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

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hp230
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby hp230 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 10:22 am

This reminds me of Michael Erard's book: "Babel no more", where he tracked down hyper-polyglots from all over the world throughout ancient and modern history, and studied how people can learn and master many languages: From university linguists to tribes in Africa meeting around water sources and exchanging in their different tongues, the methods vary radically, yet the result is the same, people are able to learn and communicate in the end.
As mentioned, regular exposure to the target language with the will to learn is the magic formula to do it, the method(s) used is only a detail in the end.
I think we are blessed nowadays having this huge variety of methods and means to learn. Every individual can eventually find what suits him the best.
From a personal experience, I'm not using the same methods to learn Mandarin/ Russian as the ones I used to learn German before for example, and I consider that my German journey has been very successful til now. The choice of the method in my opinion depends also on the person's goal for that specific language: Does the person only want to converse, or read, or eventually use the language professionally one day? Therefore, with the right attitude as @Hashimi mentioned, the method(s) used will eventually work.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Cainntear » Fri Aug 09, 2019 11:55 am

hp230 wrote:As mentioned, regular exposure to the target language with the will to learn is the magic formula to do it, the method(s) used is only a detail in the end.
I think we are blessed nowadays having this huge variety of methods and means to learn. Every individual can eventually find what suits him the best.

I think it's a curse.
As I said, I believe the differences in methods are in the superficial activities, and the successful learners are distinguished by what they do beyond the presented method.

The diversity in superficial methods continues to distract people from looking at what the successful learners are actually doing.

With the diversity of methods to mislead and misdirect them, most people eventually conclude that they're "not good at languages" and never actually find a method that suits them.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Iversen » Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:50 pm

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


Maybe there is more research concerning "lesson goals" than concerning "method hatred", but the two are actually not mutually exclusive. And knowing about the goals in broad terms may not be as relevant as knowing what to learn here and know. If a teacher would tell ME that my stipulated lesson goal tomorrow would be to do a convincing rendering of a screaming drunk US red seal dumped in a French bordello to be flogged by a lady in black leather while she yelled obscenities in French at me, then I would know what was expected of me - but I would refuse to do it, and if anybody tried to force me to do it I would spend my time on thinking about ways to escape and (if possible) how to kill the teacher, not on learning French. OK, the roleplay in modern language classes may be less dramatic, but the general situation is the same.

Actually it is possible that you can teach people by kicking and flogging them and yelling at them, and at some point they might break down and learn something in spite of the situation (isn't that the idea behind military training?), but luckily language schools aren't allowed to use that amount of physical violence any more. And until you have broken the mental spine of a learner the resistance against disgusting teaching methods will just grow and grow and grow.

My stipulated goal for this evening is something more tangible and modest (and devoid of histrionics), like working through a couple of pages in a couple of Slavic languages and learning some 40 or 50 words in the process, and maybe also to have a look at some old papers about Albanian grammar and make them into green grammar sheets. And I have decided those goals myself, which is one reason I see forward to doing those things.

As for Benny Lewis it has been revealed long ago by himself, no less, that he also does hardcore homestudies of grammar and other things. And of course that's part of the story, but we can still discuss who would profit from engaging in those early discussions with natives (not to be confounded with one to one courses, where the teacher/mentor is actively teaching you something) - and also what it takes to learn from such encounters. It may not be 'speak from day one' then, but maybe from day two or three.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby David1917 » Fri Aug 09, 2019 1:54 pm

Cainntear wrote: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.


Do you think this tendency reduces as one learns more languages (or more...stuff)? For example. Hindi is the 10th or so language I've looked at in detail, and in the TYS audio course, since it's designed for everyone, has some prompts for you to answer in the masculine and others to answer in the feminine. Since I know the point is to get me to understand the different ways of conjugating verbs, and that I'll inevitably hear Hindi speakers use these, I play along. The same can be said for mathematics, which people always complain about being "useless" because it is so abstractly taught. But, once I got far enough past introductory algebra, I wasn't necessarily obsessed with how it's going to help "in the real world" but rather able to solve problems for the sake of themselves.

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<


Moreover, nobody should give anything he says any credence as it regards actual language-learning, because he sucks at most of his languages and, as you pointed out, most of what he pushes is a lie. I'd take a marketing course from him, though.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Cainntear » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:11 pm

Iversen wrote:
Cainntear wrote:One of the things that bugs me in education is how educationalists completely fail to understand the consequences of their own research. (...) 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.


Maybe there is more research concerning "lesson goals" than concerning "method hatred", but the two are actually not mutually exclusive. And knowing about the goals in broad terms may not be as relevant as knowing what to learn here and know. If a teacher would tell ME that my stipulated lesson goal tomorrow would be to do a convincing rendering of a screaming drunk US red seal[…]

But that's exactly my point. The research learning objectives came out of started with the common sense position that people don't learn when they don't see the point in it. But just telling someone "this is the point" doesn't actually make them see the point, and when the learning objective is actually just "today we will learn to talk about things that happened in the past", it's absolutely valueless for helping see the point.

The reason you don't see a point is because the activity is not inherently meaningful.

Consider popular role-plays and situational dialogues
At the airport: "Pasaporte, por favor".... umm.... no. I can never get anyone in a Spanish airport to speak to me in Spanish. Not realistic. NEXT!

At the bakers: "Je voudrais deux baguettes et trois croissant"... umm... no. Point - "deux" - 2 fingers ups; point - t-t-trois - 3 fingers up. Not realistic.

And I know that rehearsing phrases that I won't ever actually use is wasting time that I could be spending practicing stuff I will use.

No amount of telling you "this is the point" will ever convince you that a pointless exercise has a point. You don't want to say the lines, so it's pointless.

but we can still discuss who would profit from engaging in those early discussions with natives

Well first I'd want to see evidence that anyone really does -- to date, the only people I've met who haven't studied at all are people who "learned Spanish by speaking to people while backpacking through South America", and they're all present-tense Tarzans: yo hago esto hayer etc.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Cainntear » Sat Aug 10, 2019 4:31 pm

David1917 wrote:Do you think this tendency reduces as one learns more languages (or more...stuff)? For example. Hindi is the 10th or so language I've looked at in detail, and in the TYS audio course, since it's designed for everyone, has some prompts for you to answer in the masculine and others to answer in the feminine. Since I know the point is to get me to understand the different ways of conjugating verbs, and that I'll inevitably hear Hindi speakers use these, I play along.

Yes and no.

As we get better at learning languages, I think we get better at ignoring the superficial activities and just doing what we do inside our heads to learn languages.

But for me personally, saying something without an actual desire to say it is still an issue, and until it's something you naturally want to say, it's still operating on a slightly more abstract level than real language.

I wrote a computer program to do rapid grammar practice in Corsican by translation. When I got really fast and stopped thinking, I started swapping 1st and 2nd person -- i.e. it asked me to say "I am tall", I answered "you are tall" and vice versa -- because that's how reference works in real language: you say "I", I know you're talking about yourself; you say "you", I know you're talking about me.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby sirgregory » Tue Aug 13, 2019 11:12 pm

If "most things work," that raises the question of what doesn't work.

The classic answer to that would be language classes at school. But this reputation is probably undeserved since I don't think it's the class format per se that's the problem. Intensive, high quality language classes work absolutely fine.

From personal experience I there are two things that stick out in my mind as not having worked.

1) When I first started with French, I had one book in French. Over several weeks, I spent several hours intensively reading through it along with a Spanish version of the same text. I had no dictionary, no grammar reference, no audio, no pronunciation guide. This was not totally useless in an absolute sense, but it was so slow and laborious that I found it to be an utter waste of time. I'd say you're better off waiting until you get proper reference materials.

More generally, I find starting out with just books and no audio to be a real challenge. Even if I'm primarily interested in reading, I like to have a "voice" to associate with the words. I find having some audio makes a massive difference at the beginning.

2) My family lived in Japan for a while when I was a child. I heard fair a bit of native Japanese during that time. But I never understood any of it. The only bits of it that I learned were things that people directly taught me how to say. I did not "absorb" the language, even as a child.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Iversen » Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:51 am

I have just read this thread through once more, and I have tried to think of a way to summarize the difference between the stance of Cainntear and mine, and now I think I have found it: for me illustrating a grammatical construction can definitely be reason enough to construct and use a sentence, and I'm sure I learn to use the resources of a language faster by experimenting with the constructions. It is not important whether the sentences correspond to the reality or not, I just don't want a teacher to tell me what to do, and I particularly loath being ORDERED to cooperate with others in such uncertain situations where I still struggle to understand and internalize something.

But doing experiments for the sole sake of training mechanisms doesn't seem to be acceptable at all to Cainntear. And then it doesn't matter whether there are others around him or not, or whether there is supposed to be some abstract goal or not.

And as a reaction to the post by sirgregory: I have lived in Northern and Western Jutland during my formative years where I learnt to speak Danish (i.e. from I was around 1 year old till around 5 years), but I didn't learn to speak any of the local dialects - and given that they just were dialects of my maternal language that would have been MUCH easier than learning something totally utterly different as Japanese.
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Kraut » Wed Aug 14, 2019 4:15 pm

Here is a script of a talk he gave two years ago:

My Method for Learning Languages from Scratch

https://blog.thelinguist.com/learning-l ... om-scratch
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Re: Kaufmann about learning methods: "I realized that most things work

Postby Serpent » Wed Aug 14, 2019 9:24 pm

David1917 wrote:Do you think this tendency reduces as one learns more languages (or more...stuff)? For example. Hindi is the 10th or so language I've looked at in detail, and in the TYS audio course, since it's designed for everyone, has some prompts for you to answer in the masculine and others to answer in the feminine. Since I know the point is to get me to understand the different ways of conjugating verbs, and that I'll inevitably hear Hindi speakers use these, I play along.
For me it only got worse over the years. When I was new to Finnish I found the basics really exciting. By now I'm sick of textbooks or other materials for learners and I use them as little as possible.
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