Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

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Kraut
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Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Kraut » Wed Aug 07, 2019 3:55 pm

I realized that most things work

https://blog.thelinguist.com/language-learning-method

"...Some people thought that the Gold List was a good idea and some people thought it wasn’t a good idea and some people said yeah, I’ve been doing it and, basically, it works. Basically, something clicked in my brain and I realized that most things work. Anki works, SuperMemo works, these flashcard SRS systems work. Probably, Benny’s ‘go out and walk around and talk to people’ works, at least for him some of the time. I don’t know.
Everything can work if you enjoy doing it, but there’s no point in telling someone who doesn’t like to do flashcards that he should do flashcards because it works. Any evaluation of how well things work is necessarily subjective. We think it works because we do it and we’re improving, so it must work. Does it work better than something else? ..."
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby David1917 » Wed Aug 07, 2019 4:23 pm

Absolutely true. The method that you enjoy and can stick to is the one that will "work" - which in itself is only relative to your individual goals.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Hashimi » Wed Aug 07, 2019 5:20 pm

I frequent some forums where people are very serious about language learning techniques. There are a number of issues that keep coming up, that people are divided over. Things like:

Should I study English-to-Target Language, or just Target Language-to-English?
Should I even study individual words at all? Or go strictly for full sentences?
Should I read sentences aloud from the beginning, or wait until I'm better at pronunciation?
With Chinese characters, should I use mnemonics or brute force?
Should I start speaking immediately, or put it off til I'm already good at listening?
Should I study slang and regional dialect, or just stick to the standards?
Should I concentrate on grammar rules, or try to "learn by osmosis"?

And many other issues. Both sides of any issue can present compelling arguments. The Golden Rule of Language Learning: Absolutely any method of language learning, as long as it includes REGULAR EXPOSURE to the target language, will eventually yield fluency if followed faithfully enough.

Everything but exposure is extra. The trick to efficient language learning is designing all these extras so that they speed up the process. But however inefficient they may be, exposure alone will eventually yield fluency.

Well, maybe one another thing is needed... ATTITUDE

I guess a good attitude is also necessary. I admit that if someone is actively trying not to learn a language, they can succeed in not learning it, even with regular exposure.

What's the point of the Rule? It lets us stop pouring energy into fighting over the right language program, and pour that energy into the language instead. For someone who just wants to learn one extra language, it's probably better to just find a "good enough" method and pour energy there. To find the "best" method (it probably varies from person to person), would take more time and energy than actually learning the language.

Some methods of language learning may be better or worse than others, but there is no "wrong" method, as long as there's regular exposure to the language. It's like the saying goes, "most of success is just showing up".
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby lusan » Wed Aug 07, 2019 10:27 pm

Kraut wrote: as long as there's regular exposure to the language. It's like the saying goes, "most of success is just showing up".


Totally agree.... but let us not forget that there are 4 different skills.... and some methods do not participate in" the showing up" thing!
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby sporedandroid » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:24 am

I just do whatever is least painful for me. Duolingo is fairly painful for me, but it’s fun for other people. Coursebooks are fairly painful for me. At one point brute forcing words from anki decks was the least painful. It was still pretty painful, but less painful than other options I’ve tried. Right now subs2srs and clozemaster are the least painful. Maybe I’d make better progress with other methods. I’m still making progress in my goals with subs2srs. I’m mainly noticing improvement in my listening comprehension and vocabulary. I can read short sentences with familiar vocabulary on clozemaster, but can’t read books yet. I struggle with children’s shows or books because they use a lot of vocabulary that isn’t taught to adult beginners.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby AnthonyLauder » Thu Aug 08, 2019 7:37 am

It is curious that he wrote the blog post this week, but that it links to own video from seven years ago, upon which the blog post is based. So, the revelation that "having fun" is paramount is clearly not new to him.

This approach reminded me of Lýdia Machová who has become quite well known in recent years for mentoring a great many people in how to have fun while language learning. She explains the general idea in her TED talk here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_XVt5rdpFY
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Iversen » Thu Aug 08, 2019 9:20 am

I agree that most things may work - but not everything is going to work for everyone, and some things will work less well than others for a given person. We have a couple of times discussed learner types here and at HTLAL, and my original position was that they probably reflected something very fundamental, maybe even inborn, but (not least under the influence of Cainntear) I have moved to a position where they more likely are shaped during the life of a given learner. However I have from the beginning known that the standard systems have faults, because I knew that some of the answers to questions about a certain dimension in my own case weren't concentrated in one specific spot, but rather in two blobs along the scale line in the system. When that happens you know that something is wrong. There is actually a mathematical technique that can be used to clear up such problems, namely factor analysis, but I doubt that this technique has been applied to any of the most widespread systems on the market.

In spite of such misgivings I do think that the success you will have with specific techniques to a large extent can be traced back to your general personality and your specific skills in certain key areas. The intermediary may be your attitude: if you hate a certain technique then you probably won't benefit from it - as in my case with roleplay. But the fundamental characteristic can still be something more fundamental like your attitude to enforced histronics and your degree of intro/extrovertness.

In one case I have even tried to measure my own success with different methods, namely in the question of wordlists. It wasn't a scientific test, but as close as you can do the thing with only yourself as testperson and judge (i.e. the same situation as Ebbinghaus when he researched forgetting by forgetting things himself).

I was at an early stage of learning Serbian, and I had a dictionary with around 15.000 Serbian headwords. I made three types of wordlists, one where the list just was written down and put aside, one where I used the Goldlist system and one where I used my own three-column layout. I supplemented this with a 'rolling' test where I measured my recall on words from the part of the dictionary where I had used my own system with the part that hadn't been through the machine yet. And my results were quite clear: I knew or was able to guess the meaning of roughly a third of the words from the 'unbetrotten' part of the dictionary, so that would be my base line. With the do-nothing list and the gold list I stayed at that level, but with my own system I raised the percentage to roughly two thirds of the words - and that includes words that I hadn't even used in my lists. So for me the goldlists had no effect at all. However both Kauffman and Lýdia M have apparently tried the goldlist system with good results - so why didn't it work for me? Well, point one: I have my own system which I was trained in using, point two: even with the best will of the world I couldn't see why the goldlist system should work. So I was possibly the worst possible testee for the experiment - but at least I proved to myself that I have good reason to continue doing my three-column wordlists.

Let's take another example: Benny Lewis' "speak from day one" approach. OK, you find a native speaker or two, and you say something and they respond - as patiently as patient can be. So you must now be able to do a quick analysis: "what the heck did that alien attempt to say?" ----> "possibly YYYY" ---> "what's the structure of the phrase(s)?" ---> "do I recognize ANY of the words" ---> "could it mean XXXX?". And having reached that point you must be able to remember that YYYY quite possibly could mean XXXX - and not be bothered about the possibility that it actually meant ZZZZ or WQYT or something beyond your imagination.

Why don't I use that method? Point one: I rarely meet foreigners when I'm at home, and I don't like to use things like Skype, and I certainly don't want to PAY people to speak to me. 2) I don't like to speak to people unless I'm reasonably confident that I understand what they say, 3) I am not terribly good at remembering things I just hear once - I need repetitions ASAP and I need to write things down before I forget them. So for me the solution is first to study the written language and mainly use speech passively until I have reached a level where I can think in the new language. But others who are more sociable and who can remember things they just hear once should definitely try the 'speak from day one' strategy - it may work for them.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby sporedandroid » Thu Aug 08, 2019 4:12 pm

Iversen wrote:
Why don't I use that method? Point one: I rarely meet foreigners when I'm at home, and I don't like to use things like Skype, and I certainly don't want to PAY people to speak to me. 2) I don't like to speak to people unless I'm reasonably confident that I understand what they say, 3) I am not terribly good at remembering things I just hear once - I need repetitions ASAP and I need to write things down before I forget them. So for me the solution is first to study the written language and mainly use speech passively until I have reached a level where I can think in the new language. But others who are more sociable and who can remember things they just hear once should definitely try the 'speak from day one' strategy - it may work for them.

Yeah, I can’t learn from seeing things once either. This is why I haven’t had luck with kid’s shows either. They may use context to introduce new vocabulary, but that doesn’t really work for me.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Cainntear » Fri Aug 09, 2019 8:58 am

Hashimi wrote:And many other issues. Both sides of any issue can present compelling arguments. The Golden Rule of Language Learning: Absolutely any method of language learning, as long as it includes REGULAR EXPOSURE to the target language, will eventually yield fluency if followed faithfully enough.

Reductio ad absurdum: reading Spot's Birthday Party every night as a method of learning English.

It's patently obvious that this won't work as there's a whole lot missing.

It's less immediately obvious that Duolingo won't work as it's less immediately obvious how much is missing, but yet it's still fairly obvious that Duolingo alone won't get you to fluency.

So we now have to refine the hypothesis to:
"Absolutely any complete method of language learning will eventually yield fluency if followed faithfully enough."

...which in effect brings us back to square one, as we're left criticising any method we don't like as "not complete therefore no good" instead of just "no good".

The problem with the whole "any method works" is that successful learners generally do things differently from how the method sets it out.

For example, in high school, I first thought I was bad at French, cos I was slow at recalling my conjugations of etre and avoir. But then I managed to perceive that the time my classmates took to respond was proportional to how far down the order of recitation they were -- je was quickest, then tu, etc etc until ils/elles. I knew well enough even by that age that memorisation was different from really "learning" something, and realised the problem was the teaching. A few years later I realised that I was making that same mistake with vocabulary -- memorising our weekly lists. Instead, I stopped rereading and memorising and still got 10/10 in weekly vocab tests.

So while I learned loads during high school and felt like fluency (with my limited range) came almost magically when I started getting opportunities to learn it, for the majority of my classmates, no amount of that same class method would ever lead to fluency.

I've said it very often, and I'll say it again:
I believe that the differences we see in learning activities are superficial and superfluous to learning, and that what goes on in the heads of successful learners is far more similar than you'd imagine.

Consider goldlists.
Clearly this is an adaptation of wordlists that simply mandates and enforces not memorising.

And then look at Duolingo.
Despite having a database of millions of sentences, you keep seeing the same ones again and again. I recall someone asking about this on the forums or the blog, and von Ahn responding that people were more successful and more likely to keep going when they were presented with the same sentences repeatedly than a wider variety of sentences... so Duolingo is built in a way that actively encourages and rewards memorisation. That's a problem.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Cainntear » Fri Aug 09, 2019 9:19 am

Iversen wrote:In spite of such misgivings I do think that the success you will have with specific techniques to a large extent can be traced back to your general personality and your specific skills in certain key areas. The intermediary may be your attitude: if you hate a certain technique then you probably won't benefit from it - as in my case with roleplay. But the fundamental characteristic can still be something more fundamental like your attitude to enforced histronics and your degree of intro/extrovertness.

One of the things that bugs me in education is how educationalists completely fail to understand the consequences of their own research.

I believe it's starting to go out of fashion now, but the big idea for most of this century was "learning objectives" or "lesson goals" -- tell students what they're going to learn because research somewhere along the line pointed out that people who didn't see the point of what they were doing were less likely to learn. Of course, it's fairly obvious, but it's good research points it out, and I think that's a bigger issue than general "hate" for a technique -- it's a matter of not seeing the point.

Certain language activities can leave my head screaming out "I DON'T WANT TO SAY THAT" -- this can be when I'm asked to answer in sentences (WHO TALKS LIKE THAT???), when I'm asked to say "I am a woman" (I AM A MAN!!) or even worse "I am English" (not because I dislike English people, but there's a whole assertion of identity thing what with the tendency some people have to call the whole UK "England").

The reason "learning objectives" don't work is because it's a culture of telling people that calling themselves a woman or a nationality that they are not will help them to learn grammar, rather than simply developing activities that the brain doesn't actively resist engaging with.

Personally, I believe real language learning comes from saying something and meaning it, rather than saying something mechanically for intellectual purposes. I don't think anyone disagrees with me there. Role-playing is supposed to be about meaning it, and the reason it fails for a lot of people is that they don't feel like they mean it.

With the do-nothing list and the gold list I stayed at that level, but with my own system I raised the percentage to roughly two thirds of the words - and that includes words that I hadn't even used in my lists. So for me the goldlists had no effect at all.

You've always talked about how you use your lists in an active way; as I say above, the goal of goldlists is to prevent passive memorisation. As that's not a problem you have, it's not a solution you need.

Let's take another example: Benny Lewis' "speak from day one" approach. […] But others who are more sociable and who can remember things they just hear once should definitely try the 'speak from day one' strategy - it may work for them.

Except that that isn't Benny's approach. Last I checked, he worked through a stack of learners resources before getting on a plane, then used all the input to reinforce that bank of half-learned half-remembered knowledge in his head.

It's like he takes intensive, incomplete swimming lessons the jumps into the middle of the ocean, and finds it all starts to click.
Then he tells people the key to learning to swim is to jump into the middle of the ocean without lessons. "But you took lessons." "Ah, but that's not the important part."

>sigh<
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