CDS) is necessary for some aspects of first language acquisition. Some cultures don’t use CDS, and speak to children as they do adults. If this is the case, then the general concept of acquisition only occurring using graded input is probably wrong. We can learn from full native materials from the outset.

Again, this argument is built on an unsafe assumption -- this time that children's learning process is a good model for adults' learning.

Clearly, the process is not identical as a child in a society without CDS is going to be learning basically full-time for several years before any learning outcomes are achieved, and that's clearly not what you're proposing for adults.

Further, the neurological processes involved in infant learning and adult learning are extremely different. I'm not saying that adults are necessarily less neuroplastic than infants, but that they're differently neuroplastic. Being differently neuroplastic does not necessarily imply that a different learning process is required, but it does meant that we cannot assume by default that the learning processes are appropriate for both.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby David1917 » Fri Mar 08, 2019 8:48 pm

StringerBell wrote:I do agree that expecting to be at x level after y hours is a good way to get disappointed. I just don't see what this has to do with counting hours.


Again, in combination with the other issues, and under the pretext that all hours are created equal. I think as a tool for personal time management and record-keeping, sure, it’s fun. But there are whole threads dedicated to the FSI charts and how many years is that at x hours per day and so on. Too much theorizing on a faulty premise.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby sporedandroid » Sat Mar 09, 2019 12:38 am

I guess the biggest problem is people assuming everyone is the same, so everything that works for one person must work for another.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby aokoye » Sat Mar 09, 2019 5:04 am

sporedandroid wrote:I guess the biggest problem is people assuming everyone is the same, so everything that works for one person must work for another.

This should be shouted from rooftops.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby David1917 » Sat Mar 09, 2019 4:15 pm

I don't want to go too deep into discussing our disagreements on techniques any further because I feel as though the premise of my post has been missed. I was decidedly not criticizing the successful implementation of tracking hours, the adherence to CEFR charts to gauge your own progress or to prepare for an exam. The OP posed a question, mostly directed at zenmonkey, but since this is an open forum and it was a brand new topic, to which I tried my best to reply in two parts. One was a critique on other practices I've noticed that might be what are holding some other people back, the way he says he was held back by the Fluent in 3 Months ploy. The second were some of my own failings. So, while nowhere did I say "if you count hours you're wasting your time dummy," I said, "expecting x level in y hours is just a re-wording of 'fluent in 3 months' and is source for similar frustration." Using vague CEFR levels instead of "fluent" seems to be just as difficult because without sitting the test, people have no idea what they have and haven't achieved.

Again, if you are satisfied with what you're doing, my post was not for you. If you have made a post or felt frustrated that you have not reached [CEFR Level] after doing X hours like somebody else says they did, then I offer my advice.

Cavesa wrote:
David1917 wrote:
...If you say "I'd like to be around B2 in French by the end of the year," well, you've told me nothing.


...If you use an exhaustive resource like the Cervantes curriculum by level, available on their website for free, you can be even more precise and use it to fill some gaps, for example.

As I have experience with several language exams, have been using the resources using the scale, have been using the self-assessment checklist, and have heard people officially at various levels, I know almost perfeclty what people mean by "I'd like to be around B2 in French by the end of the year,". The problem here is your lack of knowledge, not the statement.

We could say that not enough knowledge about the scale is the problem, not the scale itself. Yes, it is not perfect, it doesn't cover everything. But it is much better than the alternatives.


It's not just my lack of knowledge, it's an assumed lack of knowledge on someone posing the question, because no matter how many details you learn about the CEFR Scale, it is impossible to be objective with oneself, and without sitting the test you do not know what "B1" feels like. I am a self-described "pedant" in that I think it would be easier to only use the scale if you've sat the test, thus preserving the integrity of the term.
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Re: You're doing it wrong

Postby Serpent » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:34 pm

David1917 wrote:If you've read and understood Voltaire in the original but never spoken to a French person, then while you've accomplished a great intellectual feat commensurate with a C2 level, you'd probably be lucky to pass an A1.
I don't think it's possible to have a C2 comprehension and zero production. Not even for a Spaniard learning Portuguese or vice versa.
Cavesa wrote:If you look at the long self assessment list I've posted a link to, you will see there are common definitions to a lot of stuff. If you have a look in a resource like that hyper detailed list by Cervantes, you'll notice that the curriculum for each language is actually well thought out.
This.
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